It seems like more and more people are experiencing hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. Symptoms of this include fatigue/ lethargy, weight gain, dry brittle hair and nails, constipation, depression and sluggish metabolism. There are some dietary choices one can make to help the thyroid, but sometimes that’s just not enough, and thyroid supplements and medications are needed.
There are varying degrees of supplementation and support for the thyroid, ranging from providing the raw materials needed for the body to produce more thyroid hormone of it’s own, to actually giving prescription thyroid hormone replacement. Here are a few important nutrients to consider supplementing:
Iodine is actually a part of your thyroid hormones – 3 molecules in T3 and 4 molecules in T4. If you are low in iodine you won’t be able to manufacturer enough hormone simply due to lack of raw materials, so supplementing with iodine alone is sometimes enough.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that plays a few different roles in the body. It is needed for the production of certain neurotransmitters, and it is also an important nutrient for the thyroid. It tends to be energizing and boosts brain power! Iodine and tyrosine go nicely together.
Zinc and Selenium
I put these together because they are both minerals that are needed for the conversion of T4 to T3. T4 is the thyroid hormone that is produced primarily by the thyroid gland; it goes out to the body where it is converted into the active form T3. That conversion requires zinc and selenium as co-factors, so if those minerals are low, the T4 production might be fine, but not able to be made into the active form.
Glandulars are a way to get actually T3 and T4 into the body (albeit porcine source) without having prescription thyroid hormone. Some people like them as a good support and I have definitely seen T3 and T4 on labwork increase after taking glandulars. Vegetarians of course are not going to be so keen on this option.
Here are a few of my fave thyroid products:
Iodine and Tyrosine by Pure Encapsulations – as the name implies, it supplies iodine and tyrosine only. Good option for vegetarians or people who don’t like the idea of glandulars!
Thyroid Plus by Priority One – this is a comprehensive supplement that is a good bet for anyone who wants to cover all the bases and support all aspects of thyroid hormone production in a natural supplement. It contains some of the B vitamins needed by the thyroid, some tyrosine as mentioned above, and some thyroid glandular.
Thyrostim by Biotics – this is a product which contains iodine, selenium (a mineral needed to convert T4 to T3), tyrosine and pituitary/ hypothalamic glandulars. It is a nice formula and combines well with GTA Forte.
GTA Forte by Biotics – to complement the Thyrostim, this product also made by Biotics contains zinc and selenium, as well as thyroid glandulars.
Thyroid Hormone Medications
Thyroxine (Synthroid) is a pharmaceutical/ synthetic T4. I would say it is the most commonly prescribed thyroid hormone substitute. Some people do well on it, however, as I mentioned before, for T4 supplementation to work, it relies on efficient conversion to T3, so if the conversion is off-kilter, it will not give full relief. I also do not prescribe thyroxine because it is synthetic so it is a little harder for the body to assimilate than the bio-identical forms (described below). Cytomel is a synthetic T3. Theoretically one could take those two together to provide both forms of thyroid – rarely do I use T3 by itself as it can be too stimulating. But I still choose not to use the pharmaceutical thyroid medications.
Armour thyroid has been termed “natural thyroid”. It is a combination of T4 and T3, in a 4:1 ratio. I like that Armour does contain both forms of the thyroid hormone. The thing I’m less keen on is that it is still from a porcine source (i.e. piggy thyroid). Therefore while it might be more “natural” than thyroxine or cytomel, it is truly only natural if you’re a pig! For us humans it is still a foreign substance. For some it is still a better option than the synthetic ones above, it is available from regular pharmacies and most insurances will cover it.
My very favorite prescription thyroid hormone is a bio-identical form that is available through compounding pharmacies. It isn’t 100% “natural” in that it does not grow on trees – it is synthesized in a lab – however it is formulated to mimic human thyroid hormone in molecular structure. This means that the body can recognize it and assimilate it more easily. The T4 and T3 are in a 4:1 ratio similar to Armour, so it does give both forms of thyroid hormone, and it is also available in an extended release form, meaning that it is released evenly throughout the day. I have been taking bio-identical thyroid myself for many years and I feel great on it.
There are lots of different options for supporting thyroid function – I have mentioned just a few. If you haven’t read it yet, go back and read my article on nutrition for the thyroid. And remember, stimulating the thyroid when the adrenals are worn out is like putting your foot on the accelerator while the parking brake is on – you’ll rev the engine pretty high but won’t make much progress!!! Always look at adrenal health in conjunction with thyroid health.