In my own personal experience, and as a practitioner specializing in thyroid disorders, I have found that the most common triggers of thyroid dysfunction are usually nutrient depletions, food sensitivities, toxins, stress, infections, and poor gut health. These triggers are all closely tied to one another and are often interconnected. For example, a deficiency of certain nutrients can lead to an accumulation of toxins. An impaired ability to handle stress can cause less resilience for overcoming infections. Poor digestion can lead to food sensitivities; and food sensitivities, infections, and stress can all contribute to nutrient depletions.
One way to look at it is that our body is a complex system of positive and negative feedback loops, which are always trying to help us adapt to our current environment in order to give us the best chances of survival. When the body is overwhelmed with messages that the current environment is "unsafe," (such as sensing deficiencies, toxins, and other types of triggers), it may go into a conservation mode. This is when metabolism—by ways of the thyroid—is slowed. In many cases, health dysfunctions are the body’s way of protecting us to help us survive, and these dysfunctions will continue unless we do something let the body know it's safe.
One of the fundamental ways to let your body know it's safe is proper nutrition (or food pharmacology, as I like to call it). Food pharmacology entails eating whole, nutrient-dense foods—like this green smoothie—as well as avoiding the foods that cause inflammation in your body. Most people with thyroid conditions also feel best with a nutritional plan free of gluten, dairy, and soy. And while I love the theory that we should get all of our nutrients from food, that’s not always possible, especially for people with multiple food sensitivities and digestive difficulties. If this sounds like you, consider these five important nutrients to support the function of your thyroid:
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms reported by people who suffer from thyroid dysfunction, particularly those with autoimmune thyroiditis such as Hashimoto's. Methylcobalamin—a form of vitamin B12— helps the body convert the food you eat into energy, which is crucial to the production of new DNA, red blood cells, proteins, and hormones. However, absorbing B12 from food requires a protein secreted by healthy cells in the stomach called intrinsic factor. If you have poor gut health and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, I recommend supplementing with sublingual methylcobalamin, a highly bioavailable form of B12 since it does not require intrinsic factor for absorption and can help fight thyroid-related fatigue.
Selenium plays two very important roles in thyroid function. First, it converts the inactive thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), into the biologically active triiodothyronine (T3), which is the form your body uses to regulate metabolism and other essential processes. Second, selenium also protects normal cell function by supporting the body's natural defenses and scavenging harmful free radicals. Selenium methionine is the best-studied type of selenium for thyroid conditions.
Research suggests that chronic fatigue, which commonly accompanies inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, may be a result of a mild thiamine deficiency. Thiamine, also known as B1, is necessary for the release of hydrochloric acid required for the digestion of protein and fat and the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Food sources of thiamine include fortified grains, beef liver, pork, dried milk, eggs, legumes, peas, nuts, and seeds, but people with digestive issues can become deficient in this important nutrient. For these reasons, I recommend supplementing a well-balanced diet with added thiamine. The supplement I have taken for thyroid fatigue and recommend is the highly absorbable BenfoMax, which contains the fat-soluble thiamine vitamin called benfotiamine, plus ascorbyl palmitate (fat-soluble vitamin C).
Magnesium plays an important role in a wide range of body functions; in fact, over 300 different enzyme systems within the body rely on magnesium to function properly. It activates the enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats for energy production. Like so many other vitamins and minerals, magnesium works synergistically with iodine to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce inactive thyroid hormone (T4) and aids in its conversion to the active form (T3). As people with thyroid conditions often tend to be constipated, I prefer the magnesium citrate form of magnesium, which has some stool-softening properties.
5. Digestive enzymes.
Studies have found that people with thyroid dysfunction often have low stomach acid, putting them at greater risk for food sensitivities, infections, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and nutrient depletions. Digestive enzymes support your body’s ability to extract the nutrients from food. Betaine HCl and pepsin are naturally occurring components of gastric juice that extract nutrients and amino acids from protein-containing foods, making them more bioavailable. People who have a history of peptic ulcers or gastritis, or take NSAIDs, steroids, or other medications that can cause an ulcer, should not take betaine with pepsin.
And finally, a word of caution about supplements: Not all are created equal. Some supplements may contain ingredients that interfere with your nutrition and their absorption, such as gluten-containing starches, lactose, or soy. As a pharmacist, I have very high standards for any supplements that I recommend. I seek only pharmaceutical-grade products that exhibit extremely tight quality control and manufacturing guidelines.
Looking for a new supplement? Read this first.