A small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits just below the Adam's apple, the thyroid exerts immense influence over our state of health. "The thyroid produces energy for each of the cells of the body," says David Brownstein, MD, a holistic physician and author of Overcoming Thyroid Disorders. By doing so, it regulates overall metabolism-the essential function of converting food to energy-and can cause or contribute to many maladies, from mysterious weight gain and thinning hair to low energy and risk for heart disease.
Yet, for more than 12 million Americans, the thyroid doesn't function as it should. The most common situation is low thyroid, or hypothyroidism, where levels of thyroid hormone are below optimum. "The number one complaint I hear from my patients is ‘I'm tired, and I'm tired of being tired,'" says Brownstein. "And number two would be brain fog. Many times, the underlying cause is a hormonal and/or a nutritional imbalance, and once you rectify that, people have good energy throughout their whole lifespan."
Symptoms of Low Thyroid
- Fatigue or low energy
- Brain fog
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss or thinning
- Dry skin
- Puffiness in the face
- Feeling sad
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain
- Irregular or heavier menstrual periods
- Difficulty conceiving
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain or discomfort
- Balance difficulties
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High homocysteine
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
How to Feed Your Thyroid
For preventing and reversing low thyroid function, Brownstein recommends:
Aim for 200 mcg daily, all or most of which can be found in many multivitamins. Top food sources are green sea vegetables, such as nori or wakame, and saltwater fish and shellfish. Other good sources include yogurt, milk, and eggs. Regular table salt contains iodine, but in very small amounts that are not well absorbed, so it is not a recommended source.
A vital building block of thyroid hormone, this amino acid is the "T" in T4 and T3. Get 300 mg daily.
Vitamins and minerals:
Each one plays a supporting role in stimulating T4 hormone production, converting it to the active T3 form, or protecting the thyroid gland. In multivitamins, look for approximately 2,500 IU vitamin A, 300 IU vitamin D, 100 IU vitamin E, 5 mg riboflavin, 30 mg niacinamide, 15 mg magnesium, 5 mg zinc, 30 mcg selenium, 0.1 mg copper, and 2 mg manganese.
A form of sulfur, MSM helps regulate thyroid hormones. Take 50 mg daily.
Underperforming adrenal glands can also cause fatigue. If you take thyroid supplements and feel more tired, it could be because your adrenals also need more support from an adrenal glandular supplement.
Some thyroid formulas may contain forskohlii and guggul gum extract to optimize thyroid performance, and/or ashwagandha to balance thyroid and adrenal function.
These same nutrients can also help with inflammatory or autoimmune thyroid conditions, but are not recommended for an overactive thyroid. To find a holistic practitioner for testing and customized treatment, ask a compounding pharmacist in your area or visit "Find a Practitioner" at icimed.com, or "Physician+Link" in "Health Resources" at acam.org.
How to Test Your Thyroid
As soon as you wake up in the morning, before getting out of bed, take your temperature. The normal range with an under-arm thermometer is 97.6-98.2°F. If your temperature is below normal, your thyroid is likely underactive.