The Vibrant Health Podcast: Episode #31 – Potassium and Thyroid Health

by lydia on March 15, 2016

The Vibrant Health Podcast: Episode #31 - Potassium and Thyroid Health //

Thyroid health is a complex topic as this gland is responsible for so many actions in the body. When it comes to thyroid health, and health overall, minerals play an essential role in the body and each organ.

Today, Jessica and I discuss the specific role that potassium has on thyroid health, and why it is important that we consider this mineral when dealing with thyroid dysfunction.

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Links From This Week’s Episode:

Listen to The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 31

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Ask the Vibrant Health Podcast Hosts a Question - Jessica Espinoza and Lydia Shatney //

Download The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 31

Introducing The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 1 //

Read The Vibrant Health Podcast Show Notes :: Episode 31

Potassium’s Role in Thyroid Health Show Notes

Make sure you check out the Links from the Episode for lots more information on today’s topic.

Potassium is both an adrenal and thyroid related mineral. It is important to both cellular and electrical functions in the body. It is one of our main electrolyte minerals. Magnesium helps to maintain the potassium in our cells.

Potassium is well absorbed from the small intestine (about 90% absorption), and often it is easily lost in cooking and processing foods. If we sweat a lot, we will lose some potassium and need to remember to replace it. This is why you often see sports drink touting their electrolyte capabilities.

What is Potassium’s Role in Thyroid Health?

There is a lot that could be discussed  about this mineral, but today we want to talk about its role in namely thyroid health (and really the adrenals have to be mentioned here, too). Fatigue is the most common symptom of chronic potassium deficiency, and this is one thing I’m dealing with in clients ALL THE TIME.

So we wanted to talk about it today because it’s something that needs to be taken into consideration when we are looking to heal the body. It’s also important to know this because potassium is needed in quite large amounts in the diet upwards of 4700 mg or more.

To give you an idea of how much that is: it is a serving of 2 cups of spinach, 1 medium sweet potato, 1 cup of whole milk plain yogurt, 1 banana, 1 cup of cooked broccoli, 1 cup cantaloupe, or 1 cup tomato.

As you can see, it’s quite hard to get enough for one’s daily needs, even in a healthy diet. Later on, I will tell you about some more condensed ways to get potassium into your diet, and I actually have several super potent recipes on my blog.

How My View on Potassium Has Evolved

I thought I knew a lot about potassium in the years since I became a Nutritional Therapist, but I learned an exponential amount since I began administering hair tissue mineral analysis’ for my clients. These hair tests give insight into the potassium levels in each individual so that my clients and I can take an acute approach to determining how they can best achieve mineral balance.

So to give you, the listeners, some insight: lower hair potassium is associated with reduced cellular effects of thyroid hormones. Dr. Eck felt this occurs because it is known that low potassium is associated with reduced sensitivity of the mitochondrial receptors to thyroid hormone.

Also, low potassium and sodium are associated with reduced cell permeability to thyroid hormones and may impair the sensitivity of the tissues to thyroid hormone. In response, the body may elevate T4 and/or T3 production as a compensation.

I’d like to take a quick aside and explain functions of T4 and T3. So, TRH acts on the anterior pituitary (directly below the hypothalamus, but outside of the blood-brain barrier) to produce thyrotropin, a.k.a. thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH acts on the thyroid gland, which produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), the primary circulating thyroid hormones.

Now, there’s no need for you to understand this to its full extent because I’ll explain ways to aid your overall health. So back to the T4 and/or T3 elevation. On the other hand, it simply could mean that even if serum T4 and T3 thyroid hormone levels are normal, when tissue potassium is low they simply may not be utilized, resulting in a low thyroid effect. What the potassium does, is that it plays a role in sensitizing the mitochondria to thyroid hormone.

The reason I’ve chosen to focus on the deficiency of potassium is because I rarely find elevated levels of this key mineral in hair tests. In the instance that this does happen with my clients, it usually means that the potassium is not being absorbed effectively and, therefore, is being dumped into their hair.


Signs and Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency

In the case that you haven’t taken a hair test or something specifically to test your thyroid or your potassium levels, here are a few symptoms you may be experiencing:

  • Fatigue, low potassium is seen in slow oxidation (decreased metabolism)
  • Constipation
  • Heart irregularities
  • Low blood sugar
  • Muscle weakness
  • Water retention
  • Allergies or histamine reactions
  • Low blood pressure

Another thing about potassium deficiency is a frequent cause of bloating, a very common issue people with hypothyroidism, so ensuring adequate potassium levels may be essential to getting your body looking and feeling its best.

In more technical terms, here are some conditions associated with absolute or relative potassium deficiency:

  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Parasympathetic dominance
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hypochlorhydria
  • Poor digestion
  • Acne
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fatigue
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Transient hypertension
  • Carpopedal spasms
  • Cardiac irregularity

Okay, so that’s enough about all of those symptoms and conditions. Let’s focus what potassium can do for you and your body:

  • Potassium has a profound effect on the functioning of the liver.
  • Potassium is critical for heart function.
  • Fibrocystic tumors are made of potassium. Potassium has to be in ratio to sodium, cesium, rubidium and lithium as well as iodine.
  • Potassium plays a role in nerve function and cellular integrity by regulating the transfer of nutrients into the cell. Potassium attracts oxygen to tissues; lack of it reduces oxygenation.
  • Potassium supports the muscular system, increases tissue and blood alkalinity, acts as a nerve tonic, reduces acidity, promotes good health and vigor and helps eliminate toxins and supplies healthy nerves.
  • Signs of possible deficiency include over-acidity, reduced oxygenation, aches and pains, mental illness, restlessness, low energy levels, skin disorders, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, nervousness, anxiety, and hypo-/hypertension.

