The thyroid gland of the body has many important roles to play. It is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland that is present in your throat and is responsible for how fast your body burns calories and also for controlling the pacing of your heartbeat. The thyroid gland carries out its responsibilities by releasing two major thyroid hormones – thyroxine and triiodothyronine. In order to maintain a healthy and functional thyroid gland, you need many types of vitamins and minerals to support the normal levels of the thyroid hormones. These vitamins should be a part of your daily diet, or they should be consumed as a supplement if you are not getting adequate vitamins through your diet. Understanding the importance of these thyroid vitamins is crucial in ensuring the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Read on to learn more about thyroid vitamins and why you need them.
Overview of the Thyroid Gland and Benefits of Having Good Thyroid Health
The thyroid gland is located the base of your neck, and it has a huge role to play in regulating your metabolism. The gland produces two primary hormones, which are:
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
These two hormones help in ensuring that all the cells in the body are functioning as they should be, and they also control your metabolism. Apart from this, they regulate many of the essential functions in the body, including your heart rate, breathing, cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, your body weight, and your menstrual cycle.
When the levels of the thyroid hormones become unbalanced, it affects your overall health. Having poor thyroid function is associated with many health conditions and disorders, such as:
It is possible to prevent the development of many of these diseases or even eliminate them altogether by taking vitamins for good thyroid health.
Here are some of the benefits of having good thyroid health:
A properly functioning thyroid gland means that your organs are working well. Thyroid hormones are known to affect the functioning and development of all the cells in your body. These hormones also control carbohydrates, fat, and protein metabolism. This regulates how the cells use energetic compounds. Thyroid hormones also activate the metabolism of vitamins in the body.
Having a healthy thyroid means your body is able to produce sufficient amounts of calcium.
The hormone T3, produced after deiodination in the body, helps increase the oxygen consumption of the body’s tissues by a sodium-potassium pump and fat metabolism.
T3 hormone also helps lower cholesterol levels, boost protein anabolism, and also increase carbohydrate absorption in the body.
Understanding the Importance of Iodine for Thyroid Health
Iodine is the most important nutrient that is related to your thyroid health. Iodine is necessary for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland as the gland uses iodine to manufacture hormones.
Iodine deficiency, though rare in the United States due to the widespread use of iodized salt, is common in many developing countries, and it can cause a condition known as hypothyroidism.(3) Hypothyroidism is caused when the thyroid produces too little of the hormone. This condition also causes weight gain, low energy levels, and many other symptoms. It is also a more common condition than hyperthyroidism, which occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone being produced by the gland. Too much iodine consumption can also trigger hyperthyroidism in many people, which is why taking iodine supplements is not typically recommended.
Foods that are rich in iodine that you should be including in your diet are as follows:
- Seaweed such as Kombu kelp, Wakame, Nori
- Cod fish
- Dairy items such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese
- Iodized salt
- Lima beans
Importance of Vitamins and Minerals Needed for Thyroid Health
Apart from iodine, there are also many other vitamins and minerals that you should be including in your regular diet or taking as supplements to ensure the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. These include:
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is generally associated with healthy skin, good vision, and healthy teeth. However, vitamin A also has a huge role to play in thyroid hormone metabolism, and you need to consume a sufficient amount of vitamin A to ensure the proper functioning of your thyroid gland. A deficiency of vitamin A in the body can cause your thyroid gland to stop functioning properly.(4) Foods that are rich in vitamin A that you should be including in your diet include:
- Cod liver oil
- Beef Liver
- Sweet potato
- Black-eyed peas
- Sweet red pepper
- Cantaloupe melon
- Dried apricots
- Tomato juice
- Pumpkin pie
Vitamin B: Vitamin B is also an important nutrient, especially for people who have hypothyroidism. This is because the B group vitamins have numerous interactions with your thyroid function as well as with hormone regulation. In the case of vitamin B vitamins, it is recommended that you take a nutritional supplement that includes the entire range of vitamin B complex. You might also need to take additional vitamin B12 supplements if a blood test shows that your levels are low. Vitamin B12 is important since it plays a critical role in red cell metabolism. It is responsible for increasing your energy levels, making you sharp, and also for strengthening your nervous system. A deficiency of vitamin B12 is usually caused by having prolonged digestive issues. Some of the good food sources that are rich in vitamin B include:
