Written by: Angelique Johnson
Feeling drained, weak, or just plain used up? You could be missing some key nutrients that keep your thyroid from working properly.
The thyroid is the small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. It produces energyfor all cells in the body and has an immeasurable effect on your health. It regulates your metabolism and, when not working properly, can contribute to a wide range of problems.
More than 20 million individuals in the United States have some form of thyroid disease. The most common issue is hypothyroidism, a condition where thyroid hormone levels are lower than they should be, causing a sluggish thyroid.
Unfortunately, thyroid problems are often misdiagnosed, because more often than not, standard medical tests aren’t enough to get a complete picture.
There are two kinds of thyroid hormones in the body: the inactive form (T4) and the active form (T3). The T4 hormone travels through the blood and into the cell where it becomes the active T3 form.
However, when there is a problem with the conversion from T4 to T3, your body begins to show symptoms. Our modern day tests only measure the amount of T4 that is in the blood and have no way of reporting if there is a conversion issue.
Some of the symptoms of low thyroid function include:
- Fatigue or low energy
- Brain fog
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss or thinning
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Memory problems
- Muscle weakness
Luckily, if you suspect a sluggish thyroid, there are some natural ways you can boost its function. Here are 5 of the most effective:
Iodine in extremely important for the thyroid, but unfortunately, the nutrient is often lacking from our diets.
Aim for 200 mcg daily. Most multivitamins contain this amount, or, if you prefer eating natural sources, try green sea vegetables such as nori, shellfish, organic plain yogurt and eggs.
Aim to get 300 mg daily by filling up on foods such as almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
In order for T4 to be converted into T3, an enzyme that contains selenium is necessary. A study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology found a direct relationship between low selenium in the body and thyroid tissue damage.
It is recommended to get 55 mcg of selenium per day, which can be achieved by eating two Brazil nuts.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb popularly used in Ayurvedic medicine to lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and to balance thyroid hormones. The herb has been shown to have a stimulatory effect on slow thyroids.
The recommended dosage is 500mg, 1-2x per day.
Maca is an ancient Peruvian fruit that has been long used for its hormone balancing effects. The alkaloids of maca are believed to stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain in order to better balance the entire endocrine system. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH),which, in turn, stimulates the pituitary gland to release TSH, which stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormone.
Maca helps to increase the output of thyroid hormones in some people with hypothyroid conditions. Dosages vary from person to person, but most studies have used anywhere from 2 grams to 10 grams per day.
Start with a smaller dose and work your way up until you start feeling a difference. Maca can be bought in supplement form, or as a powder, which can be easily mixed into a smoothie or your morning oatmeal.
Note: As with anything new, especially if you are under the care of a physician, speak with a trusted professional with a background in natural medicine before incorporating anything new into your routine. Some medications can interfere with the efficacy of herbs and vise versa.