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Nutrition plays an important role in thyroid health and your entire wellbeing for that matter.
Everything you eat can either contribute to thyroid functioning or disrupt it.
Ideally, you should consume a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.
One of our previous posts focused on vitamins that support thyroid health, and this article provides a rundown of minerals for the same purpose.
Copper is the third most prevalent mineral in a human body, yet it cannot be produced by the body itself and one must obtain it through diet.
Since copper is essential for adequate thyroid function, deficiency in this mineral can affect the health of this gland.
Copper is significant because it works with other minerals like potassium, zinc, and calcium that are vital for balanced thyroid activity to prevent hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
In fact, evidence shows that hypothyroid individuals have low levels of copper while people with hyperthyroidism have abnormally high levels[i] of the mineral in their bodies.
The recommended daily intake of copper is 1.5-3mg and it is highly recommended to avoid consuming more on a daily basis.
Excessive intake of this mineral can lead to copper toxicity or copperiedus. Too much copper can affect zinc levels in the body, yet another mineral crucial for thyroid health.
Most copper supplements nowadays already contain zinc to establish much-needed balance. It is recommended that men take 5:1 zinc to copper ratio and women 10:1.
Copper rich foods include:
- Beef liver
- Blackstrap molasses
- Dark chocolate
- Dried apricots
- Sunflower seeds
- Turnip greens
Zinc is one of the most important minerals for thyroid health.
The mineral is crucial for healthy levels of thyroid hormone T3. One study discovered that zinc deficient rats had insufficient levels of T3[ii] compared to healthy controls.
This happens because zinc deficiency impairs the extrathyroidal production of the T3 hormone.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered that zinc plays a major role in concentrations of T3, T4, and resting metabolic rate.
Therefore, zinc supplementation is an effective manner of increasing levels of thyroid hormones in the body[iii].
What makes zinc so beneficial for thyroid health is the multifaceted approach toward sufficient hormone production and prevention of symptoms associated with deficiency.
For example, excessive cortisol (stress hormone) levels decrease the production of T3 and T4 while increasing levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)[iv]. Zinc supplementation lowers cortisol levels and reduces the impact of stress on thyroid health[v].
Recommended daily zinc intake for adults is 11mg, avoid consuming excessive amounts of the mineral to avoid copper deficiency (these two minerals work in a seesaw manner).
If you’re hypothyroid, taking up to 30mg a day is sufficient[vi].
Zinc-rich foods include:
- Cocoa powder
- Grass-fed beef
- Kefir or yogurt
- Pumpkin seeds
Magnesium is referred to as the miracle mineral for a reason; it participates in about 300 processes in your body. It comes as no surprise why magnesium is also beneficial for thyroid health.
Low levels of magnesium are strongly associated with thyroid vascularization and point out to the inflammatory process in the body[vii]. Improvement of thyroid function can be achieved through sufficient intake of the mineral.
Healthy magnesium levels are vital for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. In fact, one study found that a combination of magnesium and levothyroxine improved common markers associated with hypothyroidism.
A combination of magnesium and levothyroxine works better than mineral or medication alone in alleviating the chronic low-grade inflammatory status and reduces the risk of cardiovascular events in hypothyroid patients[viii].
However, you shouldn’t take magnesium supplement in conjunction with hypothyroidism medication without consulting your doctor first.
Moreover, magnesium activates enzymes responsible for energy production. This is important, particularly if we bear in mind that hypothyroid patients also struggle with fatigue. In addition, magnesium helps regulate calcium levels, potassium, copper, vitamin D, and zinc.
Recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420mg for men and 320mg for women. Good sources of this mineral include:
- Black beans
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
- Yogurt or kefir
Iodine is paramount for thyroid hormone product, but the problem is that our body doesn’t produce it on its own.
Consumption of iodine through the diet is the best way to ensure adequate levels of the element and avoid deficiency.
While iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and 40% of the world is at risk of becoming iodine deficient, it is not quite common among Americans. Iodine deficiency is primarily characteristic for lower socioeconomic nations.
Iodine deficiency leads to the formation of goiter because thyroid gland works too hard to keep up with increased demand for hormone production.
