Patients With Thyroid Disease (Graves and Hashimotos) Are Vulnerable To Zinc Deficiency. In this article we tackle the topic of why patients with thyroid disease are so vulnerable to zinc deficiency. I will also review benefits of zinc in patients with Thyroid disease, Symptoms of zinc deficiency and finally why people who are following AIP diet, grain free diet, lectin free diet or gluten free diet should supplement with zinc.
Unlike vitamins which are fat soluble (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) or vitamins such as Vitamin B12, your body doesn’t have a system for storing zinc and if you have thyroid disease, Hashimotos disease or Graves disease this could be another culprit causing lingering thyroid symptoms.
Zinc Helps with T4-T3 Conversion
Zinc plays a major role in a variety of functions within the body such as wound healing, immune function, growth and development, moderating insulin and blood sugar levels. Too often, perspective patients contact my office with thyroid issues and yet despite taking Synthroid/Levothyroxine on a regular basis, they continue to feel and suffer with all of the typical thyroid symptoms. Often these patients report feeling no better than when they first started on their thyroid journey. Their doctors will periodically check their TSH and T4 levels, but no one has looked ‘further down the thyroid pathway’ to see if they are effectively converting this T4 into its active form, T3. This is a major issue and a common cause of persistent hypothyroid symptoms like hair loss, chronic fatigue, depression, weight gain and constipation.
Zinc deficiency can also cause thyroid disease by impacting T3 thyroid levels. One of the biggest problems encountered by people who have thyroid disease is the inability to take the inactive thyroid hormone which is T4 and convert it into T3. While there are a number of key nutrients for thyroid function, selenium and zinc are of the utmost importance when it comes to this thyroid hormone conversion. In fact, a deficiency of either of these nutrients can significantly impair thyroid hormone levels, resulting in low circulating levels of T3.
If you find yourself not feeling better when you take your thyroid medication or you feel like all of a sudden your thyroid medication stopped working, a deficiency in zinc, could be one of the reasons. Remember this….. pumping your system with with more and more levothyroxine or more and more Synthroid will not fix this problem, in the end this will only suppress your thyroid gland and suppress your TSH- The end result you suffer with more hypothyroid symptoms.
Zinc Helps with Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Zinc deficiency can also cause thyroid disease by affecting oxidative stress and inflammation levels. Zinc has been documented in multiple studies to support and improve- Immune Function and that includes autoimmune disease like Hashimtos and Graves Disease.
Now you might be saying “I don’t have Hashimotos disease or Graves.” You may not have a diagnosis of Hashimotos disease, but please keep in mind that If you have a hypothyroidism diagnosis, the number one cause of that hypothyroidism is Hashimotos thyroiditis- this IS an autoimmune disease where the immune system is destroying your thyroid gland.
MOST people (we are talking probably somewhere between 70 and 90% of people) with low thyroid have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis whether they realize it or not.
Zinc in human plays an important role in cell mediated immunity and is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Zinc supplementation studies in the elderly have shown decreased incidence of infections, decreased oxidative stress, and decreased generation of inflammatory cytokines.
The word “Itis” comes from the word inflammation and this tells us that there is an inflammatory component to the thyroid disease- that brings us to another important areas that supplementation with zinc can help with leaky gut.
Zinc Helps with Leaky Gut
Zinc deficiency can also cause thyroid disease by affecting gut health. Zinc is also an essential nutrient that helps maintain the gut barrier, ensuring that the intestinal wall is strong and non-porous. The intestinal lining determines what substances can enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract. In a healthy gut, the intestines are resistant to harmful substances. In someone with a leaky-inflamed gut, those harmful substances begin to leak through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut syndrome has been associated with several chronic conditions, including:
- food sensitivities
- skin conditions
- autoimmune conditions
- mental health conditions
- Thyroid autoimmune disease
Here’s an illustration of a leaky gut– what you will notice is that on the left hand side- all the cells are lined up together and there are no spaces. But when you look to the right- you notice that there are spaces between the cells. The picture on the right is an example of leaky and inflamed gut barrier.
Remember, when the human intestines are healthy and functioning (not leaky) they act as both a barrier and filter for our bodies. They allow nutrients to be absorbed and they block out any toxins from entering the bloodstream.
When the intestines become porous or leaky (like the picture on the right), they allow toxic substance to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This has a domino effect which ultimately sets off a massive inflammatory reaction within the body- especially if the cause of the leaky gut is from LPS bacterial toxins. Here again zinc to the rescue! Multiple studies show zinc helps heal the tight junctions– these are the proteins that hold your intestinal cells together.
A zinc deficiency affects gut barrier function something incredible common in patients with Hashimoto’s disease and Graves disease. This is why I so strongly believe in supplementing with zinc when you are following diets like; autoimmune Paleo diet (AIP), gluten free diet, low FODMAP. A 2001 study found that zinc supplementation helped to strengthen the gut lining in patients with Crohn’s disease.Research from 2015 suggests that zinc is able to modify the tight junctions of the intestinal lining, helping to limit gut permeability.
(check out my video on supplements to heal the gut barrier) So now that you know how about the benefits of zinc when you have thyroid disease, Hashimotos or Graves Disease you should also be familiar with the symptoms of zinc deficiency and WHY…… you could be at an increased risk of a deficiency if you are following a Grain free, paleo, AIP diet.
Follow along with me here because we need to bridge the gap between zinc deficiency and these diets. Here’s what you need to know….Many people with autoimmune diseases like Hashimotos, Graves, Crohns disease, MS, Lupus, and of course Celiac disease, often follow an autoimmune Paleo Diet, grain free, lectin free diet or low FODMAP diet.
While these diets may be incredibly helpful in controlling inflammation and healing the gut, many of these foods that have been eliminated tend to be high in zinc and so if you have eliminated these foods from your diet, you are now at an even greater risk for a zinc deficiency.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms in Patients with Thyroid disease
As I have been discussing, Zinc deficiency is common in patients with thyroid disease, Hashimotos and Graves Disease. For most people with thyroid disease, a zinc deficiency can drastically exacerbate the symptoms of low thyroid. Some people with zinc deficiency will also experience a worsening of low T3 symptoms like like hair loss, brain fog, weight gain, constipation, loss of taste and smell and low libido.
Additional Articles and Videos Suggested by Our Readers
- Nutritional deficiencies associated with thyroid weight gain
- Selenium- How it Helps patients With Graves Disease
- Iron deficiency and Thyroid disease
- How Vitamin D deficiency impacts your thyroid
- Damaging effect of gluten on your thyroid–
- Lectins, Inflammation and Thyroid disease– How Grains, Nuts, Beans and Seeds affect your Thyroid