- Whole grains
- Dark leafy vegetables
Vitamin D: Research has shown that the condition of hypothyroidism is accompanied by vitamin D deficiency.(5) It is sometimes difficult to include sufficient sources of vitamin D in your diet, so vitamin D supplements or even taking multivitamins that contain vitamin D could be a more appropriate choice. Some good options for foods you should include in your diet that are rich in vitamin D include:
- Sardines and herring
- Cod liver oil (supplement)
- Canned tuna
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cereals or milk
Selenium: Another vital mineral that is needed for your thyroid health is selenium. Selenium carries out many important functions in the body, including the metabolism of your thyroid hormones. Having adequate levels of selenium in the body is crucial for preventing the development of thyroid disease. It has often been observed that patients who have various thyroid diseases usually have low levels of selenium.(6) In fact, selenium is the most important nutrient your thyroid gland needs after iodine. Selenium needs to be present for the T3 hormone to be produced in the correct quantities. Selenium is also known to protect the thyroid gland from oxidative damage.
Some of the foods that provide the maximum amount of selenium are:
- Brazil nuts
- Pork and beef
- Cottage cheese
- Brown rice
- Sunflower seeds
- Baked beans
- Yogurt and milk
Zinc: Zinc is another essential mineral your thyroid needs. A deficiency in zinc is known to have adverse effects on thyroid functioning. Studies have also found that both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause zinc deficiency. Zinc is primarily responsible in determining the functioning of your immune system and it is required by the thyroid gland for changing T4 hormone into T3. Foods you should include in your diet to get sufficient amounts of zinc include:
- Red meat
- Shellfish such as oysters, Alaskan crabs, mussels, shrimp
- Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans
- Seeds of squash, hemp, pumpkin, sesame seeds
- Nuts such as peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, and pine nuts
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese
- Whole grains such as quinoa, rice, oats, and wheat
- Dark chocolate
Iron: Your body also needs sufficient levels of iron for maintaining thyroid health. Similar to zinc and selenium, iron is needed by the body to convert inactive T4 hormone into active T3 hormone. Foods high in iron include:
- Chicken liver
- Turkey leg
- Raisin bran
- Beans such as lima, Navy, and kidney
- Brown rice
- Peanut butter
- Whole wheat bread
- Instant oatmeal
- Leg of lamb
- Beef (especially lean ground beef or chuck roast)
L-Tyrosine: L-Tyrosine is a synthetic amino acid that can be found in our diet. This synthetic amino acid is essential for your thyroid health because it is required for the production of the thyroxine (T4) hormone. It is also required for the production of epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Having sufficient levels of this amino acid will stimulate your moods and also help you cope with physical stress. A deficiency of L-Tyrosine can cause hypothyroid disorders. High tyrosine foods include:
- Lamb and Pork
- Whole grains
Importance of Taking Supplements for Thyroid Health
You will find that most dietitians will recommend that you get the required nutrients from food as compared to taking supplements for these nutrients. Nevertheless, consuming some of the major thyroid vitamins and minerals in the form of a supplement might be helpful if you are unable to get these nutrients from your diet. Here’s a look at which supplements are beneficial to take for your thyroid health.
Zinc: Studies have shown that taking zinc supplements can help you maintain a healthy level of thyroid hormones in the body.(7)
Selenium: In cases where a person has an autoimmune thyroid disease, then taking supplements of selenium can be helpful. A supplement of selenium can be helpful, but you should not be taking more than 200 micrograms (mg) of selenium each day, unless until you have been told to by your doctor.(8)
Vitamin A: In 2012, the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran carried out a study on obese, pre-menopausal women who were at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism. The study found that taking supplements of vitamin A helped lower this risk significantly.(9)
Apart from taking the single-item supplements and vitamins, or the traditional multivitamins, you might also see some products on the market that claim to be good for promoting ‘thyroid strength’ or ideal for ‘thyroid support.’ These vitamin and mineral supplements for thyroid could be a convenient way of getting the major nutrients you need, but many of these products often come with herbal supplements as well, including ashwagandha.
