Feeling hopeless about your underactive thyroid? These two nutrients may help, study suggests
(NaturalHealth365) According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 4.6 percent of the U.S. population over 12 years old lives with hypothyroidism, with women far more likely to develop the condition than men. Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This diminished thyroid function can potentially lead to devastating health consequences, such as weight gain, muscle weakness, pain, depression, plus much more.
Although thyroid medications are the gold standard for managing hypothyroidism symptoms, they are certainly not the only way to nudge your thyroid gland to release more of its vital hormones. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition put two nutrients to the test to see if they can help improve thyroid function.
Study questions effectiveness of medications used to treat underactive thyroid
If you live with low thyroid, you know how the condition progresses over time and symptoms worsen. Upon diagnosis, most doctors recommend patients to begin taking one of the many thyroid medications on the market, likely for the rest of their life. This approach might sound reasonable if we did not consider the long list of possible side effects and severe long-term health consequences, such as breast cancer associated with thyroid medications. In addition, scientists also raised questions about medication efficacy, as a whopping 40 percent of patients on thyroid medications continue to have abnormal TSH levels, according to the Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study.
Such dismal results with commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals may partially explain why researchers looked at nutrients to boost thyroid hormone levels naturally.
Supplementing with these two nutrients can increase thyroid hormone levels
In this 12-week study, researchers divided 68 obese women with underactive thyroid into four groups.
- Group 1 received 30 milligrams of zinc (as zinc gluconate) and 200 micrograms of selenium (as selenium yeast)
- Group 2 received 30 mg of zinc
- Group 3 received 200 micrograms of selenium
- Group 4 received a placebo
At the end of the study period, researchers noted significant improvements in several areas. First, participants in the zinc-selenium group saw a 9.2 percent increase in Free T3 hormone levels. The zinc only group had an even more remarkable, 27 percent increase. Second, Free T4 levels also went up by 12.4 percent among patients taking both zinc and selenium. Finally, the ratio between Free T3 and Free T4 also improved by 23.8 percent.
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Researchers concluded that yes, indeed, supplementing with zinc or zinc and selenium has a beneficial effect on thyroid function.
Discover the various ways zinc and selenium affect your thyroid
To better appreciate the above findings, let’s take a closer look at the connection between thyroid and zinc. One of the most important functions of zinc is its role in the T4 to T3 conversion. This process is also called the peripheral thyroid conversion, by which your body converts the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active hormone T3.
Although zinc is not the only nutrient playing a role in this conversion, it is undeniably the most important of all. Zinc deficiency impairs your body’s ability to convert T4 to T3 and may lead to low thyroid development. On the contrary, maintaining adequate zinc levels can help optimize your health in multiple ways.
Selenium, an essential micronutrient for thyroid function, also boosts T4 to T3 conversion, protects the gland against damage, and plays a vital role in thyroid hormone synthesis. Of all the organs, your thyroid contains the highest concentration of selenium in your body.
Know this before supplementing with zinc or selenium
Although avoiding deficiency in zinc and selenium is essential for optimum health, you should always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regiment. Taking high amounts (especially over 40 mg) of zinc for long periods can deplete copper stores in your body. If you have celiac disease or other digestive disorders, you may not be able to absorb zinc at all.
Selenium requires similar precautions as it can be toxic at high amounts. Experts have set the daily upper limits of selenium at 400 mcg. Brazil nuts are a popular way to ensure you meet the recommended daily intake of selenium.
Be mindful, however, that according to the NIH, one ounce, or about 4 to 6 Brazil nuts contain approximately 544 micrograms of selenium, which is more than nine times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 55 mcg for most adults. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of Brazil nuts to a couple of them a day.
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