Linking Thyroid Problems, Iron, Fatigue, and Cognitive Ability

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

January 18, 2012

Linking Thyroid Problems, Iron, Fatigue, and Cognitive Ability
The loss of cognitive function as one grows older along with the loss of efficient thyroid function is a common occurrence. This means that optimizing thyroid function is one key factor that will contribute to better mental and cognitive skills. New science is now revealing that the condition of your red blood cells is an early predictor of thyroid function, a point that is worth taking a few minutes to understand.

Thyroid is like the drummer in the band, setting the pace for cellular metabolic activity, including the cells that make up your brain. Since optimal human intelligence potential is based on a very fast brain that is synchronized, having a good drummer is a necessity.

It has been known for a while that many of the genes within cells need iron in order to follow the directions of thyroid hormone. In other words once biologically active T3 tells the DNA in your cells how fast to go, following those management instructions requires iron. Not enough iron is like not enough workers. Mangers like thyroid can scream and yell all they want, nothing much is going to get done.

Here is a new twist on this issue. Your red blood cells are manufactured inside your bones. You need to keep making these as your blood cells need to be recycled on a regular basis as they lose their functionality. In fact, all of your red blood cells are generally new every 6-8 weeks. The production of red blood cells relies on a signal that is actually coming from your kidneys called erythropoietin. And as it now turns out this signal is dependent on stimulation from thyroid hormone.

An even more important practical question is how many red blood cells do you have and how much hemaglobin is in them? If you are not in the middle of the normal range on both, and you are heading towards the low end of normal on either (or even out of range), then you are headed in the direction of impaired optimal thyroid function.  If you see your red blood cells or hemoglobin trending down and you have fatigue and other symptoms of poor thyroid function, then you can know that your thyroid is in a state of stress regardless of any thyroid lab test.

Over the years I have used iron bisglycinate (25 mg to 50 mg per day), time and again, based on my understanding of the importance of iron to help carry out thyroid instructions within cells. Energy often picks up within a few days and is typically much better within a month.

This new information means that if we also support thyroid function with important nutrients like selenium and iodine, we are likely to get better red blood cell production, in turn reversing this nasty catch-22. The payoff will not only be better energy level but also better cognitive function.

Certainly there can be other reasons for lower red count/hemoglobin beyond iron, B12, folate or some other nutrient. The most common causes would be heavy menstrual cycles, vegetarian diet, ongoing inflammation, or some type of significant digestive problem. Thus, an individual may have to expand the scope of what they are working on to see benefit. However, starting out with a try at basic nutrients that help build blood along with basic nutrients your thyroid requires may be a simple, effective, and practical solution to a problem that can otherwise spiral out-of-control into otherwise much more difficult health issues, not the least of which is cognitive decline.

If you are tired, have a heavy head too often then get your blood checked. If you are functionally low in red blood cells or hemoglobin (below the middle of the normal range), then you are likely to benefit by adding blood building nutrition to part of your natural thyroid support program.

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