Keep in mind that while many herbal supplements are safe and good for your health, these supplements are not tested and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or reviewed by any other authority with the same level of strictness and scrutiny as medications are.
So these herbal supplements might well be containing ingredients that are not listed on the label, and you cannot always be sure about how much of a certain ingredient the pill contains.
Many of these so-called thyroid support products are also known to contain synthetic thyroid hormone. This can cause an imbalance of hormone levels in the body, regardless of whether or not you are also taking the prescribed synthetic hormones for your thyroid.
This is why it is very important to let your doctor know if you are taking any thyroid support supplements or any other supplements or vitamins.
Are There Any Risks Of Taking Supplements for Thyroid?
For many people who have hypothyroidism, taking a synthetic thyroid hormone in the form of a pill helps them increase their hormone levels to balance out the required hormone level in the body. However, there are many medications, foods, and supplements that you need to avoid if you are taking the synthetic version of the thyroid hormone. These include:
- Calcium supplement
- Iron supplements
- Multivitamin containing iron
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Soybean flour
- Certain types of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as the drugs containing colestipol (brand name: Colestid) and cholestyramine (brand name: Prevalite)
- Cottonseed meal
- Supplements and foods that contain soy
- Sucralfate (brand name: Carafate) and other forms of ulcer medications
In some cases, it is still possible to consume these above-mentioned items, but you need to wait for a few hours before or after taking your thyroid medication. You should also discuss with your doctor about what daily schedule you should follow that will help you lower the risk of having any type of adverse interactions with these items.
Consuming a healthy and well-balanced diet is generally more than enough to provide the required nutrients for having a healthy and functioning thyroid and also for your overall well-being.
Remember that it is necessary to get sufficient iodine in your diet, along with the other major vitamins and minerals you need for good thyroid health, such as vitamins A, D, zinc, selenium, iron, and magnesium.
Always be wary of products that are marketed and hyped as being thyroid vitamins, especially if you find them to be containing herbal supplements or even a small quantity of synthetic thyroid hormones.
You should also undergo a standard physical exam once in a year which will include a physical examination of your thyroid gland to check for any changes in shape or size. If you notice that you are experiencing any symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, then you should consult a doctor at the earliest.
A simple blood test is done to check for the levels of thyroid hormones in the body, and it helps in confirming the conditions of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. It will also help you determine if you have a healthy range of thyroid hormones.
- Neeck, G., and Riedel, W., 1992. Thyroid function in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. The Journal of rheumatology, 19(7), pp.1120-1122.
- Reinehr, T., 2010. Obesity and thyroid function. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 316(2), pp.165-171.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Thyroid Disease: Hypothyroidism & Hyperthyroidism | Cleveland Clinic. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8541-thyroid-disease [Accessed 24 Jun. 2019].
- Morley, J.E., Damassa, D.A., Gordon, J., Pekary, A.E. and Hershman, J.M., 1978. Thyroid function and vitamin A deficiency. Life sciences, 22(21), pp.1901-1905.
- Mackawy, A.M.H., Al-Ayed, B.M. and Al-Rashidi, B.M., 2013. Vitamin D deficiency and its association with thyroid disease. International journal of health sciences, 7(3), p.267.
- Ventura, M., Melo, M. and Carrilho, F., 2017. Selenium and thyroid disease: From pathophysiology to treatment. International journal of endocrinology, 2017.
- Maxwell, C., and Volpe, S.L., 2007. Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 51(2), pp.188-194.
- Ventura, M., Melo, M., and Carrilho, F., 2017. Selenium and thyroid disease: From pathophysiology to treatment. International journal of endocrinology, 2017.
- Farhangi, M.A., Keshavarz, S.A., Eshraghian, M., Ostadrahimi, A. and Saboor-Yaraghi, A.A., 2012. The effect of vitamin A supplementation on thyroid function in premenopausal women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31(4), pp.268-274.