Two Vital Nutrients for Your Thyroid: Not the Usual Suspects

Two vital nutrients for thyroid health

Could you be deficient in these two essential nutrients and not even know it?

Written by John A. Robinson, NMD

For those of you who have been diligently exploring the best nutrient strategies for your thyroid health, your research has likely brought you to things like iodine, selenium, tyrosine, and zinc. Iodine tops the list as one of the most important nutrients for the thyroid, as do the others, but there are two other nutrients that are not that often properly lauded with the accolades they deserve. These nutrients are also massively misunderstood in respect to their role in health and thyroid function but also highly misdiagnosed as being deficient in the first place. But misunderstood and misdiagnosed are two phenomena that spark me to dig deeper, which is why I am a thyroid disease advocate and why I am going to shed some much needed light on these nutrients for you right now.

Unusual Thyroid Nutrient Suspect #1: Magnesium

Now this really isn’t earth-shattering (or thyroid-shattering) news for some of you, but magnesium isn’t always at the top of the list for thyroid health. It’s often viewed as an after-thought and if it is prescribed, then the dose is often more of a maintenance dose that does not really improve body magnesium stores. Let’s dig into this now and see how magnesium not only helps your thyroid, but countless other mechanisms in your body.

The thyroid cannot function without magnesium. Here is a list of very important functions of magnesium and how it relates to your thyroid gland health.[i]

  • Magnesium is responsible for converting the inactive T4 thyroid hormone into the active form of T3. This is extremely important because the metabolism of your body cells are enhanced by T3, not inactive T4.
  • Magnesium deficiency is related to goiter, or an enlarged thyroid gland. Another important nutrient in preventing goiter is iodine, but magnesium is right there helping too.
  • Magnesium helps you to make more T4 in the thyroid gland. Without magnesium, many of the thyroid enzymes that make thyroid hormone simply could not function.

Where is all the Magnesium?

We live in a calcium dominant and magnesium deficient society. Simply, we ingest many foods that have plenty of calcium but not a lot of magnesium. We tend to hear more about the importance of calcium supplementation than we ever do about magnesium supplementation, although that is starting to change. High amounts of calcium not only compete with your magnesium stores in your body, the excess intake of calcium has been associated with kidney stones and atherosclerosis.[ii] [iii] One of the reasons we are seeing the excess accumulation of calcium deposits is that we are not properly absorbing calcium due to being deficient in magnesium and even vitamin K2.

Where Do I Get Magnesium? How Much Do I Need?

Be sure to focus on magnesium-rich foods which include almonds, pumpkin seeds, chard, spinach, avocado, figs, and even dark chocolate. Unfortunately, the quality of most foods, even organic, do not contain consistently adequate amounts of minerals including magnesium. So supplementation is key to getting your magnesium stores up for your thyroid health.

For supplementation for your thyroid and general health, I suggest two different categories of magnesium, depending on whether you have constipation or not.

If you have constipation, then I recommend Magnesium Citrate at a dose of 400 mg to 1000 mg to relieve the constipation and start to increase magnesium stores. I’ve included links to high quality brands.

If you do not have constipation, but many of the other symptoms, then I recommend Magnesium Glycinate at a daily dose of 400 mg to 800 mg. This helps you to increase magnesium stores and will not increase bowel motility for those that do not really need it.

Magnesium, Your Thyroid & The Bottom Line

The rest of your body benefits from magnesium too. In fact, there are over 300 different enzymatic reactions in your body and cells that require magnesium. When magnesium is deficient it leads to a host of problems:

  • Thyroid problems (low or high)
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Raynaud’s Syndrome
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Personality changes
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • To name a few…

Do those symptoms sound familiar to you? For many here at Hypothyroid Mom, they may be extremely familiar. It may be that many of you read that list of magnesium deficiency related signs and symptoms and discover that you have always thought it was related to your existing or suspected low thyroid condition. That still may be true. But it is also very important to note that the symptoms could be from a magnesium deficiency directly and/or hypothyroidism (low thyroid) from the magnesium deficiency. Either way, magnesium can help you and your thyroid.

Unusual Thyroid Nutrient Suspect #2: Vitamin A

Here is the second nutrient that is not only deficient in most patients with low thyroid, but is often avoided because of a huge misconception about what it is and how it can help you.

Along with the other important fat-soluble vitamins, D, E, and K, Vitamin A acts on the cells of the body like a hormone because it directly affects the DNA of the cell nucleus directing cellular protein production. It’s a fancy vitamin and has many important functions in your body including reproduction, eye function and vision, skin health, immune enhancement, and cellular growth.

