Top 5 nutrients for optimal thyroid function

thyroid May 03, 2021
Dr Cheryl Kam - Blog - Functional medicine coach - Singapore - Top 5 nutrients for optimal thyroid function

Welcome to yet another blog post about the thyroid, a sneak peek into my upcoming Thyroid Deep Dive, where we talk about the key nutrients, the roots of thyroid disease and the unmissable adrenal-thyroid link.  

So you're a practitioner, health and fitness coach, and self-healer, and already know if your symptoms have to do with your thyroid... or if they are to do with your adrenals.

Once you have figured out that it is indeed the thyroid, then here are some thyroid-specific nutrients not to miss out on!


1) Selenium 


Selenium is a thyroid superstar nutrient and plays an important role in supporting your thyroid function. It is needed by the thyroid to support the creation of thyroid hormones as well as in the conversion of T4 thyroid hormones to active T3 thyroid hormones. 


Selenium also acts as a cofactor used to create glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the body. Some studies have shown that selenium supplements may benefit people with Hashimoto’s disease by lowering their thyroid antibodies and lead to improvements in mood and general well-being.  


The body cannot produce selenium on its own, hence it has to be obtained from your diet. 

Food sources of Selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Fish like tuna, sardines, salmon 
  • Seafood like oysters, clams, shrimps
  • Others like chicken, turkey, eggs and shitake mushrooms. 


The amount of selenium in plant-based food varies widely depending on the soil condition, hence it is important to consume a variety of food sources that contain this mineral.


Supplementation is another option to consider if you are unable to get adequate amount from food. The daily recommended dosage for adults is 75mcg – 150mcg.



2) Iodine


If Selenium is a thyroid superstar, then Iodine is the thyroid’s best friend. It is an also an essential mineral that is needed by the thyroid glands to make thyroid hormones. About 70-80% of the iodine in the body is found within the thyroid gland. Iodine is particularly important for women who are pregnant as it is needed to ensure the development of a baby's brain during pregnancy and early life. 


People with iodine deficiency are at risk of developing hypothyroidism and other health issues. Striking the right balance in iodine intake is important. Too much iodine may worsen thyroid symptoms in people with Hashimoto’s. 


Seaweed, such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame is one of the best food sources of iodine. Other good iodine sources include fish, other seafood like prawns, crabs, and oysters, and eggs. 


Recommended Dietary intake of iodine is around 75-150mcg/day for normal adults and this increases for pregnant and breastfeeding women (200mcg/day).

Bear in mind these are doses for if you're a regularly functioning person without any nutrient debt, or challenges with environmental halogens, during which your dose may have to be tweaked up, by an experienced functional medicine practitioner.



3) Zinc


Zinc is an essential mineral for cell functioning, immune system, reproductive health, and thyroid function. Not only does it help in increasing the level of thyroid hormones (T4 and T3), it also directly influences the hormones conversion process of inactive T4 to active T3. Studies have found that low zinc levels result in decreased T4 to T3 conversion hence worsening the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

As mentioned above, zinc plays an important role in regulating the body’s immune function and helps in preventing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease and a leading cause of hypothyroidism. Studies have found that hair loss attributed to hypothyroidism improves with thyroxine and zinc supplementation. 

The recommended dosage for adults typically ranges from 15-30mg/day. Food sources of zinc include Oysters, Shellfish, beef, chicken, cashew nuts, and pumpkin seeds. 



4) Iron


Iron is extremely critical in the formation of thyroid hormones. Studies have shown that Iron deficiency can contribute to the development of hypothyroidism as iron is needed to produce red blood cells and Thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) in the body.

Note that iron deficiency is the most common deficiency seen in thyroid patients. This is because being hypothyroid can result in a lowered production of stomach acid which in turn leads to the malabsorption of iron.

And when storage form of iron (ferritin) level is depleted, it leads to worsening of thyroid-mimicking symptoms like fatigue, hair loss and breathing difficulty etc, resulting in a vicious cycle of further deficiencies and a seemingly worsening of hypothyroid symptoms.  

This begs the question, in nutrient debt, is it really the thyroid or do they simply need to replenish nutrients for everything to start working again?  I teach how to tease this out, and more, in my courses!  

The treatment of iron deficiency and dosage depends on the severity of symptoms and the results of the serum ferritin test. It may involve oral supplementation and/or a diet high in iron, and in some cases, an iron infusion.

Sources of iron includes organ meats and red meats like beef and pork, eggs and spinach.  



5) Tyrosine


Tyrosine (L-Tyrosine in synthetic form) is a non-essential amino acid, which means our bodies can produce on its own. Being a thyroid hormones precursor, tyrosine plays a vital role in balancing the production of thyroid hormones. It works together with iodine to produce thyroid hormones and has been shown to benefit people with hypothyroidism.  


Tyrosine can be found commonly in animal protein like chicken, turkey and fish. Other sources include almonds, pumpkin, avocados, bananas, lima beans and dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Using it supplementally is safe, at doses of 500mg daily, often reserved for those who have already a compromised gut absorption system.


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Co-written by Yen Lim Piper and Dr Cheryl Kam






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