Top 5 nutrients for optimal thyroid function

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

Are you getting enough of these essential nutrients that help your thyroid function? We've listed down 5 nutrients that will boost thyroid health.


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.  

As a practitioner, health and fitness coach, and self-healer, it's very important to know what symptoms have to do with your thyroid. Also, it helps to dig deeper and see if any thyroid issues have to do with your adrenals.

Once you have figured out that it is indeed a thyroid issue, here are some thyroid-specific nutrients you shouldn't miss out on!


1) Selenium 

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

Selenium also acts as a cofactor used to create glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the body. Studies show that selenium supplements may benefit people with Hashimoto’s disease. This nutrient lowers thyroid antibodies and leads 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. 

Because the amount of selenium in plant-based food varies widely depending on the soil condition, 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 an adequate amount from your diet. The daily recommended dosage for adults is 75mcg – 150mcg.


2) Iodine

If Selenium is a thyroid superstar, then Iodine is its best friend. The thyroid gland needs this essential mineral to produce hormones as about 70-80% of it is found within the gland itself. Iodine is particularly important for pregnant women because it ensures brain development in infants during pregnancy.

People with iodine deficiency are at risk of developing hypothyroidism and other health issues. Therefore, striking the right balance in iodine intake is important. This is because too much iodine may worsen thyroid symptoms in people with Hashimoto’s. 

The best food sources for iodine are seaweed, such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame. In addition, good iodine sources include fish, other seafood like prawns, crabs, and oysters, and eggs. 

The Dietary intake recommended for iodine is around 75-150mcg/day for normal adults. The number may be higher for pregnant and breastfeeding women (200mcg/day).

Keep in mind that these numbers are for a regularly functioning person without any nutrient debt. Experienced functional medicine practitioners may tweak these numbers for individuals facing challenges with environmental halogens and other external concerns.


3) Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral for cell functions, the immune system, reproductive health, and the thyroid. Not only does it help in increasing the level of hormones (T4 and T3), but it also directly influences the conversion process of inactive T4 to active T3. Research has shown that low zinc levels result in lower rates of this conversion, hence, worsening the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

It also plays an important role in regulating the body’s immune function as well as helps in preventing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis - an autoimmune disease and a leading cause of hypothyroidism. Studies have found that hair loss attributed to hypothyroidism improves with thyroxine and zinc supplementation. 

Typically, around 15-30mg of Zinc a day is advised for adults. Food sources of zinc include Oysters, Shellfish, beef, chicken, cashew nuts, and pumpkin seeds. 


4) Iron

Iron is extremely critical in the production of thyroid hormones. Many studies suggest that Iron deficiency can contribute to the development of hypothyroidism. This is because iron plays are role in producing red blood cells and Thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) in the body.

The most common deficiency seen in thyroid patients is actually Iron deficiency. This is due to hypothyroidism which can result in a lowered production of stomach acid. This, in turn, leads to the malabsorption of iron.

When the storage form of iron (ferritin) level is depleted, symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, and breathing difficulty worsen. This often results in a vicious cycle of further deficiencies and a seemingly worsening of hypothyroid symptoms.  

When it comes to nutrient debt, this is now the question:  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 include 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. This is an acid that our body produces on its own. Tyrosine plays a vital role in balancing the production of thyroid hormones. It works together with iodine to produce hormones. This is vital as it has been shown to benefit people with hypothyroidism.  

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

As a supplement,  it is safe at doses of 500mg daily. This approach is often reserved for those who already have a compromised gut absorption system.


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Co-written by Yen Lim Piper and Dr. Cheryl Kam




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