According to some thyroid experts 40% of us suffer from suboptimal thyroid function. Many of them are not being treated because they have not been diagnosed with suboptimal thyroid function. There are steps you can take, though, to enhance you thyroid function naturally if you feel you have some of the symptoms of suboptimal thyroid.
We are using the word “suboptimal” rather than “low” because many people of have symptoms of a underactive thyroid gland yet have “normal” thyroid function tests as we discussed in Thyroid Function Tests: What is Normal?
You might think that a gland that only makes a teaspoonful of hormone a year would not be very important but you would be wrong. That’s it – just a teaspoonful year. That’s how much thyroid hormone the thyroid pumps out each year. But, without that precious teaspoon you would not function very well at all. You would be tired, overweight, mentally slow, feel cold, suffer from dry skin, be constipated, have muscle and joint aches, be depressed, and more. That tells you how vital and potent a little bit of thyroid hormone is. So even being a little deficient can have consequences.
Natural Ways to Improve Thyroid Function
To improve any bodily function naturally start with diet and nutrients. The biggest need for proper thyroid function is IODINE. The second biggest nutrient for thyroid hormone is TYROSINE. Tyrosine is the central molecule of thyroid hormone. In Thyroid Function Tests: What is Normal? we mentioned that the thyroid produces T4,T3, T2, and T1. Those numbers refer to the number of iodine molecules attached to a tyrosine molecule. So T4 has four iodine molecules and T3 has three, and so on.
So let’s start with these two nutrients.
As early as 1600 B.C. Chinese healers used iodine to treat swelling (goiter) of the thyroid gland. Most of us do not get enough iodine in the diet. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Your goal is 150 micrograms of iodine a day. Iodized salt is not a great source of iodine as only 10% is bioavailable for absorption. Plus, people have been scared off salt because of the fear that excess salt intake causes high blood pressure.
The ocean is where you find iodine. So ocean life – plants and fish – are your best sources of iodine. Seaweed, kelp, dulse, nori, wakame are the sea vegetables to consume. If you use salt use natural sea salt.
Iodine used to be used in baked goods. Not anymore. Bromine is now used as the main dough conditioner. Exactly why is unclear. Bromine is in the same halogen family of elements in the Periodic Table. But, it has no known health benefit and interferes with iodine utilization. So be careful with your baked good consumption and supplement with iodine.
Simply getting more iodine in the diet can resolve many cases of suboptimal thyroid function.
Tyrosine is an amino acid and thus found in sources of protein. In addition. to playing a role in thyroid hormone production it is essential for production of dopamine and noradrenaline. Foods high in tyrosine include beans, beef, cheese, chicken, dairy, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, nuts, seeds, soybeans, and whole grains.
Other Nutrients Important for Thyroid Hormone
The following nutrients are also important for thyroid production and/or function.
- methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- vitamins D, E, and A
- niacin and riboflavin
The thyroid gland requires sulfur and MSM is a good source of sulfur. Selenium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin A and D help to convert T4 to T3. T3 is the most biologically active thyroid hormone. Vitamin E protects the thyroid gland from oxidation. Manganese activates thyroid hormone and copper plays a role in thyroid metabolism.
Eating a well-balanced diet should ensure you get these other vital thyroid nutrients. If you suspect you may have any of the symptoms of low or suboptimal thyroid consider first obtaining 150 micrograms of iodine daily through food and supplementation if necessary and see if you symptoms do not improve.