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 thyroid symptoms triggered by a nutrient imbalance brought on by under-eating, low-carb dieting, supplement use and eating too much processed food, all of which is completely preventable! 
Do you have any of these thyroid symptoms? This includes:
- Weight gain/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
Several years ago in my nutrition studies, I learned about the mineral balance needed to support optimal thyroid health, namely calcium and potassium. These two super-important minerals must be in good balance with each other, but it's something that I rarely see when working with my clients experiencing thyroid symptoms.
So, if you're dealing with these thyroid symptoms, the first line of nutritional and in this case mineral defense, may be getting your calcium and potassium levels back in balance!
If you don't know your calcium and potassium levels, you may want to. It's pretty easy to find out with Hair Analysis.
Alright, so we need proper balance between calcium and potassium (a.k.a. the thyroid ratio in hair analysis) to support optimal thyroid health from the mineral perspective, but the common American lifestyle compounds this problem twofold — forcing calcium level too high (often by supplementing too much vitamin D), and potassium levels too low.
This makes the thyroid ratio go waaaaaaaay out of balance, and chances are, you may be familiar with the way that makes you feel.
You see, calcium slows things down in the body if you have too much of it, but high calcium levels are now commonplace due to Vitamin D supplementation. In short, it's often not from eating too much calcium-rich food, but instead a product of vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D supplements tell your gut to absorb more calcium from your food than you would otherwise. The even worse supplement combination would be supplementing high amounts of vitamin D and calcium at the same time.
According to Trace Element Lab, "The inhibitory action of calcium on the thyroid has been suspected since the last century, but more recent studies have confirmed its effects. It is known that calcium decreases thyroid activity and that calcium absorption is increased in thyroid insufficiency. Vitamin D would also be considered to contribute to lowered thyroid function due to its close, synergistic relationship to calcium." 
Signs of Calcium excess
Some signs of high calcium are:
- aches and pains in back and joints
- poor appetite
- increased thirst
- frequent urination ,
Now that it's clear that vitamin D supplementation can cause elevated calcium levels, which negatively impacts thyroid health and the thyroid ratio, it's time to get into the other part of this equation — potassium.
Low Potassium Levels Are Common
Potassium deficiency is rampant. You see, potassium is widely found in fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins, but most people just aren't getting enough. It's an epidemic, and often I can easily trace back low potassium levels in my clients to one or many of the following: under-eating, low-carb dieting, supplement excess, chronic stress, and eating too much processed food, all of which are completely reversible.
Signs of Potassium Deficiency
- Weakness, tiredness, or cramping in arm or leg muscles
- Numbness and/or tingling
- Excess water consumption
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mental impairment
- Abdominal cramping and/or bloating
- Fainting due to low blood pressure
- Heart palpitations (irregular heart beat)
These signs of potassium deficiency are strikingly similar to those of hypothyroidism. I don’t find this too surprising, considering self-induced hypothyroidism is a real issue, and it is common among those who have a history of dieting or excessive exercise habits. It is especially problematic in both paleo and low carb diets because they restrict potassium intake by limiting potassium rich fruits, fresh juices, and starchy vegetables.
Of course, there are other reasons your potassium can be low. Certain medications such as diuretics, laxatives, aspirin, certain types of antibiotics, blood pressure lowering drugs, bronchodilators, and steroids can lower potassium levels. It can also be caused by a magnesium deficiency.
Now that it's clear high calcium levels and low potassium levels are not optimal for thyroid health, let's fix the problem!
How to fix the calcium/potassium ratio to support thyroid health
Fixing the thyroid ratio is easier than you think and involves just two simple steps:
1) If you have high calcium levels, work on bringing them down.
This is pretty easy. If you have high calcium levels and have a history of taking vitamin D supplements (even if it's historic use ie. years ago). It might be a good time to reconsider, especially if you have been self-administering it, and not working with a doctor or practitioner who is testing you regularly to keep an eye on your vitamin D levels.
It's worth noting, that there is a lot more to look at with vitamin D deficiency than just needing a supplement. You can read more here, but here are some of the highlights or things that are linked to vitamin D deficiency:
- low magnesium intake
- vitamin c deficiency
- low boron levels
- glyphosate exposure (ie. eating non-organic foods)
From my approach, I'd rather address the above first, and work on getting some sun exposure before popping a supplement that could negative impact the thyroid's ability to do its job.
