thyroid health


Thyroid hormones are crucial for growth, good energy, healthy skin, mental alertness and appetite. They are also important for good digestion and sexual health. So let’s make sure the little glands (which are found in the neck) that produce these vital hormones  have all the nutrients they need to keep you growing and glowing with vitality!


Key nutrient support comes from Essential Fatty Acids and the mineral Iodine. Meanwhile, good stress management and regular exercise will avoid some of the major problems associated with thyroid hormones that are detailed below.

FunctionsAffects metabolic rate and rate of glucose absorption, release and cellular uptake
Thyroid Hormone are neuroprotective:
  • influence neurotransmitter pathways
  • promotes myelination and plasticity
  • improves neurogenesis
  • improves brain metabolism

Low thyroid prompts a compensatory stress response to boost blood sugar and chronic stress leads to low thyroid hormone levels
Low thyroid leads to:

  • decreased neuron growth
  • decreased brain plasticity
  • reduced number of synapses
  • compromised blood brain barrier
  • activation of microglia (immune cells that cause brain inflammation)

1 Nutritional Support:

Essential Fatty Acids – Omega 3 from ground Flax seed, Walnuts and cold water fish such as Salmon and Halibut, as well as good quality fish oil

  • Fatty acids are crucial for proper thyroid function. Fats form the outer (phospholipid) layer of cells throughout the body, and the quality of fat in that layer is crucial in determining quality of cell function. This is determined by both fat quality and fat metabolism
  • Thyroid gland depends on a good quality phospholipid layer in its cellular architecture in order to regulate the hormones that it produces and the enzymes those hormones regulate.

Fats establish and maintain:

  • Fluidity of thyroid gland
  • Cell membrane integrity (of cell phospholipid layer) and
    • functionality of that membrane
    • the hormone receptors it contains
    • enzyme dependent activity

Meanwhile, the utilization of fat is influenced by the thyroid gland:

  • Elevated thyroid hormone T4 alters desaturase enzymes necessary to elongate essential fatty acids for use in essential body functions
  • Altered thyroid hormone levels change fatty acid constitution in ways that impair cell membrane structure and function

The effect of irregular hormone secretion by the thyroid alters fatty acid metabolism which in turn compromises fatty acid composition in structure like the skin

  • Skin’s integrity dependent upon metabolism of fatty acids
  • Poor thyroid compromises utilisation of these fats to maintain skin’s integrity

Iodine: crucial for thyroid hormone production. However, there is a need for balanced intake

  • Too little iodine causes hypothyroid problems such as fatigue, mental sluggishness, depression, weight gain and in extremes, thyroid enlargement (goiters)
  • Too much interferes with thyroid hormone production

Goitrogens: interfere with thyroid hormone production and should be avoided when hypothyroid symptoms arise. Goitrogens include:

  • Turnips, Cabbage, Mustard, Cassava root, Soybeans, Peanuts, Pine nuts and Millet)
  • Cooking inactivates Goitrogens

Tyrosine – an amino acid itself made from amino acid Phenylalanine and is direct precursor to dopamine and thyroid hormones. Phenylamine is:

  • High in many foods, especially meat, milk products
  • Needs folic acid, vit C, copper and S-adenosylmethionine as co-factors for metabolism into tyrosine

Zinc – essential for hormone activity and receptor site function  as well as skin and skin oil gland function (which itself is regulated by thyroid hormones)

  • Vegetable sources: green peas; parsley; potatoes; garlic; cauliflower; spinach; cabbage; lettuce; cucumber
  • Nut and seed sources: Pecans, Brazil nuts, Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Olive oil
  • Spice and herb sources: ginger root; black pepper, mustard, paprika, chilli powder, thyme, Cinnamon

Additional nutrient support from vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, C, E

Vitamin A – essential for thyroid hormone manufacture and activity as well as bone development, growth, and healthy structure of skin (which itself is regulated by thyroid hormones). Best food sources are green leafy and yellow-orange vegetables

B2 – essential co-factor in making fatty acids needed to preserve integrity of cell membranes (such as those of the skin and mucuous membranes) that thyroid hormones regulate. Best food sources are Nutritional yeast, Wheat germ, Organ meats, Almonds, Mushrooms

B3 – essential for skin health that thyroid hormones regulate. Best food sources are Nutritional yeast, Wheat bran, Meat and Fish

B6 – essential for maintaining hormonal balance. Best food sources are Nutritional yeast, Wheat germ, Sunflower seeds, Whole-beans, Banana, Avocado

C – essential co-factor in many of the functions that thyroid hormones regulate, such as skin integrity as well as growth hormone production. Best sources are raw vegetables and fruits

E – prevents oxidative damage to fatty acids (phospholipids) in cell membranes thus ensuring cell membrane integrity and thyroid hormone function. Best sources are nuts and plant and seed oils