Studies show that both iodine deficiency and excess affect thyroid functioning and induce either hypo- or hyperthyroidism[ix]. This is because iodine is the chief element of thyroid hormones and it is important for their production.
Recommended daily intake of iodine is about 200 micrograms for men and women. It is strongly recommended not to go overboard to avoid consequences that come with too much iodine in the body. Good sources of iodine include:
- Green peas
- Lima beans
- Raw milk
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that your body makes from another amino acid called phenylalanine.
Then, tyrosine proceeds to make proteins and neurotransmitters that our body needs to function properly. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, referred to as stress hormones, are made by chemical interactions that involve l-tyrosine.
These hormones help the body handle stress more easily. As stated above, stress has a negative impact on your thyroid.
While deficiency in this amino acid is rare, it causes serious problems including low body temperature, low blood pressure, and an underactive thyroid[x].
Supplementation with l-tyrosine is also believed to improve mental alertness and support cognitive functioning, which is important because hypothyroidism is linked to reduced cognitive abilities.
Supplementation with l-tyrosine can be an effective way of increasing levels of T3 and T4. The daily dosage of l-tyrosine is generally between 500mg to 1000mg three times per day. The right dosage depends on a patient’s condition. Good sources of tyrosine are:
- Beans and lentils
- Chicken and turkey
- Fish and seafood
- Lean beef and lamb
- Parmesan cheese
- Seeds and nuts
- Whole grains
Selenium is vital for the everyday functioning of thyroid gland. A group of scientists from China discovered that low intake of this mineral was strongly associated with an increased risk of thyroid disease[xi].
The study showed that people from low-selenium counties had 69% higher risk of developing some thyroid disease than participants who lived in areas with adequate intake of the mineral.
The impact of selenium on thyroid functioning isn’t shocking if we bear in mind the gland contains a higher amount of the mineral than any other organ in our body. As a result, selenium contributes to the production of thyroid hormones.
Not only that, selenium acts as a “thyroid antioxidant” and besides assisting production of thyroid hormones it is also involved in the conversion of T4.
In addition, selenium protects the thyroid by binding to mercury and making it inert. Why does it matter? The reason is simple, mercury is a major thyroid disrupting chemical. It is also important to mention that supplementation with selenium is beneficial for patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis even when they’re also taking levothyroxine[xii].
While the accepted daily intake of selenium is 55mcg-100mcg according to Western doctors, some believe that 200mcg-300mcg is a better dosage. If you’re interested in taking selenium supplements, the best thing to do is to consult your doctor. Good sources of selenium are:
- Beef liver
- Brazil nuts
- Grass-fed beef
Iron is a mineral that our body needs for a number of functions. If you were to browse minerals for thyroid, the chances are high most sources wouldn’t feature iron on the list, which is unfair because it is extremely important.
The primary purpose of iron is to transport oxygen through the body and promote cellular growth. As a result, it is common for hypothyroid individuals to be low in iron too. Recommended daily intake of iron is 17-18.9mg for women and 19.3-20.5mg for men. Good sources of iron include:
- Black beans
- Dark chocolate
- Grass-fed beef
We don’t get to read much about manganese, but it is equally important as other minerals. Although it participates in thyroid hormone production like other minerals, there are not enough studies about manganese and all its benefits for thyroid health.
Current data on this topic suggests that manganese affects thyroid hormones directly by regulating the deiodinase enzymes (involved in activation or deactivation of thyroid hormones).
Scientists also found a significant correlation between manganese concentrations and circulating T4, thus suggesting that thyroid hormone may affect the metabolism of this mineral[xv].
The impact of manganese on thyroid health is best depicted with the fact that hyperthyroid patients have higher levels of this mineral while those with hypothyroidism have lower levels of manganese[xvi].
Of course, more research is necessary to uncover the potential of manganese for thyroid health and all its mechanisms. Recommended daily intake of manganese is 2.3mg for men and 1.8mg for women.
Best sources of manganese include:
- Fish and shellfish
- Leafy green vegetables
- Pumpkin sweets
- Whole grains
Molybdenum has a beneficial impact on biological functions in your body. While all life forms need molybdenum, only small amounts of this mineral are required. Deficiency in molybdenum is rare and supplementation is rarely needed.
