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One of our favorite topics is that of thyroid health. Lydia and I have covered thyroid health a number of times in earlier podcasts, but today we want to focus specifically on the role of minerals in thyroid function.
We cover the basics of thyroid health and what functions the thyroid is responsible for. We also touch on common issues that can impair proper thyroid function, as well as how we can better understand our lab work. Lastly, we explain how minerals (or lack thereof) impact thyroid function and talk about what specific mineral patterns are used to detect thyroid issues, as well as give you some practical advice on how you can use minerals to heal your thyroid from the inside out.
Missed previous episodes? You can find them all here.
Links From This Week’s Episode:
- Information about Thyroid Health
- The VH Podcast, Episode 3: Adrenal Health
- The VH Podcast, Episode 8: Can We Please Stop with the Willy Nilly Supplementation?
- The VH Podcast, Episode 9: Proper Exercise for Adrenal Fatigue
- The VH Podcast, Episode 17: Magnesium 101
- The VH Podcast, Episode 19: The Key to Healing the Thyroid That No One Talks About
- The VH Podcast, Episode 23: Methylation 101
- Miraculous Magnesium and DIY Magnesium Oil
- Stress: Why You Might Be Mineral Deficient
- Health Assessment with Lydia
- Hair Analysis with Lydia
- Information about HTMA and Minerals
- How to Create a Game Plan to Keep Your Whole Family Healthy
Listen to The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 29
Read The Vibrant Health Podcast Show Notes :: Episode 29
The Role of Minerals in Thyroid Health Show Notes
Make sure you check out the Links from the Episode for lots more information on today’s topic.
The thyroid gland is the butterfly shaped gland located within your throat. It regulates the metabolic rate.
Thyroid hormone affects every cell in your body, and you have trillions. Thyroid hormone regulates all your metabolic activities. It is one of your main energy producing glands alongside the adrenals.
The major function of these hormones is to speed up the metabolic rate. When our metabolic rate increases, we turn our fuel (food) into energy more efficiently. A diet that is plentiful in nutrient dense food is important for metabolic health.
When your thyroid is less than optimal (which, truth-be-told, that is the case for most people), you will need to eat quicker burning sources of fuel to get energy. Starchy carbs will be a key part of your diet; eat some good real food sources at every meal. Quantities will vary from person to person.
What Thyroid Hormone Does Specifically
- Regulates your heartbeat
- Warms you up
- Speeds metabolism so you lose weight
- Improves muscle strength
- Replenishes dying cells with healthy ones
- Grows your hair and nails
- Gives you regularity
- Improves your ability to conceive
- Reduces sensations of pain
- Makes you feel happy and content
If there is any difficulty with thyroid hormone production, transportation into the cell or activation and problems arise.
Symptoms of Primary Hypothyroidism (meaning your thyroid is not making adequate thyroid hormone/ low thyroid hormone):
- Difficulty losing weight
- Mentally sluggish, reduced initiative, apathetic, concentration difficulties
- Easily fatigued, sleep during the day
- Sensitive to cold, poor circulation (cold hands and feet)
- Chronic constipation
- Excessive hair loss and/or coarse hair (thin, dry hair)
- Dry skin and hair
- Puffiness around the Adam’s apple
- Cystic acne around the mouth or chin due to hormonal imbalance
- Morning headaches, wear off during the day
- Loss of lateral 1/3 of eyebrow
- Lower eyelashes missing or sparse
- Seasonal sadness/depression
- Concentration difficulties
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Joint pain
- Low body temperature
- Memory problems
- Muscle pain
- Pale skin
- Reduced ability to sweat
- Shortness of breath with little exertion
- Water retention
How Thyroid Hormone Works
In order to make thyroid hormone, your gland needs tyrosine, which is an amino acid and it needs iodine atoms. The thyroid gland produces three main hormones: thyroxine, usually called T4, triiodothyronine, usually called T3, and calcitonin. The T4 hormone means a tyrosine attached to 4 iodines. T3 means a tyrosine attached to 3 iodines. In the body, T4 is the storage hormone, think of this like ‘money in the bank,’ while T3 is the active hormone that your body can access, think of this like ‘money in your pocket.’ Both are important. Calcitonin plays a role as an antagonist to parathyroid hormone, and together they regulate the calcium level in the tissues.
The thyroid is a complex endocrine gland that works in concert with many other endocrine glands with hormonal mediators. We must always support the whole body and endocrine system as well as the specific organ or gland. The current model for thyroid care is usually to test only one indicator of hormonal dysfunction and provide only T4 replacement hormone.