2) If you have low potassium levels, work on bringing them up.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium is 4,700 mg. Here's a few ideas on how to start boosting your potassium intake starting now:
Sources of Potassium
Celery Juice (12 oz): about 1,000-1,200mg
White Beans (1 cup): 1,004mg
Potato (1 medium with skin): 926mg
Avocado (1 medium): 689mg
Coconut Water (1 cup): 600mg
Raisins (½ cup): 598mg
Prune Juice (6oz): 528mg
Halibut (3oz): 490mg
Acorn Squash (½ cup, cubed): 448mg
Banana (1 medium): 422
Orange Juice (6oz): 372mg
Molasses (1 tb): 293mg
Orange (1 medium): 237mg
Kiwi (1 medium) 237mg
Spinach (½ cup cooked): 420mg
Date (1 piece): 167mg
Give your body what it needs and watch it respond
I hope this article helps point out that there are always things that you can address nutritionally to support thyroid health, fatigue, and weight issues before going on a diet that doesn't have your best interest in mind (<--- a great read on why I stopped working with weight loss clients).
In order to really get to the bottom of thyroid symptoms, 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.
Knowing your mineral levels with hair analysis is a great way to get started in the process of understanding your body and what it truly needs to get back into balance. Get started here.
The first line of defense against thyroid symptoms should be a good nutritional foundation!
1. American Thyroid Association. Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease. 2014. Retrieved on April 13, 2014 from http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
This is a really great and valuable post, Catherine, and I'm going to share it.
I'm also glad you added the "basic" $99 option for the hair analysis, because in all candor I can't be going for the $375 option these days even though I'm sure it's worth it. But I may be springing for this "basic" option before long.
Also, please consider changing the font for the main text body of your posts. This one is very very weak. People with really good eyesight tend to get carried away and think this kind of font is "cool" or something, and that everyone has such great eyesight, but really nothing beats a good strong clear richly saturated font, especially for something as important as the topic of this blog.
As far as the hair analysis goes, I'm a guy who gives myself a "buzz" cut with an electric trimmer every few months or so. So what is the best thing for me to do - wait till there's about half an inch of hair sticking out from my scalp and then just buzz it off and send it? It's supposed to be the hair portion as close to the scalp as possible, right, not the opposite end of the hair shaft furthest out away from the scalp?
Thanks John for your comments — I will see what I can do to make the font more readable for all.
Yes — we will want the first inch of fresh hair growth from the scalp, so we can get the most recent data on what is going on in your body. I send out a test kit after purchase, and you can just send in the amount of hair requested using the scale after you buzz it off 🙂
My hair is colored - I get the roots touched up every 4 weeks so I don't have a lot of outgrowth/virgin hair. Should I have my colorist leave a tiny section unretouched so I can use that to cut for hair analysis?
Thanks in advance!
You could do that, or just get your hair colored as usual and be sure to allow time for 8-10 washes before collecting your sample.
I was actually just about to ask a similar question regarding washing one's hair before taking a sample. It sounds like washing one's hair is okay from what you just wrote here, but I was wondering if the use of shampoo risked distorting the results of any test. So it's okay if the hair is washed the day you take the sample? Or should it be unwashed that day, or only washed no more than "x" number of days before taking the sample?
The hair needs to be washed and clean (shampoo only, no other product) prior to taking the sample. Any sweat or oil accumulation on the hair could contaminate the results. As well, zinc containing dandruff shampoos, Epsom salt baths (if hair is submerged) should be avoided as they could leave excess residue on the hair and naturally elevate the results.
When you talk about high calcium what is the normal range? What numbers am I looking for? Had my para thyroid removed 4 years ago and it was found through my high calcium numbers.
The normal range will be different in blood work vs. hair analysis, so it depends on what way you are testing.
Tom Brimeyer would say the opposite about calcium that we need more calcium with hypothyroid - 'the calcium paradox' - what do you make of this? In my experience it's true. Calcium rich foods can heal the thyroid.........
I'm not here to debate everyone else on the internet, but the point of the post is not that calcium from food is bad, it's that vitamin D messes with the normal uptake of calcium, and that is not supportive of thyroid health from the mineral perspective.
If more calcium was always better for the thyroid, one could argue that large doses of vitamin D would be helpful for hypothyroidism by largely increasing calcium absorption, but that's not what I see in my clients.
Calcium from whole foods (which most naturally contain vitamin K2 as well as other nutrients) = good.
Increase in calcium absorption from taking mega doses of vitamin D = not good.
Catherine, I believe you make a great point. Americans have their electrolytes out of balance and that's literally making us sick. I think you should make more note of magnesium. While we are awash in calcium and it's theoretically possible to obtain enough potassium, magnesium is almost absent from the SAD. Given magnesium's role in metabolism and ATP synthesis, it's absolutely crucial, yet most of us are WAY beyond deficient. I'd like to hear more from you about the balance between all 5 of the major electrolytes: Na, K, Ca, Mg, S
Very informative Very helpful thanks a lot