Hypothyroidism is a common condition and one that I treat a lot in my practice. Many people with this disease are given medications that provide thyroid hormones to make up for what is not being produced. While medication may be necessary and helpful, there are also dietary recommendations that you can do to help your thyroid produce hormones and make sure your hormones are being converted to the active form your body needs to thrive.
Why Do You Need These Nutrients?
The thyroid produces a number of hormones but thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are particularly important. Many people are familiar with them because they are commonly tested in the blood and given in medication. T4 is an inactive hormone but is necessary because it’s converted to T3, which is the hormone that has the beneficial effect on your metabolism. If you don’t have enough T3 or aren’t converting enough T4 to T3 you may continue to have hypothyroid symptoms.
There are many reactions that need to happen for your thyroid to produce hormones and for inactive T4 to be converted to active T3. These reactions require enzymes and cofactors to help the reactions happen. The nutrients below are helpful for producing thyroid hormones, converting inactive T4 to active T3 or in protecting the thyroid in the case of autoimmune hypothyroidism.
Function: This nutrient is especially important because you need it to make thyroid hormones. The thyroid takes the amino acid tyrosine and attaches iodine to it to make thyroid hormones. When tyrosine has three iodines attached, you get T3 and when it has four iodines attached you get T4. Too much iodine can be a bad thing when it comes to your thyroid so try to stick to around 150 mcg/day.
Sources: fish, scallops, seaweed, yogurt, milk, eggs
Function: works with iodine to produce thyroid hormones and with conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. This nutrient is also beneficial if you have autoimmune hypothyroidism, also known as Hashimoto’s, because it can lower antibodies and protect the thyroid as an antioxidant.
Sources: tuna, shrimp, sardines, salmon, turkey, cod, chicken, lamb, scallops, beef, whole grains, seeds, Brazil nuts
Function: helps with production of thyroid hormones and conversion of inactive T4 to active T3.
Sources: seafood, beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, beans, cashews, turkey, quinoa, shrimp.
Function: helps with conversion of inactive T4 to active T3
Sources: liver, eggs, yeast, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Low goitrogen diet
While this recommendation isn’t a specific nutrient, it’s something that I wanted to mention because it can affect the absorption of some of the nutrients above. Goitrogenic foods include foods in the broccoli family such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, radishes and mustard greens. These foods can make iodine less available for making thyroid hormones if eaten in excess and especially if they are eaten raw. I’m not saying to avoid them completely because they can be a healthy part of the diet, but it may be a good idea to eat them in moderation if you are treating hypothyroidism. Cooking these foods decreases their negative effect on iodine so if you do eat them it’s a good idea to cook them first.
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