Those familiar with thyroid problems are well-acquainted with the complex nature of the associated conditions. Hypothyroidism, one of the most common thyroid conditions in the U.S., is usually treated in a standard fashion. This includes testing various hormone levels and then prescribing thyroid medication such as Synthroid or Levothyroxine. Unfortunately, standardized treatments frequently do not accomplish as much as they should. This is because the thyroid is influenced by a wide variety of factors that should be optimized prior to administering the most common treatment methods. One of the most frequently overlooked elements regarding thyroid function is nutrient deficiency. Doctors often neglect the possibility of nutrient deficiency even if a thyroid condition has been recognized in the patient.
Various vitamins and minerals are critical to maintaining thyroid health. Inadequate nutrient levels can cause long-lasting disruption of the thyroid. Deficiency of the following nutrients can cause one to experience thyroidal difficulties even if standard thyroid tests do not uncover an issue.
TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is a hormone released by the brain to promote the production of thyroid hormone. This process ultimately controls one’s metabolism and therefore influences other systems. To produce TSH, the body requires an adequate amount of protein. Without regular consumption of proteins, one may find it difficult to maintain healthy thyroid function. If one is engaged in a diet plan that reduces protein intake, they are at greater risk of deficiency.
Another important hormone relating to thyroid function is T4. This compound is referred to as the storage or inactive form of thyroid hormone. T4 is the building block of thyroid function and is converted into other hormones that can help promote or reduce metabolism depending on the body’s need. Manufacturing this hormone requires a ready availability of iodine. Those experiencing an iodine deficiency will not be able to satisfy the demands of their thyroid or maintain a fully functioning metabolism.
Symptoms of deficiency include: hypothyroidism, cretinism, weight gain, sluggishness.
T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone and is converted from T4. The body enlists enzymes to accomplish this process. However, if there is not an adequate level of selenium, this process cannot be completed. Without enough T3, one’s metabolism becomes sluggish and impaired. The impacts of this can be felt throughout the body. Although conversion of T3 requires selenium, reverse T3 does not. Reverse T3 is used to maintain one’s metabolism and keep it from becoming overactive. This is a useful tool when the body is producing T3, but it can be harmful when production of the active hormone has slowed or stopped completely.
Symptoms of deficiency include: increased cholesterol, reduced immunity, poor liver function, male sterility, impeded growth.
Magnesium provides a beneficial effect on many portions of the body, but its necessity to the thyroid often goes unnoted. Magnesium plays an important role in the creation of T4. With inadequate magnesium availability, many of the enzymes needed for creation of T4 would not function properly. Like selenium, this mineral is also necessary for proper T4 to T3 conversion. Additionally, magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of developing an enlarged thyroid or goiter.
Symptoms of deficiency include: confusion, heart attack, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability, weakness.
Vitamin A (Retinoid)
The fat-soluble vitamin known as retinoid is important for the hormone receptivity of cells. This is important regarding thyroid function because T3 interacts with one’s cells to regulate metabolic function. This is accomplished through engaging a nuclear receptor located on the exterior of the cell’s nucleus. Without the aid of Vitamin A, T3 would not be able to trigger the process involved in activating the cell. If the thyroid is incapable of interacting with the cells in one’s body, there are numerous metabolic issues that can develop.
Symptoms of deficiency include: acne, brittle and drying hair, impeded growth, insomnia, reduced immune function, weight loss, hyperkeratosis (skin thickening and roughness).
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Another vitamin necessary for proper thyroid function is riboflavin. Within the thyroid gland there is a pathway called the symporter. This structure helps collect iodine in the thyroid so it has the necessary amount needed for producing various enzymes and hormones. If there is a severe lack of vitamin B2 in one’s system, the symporter will not function properly. This means that even though one may have adequate iodine levels, the thyroid may not receive the requisite amount for healthy function.
Symptoms of deficiency include: cataracts, hair loss, inflamed eyes, mouth lesions, dizziness, nervousness, numbness, light sensitivity, sleepiness, weakness.
Causes and Contributors of Deficiency
Poor nutrient absorption is the primary cause of nutrient deficiency among thyroid patients. Reduced absorption can be caused by a variety of conditions and issues. The following conditions are common contributors of nutrient deficiency.
Low Stomach Acid Levels
The most common instigator of poor absorption among thyroid patients is reduced levels of stomach acid. Stomach acid is necessary for the absorption of both macro and micro-nutrients, digesting protein, killing undesirable bacteria and yeasts, and promoting proper gastro-intestinal function. Without the body being able to properly utilize nutrients, even if it is provided with a theoretically appropriate amount, deficiency is likely to occur.
Reduced stomach acid levels may also allow for Candida yeast growth in one’s intestinal tract. Imbalance of yeast in one’s system can reduce the functional absorption surface area in the gut, thereby reducing nutrient absorption. It may be difficult to recognize the presence of Candida yeast overgrowth because the symptoms are vague and varied. Symptoms include: fatigue, craving sugar, irritability, constipation, white coating on the tongue, and for women there may be itching around the vaginal opening and/or white vaginal discharge.
Intestinal Inflammation and Celiac
When one’s immune system actively and aggressively responds to the consumption of gluten, they are likely experiencing celiac disease. This immune response causes inflammation and damage to the intestine which can lead to reduced nutrient absorption. Gluten intolerance triggers inflammation similar to celiac disease. Ultimately, this causes one to have poor absorption of nutrients. Often, those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance must remove most wheats and grains from their diet entirely.
Know Your Nutrients
Before embarking on a new treatment for a thyroid condition, it is critical that one’s nutrient levels are evaluated and balanced. Although there are more common causes of thyroid disruption it is important not to overlook and explore the possibility of nutrient deficiency. With common contributors such as those listed above, it is not unlikely for one to have deficiency in one or more areas. Better understanding the influence of nutrients on the various thyroidal functions allows for more individualized and effective treatment.