Whew! That was a mouth full and a lot of information. Not to worry, you don’t need to memorize it all, but I do list it to give you an idea of how potassium works and it may set off a light in your head as to something you’ve been struggling with or wondering about.

What Are the Best Sources of Potassium?

Now I’d like to focus on what you can do and the best way I know how is by focusing on consuming whole rich foods that are going to nurture your body and up your potassium intake.

Some of my favorite potassium-rich foods include:

  • Coconut water (Harvest Bay, Co2 are good brands) is very high in potassium
  • Carrot juice
  • Nettles Tea
  • Molasses
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Cod
  • Yogurt (has a good potassium/sodium balance)

Also, to give you an idea of some approximate cooked vegetable amounts, so you can take into consideration which ones to add to your diet:

  • 1 cup cooked beet greens = 1308 mg
  • 1 cup cooked swiss chard = 960 mg
  • 1 medium sweet potato = 950 mg
  • 1 cup cooked winter squash = 494 mg
  • 1 cup cooked carrots = 390 mg
  • 1 cup cooked cabbage = 393 mg
  • 1 cup cooked spinach = 838 mg
  • 1 cup cooked summer squash = 345 mg
  • 1 cup cooked kale = 296 mg
  • 1 cup cooked green beans = 182 mg

Finally, I want to talk a little more about one of my favorite potassium sources and generally mineral-dense foods, which is molasses. A single tablespoon of molasses contains 293 mg. Compare that to the 1 cup of cooked kale, it contains 296 mg. I have several awesome recipes on my website that will help you get more molasses into your diet, including Superfood Gingerbread Latte, No Bake Molasses Bites, Paleo Gingerbread Loaf, and many more. You can find those on my website.

I hope this information really encourages you, especially in these winter months. As a side note, in correlation that the days are shorter and generally colder and sometimes just bleak, many of us can be prone to suffer from depression and anxiety. If you struggle with nervousness, anxiety, and depression, you really could benefit from a simple experiment of focusing on eating more potassium-rich foods for several days.  Many of my clients find that drinking a potassium-rich beverage or consuming some blackstrap molasses when they feel this way really helps improve their overall mood and well-being, so I hope you’ll take this challenge as well!





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Kathleen Fehl March 16, 2016 at 8:30 am


I have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and low thyroid. I have been on various adrenal supplements and supplements for low amino acids for a number of months. I have been on thyroid medication and have had my thyroid medication increased three times in the last few months and my doctor has added an additional medication to specifically increase my T3. I am also on compounded estrogen/progesterone and testosterone.

Along with adrenal and thyroid symptoms, I have had some unusual symptoms with pain behind my eyes and a tingling sensation behind my nose. The pain behind my eyes gets worse when I try to do any type of mental activities or if I do too much physical activity. It gets worse as the day goes on. The strain behind my eyes is really bad at the end of the day causing me to not be able to watch tv for more than about thirty minutes at a time or to read for more than about 20-30 minutes. The strain gets worse just by talking with someone on the phone. When I sit next to someone and have to look kind of sideways at the person, it hurts my eyes very badly. In the morning, when I first start my day, I get light headed/dizzy when I look up or down. I have developed dark cicrlces under my eyes and my eyelids are swollen. I can pinch, or pull away the skin on my eyelids and the skin stays in a pinched position for several seconds, does not snap back into place. I have recently read that there is a condition called Thyroid Eye Disease. My symptoms seem to fit with that diagnosis and I have an appointment with an opthamoligist next Tuesday.

Have you ever heard of this condition and can you tell me anything more about it? Thanks!!

lydia March 25, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Hi Kathleen,

Wow – that sounds very frustrating. Unfortunately, I have not heard of the specific issue.

My approach to supporting the body is through supporting all the systems and rebuilding/restoring minerals etc… and often through that many things start to improve.

I hope you find some answers/relief!

Suzanne March 17, 2016 at 7:28 am

Excellent talk on potassium and thyroid health. I will start adding more potassium-rich foods although I do eat a fair amount already. I tell everyone I can about Lyd’s experience with healing her adrenals.

Janet (Divine Health Assistant) March 17, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Suzanne! We truly appreciate you taking time to read and comment today. Keep up the great work!

Nancy March 21, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Excellent podcast as always! I really appreciate the time you and Jessica take to educate us!

lydia March 22, 2016 at 8:24 am

Thank you Nancy – I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast!

Christy March 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Lots of great info – makes sense why my anxiety has improved with an increase in potassium. What’s the wisdom in eating cooked spinach, cabbage, etc. with thyroid problems? I hear lots of mixed thoughts on that!

lydia March 25, 2016 at 8:21 am

Most folks who have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism have a slow metabolism (poor digestion/ gallbladder function and sluggish detox/liver). So the recommendation for cooked vegetables is simply because it will be easier to digest.

Now, if you are asking because of the goitrogens – my thoughts are this; the real problematic goitrogens are the halogens like aluminum, fluoride, bromine, chlorine. These are what contribute to goiter and should be avoided and replaced by doing an appropriate iodine protocol with co-factors guided by your health care practitioner. Foods that contain goitrogens in my opinion are not the problem really. I wouldn’t suggest eating gobs of raw cabbage or anything but I also don’t think consuming these foods should be a big problem for people unless they have an actual goiter -then they may just want to cut back while getting to the root cause of the goiter. That is my current stance on this issue.

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