Do Amino Acids Help with Hypothyroidism?
If you have or suspect you have thyroid issues or hypothyroidism, and you’ve landed here, you’re on the right track, my friend. Or, if you’re seeking natural ways to support thyroid health and drew a connection between amino acids and the thyroid, you’re definitely a researcher at heart. Congrats for getting this far in your search, we can help you get further.
We have loads of scholarly articles and scientific studies to help you understand hypothyroidism, underactive thyroid and the amino acids, minerals and nutrients that are all involved in the process of the thyroid.
Let’s start with the obvious: amino acids.
Most people think amino acids, or BCAAs are for bodybuilders and fitness fans, but that’s simply not the case.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and amino acids support all types of functions of the body. So, amino acids and BCAAs (which are amino acids) benefit everyone. We talked a little about how some amino acids have anti-aging properties, but one amino acid in particular plays a role in thyroid functions.
Let’s chat quickly about the thyroid and its purpose and then move onto the science of amino acids, minerals and thyroid functions.
The Thyroid Gland Controls Metabolism
The thyroid is a very small butterfly-shaped gland located near the front of your neck below the “Adam’s apple.” The thyroid combines iodine and the amino acid tyrosine and converts them into triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 then travel through the blood to control metabolism.
If levels are too low, it gets a nudge from another gland known as the pituitary gland.
Regulated by the pituitary gland, when the thyroid is not producing enough of the thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to make it produce more.
But, the pituitary is not the man behind the curtain in this balancing act, oh no, it’s actually the hypothalamus in the brain that produces a TSH releasing hormone to tell the pituitary that the thyroid needs more T3 and T4. So the brain sends a signal via TRH to the pituitary gland which sends hormones to the thyroid via TSH which makes the thyroid produce more T3 and T4.
Hypothalmus –>TRH–>Pituitary gland –>TSH–>Thyroid–>T3 & T4
Ya with us?
The Role of T3 and T4 in Metabolism and Weight Maintenance
T3 and T4 regulates the heart rate, digestion, excretion and the speed at which cells work.
The balancing act is extremely important. If levels of thyroid hormones are too low, one may experience slowed heart rates and weight gain. Conversely, if too high, one may experience rapid heart beat and weight loss.
These changes can lead to the diagnosis such as Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism (too little of T3 and T4 production). It can also lead to a diagnosis of Grave’s disease, or hyperthyroidism (too much T3 and T4 production).
When thyroid issues are suspected, your physician can draw blood to test TSH, T3 and T4 to identify if you have a hyperthyroid or hypothyroid. If you are diagnosed with either, you are given synthetic hormones to regulate your thyroid.
Hypothyroidism: Causes and Symptoms
Women are more prone to developing hypothyroidism and it can be a factor in weight gain even with increased exercise and healthy dieting. Human metabolism naturally slows as we age, and compounding that with hypothyroidism can exacerbate the symptoms and compound depression associated with hypothyroid issues.
Signs and symptoms vary but include:
- Increased blood cholesterol level
- Heavier menstrual periods
- Impaired memory
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Muscle weakness
- Puffy face
- Slowed heart rate
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Goiter (swelling of thyroid gland in the neck)
Hypothyroidism can be caused by several factors. Iodine deficiencies, an autoimmune disorder where the body sends antibodies to attack the gland, certain medications such as lithium, and other surgeries/treatments can trigger the thyroid dysfunction.
It is important to note if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should rely on your doctor’s treatment and not attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat. While you may be deficient in nutrients, only a doctor can determine that through testing.
If you want to support thyroid health and are not currently diagnosed with a thyroid dysfunction, read on, curious friend.
Iodine Deficiency and Thyroid Issues
Nearly one-third of the world is deficient in iodine. Iodine treatment can stimulate the thyroid to produce T3 and T4.
Iodine is an element that is needed for the production of thyroid hormone. The body does not make iodine, therefore it must be obtained through diet. If you do not have enough iodine in your body, you cannot make enough thyroid hormone. Thus, iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism and even mental retardation in infants born to iodine deficient mothers.
The increasing iodine deficiency is what lead to the creation of iodized salt. However, nearly 40 percent of the world is still at risk for iodine deficiency. Iodine can be supplemented to provide normal levels and support thyroid function.
