The thyroid gland is located in the base of the neck and has a characteristic butterfly shape. This organ plays a vital role in your entire body, making sure everything runs smoothly.
The thyroid gland secretes hormones which regulate the most important body functions, such as heart rate, breathing, peripheral and central nervous system, muscle strength, body temperature, body weight, cholesterol levels, and menstrual cycles.
As you can see, you need this gland working properly to maintain your health and to achieve that, you need certain vitamins and minerals from foods or supplements.
The Importance of Iodine for Your Thyroid Gland
This nutrient is of absolute importance for the health and functioning of your thyroid. It ensures your thyroid gland produces vital hormones for your entire body.
Even though rare due to iodized salt, lack of iodine can lead to reduced production of thyroid hormone, resulting in hypothyroidism. This thyroid condition is more common than hyperthyroidism, production of too much thyroid hormone, and it’s characterized by weight gain and low energy.
Sometimes, taking too much iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism, which is why iodine supplements are not recommended.
Vitamins and Minerals for Your Thyroid
Here are some other nutrients important for optimal functioning of your thyroid that should be taken through diet or supplements:
- Vitamin D – hypothyroidism often comes along with a lack of vitamin D. So, if you don’t consume enough vitamin D-rich foods, you may need to take supplements or multivitamins containing the vitamin.
- Vitamin A – vitamin A is vital for the metabolism of the thyroid hormone.
- Zinc – lack of this mineral can negatively affect the thyroid function.
- Selenium – one of the many important functions of selenium in the body is boosting the metabolism of the thyroid hormone. Keeping your selenium levels normal can help you prevent thyroid disease.
- Iron – proper levels of iron are crucial for your thyroid gland. This mineral helps the body convert inactive thyroxine into active triiodothyronine.
Best Food Sources of Iodine
Consuming iodine-rich food will help you maintain a healthy thyroid. Some of the best food sources include:
- Dairy – yogurt, cheese, or milk. Choose low-fat dairy products to prevent health complications linked to an overconsumption of saturated fat.
- Fish and seafood – tuna, cod, shrimp, and seaweed such as wakame, kombu kelp, and nori.
- Egg yolks – besides containing high amounts of iodine, eggs also contain selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
- Iodized salt – remember that too much sodium (salt) can cause water retention and high blood pressure.
- Lima beans – which also contain fiber and magnesium
Other Foods That Are Good for Your Thyroid
Besides consuming foods rich in iodine, you should also add as many foods high in vitamin A, iron, and selenium to your diet as possible to ensure optimal thyroid health. They include:
- Spinach and other green leafy vegetables – good iron and vitamin A sources
- Red meat, shellfish, and legumes – good iron and selenium sources
Supplements for Your Thyroid
Even though it’s best to get these important nutrients through diet, taking them as supplements can be helpful if your diet doesn’t provide them in the necessary amount.
- Zinc – taking zinc supplements can help maintain healthy levels of the thyroid hormones.
- Selenium – taking selenium supplements is especially beneficial in the case of autoimmune thyroid disease. However, make sure you don’t take more than 200 mcg of selenium a day, unless your doctor recommends you another dosage.
- Vitamin A – taking vitamin A supplements lowered the risk of hypothyroidism in women who are obese and pre-menopausal, study suggests.
‘Thyroid Strength’ or ‘Thyroid Support’ Supplements
Some products claim to be perfect for thyroid strength or thyroid support. These vitamin and mineral supplements may be a good way to get enough important nutrients, but some of them come with herbal supplements.
Even though most herbal supplements are beneficial for your health and are regarded as safe, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t review them with the same scrutiny as medications.
Therefore, they may contain unknown ingredients or unknown amounts of certain ingredients.
Synthetic thyroid hormone may also be present in these products, causing an imbalance of your hormone levels.
That’s why you should always consult your doctor before taking any supplements or vitamins, including “thyroid strength” or “thyroid support” supplements.
Risks and Drawbacks of Supplements
Taking a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone as a supplement may help people with hypothyroidism achieve healthy hormone levels. But, certain supplements, medications, and food should be avoided when the person is taking a thyroid hormone. They include:
- Calcium supplements
- Multivitamins containing iron or iron supplements
- Some ulcer medications such as Carafate (sucralfate)
- Antacids containing aluminum or magnesium
- Cholesterol-lowering medications, especially medications which contain colestipol and cholestyramine
- Cottonseed meal
- Soybean flour
- Supplements and foods that contain soy
Even though you may still consume these items, make sure there’s a few-hour gap between your thyroid medication and them. It’s best to consult your doctor to cut the risk of possible interactions.
Maintaining Thyroid Health
Following a healthy, well-balanced diet is usually enough to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals for your thyroid health.
Make sure you add enough iodine-rich foods in your diet, as well as foods high in selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
Be careful when using “thyroid vitamins” products, especially if they include thyroid hormones or herbal supplements.
To check your thyroid hormones, do a blood test that will tell you if your levels are in a healthy range.