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How to increase thyroid hormones naturally

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How to increase T3 and T4How to make T4 into T3Thyroid depletionMedicationsSummary
To support the production of thyroid hormones, you can eat a nutrient-dense diet, keep physically active, and take supplements like selenium, zinc, and iron if you are deficient.
Medically reviewed by Marina Basina, M.D.
Updated on November 27, 2023

Thyroid hormones are essential for healthy metabolism, energy levels, and overall well-being. If you live with hypothyroidism, you may want to boost thyroid hormone production naturally.

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) explains there are different forms of thyroid hormones: 

  • Thyroxine (T4): An inactive hormone produced in the thyroid. Your body needs to convert it into its active counterpart, T3, to influence metabolism.
  • Triiodothyronine (T3): T3 is made in the thyroid. It’s the active form of thyroid hormone responsible for regulating metabolism, energy production, and various essential bodily functions.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): The anterior pituitary gland in your brain produces and releases TSH when thyroid hormone levels are low. TSH then stimulates your thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T3.
  • Reverse T3 (rT3): Reverse T3 is a biologically inactive form of T3. It’s produced from T4 but has a different structure, making it unable to effectively regulate metabolism. 
  • Reverse T4 (rT4): Reverse T4 is a rare form of thyroid hormone, and like rT3, it’s biologically inactive. It’s a variant of T4 that does not function as a thyroid hormone.

When assessing thyroid levels, healthcare professionals may want to test both free and total amounts of T3 and T4 in your blood.

Free T3 and free T4 are active thyroid hormones not bound to proteins in your blood and are ready for immediate use. Total T3 and T4 measurements include these free, unbound hormones and their bound counterparts, providing a comprehensive view of thyroid function.

How to increase T3 and T4 naturally

woman with hypothyroidism exercising gently to increase thyroid hormones
Jayme Burrows/Stocksy United

Because thyroid function relates to the production of T3 and T4, low levels of these hormones may lead to different symptoms and conditions. If levels are too low, your healthcare professional may want to prescribe levothyroxine, a synthetic form of T4, and liothyronine, a synthetic form of T3.

In addition to this, you may also naturally boost T3 and T4 levels with the following strategies:

  • Get enough selenium: Your body needs selenium to create deiodinase enzymes. These enzymes help activate T4 and turn it into T3. Foods like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and fish are excellent sources of selenium. You may also take selenium as a supplement, but it’s important to discuss it with a healthcare professional to make sure you don’t take too much of it, which could also lead to health challenges.
  • Get enough zinc: A review from 2021 notes that zinc is involved in creating TSH. Your brain uses TSH to tell your thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4. Zinc also supports the deiodinase enzymes, which signal when T4 should be turned into T3. You can get zinc from foods like oysters, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
  • Get enough iron: A 2023 review explains that iron is a crucial component of the enzyme thyroperoxidase (TPO). Your body uses TPO in the process of creating T3 and T4. Iron deficiency has been linked to hypothyroidism. For your safety, it is important to confirm you are deficient in iron before taking supplements. 
  • Get enough copper: According to a large 2021 review, copper is involved in the functioning of your thyroid gland and the production of thyroid hormones. Good food sources include oysters, liver, nuts, and seeds. 
  • Get enough vitamin D: The same 2021 review found that vitamin D helps regulate TSH secretion from your brain, which promotes T3 and T4 synthesis. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, egg yolks, and exposure to the sun’s UV rays. 
  • Get probiotics: A 2020 review explains that animal studies suggest a link between probiotics and increased T3 and T4 levels. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that support the good bacteria living in your gut. You can get them from fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha. 
  • Get enough calories: A 2015 review describes that malnutrition can cause reduced T3 levels and metabolism. Similarly, a review from 2018 found that intense exercise without enough calories reduced levels of free and total T3 and T4. So, making sure you get enough calories from your diet may increase your T3 levels.
  • Drink less alcohol: A 2017 article found that frequent alcohol consumption can reduce levels of TSH, free T3, and free T4. Longer periods of alcohol abstinence helped optimal levels. 
  • Get enough iodine: A 2021 review explains that your body uses iodine to create both T3 and T4. However, not everyone needs or responds well to iodine. Check with a healthcare professional if your thyroid-related symptoms may benefit or worsen with iodine intake. Iodine-rich foods include seaweed, iodized salt, and seafood.

Regular physical activity may improve levels of T3 and T4 and reduce TSH levels in people with hypothyroidism. Consider avoiding intense or straining exercises, as this may cause the opposite effect. Exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, plus at least 2 hours of strength training, each week.

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How to improve the conversion of T4 to T3

Your body automatically regulates the process of changing T4 to T3. In some cases, though, this conversion may be impaired, even if you have enough T4 in your body. You may support this process naturally by:

  • Taking dietary supplements: As mentioned, many minerals, vitamins, and even probiotics are essential for converting T4 to T3. Selenium and zinc seem to be key for this process. If your healthcare professional advises it, you can take dietary supplements like multivitamins and probiotic pills to make sure your body gets all the micronutrients it needs to support the thyroid hormone processes.
  • Enjoying a balanced diet: Similarly, a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients helps ensure you have all the nutrients and calories your body needs to effectively convert T4 to T3.
  • Talking with a registered dietitian: If you have any questions about eating a thyroid-friendly diet, a registered dietitian may help. They can help educate you and develop a suitable diet plan that supports your health and preferences. 

What depletes thyroid hormones?

Several factors may deplete thyroid hormones. The ATA lists some examples:

  • Autoimmune conditions: Like Hashimoto thyroiditis and atrophic thyroiditis. 
  • Medications: Like amiodarone, lithium, interferon alpha, and interleukin-2.
  • Dietary deficiencies: Inadequate intakes of the nutrients listed earlier, such as iodine, selenium, and zinc.
  • Physical damage: Damage to your thyroid gland from surgery, radiation treatment, or a tumor.

Medications for thyroid dysfunction

If you have thyroid dysfunction, you may have too high levels of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) or too low levels (hypothyroidism). 

If so, a healthcare professional may prescribe medications to help regulate your hormone levels. Possible medications include:

  • Levothyroxine: A synthetic form of T4 that helps treat hypothyroidism.
  • Methimazole: Used in hyperthyroidism, methimazole prevents the thyroid from producing excess thyroid hormones.
    • Tapazole
    • Northyx
  • Beta-blockers: These can help alleviate symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as rapid heart rate and anxiety.
  • Ancillary agents: These may help thyroid hormones get excreted with the feces or reduce the T4 to T3 conversion. This is also used for hyperthyroidism.

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Summary

You can naturally support the production of T4 and T3 hormones by following a balanced diet, moving every day for at least 30 minutes, and supplementing with certain nutrients as needed, including selenium and zinc.

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