More than 20 million people are battling thyroid disease in the United States, but as much as 60% of those people don’t know it. Although thyroid disease often affects women over the age of 60, there are several underlying issues that cause thyroid disease to manifest in the body.
What Causes Poor Thyroid Function?
More often than not, thyroid dysfunction is rooted in an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks itself and other parts of the body.
Environmental triggers like pesticide exposure and chronic stress can also cause the thyroid to malfunction. While pesticides act as endocrine disruptors and throw the metabolism off, chronic stress depletes adrenaline and spikes cortisol, which puts a lot of strain on the thyroid.
Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include:
- Feeling tired or having low energy
- Brain fog
- Loss of sex drive
- Digestive upset
- Dry skin or brittle hair
- High cholesterol or blood pressure
- Increased appetite
- Feeling “jittery”
- A swollen throat
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
6 Nutrients for Thyroid Health
Though there are many assailants on your health lingering in the environment that can cause your thyroid to short-circuit, mother nature has quite a few tricks up her sleeve that can help. Here are six of the best nutrients for keeping your thyroid in tip-top shape:
Iodine may not be part of your current “maintenance” routine, but for people with compromised thyroid function, it’s absolutely essential. After your thyroid converts tyrosine to thyroglobulin (a transport protein), it requires iodine to create four different types of thyroid hormone (T1, T2, T3, & T4).
Without enough iodine, your thyroid simply can’t maintain healthy hormone levels and you run the risk of iodine displacement. Iodine displacement happens when the thyroid accidentally stores compounds that are structurally similar to iodine, like fluorine and chlorine. These “replacement” compounds can be toxic if not flushed out of the system.
Earlier we talked about how autoimmune disease can precede poor thyroid function. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that addressing the core causes of immune dysfunction could help with thyroid issues?
This chain of causes and effects can get tricky, but there is one nutrient that researchers have found can help with cellular irritation, which is often at the heart of autoimmunity: Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s play a role in reducing irritation at the cellular level, and they’ve also been found to boost thyroid hormone uptake.
As an added bonus, having proper levels of DHA (one type of omega-3 fatty acid) in your body makes thyroid hormone 3 (the active form) more effective a burning fat! That means omega-3 fatty acids and thyroid hormone work synergistically to improve metabolism.
Selenium doesn’t get much coverage on trendy health blogs, possibly because the human body only requires a small amount. Still, that small amount ensures metabolic efficiency and allows the thyroid to activate necessary hormones.
Selenium supplementation is especially important when you’re consuming a lot of iodine. When the body actives iodide to its usable form, iodine (via an enzyme reaction), hydrogen peroxide is created as a byproduct. A known oxidant, hydrogen peroxide can destabilize healthy cells and turn them into waste products. That’s where selenium comes in – it tracks down rampant hydrogen peroxide molecules and neutralizes them for transport out of the body!
Zinc is another mineral required for hormone activation, and it’s also tasked with stimulating thyroid receptors on the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus regulates hormone production, so if it can’t accurately gauge current hormone levels, it just doesn’t know what to do. As a result, you may end up with too little thyroid hormone circulating in the body.
Iron is yet another molecule that wiggles its way into the complicated process of thyroid health via its role in the conversion of iodide to iodine. In addition to needing iron to complete the conversion, the thyroid also relies on iron for hormone activation. Women are particularly at risk for iron deficiency due to blood loss during menstruation and the body’s rapid usage of iron stores during pregnancy.
Ahh…we’ve finally come to the relaxation mineral. Magnesium is often called the most important mineral for cellular health, yet about 70% of Americans aren’t meeting the daily requirement. Magnesium plays an essential role in over 300 reactions in the body, including boosting iodine absorption. As an added bonus, magnesium has a soothing effect that can help relax your muscles and mind for better, more restful sleep, which is often hard to come by if you’re suffering from thyroid issues.
There you have it! Your go-to grocery list of the best nutrients for thyroid health. Make sure you’re replenishing your body’s stores of these six superstars each and every day.