Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped endocrine gland that sits in the middle of your neck. The thyroid gland is stimulated by thyroid stimulating hormone (THS), made in the pituitary to signal the production the thyroid to produce its own set of hormones. Thyroid hormones control the rate on many activities in your body. This includes heart rate, the rate in which you consume calories, digestive function, brain development and muscle function. Normally the thyroid gland produces the right number of hormones needed to keep our metabolism in balance. However, there are several disorders that affect the production of thyroid hormones. When things go astray it has to do with the thyroid gland producing too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). These are correlated with the body using energy faster or slower than it should.
Hyperthyroidism causes your metabolism speed up, faster that its supposed too because of too much thyroid hormone circulating in the body. Some symptoms associated with too much thyroid hormone include rapid heartbeat, weight loss, increased appetite, hair loss, irregular menstruation, and sweating.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism is when your metabolism is slower than it should be due to the lack of active thyroid hormone in the body. This condition may slow heart rate, have increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, and brittle nails to name a few.
Below you’ll find some important nutrients involved in thyroid hormone production and regulation along with a couple of different food that contain them!
Zinc: This mineral is required for thyroid hormone production. Low levels of zinc result in low levels of thyroid hormones T4 and T3. It is also a part of the enzyme deiodinase which converts T4 into T3, the active thyroid hormone in the body.
Sources: read meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, whole grains, dark chocolate, mushrooms.
Selenium: This mineral is needed for thyroid hormone production. It also helps protect the thyroid from oxidative stress. Our thyroid gland contains a large amount of selenium and a deficiency can lead to thyroid dysfunction.
Sources: Brazil nuts, fish, cottage cheese, brown rice, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, oatmeal, spinach, bananas, cashews.
Iron: Iron is a necessary component to convert T3 into the active from T4. Deficiency is correlated with thyroid defunction.
Sources: shellfish, spinach, legumes, red meat, turkey, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, broccoli.
Iodine: Iodine is critical for proper thyroid function. Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) both contain iodine. When thyroid stimulating hormone rises in the blood the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormone. When iodine is low in the blood, our body is unable to make enough. Iodine deficiency could eventually lead to goiter, a condition where the thyroid gland grows too big.
Sources: “iodized” table salt, eggs, seaweed, fish, shellfish, beef liver, chicken.
Vitamin A: Is required for the activation of thyroid hormone receptors. It is also involved in regulating thyroid hormone metabolism and inhibit thyroid stimulating hormone secretion.
Sources: Cod, salmon, halibut, chicken, eggs, carrots, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, sweet potato, and pumpkins.
Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with thyroid diseases. Low blood levels of vitamin D have been found in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Sources: cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sardines, orange juice fortified, egg yolks, and other fortified foods.
Many people can maintain a healthy thyroid function with a nutrient-dense diet, and this should be the first line to think about. Many supplements are marketed toward overall thyroid support. However, many people with thyroid imbalances have specific needs depending on the type of thyroid imbalance they have. Taking a supplement to support thyroid function may negative affect their symptoms, depending on your specific needs. It is important to consult your provider first before supplementing. Focus on maintaining a healthy balanced diet first!