Thyroid Boosters: 6 Supplements to Increase T3 & T4
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Mon 24 September 2018
Medical Review by Gerardo Sison, PharmD
Thryoid is a ~30 gram butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, just below the Adam’s apple.
Its main function is to secrete the thyroid hormones; triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) in response to signals sent from the hypothalamus via thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) which travels to the pituiary gland to trigger the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
So hypothalamus releases TRH -> anterior pituiary releases TSH -> thyroid gland releases T4 and T3 (some T4 also converts to T3 in peripheral tissues).
If the thyroid gland is underactive, the condition is called hypothyroidism (often detected by high TSH, low T3 and T4), on the other hand, if the gland is overactive the condition is called hyperthyroidism (detected by low TSH, very high T3 and T4).
Without blood testing, one of the easiest methods of measuring thyroid activity is by monitoring your morning body temperature. According to Dr. Broda Barnes, the optimal range for perfect thyroid health would fall between 97,8°F-98.6°F (anything below is indicative of hypothyroidism, anything above is indicative of hyperthyroidism).
So why is thyroid such a big deal?
- Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 regulate heat production in the body.1
- Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 regulate our metabolic rate (calories burned).2
- Thyroid hormones increase breathing rate and oxygen transport & utilization.3
- The thyroid hormones regulate the rate and strength of the heartbeat & blood flow.4
- Hypothyroidism causes lower LH release, lower GnRH, and lower testosterone levels.5
- Cholesterol to pregnenolone conversion requires T3, preg is needed to create testosterone.6
- Thyroid hormones are crucial for normal partitioning and breakdown of carbohydrate and fats.7
Without further ramblings, let’s see the 6 supplements that boost thyroid activity naturally.
Vitamins and minerals are undoubtedly the most important supplements you need for proper thyroid health.
Sure, they don’t have to come from capsules, but instead from real foods, but in this scenario, let’s imagine that you can’t meet your micronutrient needs from the diet alone.
So what micronutrients should you be focusing on?
Almost all of them.
The thyroid gland needs iodine to create T4. In fact, the four in the shortening refers to 4 molecules of iodine. Not only that but the symporter mechanism that draws iodine into the thyroid gland requires B-vitamins and vitamin C to function normally.
Then there’s selenium, it’s necessary for the normal conversion from inactive (T4) to active (T3) thyroid hormone. And in order for the active T3 to enter the nucleus of the cells, we need the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. Once inside the cell, zinc, magnesium, sodium, and calcium are needed for activating the metabolic processes.
While the above are the micronutrients required to create the thyroid hormones and transport them to their active tissue targets, other micronutrients such as vitamin E, K2, and copper are necessary to prevent oxidative damage and lipid peroxidation of PUFAs, which would otherwise indirectly suppress the production and transportation of the thyroid hormones. You also need to make sure to get enough choline so that the peripheral T4 -> T3 conversion functions properly in the liver.
Now understand why a quality multivitamin supplement could improve thyroid function?
Considering the fact that micronutrient deficiencies are still incredibly prevalent even in first world countries, a high-quality multivitamin combined with a nutrient-rich diet would be a good decision in terms of thyroid function.
Forskolin is a labdane tripedene extracted from the Indian plant; Coleus Forskohlii.
It has the ability to reliably increase the levels of a secondary messenger cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)8, so much so that it’s often used as a positive control for cAMP9.
I have written about forskolin’s ability to increase testosterone levels and androgen receptor activity via the cAMP boost before…
…And recently I found a study confirming that forskolin also stimulates the production of T3 and T4 in isolated dog thyroid lobes10. In fact, incubation with forskolin was more potent at raising T3 and T4 than the actual thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) was.
Does this mean that the same effects take place in humans? Not necessarily, but since the researchers claim that it was due to increased cAMP, and previous human studies have shown that forskolin supplementation on human subjects can reliably increase cAMP levels11, it’s likely that similar increases in T3 and T4 could be seen in humans after forskolin supplementation as were seen in the isolated dog thyroids.
If you decide to buy some forskolin, consider getting it from a reputable brand that sells standardized extracts (due to forskolin also being sold as “fat burner” the market is filled with snake oil salesmen with their fake products).
