When you think about the engine-like organ that keeps your body going, which organ comes to mind?
You could consider the heart that constantly pumps life-giving blood throughout the body, transporting oxygen and vital nutrients.
Or perhaps the brain, which is like the control tower at a busy airport, continuously sending and receiving messages to choreograph a multitude of functions.
But did you consider the thyroid?
That little butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of the neck is also a contender.
The thyroid makes hormones that dictate the rate at which your cells work, known as metabolism. And a well-functioning thyroid has great impact on the health of other important organs like the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys.
But as with any well-oiled machine, things can go wrong. Thyroid function can be altered by diseases or a lapse in immune function. Even certain medications can impair the thyroid. These interferences can cause the thyroid to slow down, a condition called hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), or speed up too fast, a condition called hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). And these fluctuations in thyroid function greatly influence the health of other vital organs.
When it comes to maintaining thyroid health there are several factors that come into play. While there are a few standards that should be followed regularly – eating a balanced diet of natural foods, managing stress, getting regular exercise – there are other natural ways to put this machine back on track.
Ask a natural healthcare doctor about certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs and how they can promote healthy thyroid function.
Here’s a few to get you started, but there are many others that your doctor may suggest:
Iodine has long been associated with healthy thyroid function, as it helps with the production of thyroid hormones. Consider it fuel for the thyroid because without sufficient iodine, thyroid hormone production lags.
People with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a form of hypothyroidism, should not take iodine supplements until the underlying autoimmune response is addressed. In some cases, even those who are deficient in iodine may experience worsened symptoms if the immune system response is not addressed.
If you don’t want to go the supplement route, consider incorporating iodine-rich sea vegetables into your diet.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the immune system. So if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder like Grave’s Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, remember that nurturing the whole immune system should be a priority.
But even if your thyroid disorder isn’t autoimmune related, it’s wise to know your levels. To avoid the potential dangers of vitamin D toxicity, always have your doctor test your serum vitamin D levels before you start supplementing.
Don’t forget that regular sun exposure is an excellent way to get vitamin D. Sunlight on the skin triggers the natural production of vitamin D, and you don’t have to worry about getting too much vitamin D this way.
Don’t be fooled by selenium’s “trace mineral” distinction. You may not need a lot of it compared to other nutrients, but this mineral plays some supercharged roles in the body.
In terms of thyroid function, selenium is needed for the enzyme that turns thyroid hormone T4 (storage form) to T3 (active form). A deficiency in selenium could impair thyroid function for this reason.
If you’re not interested in popping another supplement, munching on one or two Brazil nuts usually contains enough selenium to meet the daily requirements.
If you’re supplementing with iodine, remember the magnesium, too. Magnesium helps to ensure the proper absorption of iodine.
The presence of magnesium is essential for many enzymatic reactions, including ones that make T4 as well as convert inactive T4 into the active form T3.
The family of B vitamins that make up the B complex play so many life-sustaining roles throughout the body. Good for immunity, metabolism, cardiovascular support and the nervous system, the B vitamins also help to make sure that iodine is being used correctly in the body, especially vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps you adapt and deal with stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A popular herb in traditional Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, ashwagandha helps to balance thyroid hormones depending on your needs. This benefits both overactive and underactive thyroid disorders.
Bladderwrack is a type of seaweed that has been used for underactive thyroid conditions. Some herbalists believe that combining this herb with ashwagandha can stimulate the production of thyroid hormone in those with underactive thyroid conditions. Check with your natural doctor before taking this herb if you have an overactive thyroid, as this may not be right for you.
Bugleweed is thought to help with symptoms of hyperthyroid disorder. But be cautious of this herb if you have an underactive thyroid, as bugleweed has an anti-thyroid effect. In clinical studies bugleweed was shown to decrease T4 output, which further decreased T3 levels because the conversion of T4 to T3 was impaired. Check with your natural healthcare doctor before taking this herb for thyroid conditions.
Because eleuthero doesn’t act on the thyroid directly, it may be beneficial for both underactive and overactive thyroid disorders. Eleuthero affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This part of the brain helps the body adapt to stress. Keeping the adrenal glands in working order is important to everyone, but especially for those with thyroid conditions, as adrenal problems are common in people with thyroid disorders.
When using supplements for thyroid support it’s important to remember that not everyone requires the same supplement or the same dosage. While some supplements may be better for an underactive thyroid, others may be better suited for an overactive thyroid. Work with a natural endocrine doctor to find the right supplements and dosages for your individual needs.
Keep in mind that there is no one supplement to restore your thyroid back to full health. Remember, there are several factors that influence thyroid function, including eating well, minimizing your exposure to toxins and managing stress.