Millions of people develop thyroid dysfunction each year and most go undiagnosed. The thyroid is a gland that controls the metabolism of the body. Some of the symptoms of an under-active thyroid are depression, weight gain, low libido, constipation, fatigue, and bad circulation. The nutritional requirements for cell metabolism are high so it is important to know what the body needs in order to process energy efficiently. It all begins with the food that we eat although supplementation is often necessary.
Amino acids and lipids are the building blocks of hormones. Protein is the building block of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is released by the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary gland). So if we eat enough protein then our bodies will be able to create the hormones we need right? Actually, protein is not the only building block of TSH. The minerals magnesium and zinc are essential as well as vitamin B12. Good sources of zinc include grass-fed organic beef, pork, and chicken, mushrooms, spinach, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, cacao, beans, oysters, and nuts like cashews and pumpkin seeds. It is recommended that oysters are avoided due to their high content of pollutants. Interestingly, many of these foods are also good sources of magnesium and protein as well. Spinach(and dark leafy greens), nuts(pumpkin and squash), cacao and beans are a great source of magnesium, as well as mackerel, brown rice, avocados, figs, and yogurt. Great sources of plant protein include nuts and seeds, beans and rice, mushrooms, chickpeas, and spirulina. It is important to limit the intake of animal proteins, especially for people with A blood types due to their tendency to have lower stomach acid. High levels of an amino acid called homocystein are produced in the body by excessive intake of animal protein which is associated with heart disease, dementia, stroke, and cancer. Fortunately, consistent supplementation with B vitamins (B3, B6, B9, B12) and consumption of foods with high content reduces homocystein levels effectively.
Now that the body has the basic ingredients to produce this essential hormone it can effectively send a signal to the thyroid. Thats right, all that work just to send a signal. Many times a signal is sent but there may be no response. The thyroid requires the mineral Iodine and vitamins B2 and C in order to produce the inactive form of thyroid hormone called T4. The 4 represents the number of iodine molecules in the hormone. A severe deficiency in iodine will cause goiters. The best source of iodine are sea vegetables like kelp, but it can also be found in seafood, eggs, and beans in smaller amounts. Vitamin B2 can be found in almonds, mushrooms, sesame seeds, spinach, as well as animal products like cheese and meat. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, kiwis, beries, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and dark leafy greens.
A very important mineral called selenium is necessary for the conversion of T4 to the active thyroid hormone called T3. This mineral is abundant in animal protein, whole wheat and rye. Consequently, if you are a vegetarian and on a gluten free diet you may be quite deficient in selenium unless you consume allot of brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms.
Unfortunately, even if one follows these guidelines perfectly they may still suffer from an under-active thyroid if they have a deficiency in two more essential vitamins. Vitamin D and vitamin A are needed for the activation of the metabolic rate by T3 within the nucleus of the cells. The best source of vitamin D is about an hour of sunshine a week. Food sources include mushrooms, fatty fish, dairy products, eggs and pork. Vitamin A is found in fruits and vegetables with a bright yellow or orange color, and in dark leafy greens.