3. Desiccated Thyroid Glandular
Before synthetic T4 (Synthroid) was popularized, the primary medication for hypothyroidism was Armour thyroid.
Armour – as some of you might know – is a meat packaging company, but since many doctors had realized that ground cattle and pig thyroid could be used to cure hypothyroidism, Armour was one of the first brands to produce desiccated thyroid medication to the drug stores.
Why did Armour work so well? Simply because the ground up animal thyroid contained both T3 and T4. And once ingested by humans, our bodies would readily use these thyroid hormones in the same way the body uses exogenous hormones during hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Does this mean that similar suppression of natural production would take place, like what happens when people use exogenous testosterone?
Depending on the dosage, a small decline in natural T3 and T4 production might take place, but this is an only acute effect, and normalization of natural thyroid production is known to take place 2-5 weeks after stopping the use of exogenous thyroid.
If you suspect you may be suffering from hypothyroidism, using natural dessicated thyroid is a great way to quickly supply the body with the missing T3 and T4. Sure it may slightly suppress the natural production, but this is quickly reversible.
Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is probably the most popular painkiller there is.
It’s potent anti-inflammatory agent that slightly thins the blood. On a more uncommon note, aspirin also shifts the mitochondria from the state of oxidizing fats into oxidizing glucose, which is favorable for thyroid function. Aspirin is also an estrogen antagonist and prevents the lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) both of which are favorable things for thyroid health.
Not so surprisingly, one study saw that when people used aspirin, their tissue conversion of T4 to the active form T3 was significantly increased12.
Taurine is an antioxidative amino acid, it’s commonly found in bile, large intestines, heart, and testicles. Mother’s milk is also relatively high in taurine.
When it comes to health benefits, taurine has many. It can help the body to assimilate and utilize minerals13, help balance electrolytes14, raise testosterone levels, improve liver health15, and improve the health of diabetics16.
Since taurine also increases dopamine levels in the brain17, it can reduce serotonin and prolactin, which is favorable for metabolic rate and thyroid function.
In actual studies examining taurine intake and thyroid function, it has been seen that lower platelet levels of taurine strongly correlate with hypothyroidism18, and hypothyroid patients often have low taurine levels19.
Taurine also prevents thyroid damage and T3 & T4 suppression caused by pesticide and lead intake20 (possibly due to its antioxidant effects). Similar protective effects have also been seen in rats exposed to fluoride21 (which as some of you already know, is a thyroid hormone disruptor).
Taurine is very inexpensive supplement with plenty of proven benefits. I would highly suggest consuming 1-5 grams on a daily basis to see how it makes you feel. I personally tried it first 3 years ago and have been using it ever since.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb commonly used in the Indian herbal medicine known as Ayurveda.
I have talked about the herb previously, as it’s one of the best natural testosterone increasing compounds with proven human-research backing the effects up, and it’s also very potent at reducing cortisol levels and lowering the levels of oxidative damage.
As I was researching possible thyroid supplements, I was quite surprised to see that not only is this thing already worth buying due to its effects on male hormones and stress reduction, it may also be fairly beneficial for thyroid function.
This was first seen in a rodent study, where 1,4mg/kg of ashwagandha was able to increase T4 thyroid hormone levels significantly22. Later, another rodent study saw similar effects23 as T4 levels increased by a staggering 60% in the rats fed with ashwagandha. In humans, ashwagandha supplementation has been found to normalize thyroid abnormalities in subjects with bipolar disorder24.
It’s likely that ashwagandha works by stimulating TSH release (similarly to how it stimulates LH release in testosterone production), which then leads to increased production of T4.
Always get the KSM-66 water extracted Ashwagandha (affiliate link), it has the highest amount of active withanolides, responsible of most of the benefits.
Conclusion on Thyroid Supplements
Are there natural supplements that help with hypothyroidism?
You bet. No matter whether you’re hypo or just looking for a boost in thyroid function, these six supplements are going to ramp up your T3 and T4 production naturally.
Just remember that supplementation is rarely enough, there are other powerful natural ways too, such as; lowering the intake of PUFAs, increasing the intake of simple carbohydrates, eating enough calories, and balancing your amino acids by eating some collagen-protein once in a while.