Take Control Of Thyroid Health By Being Proactive


Your patients may not realize this right away, but thyroid support is key to achieving balanced body function. The thyroid is an endocrine gland that serves many important purposes that revolve around regulation. This is why when communicating about thyroid function (1) to patients, practitioners often talk about balance. The homeostatic release of hormones helps control metabolism and regulates many body functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and menstrual cycles.

When the thyroid (2) produces too much triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) the patient can develop hyperthyroidism and when it produces too little, it can lead to hypothyroidism. With hyper, the patient can experience anxiety, sweating, hair loss or other issues. With hypo, the patient may have trouble sleeping and concentrating, or be unusually tired.

male doctor examining elderly woman's thyroid in doctor office

Women over the age of 50 are most likely to experience thyroid related health issues.

Identifying risks

As with health in general — including thyroid health— proactive prevention is key. The first step is to identify patients who may be at a higher risk (3) of having thyroid issues. Increased risk can come with one or more of these factors:

  • Age – the chances of developing a thyroid issue increases after age 50.
  • Sex – women are more likely to have thyroid issues than men.
  • Family history – a family history of any autoimmune illness including thyroid will increase risk.
  • Personal health history – if the patient has type 1 diabetes or any other autoimmune illness they are at increased risk.
  • Cancer treatment – radiation to the thyroid increases risk.

It’s also important for patients to understand that even if they are not at high risk, they can still develop issues with thyroid health. In fact, according to the American Thyroid Association (4), more than 12 percent of Americans will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime and as many as 60 percent of Americans are unaware they have a thyroid issue! Underdiagnosed thyroid issues can be a big problem. That’s why using an integrative proactive protocol to reduce risk is so important.

Integrative proactive protocol

Integrative practitioners serve their patients by creating proactive protocols to help reduce the risk of illness. This is their sweet spot! This is especially important when it comes to thyroid health. A proactive approach includes:

  • Educating patients, especially those at higher risk, about thyroid health and symptoms that may occur.
  • Recommending a whole-foods based Mediterranean style diet (5) that will help reduce inflammation and support health on a variety of levels, including the thyroid.
  • Focusing on a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, stress management, and sound sleep.
  • Recommending dietary supplements as needed, especially in cases of vitamin deficiencies.
woman sitting on couch holding a few supplements in right hand and a glass of water in left hand

The most important dietary supplements that help thyroid health are linked to selenium, zinc, iron, and vitamin D deficiencies.

From a dietary supplement standpoint, there are several nutrients to consider. While iodine [MOU1] is on the radar of practitioners when it comes to thyroid health, there are a few other nutrients that are important as well. Let’s start with selenium.

Selenium

Selenium plays an integral role in thyroid hormone synthesis. Per gram of tissue, the thyroid has the highest amount of selenium in adults. Leonidas H. Duntas, M.D. (6) wrote in a 2010 paper that, “The recent recognition that the essential trace element selenium is incorporated as selenocystine in all three deiodinases has decisively confirmed the clear-cut link between selenium and thyroid function.” He goes on to report that selenium deficiency is associated with increased risk and maintaining optimum selenium levels can reduce the risk of thyroid issues. This is consistent with subsequent research, including a 2017 literature review (7) featured in the International Journal of Endocrinology which demonstrated that maintaining optimal levels of selenium is a prerequisite for optimal thyroid health.

Zinc

Zinc is also a co-factor in thyroid hormone synthesis. According to a mini review by Khanam S., zinc is important to the endocrine system because it positively influences homeostasis and thyroid function. Research has shown that low levels of zinc can lead to thyroid issues. Conversely, increasing zinc levels through supplementation can also increase T3 and T4 levels. This was demonstrated by a 2015 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial (8) published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that featured 68 overweight and obese women with a hypothyroid.

Iron

In addition to zinc, iron deficiency can also cause a problem when it comes to thyroid health. For example, a 2016 cross-sectional study (9) published in Thyroid Research found a correlation between iron deficiency and poor thyroid function in Nepalese children. The researchers concluded that “anemia and iron deficiency seems to be associated with thyroid dysfunction particularly hypothyroidism.” A 2018 cross-sectional study (10) published in Scientific Reports looked at an adult population and also found that iron deficiency was linked to poor thyroid function.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased risk of thyroid issues. Several studies, including a 2017 review (11) published in the journal Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders have demonstrated that vitamin D plays an important role in thyroid health, and that deficiency can be detrimental to thyroid function.

Correcting key nutrient deficiencies will help enhance the thyroid health of most patients. From there, looking at iodine, as well as selenium supplementation may be important. It’s always worth remembering that too much iodine (12) can be harmful to the thyroid. As with thyroid function in general, balance is always the key. It is always important to consult a healthcare practitioner.

  1. Curley PA. Dietary and lifestyle interventions to support functional hypothyroidism. Inquiries Journal. 2009;1(12).
  2. Duntas LH. Selenium and the thyroid: a close-knit connection. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2010;95(12):5180-5188.
  3. Khanam S. Impact of zinc on thyroid metabolism. Journal of Diabetes, Metabolic Disorders & Control. 2018;5(1):27-28.
  4. Khatiwada S, Gelal B, Baral N, Lamsal M. Association between iron status and thyroid function in Nepalese children. Thyroid Research. 2016;9:2.
  5. Mahmoodianfard S, Vafa M. Golgiri F, et al. Effects of zinc and selenium supplementation on thyroid function in overweight and obese hypothyroid patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2015;34(5)
  6. Maldonado-Arque C, Valdes S, Lago-Sampedro A, et al. Iron deficiency is associated with hypothyroxinemia and hypotriiodothyroninemia in the Spanish general adult population. Scientific Reports. 2018;8.
  7. Mezzomo TR, Nadal J. Effect of nutrients and dietary substances on thyroid function and hypothyroidism. Food, Nutrition & Health. 2016;11(2):427-443.
  8. Nettore IC, Albano L, Unagaro P, et al. Sunshine vitamin and thyroid. Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders. 2017;18:347-354.
  9. Shama R, Bharti S, Kumar K. Diet and thyroid – myths and facts. Journal of Medical Nutrition & Nutraceuticals. 2014;3(2):60-65.
  10. Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and thyroid disease: from pathophysiology to treatment. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2017;2017.