Vitamin A and the thyroid has been highly researched and its deficiency is related to low thyroid issues and the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:

  • In a study done in 2012 with pre-menopausal women who were both obese and non-obese, 25,000 IU of retinyl palmitate daily was able to significantly reduce serum TSH levels and increase T3. Remember that the higher the TSH goes, the lower thyroid function may be, and T3 is the most potent thyroid hormone we have. This study showed that vitamin A alone was able to improve thyroid status, at least from a lab work standpoint.[iv]
  • Another study demonstrated how Vitamin A supplementation can help reduce goiter (enlarged thyroid) and hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) in children who were also iodine deficient. In other words, the Vitamin A supplementation protected from thyroid problems even when iodine was deficient.[v]
  • Vitamin A has been found to decrease autoimmune reactions in the body and therefore lessens the risk for thyroid autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.[vi] Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a very common reason why patients have low thyroid and it can complicate the treatment outcomes if you are not working with a doctor who understands the condition.

How Do I Know If I Am Deficient in Vitamin A?

Some of the potential symptoms or conditions related to Vitamin A deficiency can be:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Gastroenteritis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Poor digestion and absorption
  • Frequent colds and upper respiratory infections
  • Increased infertility in women
  • Low sperm count in men
  • Frequent miscarriage
  • Vision problems
  • Night blindness
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry hair
  • Hyperkeratosis (dry, rough, scaly skin)
  • Acne, particularly on the extremities

Sound familiar? Every one of these conditions or symptoms can be related to low thyroid (hypothyroidism). The thyroid is known as the “great pretender” because it either mimics other disease processes or is associated with them directly. Vitamin A can help either directly or indirectly with your thyroid and the related symptoms you are suffering with.

Where Should I Get Vitamin A?

The answer to this question starts off with understanding what REAL Vitamin A really is. Real Vitamin A is retinol, the active form of Vitamin A. Beta carotene, a very common precursor to retinol, is often mistaken as real active Vitamin A. But beta carotene must be converted into retinol and herein lies the real problem. Beta carotene, the inactive form found in plant sources such as the beloved “vitamin A” source of carrots, must be converted into active retinol. But here are some interesting facts about thyroid hormone and beta carotene conversion in the body. Firstly, thyroid hormone is needed to convert beta-carotene (and the other carotenes) into ACTIVE Vitamin A or retinol. And the readers of this article know the rampant issue of low thyroid creates a problem right off the bat for beta carotene conversion. Additionally, research has found that beta-carotene from raw carrots converts into active Vitamin A by a rate of only 3%. But cooking the carrots in oil (fats) increased the conversion to up to 39%.[vii]

This leads me to my next point about the best source for real Vitamin A and that is animal sources. Vegetables simply cannot keep up with Vitamin A demands because they need to be converted by the body. The best sources of real Vitamin A retinol are animal sources such as liver, particularly fermented cod liver oilblank, raw dairy, and cultured butter. A great brand for cultured butter is Organic Valley which can be found at Whole Foods. Raw milk is sometimes challenging to find, depending on the region. It is very important to explore the Weston A. Price Foundation and their Real Milk Finder. In Arizona, I get my raw milk from Healthy Habits Food Stores in Phoenix, where they obtain it from a local dairy. It’s delicious and I highly recommend it! These sources have a low likelihood of toxicity due to the presence and balance of the other fat-soluble vitamins D, E, and K. It is very important to balance real Vitamin A retinol with adequate amounts of these vitamins, particularly Vitamin D.

In Summary

The landscape out there for those suffering with thyroid problems is a vast and rocky desert at times, but filled with the occasional oasis of wisdom. I hope this article stands as an oasis of simple wisdom for you and a reminder that there are answers for you, there are advocates for you, and there are doctors who will listen. Keep exploring and realize the answers are sometimes very elegantly easy.

About John A. Robinson, NMD

Dr. John A. Robinson is a Board Certified Naturopathic Medical Doctor and Chief Medical Officer of The Hormone Zone in Scottsdale, Arizona. He specializes in natural hormone replacement therapy and thyroid disease.

READ NEXT: The 2 Big Problems with Typical Thyroid Treatment


[i] Hsu JM, Root AW, Duckett GE, Smith JC Jr, Yunice AA, Kepford G. The effect of magnesium depletion on thyroid function in rats. J Nutr. 1984 Aug;114(8):1510-7. PubMed PMID: 6747732.

[ii] Li K, Kaaks R, Linseisen J, Rohrmann S. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. Heart. 2012 Jun;98(12):920-5.

[iii] Chakraborti S, Chakraborti T, Mandal M, Mandal A, Das S, Ghosh S. Protective role of magnesium in cardiovascular diseases: a review. Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 Sep;238(1-2):163-79.

[iv] Farhangi MA, Keshavarz SA, Eshraghian M, Ostadrahimi A, Saboor-Yaraghi AA. The effect of vitamin A supplementation on thyroid function in premenopausal women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):268-74. PubMed PMID: 23378454.

[v] Zimmermann MB. Interactions of vitamin A and iodine deficiencies: effects on the pituitary-thyroid axis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007 May;77(3):236-40. Review.

[vi] Ikeda U, Wakita D, Ohkuri T, Chamoto K, Kitamura H, Iwakura Y, Nishimura T. 1α,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 and all-trans retinoic acid synergistically inhibit the differentiation and expansion of Th17 cells. Immunol Lett. 2010 Nov 30;134(1):7-16. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2010.07.002.

