When was the last time you planned a meal around your thyroid?
Whether you have or not, nutrition is the only way to protect this small but vital organ with very specific nutrient needs. Today, getting those nutrients can be hard as many modern diets lack the nutrition that supports the thyroid. This includes popular "heart-healthy" and vegetarian diets.
To compound the challenge, your thyroid is one of the most vulnerable organs in your body. Inadequate nutrition and a host of environmental factors can disrupt the way it works and lead to low thyroid activity, or hypothyroidism. This article won't get into the nitty-gritty of those factors since ultimately the way to protect and support your thyroid comes down to getting the right nutrients.
Companies like MegaFood recognize these challenges. To fill the growing demand for thyroid specific nutrition, they created Thyroid Strength, a vegan-friendly supplement developed to supply essential thyroid nutrients.
That begs the question, why does your thyroid need such special attention?
Call it the "Heart" of Your Hormones
Like your heart pumps blood to every cell in your body, your thyroid produces a hormone needed by every cell in your body. This hormone regulates your metabolism, the process of creating and burning energy that takes place deep within your cells. And that's why it plays such a vital role in weight management.
Weight gain is often a sign the thyroid is slowing down. When cells don't produce and burn all the energy consumed, the body stores it in fat cells for later use. But later never comes when the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormone.
Other symptoms that the thyroid is slowing down include:
- Chills or feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Fertility problems
- High blood sugar
- Elevated cholesterol levels
Thyroid hormone also plays a vital role in DNA replication during cell division, sex hormone production, and even cellular aging. Yes, even premature aging is tied into thyroid activity.
The Nutrients Your Thyroid Needs
A lot of nutrients go into the production of a thyroid hormone called active T3.
The process starts in the brain with the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, or TSH. To build this, you need protein, magnesium, vitamin B-12 and zinc. According to the National Institutes for health, up to 15% of Americans may be B-12 deficient and most Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diets.[1,2]
TSH tells your thyroid to make T4, the precursor to T3. To make T4 your thyroid needs iodine and plenty of it. Once created, T4 enters the blood stream where it travels to where it's needed. Finally, once it arrives, your body converts it into T3 with the help of selenium.
Proper thyroid function depends on all elements of the process working. It also requires the presence of all of these vitamins and minerals. That's where a lot of problems start.
Iodine and Your Thyroid
With the dietary changes of the last 40 years, researchers estimate 74% of "healthy" adults may be iodine deficient. Some doctors, like Dr. Jorge Flechas and Dr. Paul St. Amand believe the number is closer to 95%!
To create T4, your thyroid combines four iodine atoms and the amino acid L-tyrosine. Your thyroid holds up to 50 mg of iodine, but this supply needs constant replenishment.
But your thyroid is not the only organ using iodine. Your body holds up to 1500 mg more iodine and uses it to support your overall health. Your skin needs iodine to sweat. Your salivary glands require iodine to produce saliva. Your brain, muscles, and immune system need iodine to work.
Iodine, however, is much less present in the diet today than it was in the past. In the 1920s iodine was added to salt. Around the world this practice was implemented. Combined with the use of iodine as a dough conditioner, iodine deficiency was nearly eliminated.
Today, that's all changed. Public health officials have recommended low-sodium diets, eliminating a primary source of iodine for many people. Even for Americans who do consume salt, the FDA has reported much of the iodized table salt sold does not contain the levels of iodine it should.
In baking, potassium bromate, a chemical listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and banned throughout Europe, has replaced iodine. Bromate is a chemical form of bromide, a halogen metal like iodine, except it's toxic. In the human body, bromine binds tightly to iodine receptors on cells, disrupting the ways your cells work and causing harm.
Other common halogen metals that take the place of iodine include chlorine and fluorine. The most direct exposure to chlorine and fluorine come from fluoridated water purified with chlorine. Like bromine, they also bind to iodine receptors, but they don't do its job.
In fact, fluoride appears to cause serious problems for the thyroid. According to a 2014 study of school-age children, exposure to fluoridated water corresponds directly with thyroid disorders. A US National Research Council report shows substantial evidence that fluoride negatively affects thyroid function.
According to the American Thyroid Association:
- 12% or more of the US population will develop a thyroid condition.
- Around 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease.
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease creates risk for the development of serious conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis and infertility.
