Hypothyroidism Treatment: To Tyrosine or Not to Tyrosine?
The amino acid L-Tyrosine (Tyrosine) is often recommended for those suffering from hypothyroidism because it helps the thyroid gland produce thyroid hormone. This is a recommendation not only made by Naturopathic doctors, but main stream sources as well.
As just one example, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at Penn State University states that “The thyroid gland combines tyrosine and iodine to make thyroid hormone” and they specifically include tyrosine on their hypothyroidism information page as a natural supplement which may help in treating hypothyroidism.
On the advice of a Naturopathic doctor, I have personally taken Tyrosine when suffering from the symptoms of thyroid, adrenal and pituitary problems some years ago, and I did indeed experience an improvement in symptoms. However, do note that I said I had both adrenal and thyroid issues, because this may be relevant.
When researching natural treatment options for hypothyroidism, over and over you will see tyrosine recommended. In fact, many, if not most, natural thyroid support supplement blends contain tyrosine as a key ingredient because it is so widely accepted as being very helpful to thyroid function, and many of the users of these supplement blends report good improvements with their thyroid symptoms.
But recently when I was researching whether Tyrosine was an appropriate treatment for those with Hashimotos Disease (an auto-immune type of hypothyroidism) on behalf of my mom, I encountered some information suggesting that Tyrosine is not, in fact, an advisable hypothyroidism treatment despite all of the information to the contrary. This led to considerable confusion. Many, many reputable sources say it is, and yet we have other legitimate health practitioners saying it is not.
Watch this video by Dr. David J. Clark, DC (chiropractor, functional medicine doctor, and integrative medicine doctor) to hear one of the arguments made against using Tyrosine to treat hypothyroidism:
I also read with interest information published on a blog by a Chiropractor and Intergrative/ Functional Medicine Practitioner by the name of Dr. Karl Johnson. Often these guys (chiropractors and fucntional/integrative medicine practioners) are quite progressive in their knowledge, so I’m not typically dismissive of what they have to say – yet it contradicts what naturopaths commonly tell us about important benefits of tyrosine on the thyroid.
What Dr. Johnson puts forth is that tyrosine impacts adrenal gland hormones – not thyroid hormones – and that an over production of adrenal hormones can shut down your thyroid gland. In another article I read, it was suggested that people mistakenly think that their thyroid function is improving when hypothyroid symptoms start to lift when taking tyrosine, but that this is actually due to the increase in adrenal hormones – which is not a good thing if you don’t have an existing problem with low adrenal output.
Dr Johnson states:
There’s not a single study out there that shows the ability of tyrosine to increase thyroid hormones, even when they are sub-par or too low. Tyrosine is the precursor to the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which in turn is a precursor to the adrenal “fight or flight” hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Increased adrenal hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, will suppress thyroid function. Too much of these adrenal hormones can cause you to have:
- anxiety and nervousness
- heart palpitations
- high blood pressure
He cites the University of Maryland Medical Center with this quote from information about tyrosine on their website:
“It’s rare to be deficient in tyrosine. Low levels have been associated with low blood pressure, low body temperature, and an underactive thyroid. This does not mean, however, that taking tyrosine supplements will help any of these conditions.”
Dr Johnson says, “If you’ve got low thyroid problems, please, don’t take tyrosine. Find a doctor that can actually do the detective work and find out what’s wrong.”
The least critical of the recommendations I’ve com across against using Tyrosine for hypothyroidism came from Dr.Brooke Kalanick ND, MS, LAc, who had the following to say about the use of Tyrosine as a hypothyroidism treatment:
“When a patient begins to take tyrosine they often feel better – isn’t that what we’re after? Well, yes, but they probably aren’t feeling better because their thyroid function has improved. We do need tyrosine to make thyroid hormone but we also need it for adrenaline and dopamine production – those also make us feel great.
Our adrenals are responsible for our adrenaline production and this hormone is so vital to survival that it takes priority – it snatches up the tyrosine straight away. Adrenaline allows us to not pass out when we stand up and is responsible for that immediate reaction to move out of the way of an oncoming car. This is all good stuff, but it’s not thyroid related.
Many of you – especially those with low thyroid production – have low-functioning or mal-functioning adrenal/brain physiology (know as the HPA axis – hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis) and this flood of tyrosine into the system boosts adrenaline and you’ll feel much more alert, have better energy and better concentration. This is all good stuff – and we probably needed this adrenal support. But we mistake this boost in energy as having improved thyroid function. Adding tyrosine to a thyroid support regimen is not a terrible idea, but it gives us a false sense of improvement in thyroid output and what’s more, if you’re highly stressed throwing more adrenaline fueling nutrients into the mix may make adrenal issues worse – not better.”
Meanwhile, reading the reviews at iHerb.com (where I buy all my supplements) on tyrosine supplements, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal reporting indicating that tyrosine does indeed often result in an improvement of hypothyroid symptoms.
Its also interesting to note that Mary Shoman, a well respected (by many mainstream doctors and endocrinologists) patient advocate and thyroid expert recommends tyrosine as a natural treatment for hypothyroidism.