[vii] Hedrén E, Diaz V, Svanberg U. Estimation of carotenoid accessibility from carrots determined by an in vitro digestion method. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 May;56(5):425-30.

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. I see that comments are not replied to. I think I can safely say, magnesium does not play a role in the converting. The one study that is sited here on magnesium and the thyroid, says nothing about convertering. It’s an old study, from 1984. It says, magnesium depleted rats gained in weight, their T4 level went down and their thyroid increased in size. That is consistent with what I wrote in my other comment, magnesium plays a role in iodine uptake. And we know, with less iodine, hormone production goes down and the thyroid swells to catch what little iodine there is. That is goiter. So the claim that magnesium affects conversion does not have a leg to stand on, and the author of this article does not provide any scientific evidence that it does. It is unfortunate that people writing on thyroid issues don’t find it necessary to look at the science. But just spread something they think or have heard. Always look at the studies people refer to, and see for yourself, if it substansiates what they say. Often it doesn’t. I try to be as honest and scientific as I can on my blog. And if I just give my own opinions, I try to be clear about it.

  2. After reading this post, I have searched for scientific evidence for the claim that magnesium plays a role in the conversion from T4 to T3. I cannot find anything. All I find is other blogs saying it. As far as I can see, magnesium is very important for the uptake of iodine. That means, magnesium is important for the production of thyroid hormone. It is also important for the mitchrocondial function, though I haven’t understood exactly how. I am very interested in this, so will ask for the science behind this claim of magnesium’s role in conversion. There are many incorrect myths circulating in the thyroid community, things being repeated without being investigated. Not saying, this is one of those. Looking forward to reading studies on this. Thank you!

  3. Sharra Moller says

    I had to increase my magnesium to get rid of night leg cramps, 1000 mg at night, and I found that it could effect my thyroid, which I am taking meds for a low throid. My doctor never told me anything. Now I wonder if I even need the thryroxin?

  4. Elizabeth Hornwell` says

    It is heartbreaking living with Hashimotos and Hypothyroidism because it’s like being dragged behind a car and no one knowing about it. It feels like there’s no hope… Doctor’s seem to either not care or not know what to do. They are quick to hand you levothyroxine without trying to make it better. When I read this article I almost cried from joy because it gave me hope not only for my thyroid but helping with all the side effects that goes along with it. Thank you so much for writing this! When should I take the Vitamin A and Magnesium?

  5. Thank you so much for this blog!!! It has been so helpful in my hypothyroid journey. I was recently diagnosed back in June. I wanted to know if magnesium will interact with my thyroid medication. Do I need to take it several hours after taking my medicine first thing in the morning?

  6. I’ve been on thyroid replacement since 1986 when I had my thyroid removed do to what I was told was cancer,but since then wondered if it was merely a lack of iodine do to an avoidance of sodium- concerned about getting high blood pressure which my father was diagnosed with when I was about 9 yrs. old. I’d always been pretty active growing up-or at least tried to be ,I would try to follow in my older brothers footsteps and workout, and even took yo jogging and loved tooling around on my 10 speed cruising to my favorite jams. But I would always find myself overly exhausted and have to take long breaks between activities– days or weeks.
    It wasn’t until I was 20 that I’d developed a goiter that my other brother had pointed out to me one day as I was coming upstairs from a workout in the basement. My family started freaking out and urged me to go to get it checked out immediately.
    After a biopsy I was informed that I had a malignant growth on my thyroid,and needed to have my thyroid removed. I’ve been on T4 replacement ever since,except for a period in about, ’93 to about ’98 when I was finally able to get a doctor in San Francisco to prescribe Armor Thyroid, only reluctantly, and without a guideline as to the conversion from the synthyroid that I had been taking, so I developed hyperthyroid symptoms. By the time I moved to L.A. I was back on the T4 only script and never felt like it was doing the job of replacing my missing hormones, always feeling like I was hypothyroid- no engery,no appetite,no drive, so I’d self adjust the dose and feel good for a minute, but eventually end up slightly hyperthyroid and back it off and readjust the dose,an endless guessing game, until eventually I just stuck to the dose the doctor said was sufficient and suffered the feeling of not feeling whole. Until-
    Finally, two weeks ago ,I got a doctor to reluctantly, put me on a T4/T3 combo replacement and the symptoms of low thyroid have been been aleviated. Unfortunately I believe the doctor,being uncomfortable with using T3 , drastically reduced the T4 and now my energy goes up, but then plummets to a degree worse than before .So once again I find myself self adjusting my dose,trying to achieve a steady energy responce.Lets just say my next appointment is probably going to be a tussle with the doctor to get some sound medical advice on the correct ratio of T4 with the addition of the T3 that he had been reluctant to prescribed in the first place,but has drastically reversed my hypothyroid symptoms that plagued me for years,on the prescribed T4 only
    dose .😞vs.😊/😔or💤vs.🏃or👎vs.👍or🚫vs.⭕or⬇vs⬆or🔤vs.🔠

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