While iodine deficiency causes direct harm to the thyroid, it also affects how the entire body works. Beyond its importance to hormone production, it is integral to the health of breast, ovary and prostate tissue. It may also play a role in conditions whose exact causes are not yet known.
Iodine and Fibromyalgia
Dr. Jorge Flechas believes a lack of iodine in muscle may cause the pain of fibromyalgia, a lot like a lack of iodine in breast tissue causes fibrocystic breast disease. The muscles of healthy, iodine sufficient individuals contain 33% of the body's total iodine content.
In fact, a patient in one of his trials testing the effect of higher levels of iodine on health suffered from fibromyalgia. After a year of boosting her iodine levels, she noticed the pain decreased significantly. After adding vitamins B2 and B3, the pain was gone.
Dr. Flechas is not alone in his belief. Dr. Paul St. Amand suggests the cysts and nodules associated with iodine deficiency may be the lumps and bumps of fibromyalgia.
Is fibromyalgia a symptom of iodine deficiency?
Possibly, though a lot more research is needed. If you do suffer from fibromyalgia, you should speak with a doctor before you begin to supplement. To find a doctor familiar with natural therapies, you can always check out the Academy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at www.acam.org.
A Single Source of Thyroid Nutrients
Foods like fish, dairy, meat and eggs supply iodine and support a healthy thyroid. But finding all the nutrients your thyroid needs to produce T4 and convert it into T3 is rare. That's why ProHealth picked up Thyroid Strength by MegaFood. It delivers hard-to-get nutrients needed by the thyroid.
It supplies iodine from fresh, natural sources. This supports your thyroid and helps to bolster iodine levels throughout your body. It also delivers several other vital nutrients.
Selenium. Your body needs selenium for the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 into active T3. It also acts as an antioxidant, is needed for DNA synthesis and is vital to reproductive health.
Zinc. This mineral is needed to create TSH and is involved in the conversion of T4 into T3. In animal studies, subjects with zinc deficiency had 30% lower T3 levels. Zinc also plays vital roles in immune function, digestion, and reproductive health.
Copper. Whenever you supplement with zinc, you should also supplement with copper. As essential as zinc is, it reduces copper absorption. Copper supports the thymus, the organ that regulates thyroid hormone levels in the body.
L-tyrosine. This amino acid combines with iodine in the thyroid to produce to T4.
In addition to these essential raw materials needed to support thyroid hormone production, Thyroid Strength includes Holy Basil, and Ashwanganda in the form of Sensoril. Each of these helps reduce stress and the stress hormone cortisol, a known disruptor of thyroid function.
Although iodine and nutrient deficiency affects many adults and children around the US and the world, you should only take this specially developed thyroid supplement if you know you are deficient. Too much iodine and too much zinc can interfere with thyroid function as well.
If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor before you take L-tyrosine or a supplement containing it.
Consult with your doctor and test your iodine status prior to taking.
For fibromyalgia patients, hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia share many symptoms. While the two may be related, you should consult with your doctor prior to using.
Do not take Thyroid Strength if you currently take thyroid medications or have an overactive thyroid.
Support your thyroid and you'll boost your metabolism. The symptoms of hypothyroidism share many similarities with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, as well as diabetes and heart disease. It doesn't help that iodine levels are lower today and face greater competition from other similar minerals like bromine and fluorine than ever before.
So is your thyroid more important than your heart? Maybe not, but research suggests that how well it works determines the overall quality of your life.
*Copywriter and marketer Peter Rufa writes for a wide range of clients but specializes in health. He writes for doctors, supplement providers, healthcare, medical and fitness organizations throughout the United States.
2. National Institute of Health B12 Fact Sheet
3. Hoption Cann SA1. Hypothesis: dietary iodine intake in the etiology of cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Feb;25(1):1-11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16522926
5. Singh N, Verma KG, Verma P, Sidhu GK, Sachdeva S. A comparative study of fluoride ingestion levels, serum thyroid hormone & TSH level derangements, dental fluorosis status among school children from endemic and non-endemic fluorosis areas. SpringerPlus. 2014;3:7. doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890436/
8. Kralik A1, Eder K, Kirchgessner M. Influence of zinc and selenium deficiency on parameters relating to thyroid hormone metabolism. Horm Metab Res. 1996 May;28(5):223-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8738110