As you have no doubt seen in your practice, this approach is leaving many people suffering with symptoms of hypo-metabolism, or hypothyroidism, because their dysfunction is considered subclinical. The great news is that when we understand the relationship of minerals to the endocrine system, we have the potential to help bring our clients back into a more balanced state, or support a true thyroid disease condition.
When addressing any endocrine dysfunction, we must always support the key essentials to normal function first (nutritional deficiencies, fatty acid metabolism, protein digestion/protein catabolism, liver activity, hidden infections, etc.). This is what nutritional therapy is set up to do.
Liver conjugation problems can significantly impair hormone levels from the thyroid, gonads, or adrenal cortex. Optimizing liver function prior to exhausting specific endocrine causes or treatments is imperative.
In order for T4 (inactive) to become T3 (active), it has to be converted in a biochemical reaction. This is where selenium comes in. The conversion takes place in your liver primarily, secondarily in your gut, as well as in the peripheral tissues and other organs. The process of turning T4 into T3 requires selenium to activate the enzyme which performs this task.
Minerals are crucial for thyroid to function optimally. Mineral deficiency can cause a sluggish conversion of T4 to T3 (take selenium, for example). You specifically need B-complex, vitamin D (but this can be improved by magnesium alone in most cases), magnesium, folate (eat liver or in folks with MTHFR get methyl-folate), selenium, zinc, adaptogenic herbs and mullein. Iodine is also required for the T4 hormone to be synthesized in the first place.
Thyroid hormone activity, along with other hormones, is extremely sensitive to stress and toxins such as halogens, toxic metals, drugs etc., which interfere with the synthesis, transport and utilization of T-4 (thyroxine) and T-3 (triiodothyronine).
Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, produced in the adrenal cortex frequently results in production of an inactive form of T-3 called reverse T-3. Reverse T-3 binds to thyroid hormone receptors on the cells causing an increase in tissue resistance to T-3. Remember, this is the hormone which is actually used by the cells. It is important to understand that serum
testing may show normal hormone levels, but since Reverse T3 is rarely, if ever, checked, someone may be experiencing the effects of low hormone even in the presence of adequate levels due to this factor.
When Reverse T3 levels are elevated, this is a strong signal that the body is using a protective mechanism to dampen the effect of thyroid hormone. “Forcing” the body with hormones at this time often will not resolve their symptoms, and may even cause them to feel worse as there will be a greater demand placed on the adrenals as the metabolism is spend up. This is where it is imperative to understand the relationship between the adrenals and thyroid and dig to discern which gland is the one deriving the low-metabolism state. When the adrenals are fatigued, they must be supported in order for thyroid hormone effect to regain optimal effect in the body.
How to Better Understand Your Lab Tests
As a practitioner, Lydia likes to use a combination of HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) in conjunction with traditional blood-based labs.
It is critical that you understand the benefits and limitations of both HTMA and serum testing so that you can use both of these tools together to gain insight regarding your health.
Serum testing is an important tool, especially for those with a primary thyroid condition. It gives an accurate picture of their hormone levels on the day the test was performed. It will be affected by the timing of their last dose of medication, if they are on replacement hormones.
HTMA reveals their cellular sensitivity to their thyroid hormones, or how much effect these hormones will have in the body.
It is critical that you understand that these two markers will commonly not be aligned and this does not invalidate either test. Looking at both together will give you greater insight.
For example, if someone has optimal thyroid blood tests (usually this means that their Free T4/ Free T3 are in the 50-75% of range, and their TSH is under 2.5) but shows a mineral pattern of thyroid resistance, then you can understand why they may be presenting as hypo-metabolism or hypo-thyroid. If they have low hormone status and show thyroid resistance, then they are likely to really struggle. The opposite is also true – if they have borderline serum hormone levels, but greater thyroid sensitivity, then we can understand that they will likely be doing “pretty good” in the thyroid department.
It cannot be overstated that we must evaluate thyroid markers in light of the entire body, especially adrenal function, and not as an independent marker.
Mineral Patterns Used to Detect Thyroid Dysfunction
Ca/K [greater than 16:1 indicates sluggish thyroid activity at the cellular level]
The thyroid gland regulates calcium levels. The higher the level of hair calcium, in general, the lower the effective activity of the thyroid gland. This occurs because one of the effects of T3 and T4 is to lower calcium levels in the tissues and at times, in the blood. For example, it is known that hyperthyroidism can cause tetany, or muscle contractions that are due to low serum calcium.
Lower calcium is also associated with increased cell permeability. This may allow more thyroid hormone to enter the cells, increasing the cellular effect of the same amount of circulating serum thyroid hormones.
