Funny how the smallest things can make the BIGGEST impact. Small but mighty, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. As part of the endocrine system, it makes hormones that affect a lot of important processes and functions. These include your metabolism, your heart rate, your energy levels, your tolerance to cold, your skin & hair, your mental health, and your weight (source).

That’s A LOT, right? 

So when something’s off with your thyroid—whether it’s underactive/sluggish (hypothyroidism) or hyperactive (hyperthyroidism)—you’re probably gonna feel its effects, whether you’re aware of the cause or not. 

And there are a lot of people out there feeling those effects. Women, in particular. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to develop a thyroid disorder than men in their lifetime. Hypothyroidism is the more common condition—affecting somewhere around 5% of the general population, with another estimated 5% undiagnosed (source). 

While treatment varies from one person to another and one healthcare provider to another, this often-chronic condition is usually managed through medication (at least from a Western medicine lens), but there are other ways to support thyroid health, too. Your lifestyle (including physical activity and stress management) and diet (including food, drinks, and vitamins/supplements) can either hinder or support the thyroid. 

One of the most studied ways to support thyroid health is through supplementation of essential minerals known to affect thyroid function. Of these, zinc and selenium are arguably the most valuable. Here’s what you need to know.

How does zinc affect the thyroid?

Zinc is an important nutrient that helps support a healthy immune response, contributes to the formation of proteins and DNA, cell division, and supports growth and healing. It’s also been shown to play an important role in thyroid health. The thyroid needs an adequate amount of zinc in order to convert thyroid hormones from the prohormone T4 to the bioactive hormone T3, which is what carries out all of the thyroid’s essential functions (source). 

Zinc deficiency can be a contributor to thyroid disease, but it can also be the result of thyroid disease. Just as zinc helps support the thyroid, the thyroid hormones help support the body’s absorption of zinc (source). So it may be used in combination with other essential thyroid-supporting minerals like selenium (see below), in addition to medication as directed by your healthcare provider. And because zinc isn’t stored by the body, a daily zinc supplement and/or adequate intake of zinc-rich foods will help maintain necessary levels of this mineral (source).

Natural Sources of Zinc 

All my raw-bar-loving friends, you’re in luck: oysters are the richest food source of zinc, with more than 600% of your daily value per serving. Oysters, of course, aren’t an everyday food staple for most of us. In the American diet, most of our zinc comes from red meat and poultry. Other sources of zinc include:

  • Beans 
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Yogurt 
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas 
  • Oatmeal
  • Dairy milk

One thing to note: some of the plant-based sources of zinc (including whole-grain bread, cereal, beans, and nuts) contain phytates, which can inhibit the absorption of zinc, so there’s less bioavailable zinc than from seafood or meat sources.

How does selenium affect the thyroid?

Selenium is a micronutrient that helps support antioxidant activity, immune health, DNA production, and reproductive health (source). But as the organ with the highest concentration of selenium, it’s the thyroid that needs this mineral most. The thyroid depends on selenium (just like zinc) for the conversion of thyroid hormones from T4 to T3 (source). 

This study shows that supplementing with selenium can help lower thyroid antibodies (which contribute to autoimmune-related thyroid problems) as well as increase thyroid function in those with hypothyroidism. Another study found that selenium—especially in combination with zinc(!!)—can help support thyroid function in those with hypothyroidism. What’s even more interesting is that selenium supplementation appears to help improve thyroid function even in those who already have sufficient selenium intake (source).

More info about why we love selenium for thyroid health here!

Natural Sources of Selenium

Selenium is naturally found in a variety of plant and animal sources. The richest source (BY A LONG SHOT) is Brazil nuts. We’re talking more than 100% of your daily value of selenium from a single Brazil nut. Other sources of selenium (listed from highest selenium content to lowest) include:

  • Seafood (especially tuna)
  • Meat products (including pork, poultry, and beef)
  • Cottage cheese 
  • Brown rice 
  • Eggs
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Beans 
  • Oatmeal

While most of these contain a normal amount of selenium, the extremely high content in Brazil nuts is something to watch out for, as selenium can be harmful in high doses. Adults shouldn’t have more than 4 or 5 Brazil nuts in one day, and definitely fewer (if any at all) if you’re supplementing with selenium. Check with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure!

Meet our thyroid support complex with Zinc and Selenium, along with thyroid-focused herbs and adaptogens: ThyroPro

Our new-and-improved ThyroPro formula is now available, and was formulated with a blend of nutrients and adaptogens that support healthy thyroid function. In addition to bioavailable zinc and selenium, this formula contains thyroid-supporting herbs—including adaptogens, gut-nourishing herbs, and peripheral-tissue-supporting herbs. It’s a nourishing, warming, revitalizing formula that is as well-rounded an approach to thyroid support as one could hope for.

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