Function of thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones such as T4 are crucial for controlling metabolism (number refers to the number of Iodine atoms contained in the hormone). Thyroid hormones have receptor cells throughout body. These affect metabolism via

  • Blood glucose and insulin
  • Cholesterol, sex hormone and adrenal hormone production
  • Sex, libido and reproduction capabilities
  • Digestion and nutrient absorption

Thyroid hormone T3 (Triiodothyronine) works in the brain to keep cells active, leading to memory and alertness

The most important thyroid hormone: T4 (Thyroxine) affects virtually every cell in body

  • Stimulates enzymes that digest glucose, triggers release digestive juices, is involved metabolism fats and protein, helps liver produce cholesterol, needed for transport of fat around body
  • Controls Basal Metabolic Rate, Oxygen consumption and heat production
  • Regulates tissue growth, crucial for development and function of nerves, bones and reproductive organs
  • Keeps skin moist, promotes secretion by skin cells

Temperature (underarm measure in morning: 97.6 to 98.2) often falls with hypothyroidism


Symptoms of thyroid hormones problems:

Too little

  • Lowered Basal Metabolic Rate, body temperature, Heart Rate, Blood Pressure and appetite
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Depression, lack of concentration
  • Unusual sensation in arms and legs
  • Lowered digestion leading to constipation
  • Skin: pale, thick and dry
  • Hair: coarser texture and thins
  • Nails: hard and thick
  • Infertility

Too much

  • High Basal Metabolic Rate, body temperature, Heart Rate, Blood Pressure and appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Inability to tolerate heat
  • Muscle weakness and atrophy
  • High Heart Rate and Blood Pressure leading to Heart health problems
  • Irritability, restlessness, insomnia, bulging eyes
  • Over-stimulated digestion leading to diarrhea and loss of appetite
  • Skin: flushed, thin and moist
  • Nails: sort and thin
  • Men: erection difficulty


Adrenals and Thyroid Glands

Chronic Stress (CS)

  • The Hypothalamus and Pituitary Glands are over-stimulated and weakened leading to poor communication with thyroid gland. This in turn leads to decreased thyroid function
  • CS causes increased binding of thyroid hormone proteins that mean thyroid hormones cannot bind to receptors / get into cells to do their job.
  • CS also causes decreased cell sensitivity to thyroid hormones
  • CS causes conversion of the most important thyroid hormone (T4) to an inactive form of T3 thyroid hormone
  • CS weakens immune system and leads to poor immune regulation, factors that can trigger genetic or acquired chronic health disorders (e.g. Hashimoto’s, an auto-immune thyroid disorder)

Adrenals and Progesterone

  • CS will up-regulate production of Cortisol and down-regulate Progesterone production (Pregnenolone stealing in Cholesterol pathway). This again leads to poor Progesterone production and circulation
  • Progesterone is needed for TPO activity. TPO in thyroid determines thyroid hormone production (enzymatic attachment of iodine). Low Progesterone leads to suppression of TPO, leading to decreased thyroid hormone production (Hypothyroidism)
  • CS will also over-stimulate Pituitary gland leading to it becoming sluggish. This leads to poor sex hormone production of Progesterone, Estrogen, and Testosterone. The result is poor reproductive system health and low libido

Adrenals and Estrogen

  • CS runs down ability of liver to break down estrogen for excretion, leading to increased levels estrogen in blood
  • Estrogen binds thyroid hormone proteins making hormones inactive in the body (they cannot bind / get into target cells)


Healing strategies:

Exercise – there are many benefits attributable to exercise on thyroid function including:

  • Speeding up metabolism and thyroid hormone secretion
  • Making tissues sensitive to the effects of thyroid hormones
  • Reducing stress and the effects of adrenal hormones as well as increasing libido

A key feature to this is to pursue HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) in the morning before breakfast

Nutrition and lifestyle

  • Follow Liver Health guidelines to ensure breakdown and detoxification of adrenal and estrogen
  • Ensure correct nutrient balance through a varied diet high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits
  • Reduce stress and help body adapt to stress response with herbal support:
    • Panax Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil Leaf, Pantethine
  • Nutritional and Herbal support for pituitary-thyroid axis:
    • Sage leaf, Arginine, Gamma Oryzanal, Magnesium, Zinc, Manganese

Neck tapping

  • Tapping the glands with your fingers will stimulate blood flow through them and help them function. The glands are located under the jaw on either side of your neck.
  • Tap gently for a minute every morning (you could even tap more if you wish!) with the ends of your fingers.


Adapted from:

Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Press

Bland, J., Costarella, L., Levin, B., Liska, D., Lukaczer, D., Schlitz, B., Schmidt, M., Lerman, R., Quinn, S., Jones, D. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, Second Edition. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Kharrazian, D. (2009). Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism. New York, N.Y.: Morgan James Publishing

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