Molybdenum helps to jump-start important enzymes in our body, fights inflammatory and autoimmune disease, and it can prevent the growth of cancer-producing agents. While molybdenum is important for thyroid functioning, the underlying mechanisms are still unknown. That being said, molybdenum-dependent enzymes operate in the oxidative system of thyroid epithelial cells called thyrocytes. They also play role in the release of T3 from the thyroid gland.
Recommended daily intake of molybdenum is 45 micrograms a day. Good sources of this mineral are:
A number of different minerals are required for proper functioning of thyroid gland. All of them have different roles, but we showed through scientific literature and studies, the importance of correct daily intake.
Fortunately, it is possible to obtain recommended daily values through diet or through additional supplementation.
[i] Aihara K, Nishi Y, Hatano S, et al. Zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium metabolism in thyroid disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1984 Jul;40(1):26-35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6741853
[ii] Morley JE, Gordon J, Hershman JM. Zinc deficiency, chronic starvation, and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid function. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition August 1980, vol. 33 no. 8, 1767-1770 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/33/8/1767.short
[iii] Maxwell C, Volpe SL. Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism June 2007, vol. 51 no. 2, 188-194. Doi: 10.1159/000103324 https://www.karger.com/article/Abstract/103324
[iv] Furr MO, Murray MJ, Ferguson DC. The effects of stress on gastric ulceration, T3, T4, reverse T3, and cortisol in neonatal foals. Equine Veterinary Journal 1992 Jan;24(1):37-40 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1555538
[v] Brandao-Neto J, de Mendonca BB, Shuhama T, et al. Zinc acutely and temporarily inhibits adrenal cortisol secretion in humans. A preliminary report. Biological Trace Element Research 1990 Jan;24(1):83-9. Doi: 10.1007/BF02789143 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1702662
[vi] Treating hypothyroidism: can vitamins and supplements help? Everyday Health https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/healthy-living-with-hypothyroidism/vitamins/
[vii] Monocayo R, Monocayo H. The WOMED model of benign thyroid disease: acquired magnesium deficiency due to physical and psychological stressors relates to dysfunction of oxidative phosphorylation. BBA Clinical June 2015, vol. 3, 44-64. Doi: 10.1016/j.bbacli.2014.11.002 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214647414000282
[viii] Abbas AM, Sakr HF. Effect of magnesium sulfate and thyroxine on inflammatory markers in rat model of hypothyroidism. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 2016 Apr;94(4):426-32. Doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2015-0247 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26854732
[ix] Chung HR. Iodine and thyroid function. Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2014;19(1):8-12. doi:10.6065/apem.2014.19.1.8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049553/
[x] Tyrosine, University of Maryland Medical Center http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/tyrosine
[xi] Wu Q, Rayman MP, Lv H, et al. Low population selenium status is associated with increased prevalence of thyroid disease. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism November 2015, vol. 100 no. 11, 4037-4047. Doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2222 https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2015-2222
[xii] Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2017;2017:1297658. doi:10.1155/2017/1297658. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/
[xiii] Khatiwada S, Gelal B, Baral N, Lamsal M. Association between iron status and thyroid function in Nepalese children. Thyroid Research. 2016;9:2. doi:10.1186/s13044-016-0031-0. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729155/
[xiv] Eftekhari MH, Keshavarz SA, Jalali M, et al. The relationship between iron status and thyroid hormone concentration in iron-deficient adolescent Iranian girls. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;15(1):50-5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16500878
[xv] Soldin O, Aschner M. EFFECTS OF MANGANESE ON THYROID HORMONE HOMEOSTASIS: POTENTIAL LINKS. Neurotoxicology. 2007;28(5):951-956. doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2007.05.003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2067987/
[xvi] Memon NS, Kazi TG, Afridi HI, et al. Correlation of manganese with thyroid function in females having hypo- and hyperthyroid disorders. Biological Trace Element Research 2015 Oct;167(2):165-71. Doi: 10.1007/s12011-015-0277-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25774040