A lower hair potassium is associated with reduced cellular effects of thyroid hormones. It is known that low potassium is associated with reduced sensitivity of the mitochondrial receptors to thyroid hormone. Also, low potassium and sodium are associated with reduced cell permeability to thyroid hormones. Essentially, potassium sensitizes the cells to thyroid hormone.
This means that even if the serum thyroid hormone levels are normal, when tissue potassium is low they may not be utilized, resulting in a low thyroid effect. If tissue calcium is elevated, this further compounds the issue. This commonly contributes to hypothyroidism symptoms in slow oxidizers.
Important Mineral Synergists for Thyroid Health
Selenium is required for two steps in thyroid hormone utilization. It is involved in the deiodination reaction in which the hormone is synthesized, and in the conversion of T4 to T3 in the tissues. Selenium deficiency can cause elevated antibodies and poor thyroid conversion. Selenium helps improve T3 activation and transport. Research has shown that 200mcg of selenium can reduce thyroid antibodies. Estrogen containing drugs (birth control/ HRT) are drug muggers of selenium (according to Suzy Cohen). If on birth control, you must supplement selenium. We also know that mercury will sequester selenium. To compound the problem, more and more of our farmlands are selenium deficient, which means our food is often not a reliable source for selenium.
Brazil nuts are often promoted as an adequate selenium source, when consumed regularly. Unfortunately, this is only true if the nuts are grown in selenium rich soil, and that is basically not something that we can know when buying them at the store. Brazil nuts *might* be enough for someone who doesn’t have thyroid problems, mercury issues or have estrogen exposures, but if these things are present with your client, then a steady dose of selenium in supplemental form is the safest bet. We like selene-methionine as our research indicates this is one of the most effectively absorbed and utilized forms of selenium. Many lines carry this form as well, including Biotics and Pure Encapsulations.
Low manganese – Thyroxine (t4) is synthesized from iodine and tyrosine through the deiodinase enzyme, this enzyme also works to free the 4th iodine molecule and turn T4 into T3 or into Reverse T3. Manganese is needed to permit this synthesis.
It should be noted that the research on the role of manganese and thyroid metabolism is sparse and not well defined. Too much manganese seems to have a suppressing effect on thyroid production, so appropriate levels of this mineral are important. It should be noted that there is a ‘toxic’ or biologically inactive form of manganese oxide that is often present in well water, or possibly even municipal water sources.
Low Zinc is often found in those with increased thyroid activity and faster oxidation but it also can play a role in reduced adrenal and thyroid activity. Zinc is a needed mineral for proper function of many enzymatic processes of thyroid hormone syntheses and utilization. Of note, one study showed a relationship between zinc deficiency and elevated antibody levels in patients who also had autoimmune thyroid disease. Zinc increases potassium, which leads to an improved sensitivity to thyroid hormone at a cellular level.
Heavy Metals Affecting Thyroid Health
Cadmium interferes with zinc and calcium and may raise sodium levels on a hair test. This can contribute to symptoms of thyroid hyperactivity. Cadmium also interferes with other enzyme systems, often causing symptoms of fatigue and lowered thyroid activity.
Elevated heavy metals – namely mercury, copper and the iodine antagonists. Mercury and copper toxicity interfere with thyroid activity and can result in lowered thyroid activity. Copper exerts an attenuating/weakening effect on thyroxin, the secretion of which is diminished in hypothyroidism. Chlorine, fluoride, bromine/bromide suppress thyroid function.
Lead interferes with calcium metabolism and can contribute to thyroid imbalance. Copper reduces potassium and decreases thyroid activity, while zinc enhances potassium levels and enhances thyroid activity. Elevated tissue copper can actually mimic the effects of an overactive thyroid by stimulating biogenic amine activity. This can give rise to mixed symptoms in persons with metal toxicity. Elevated magnesium and calcium are associated with reduced thyroid activity.
When thyroid treatment is not working consider heavy metal body burden. Aluminum, mercury and cadmium act as disruptors to thyroid receptor activity. Hair tests will likely show elevation before they can be detected in the blood.
Also stress, inhibited expression, and tension in the neck is a possible factor, and pituitary imbalances. Chronic stress reduces the cell’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone by 50-79%.
As you can see, nutritional status, especially that of minerals and metals, has a tremendous impact on the thyroid. Many people today are suffering with significant symptoms of thyroid dysfunction that is not being supported appropriately. Using the information revealed on both HTMA and traditional lab work, you and your practitioner can work together to improve their body’s ability to secrete hormones and to respond to them with appropriate sensitivity.
Minerals play such a critical role in this process and as we know, most of the population is mineral deficient these days.