The thyroid gland plays crucial roles in metabolism, growth, heart rate regulation, and multiple organ functions. Therefore, if it’s underactive or overactive, it can trigger various health problems.
You can improve thyroid function naturally, specifically thyroid hormone production, through exercise, eating foods high in iodine, selenium, and probiotics, as well as proper stress management and vitamin D stimulation. Learn more about these steps as you read on.
Iodine has major significance in the production of thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, as well as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Thyroid cells absorb iodine and combine it with the amino acid tyrosine to create T3 and T4. If you get tested for iron deficiency, the production of these hormones goes below the expected capacity, which leads to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Since the human body cannot produce iodine, your primary sources are the food and supplements you take. Increase your consumption of seafood, sea vegetables, and animal-based protein to maintain healthy levels of iodine.
On the other hand, too much iodine can also be as bad since it can lead to hyperthyroidism. In this case, you can improve thyroid function by reducing your intake of iodine-rich foods.
|Pro tip: Knowing how your thyroid hormones work allows you to understand how certain symptoms are associated with hormonal imbalance. For example, sudden weight loss can be a result of metabolic problems as a result of hypothyroidism. Learn more about T3 and T4, their functions and differences.
Selenium is another micronutrient that supports thyroid function. In fact, selenium supplementation1 has aided in managing autoimmune thyroiditis and Grave’s orbitopathy, improving symptom suppression and the patient’s overall quality of life.
Like iodine, you can get selenium from animal-based protein foods, certain nuts, and seafood.
If you have hypothyroidism, consult your doctor regarding increasing selenium in your diet, especially if you also have low iodine levels. Incompatible supplementation2 can exacerbate hypothyroidism instead of treating it.
Probiotics are good bacteria integrated into fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh.
As good bacteria outweigh bad bacteria in the intestinal walls, the absorption of key thyroid nutrients like iodine and selenium remains uninterrupted. Studies also show a good correlation between the supplementation of probiotics and improved thyroid health3.
Food with probiotics help with the absorption of nutrients essential for thyroid hormone production.
When your sugar levels elevate, you not only increase your risk of developing diabetes but thyroid problems as well.
High sugar in the blood prompts the pancreas to release more insulin – the hormone that regulates glucose. In a study published in BMC Medicine, it was documented that high amounts of insulin4 can trigger thyroid tissue hyperplasia, leading to nodule formation and thyroid gland enlargement.
With this knowledge, improving thyroid function translates to consuming less sugary foods and beverages like soda, fast food meals, desserts, and sweetened drinks. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams or nine teaspoons of sugar daily intake for men and six teaspoons or 32 grams for women.
|Pro tip: If your lifestyle and family history indicate a higher risk for diabetes, check your blood sugar levels through a hemoglobin A1c blood test. This test can help diagnose diabetes, which in turn aids in calculating your risk for thyroid disorders.
Physical activity requires more energy, prompting the conversion of stored fats to create additional energy currency. In this process, the thyroid gland will produce more hormones to regulate the metabolic process.
Thus, those with underactive thyroid glands should seriously consider an exercise plan as part of their natural treatment pursuit. Aerobic exercises6, in particular, can increase the concentration of T3 and T4 in the blood.
You can start with simple, yet enjoyable, exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, running, and jumping rope.
Light but frequent exercises can help improve thyroid function naturally.
Effective stress management helps your thyroid gland perform at its best. When you get stressed out, the cortisol level produced by the adrenal glands increases. This leads to slower metabolism, which drops T3 and T4 levels.
Plus, high levels of stress can also increase your TSH, which typically suggests that your thyroid gland is not producing sufficient thyroid hormones–an indication of hypothyroidism.
Consider doing stress-relieving techniques such as breathing exercises, sufficient sleep, meditation, exercise, and adopting a healthy diet. Also, spend your weekend doing self-care activities that can help lower your cortisol levels and boost your thyroid hormone production.
Vitamin D is known for its role in calcium and phosphorus absorption. However, low levels of vitamin D do not only impact bone health and mineral concentration but thyroid function as well.
