Do you have symptoms of hypothyroidism? This includes:
- Inability to lose weight
- Dry skin
- Sluggish, lack of initiative
- Chronic constipation
- Poor digestion
- SAD Seasonal affectiveness disorder
- Easily fatigued, sleepy
- Poor circulation
- Cold hands and feet
- Hair loss
- Waking body temperature of under 97.8 degrees
- Hormonal imbalance
- High cholesterol
If you’re dealing with these symptoms of hypothyroidism, the first line of nutritional defense may include foods rich in vitamin A as well as a pro-thyroid diet. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. That’s a WHOLE LOT of Americans that might just have a nutrient deficiency brought on by low-fat dieting and eating too much processed food, which is completely preventable!
Vitamin A is required for a healthy immune system, good vision, reproduction/hormone synthesis, production of T3 (thyroid hormone) and cellular communication, just to name a few! Without it, thyroid levels can suffer. According to the Journal of Nutrition early signs of vitamin A deficiency resulted in hypothyroidism, “…the evidence presented demonstrates that a marginal vitamin A deficiency induces hypothyroidism, which appears quite early in the onset of the disease.”
The connection between vitamin A and hypothyroidism should come as no surprise. Vitamin A is needed for healthy hormone production; when you have a lack of hormonal balance (by having estrogen dominance, for example), it will actually block thyroid production! According to Dr. Ray Peat, “Estrogen blocks the release of hormone from the thyroid gland, and progesterone facilitates the release. Estrogen excess or progesterone deficiency tends to cause enlargement of the thyroid gland, in association with a hypothyroid state.”
How could one become deficient in vitamin A?
It’s important to note that vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries. Subclinical vitamin A toxicity is perhaps the more common problem which could also cause thyroid issues.
I see two main reasons for vitamin A deficiencies:
1) Low and fat-free diets: That egg white omelet, skim milk, and butter-less toast are at the center of this problem. You see, the fat soluble vitamins (like vitamin A, but also vitamins D, E, and K) are found in the FAT, and when you eat low-fat, you lose these hormone, thyroid and metabolism stimulating nutrients!
2) Saturated fat avoiding diets. When Americans were led astray by the mainstream media to DITCH saturated fat for polyunsaturated fat (ie. butter for vegetable oils), our nutrition really suffered. Foods containing saturated fat (like egg yolks, butter, cream, whole milk) are naturally high in vitamin A, where as vegetable oils and margarine are not. Catch up on the how polyunsaturated fats contribute to disease and speed the aging process here.
Sources of Real Vitamin A (retinol- animal source)
It’s important to note the difference between plant (beta-carotene) and animal sources (retinol) of vitamin A . Plants contain beta-carotene that is actually the precursor to Vitamin A, meaning it requires conversion by the body (and those who are vitamin A deficient are usually poor converters). The easiest way to ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin A is to eat foods like butter, eggs, whole milk, cream, and liver in moderation.
Vitamin A Toxicity Warning
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, so excess vitamin A is stored in the body and not excreted. This means taking high dosages can put you at risk of vitamin A toxicity. That’s why I only recommend food sources of vitamin A, because by eating whole foods, it’s a lot more difficult to get too much.
I hope this article helps point out that there are always underlying issues for weight gain (<— a great read on why I stopped working with weight loss clients). Whether it’s caused by poor digestion, sluggish thyroid function, a slowed metabolism, hormonal imbalance, stress, or a plethora of other bodily issues, focusing on just weight loss fixes nothing (in fact dieting often makes many things much worse!). In order to really get to the bottom of weight gain, you must focus on health as your number one priority. Only then does your body find your ideal weight as a natural byproduct of becoming the healthiest version of you.
The first line of defense against disease like hypothyroidism should be a good nutritional foundation!
American Thyroid Association. Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease. 2014. Retrieved on April 13, 2014 from http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
Cheryl F. Nockels, David L. Ewing, Hope Phetteplace, Karen A. Ritacco, and Kendall N. Mero. Hypothyroidism: An Early Sign of Vitamin A Deficiency in Chickens J. Nutr. 1984 114: 9 1733-1736
Shamon, Mary. An Interview with Raymond Peat. Retrieved on April 13, 2014 from http://www.thyroid-info.com/articles/ray-peat.htm