The recommended daily intake is 220 micrograms per day. Taking too much or too little can exacerbate thyroid issues and even cause them. Studies show iodine supplementation improves thyroid function as it is necessary to create thyroid hormones. Liquid iodine supplemented at the recommended dosage can help support thyroid hormone production.
The Amino Acid Tyrosine and the Thyroid
Tyrosine is an amino acid made by the body from another amino acid, phenylalanine. It combines with iodine to create T3 and T4. It also vital to the production of neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
It is rare to be deficient in tyrosine and symptoms include low blood pressure and an underactive thyroid. Some medications, especially cancer treatments, can inhibit the production of tyrosine which can lead to hypothyroidism.
While tyrosine supplementation can assist in the thyroid function of those deficient, it should not be relied upon to treat underactive thyroid.
Other deficiencies can contribute to hypothyroidism including copper and manganese. Because tyrosine can be inhibited, supplementing with the amino acid is often regarded by whole foods and holistic therapy lovers as beneficial for the body.
Soy and the Thyroid
Soy has both been villainized and harrowed as a healthy hero. However; when it comes to thyroid function, it plays the role of a villain. The worst of the worst when it comes to those with compromised thyroid function or iodine deficiencies.
Soy naturally contains isoflavones which are compounds only found in plants that resemble human estrogen. In fact, they resemble the most potent form of estrogen in the body which is linked to thyroid cancer. The isoflavones in soy can absorb some of the iodine that would otherwise be used by the thyroid.
In experiments executed at the National Center for Toxicological Research results showed soy isoflavones will inhibit the thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and disturb the critical stage in thyroid hormone production; the iodinization of the amino acid tyrosine.
TPO is an enzyme that assists in the attachment of iodine to tyrosine. In other words, it interferes with the body’s combination of tyrosine and iodine to create T3 and T4—the very basis of thyroid hormone production.
Soy also inhibits the absorption of T4 by the body. So if it can overcome the interference of creating it, it can inhibit the body’s absorption and benefit. These isoflavone effects are compounded by iodine deficiency.
Why soy, why?
Soy is in the food category of goitrogens. These are foods that promote formation of goiter otherwise known as an enlarged thyroid. They received such a name because of their ability to adversely impact the thyroid. Some goitrogens have proven antithyroid effects and including slowing the function of the thyroid and acting as a catalyst to thyroid disease.
There are studies that support moderate soy intake if your iodine levels are normal, however; there are some additional studies that may be an “aha” moment for you that include the link between soy, slowed thyroid and migraines.
It just gets better and better, huh?
Soy, Migraines and Hypothyroidism, Oh My
While this may not have been your intention—to link migraines with or without aura to your research on underactive thyroid, surprisingly—studies show they are related. Migraine sufferers are 3.5 times more likely to have hypothyroidism. The link between the two can be found in many studies, which include the link to soy.
Soy products are high in free glutamic acid. Free glutamic acid is a major migraine trigger and women suffer from migraines three times more than men. Consuming glutamic acid increases glutamate which triggers migraines, increases pain levels and the frequency of headaches.
Another common villain in health concerns is Monosodium glutamate (MSG), often found in soy and leads to obesity and migraines. MSG is a major migraine trigger and studies show eliminating it reduces migraine frequency.
MSG is found in Asian foods, canned foods, salad dressings, deli meats and highly processed foods. It can damage the hypothalamus, which if you recall, sends TRH to the pituitary gland so it can send TSH to the thyroid so it can make more T3 and T4.
MSG goes by many names on your product panels and is often found in vegetarian soy products.
Other names MSG goes by and ingredients that contain it include:
- Autolysed Yeast
- Calcium Caseinate
- Gelatin (small amounts of MSG)
- Glutamic Acid
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Monopotassium Glutamate
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Textured Protein
- Yeast Extract
Check your food panels and make changes if you’re concerned about thyroid health, or your health at all.
Feed Your Mind & Fuel Your Health
If you’re proactively trying to support thyroid health, tyrosine and iodine are a great topics to research more deeply to determine if supplementation is right for you. As always—check with your doctor first. There are certain health conditions that may not benefit from supplementation.
Finally, if you’re a big soy lover, you may want to talk to your doctor or reduce your daily intake (or eliminate it altogether) if you are concerned about thyroid health or testing migraine reaction to reduced intake or elimination.
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One thing is certain if you made it this far—you just worked your brain out. Lookin’ brain-buff my intellectual friend!