A review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences underscores how vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing autoimmune thyroid diseases and even thyroid cancer.
With that in mind, making sure you have enough vitamin D in your system through adequate sunlight exposure and eating food sources like mushrooms, eggs, and fortified cereals can help you protect your thyroid health.
|Did You Know? Increasing thyroid function is only one of the many reasons you should maintain sufficient vitamin D. Given its significant impact to your health, knowing the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is crucial to prevent complications.
As the thyroid gland belongs to the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing and regulating hormones, the gauge of its optimal performance includes regulating the two hormones it releases: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
Both hormones manage energy conversion, mood, body temperature, bone health, and many others. Factors such as nutrition, insulin resistance, goiter, and autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves disease) typically cause low T4 and T3 production.
On the other hand, another hormone also directly affects thyroid function despite being released by the brain’s anterior pituitary gland. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates the amount of T4 and T3 the thyroid gland has to produce.
You can check abnormal levels of this hormone through a TSH blood test.
When thyroid hormones fall short, the brain will release more TSH to alert the thyroid gland. However, it does the opposite when thyroid hormones are high. Hence, elevated TSH is often associated with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), while low TSH is linked with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).
|Pro tip: Raising TSH levels involves altering your diet. It would likely exclude iodine and contain cruciferous vegetables along with healthy fats. Before finalizing your meal plan, however, make sure to consult your doctor, especially if you have rare food allergies.
To assess thyroid disease and health issues, your healthcare provider may request a thyroid profile blood test to check your thyroid hormones and TSH. Going outside the normal range in the test results should drive you to consult your doctor. Refer to these values for T3, T4, and TSH measurements.
Normal ranges for:
Vitamin B12 is a known supplement for when you undergo hypothyroidism treatment. This is because the B12 vitamin aids in producing thyroid hormones T3 and T4 by increasing metabolism, maintaining the healthy production of red blood cells (RBCs), and boosting nervous system health.
Aside from the abovementioned ways to increase thyroid function, another natural hypothyroidism remedy is adopting a gluten-free diet. By limiting gluten from your diet, you could keep intestinal absorption at its optimal level, allowing the iodine to reach the thyroid gland without issues.
Even if it’s decaf, coffee blocks the absorption of levothyroxine, a medication used to treat hypothyroidism. Instead of getting processed in the bloodstream, it simply passes through the digestive system and is flushed out of the body.
Your thyroid requires as much attention as other vital organs like the heart and brain. Making sure it functions well is imperative. By taking the actions discussed above, you can improve your thyroid function naturally. Furthermore, get routine health checkups to detect underlying health conditions affecting your thyroid functions, such as autoimmune diseases.
1 Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:1297658. doi: 10.1155/2017/1297658. Epub 2017 Jan 31. PMID: 28255299; PMCID: PMC5307254.
2 Goldhaber SB. Trace element risk assessment: essentiality vs. toxicity. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2003 Oct;38(2):232-42. doi: 10.1016/s0273-2300(02)00020-x. PMID: 14550763.
3 Knezevic J, Starchl C, Tmava Berisha A, Amrein K. Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function? Nutrients. 2020 Jun 12;12(6):1769. doi: 10.3390/nu12061769. PMID: 32545596; PMCID: PMC7353203.
4 Rong, F., Dai, H., Wu, Y. et al. Association between thyroid dysfunction and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. BMC Med 19, 257 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-02121-2
5 AHA News Staff (n.d.). How much sugar is too much? https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/how-much-sugar-is-too-much
6 Altaye, K. Z., Mondal, S., Legesse, K., & Abdulkedir, M. (2019). Effects of aerobic exercise on thyroid hormonal change responses among adolescents with intellectual disabilities. BMJ Open Sport — Exercise Medicine, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000524
7 Babić Leko M, Jureško I, Rozić I, Pleić N, Gunjača I, Zemunik T. Vitamin D and the Thyroid: A Critical Review of the Current Evidence. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Feb 10;24(4):3586. doi: 10.3390/ijms24043586. PMID: 36835005; PMCID: PMC9964959.
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