Protein Is Essential for Thyroid Function – Are You Getting Enough?

January 28, 2019

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 Protein Is Essential for Thyroid Function – Are You Getting Enough?
The U.S. government recommends 50 grams of protein per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet, an equivalent of 10% of your overall calories. This amount of protein is enough to keep you from looking emaciated, but not nearly enough to help you feel your best. There are multiple problems with the FDA’s one-size-fits-all protein recommendation. Being active or under high amounts of stress will increase your need for protein. Plus, protein fitness is crucial to thyroid function. If you want your thyroid to fuction optimally, examine your diet.

Thyroid hormones (THs) are necessary for normal, healthy function of nearly all tissues. The effects are felt only when they enter the cells. Thyroid hormones, like all hormones, are messengers sent by a manager. This message is carried to receptor sites on cells via a carrier protein. This is like catching a ride in a taxi to get from point A to point B. The “taxi” that carries thyroid hormones to the cells is made of protein. Without adequate protein intake, thyroid hormones have a difficult time getting the message where it needs to go and you end up feeling fatigued, foggy and generally crummy.

Most of the hormones made by the thyroid are in the form of T4 (thyroxine). Sixty-four percent of the T4 produced then moves to the liver to be converted into T3 before it can become active. You can see the liver plays a crucial role in thyroid metabolism. The liver is the metabolic factory of your body and it uses protein as a primary raw material for getting its work done. This is one reason why a high protein breakfast can increase your metabolic rate by 30 percent for as long as 12 hours, an important fact for anyone who want to maintain a healthy weight. A lack of dietary protein or the ability to metabolize protein properly will handicap the overall thyroid system function. Ensuring adequate dietary protein intake and improving protein metabolism is fundamental to improving thyroid hormone function in the body.

Conversion of T4 into T3 also takes place in your muscles. Your muscles depend on protein for their structure and function. Our muscles call upon stored amino acids to rejuvenate their structure daily. Muscles require continuous use to maintain their structure. A lack of activity or exercise will reduce muscle mass, as your body sees no point in spending resources to maintain muscles that are not being used. The more fit muscle you have, the greater the number and efficiency of the calorie-burning engines (mitochondria) that make energy you have, and the smaller your fat cells will become. All of this means more potential you have for efficient function of your cellular thyroid system.

While there is no way to give a one-size-fits-all recommendation for protein intake, the following guidelines will get you in the general ballpark and on to feeling much better. As a guideline, you should aim to consume half your ideal body weight in grams of protein every day. Two-thirds of your body weight in protein may be needed if you are under high amounts of stress or very active. A simple way to calculate your ideal body weight is to determine your frame: small (narrow), medium (average), or large (wide or larger bones). Assume that five feet equals 100 pounds as a starting point. For women, add 5, 6 or 7 pounds based on your frame size for every inch you are over five feet. For men, add 6, 7 or 8 pounds for every inch over five feet you are. Following these guidelines you will find that daily protein needs fall between 20-30 percent of your daily caloric needs.

If you struggle with getting enough protein into your diet, or you eat a vegetarian diet, consider a grass-fed whey protein supplement. Whey, a protein found in milk, is an easily absorbed protein that provides all of the essential amino acids. Research shows it is especially efficient at building muscle in response to exercise. Stay away from soy protein, however, as it acts as a goitrogen and can disrupt thyroid function.

Your body calls upon stored amino acids to make enzymes, cellular components, neurotransmitters, hormones, immune proteins, and all types of body structure. The recommendations that the FDA have given us for daily protein are often not enough to optimally support thyroid function. Increase your protein intake and see what a difference it can make to your thyroid, energy, and metabolism!

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