- Treating Hypothyroidism: Can Vitamins and Supplements Help?
- Iodine Is Needed to Make Thyroid Hormone
- Vitamin B Is Important for Thyroid Function
- Selenium Is Essential for Thyroid Hormone Metabolism
- Zinc Helps Synthesize Thyroid Hormone
- Tyrosine, in Combination With Iodine, Produces Thyroid Hormone
- Vitamin D Improves TSH Levels
- Some Supplements Can Affect Thyroid Medication
- Dietary Supplements: What’s Best for Weight Loss, Diabetes, and Thyroid Disease
- Vitamins and Supplements for Thyroid Health
- Ashwagandha for thyroid health
- Zinc for thyroid health
- Vitamin B12 for thyroid health
- Vitamin D for thyroid health
- Fish Oil for thyroid health
- Other Questions about Thyroid Health
- The 4 Best Supplements for Hashimoto’s Disease
- 1. Zinc
- 2. Vitamin D
- 3. Selenium
- 4. Ashwagandha
- Thyroid Supplements—Getting It Right Can Make A Huge Difference
- Thyroid Supplements: The ‘Starter Plan’
- Top Supplements For Thyroid Health & Function
- Always Address Your Root Causes, Too
- The 3 Supplements You Need if You have Hashimoto’s
- Low vitamin D and memory problems while having an underactive thyroid
- The most common issues with vitamin D deficiency (9):
- The most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in people with Hashimoto’s are:
- What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?
- Vitamin D rich foods
- What are the best vitamin D supplements?
- How long does it take to improve focus and memory problems caused by vitamin D deficiency?
- How do you know if your vitamin D levels are okay?
Treating Hypothyroidism: Can Vitamins and Supplements Help?
Certain vitamins and supplements can help boost thyroid function. Masterfile
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For some people, managing hypothyroidism isn’t just about taking medications. They also turn to vitamins and other nutrients for help in managing the condition, which occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally.
“Vitamins and nutrients can help fight the underlying causes of thyroid disorders, such as autoimmune processes and inflammation, and help improve a dysfunctional thyroid,” says Raphael Kellman, MD, a functional medicine physician in New York City and author of The Microbiome Diet.
However, it’s important to understand that no one should supplement with vitamins and minerals without talking to their doctor first. “You want to first know your individual levels of these vitamins and minerals, which you can find out with a blood test,” Dr. Kellman says. Results may reveal you have a nutrient deficiency that requires you to get a higher amount of a certain vitamin or supplement.
“You also want to make sure you have all the facts on the vitamins and minerals you’d like to supplement with,” says MaryAnne Metzak, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian based in New York. And it’s important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctor. “Your doctor needs to know exactly how much of each vitamin and supplement you’re taking in case you have a negative reaction,” Metzak says.
Here are specific nutrients that may be beneficial for hypothyroidism.
Iodine Is Needed to Make Thyroid Hormone
You need an adequate supply of iodine to make thyroid hormone. The recommended minimum iodine intake for most adults is 150 micrograms a day, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Good food sources include milk, cheese, poultry, eggs, kelp, and other seaweeds, Kellman says. “But you have to be careful with supplementing iodine because too much can be problematic and actually cause hypothyroidism,” he says.
It’s important to speak with your physicians before consuming any iodine supplements due to the adverse effects it can have on hypothyroidism. A review published in September 2014 study in the journal Endocrinology and Metabolism found that excessive levels of iodine are unsafe and could result in hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Vitamin B Is Important for Thyroid Function
“Vitamin B is important for people with hypothyroidism because the B vitamins have many interactions with thyroid function and hormone regulation,” Metzak says. It’s best to take a nutritional supplement that includes the entire vitamin B complex, and you may need additional vitamin B12 if a blood test reveals your levels are low, she says. Good food sources of vitamin B include whole grains, legumes, nuts, milk, yogurt, meat, fish, eggs, seeds, and dark leafy greens.
Selenium Is Essential for Thyroid Hormone Metabolism
“Selenium supports efficient thyroid synthesis and metabolism,” says Denise Londergan, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian in Ohio. Selenium may also reduce levels of antibodies against thyroid peroxidase — an enzyme that plays an important role in the production of thyroid hormones — in people with hypothyroidism, according to a study published in 2018 in the journal Diagnostics. Foods that provide selenium include tuna, shrimp, salmon, sardines, scallops, lamb, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, and shitake mushrooms. “Or you can take 100 to 200 micrograms of selenium in supplement form per day,” Kellman says.
Zinc Helps Synthesize Thyroid Hormone
In addition to selenium, zinc plays a role in the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to T3. Selenium and zinc are beneficial in improving thyroid function and hormone levels. According to a study in Hormones: The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, zinc improves T3 levels significantly. Food sources of zinc include shellfish, mollusks, meat, legumes, and nuts. The recommended daily intake of zinc is 8 to 11 milligrams for adult women and men, respectively, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Tyrosine, in Combination With Iodine, Produces Thyroid Hormone
“Tyrosine is a nutrient involved in thyroid hormone production and conversion,” Kellman says. One of the best ways to get more tyrosine, an amino acid, is to make sure you’re getting enough protein, Londergan says. Aim for 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein each day.
Vitamin D Improves TSH Levels
“Research has shown a strong association with vitamin D deficiency and people with hypothyroidism,” Metzak says. In a study published in the November 2013 issue of the International Journal of Health Sciences, researchers looked at the vitamin D levels of 30 people with hypothyroidism and 30 who didn’t have the condition and found that the vitamin D levels were significantly lower in those with hypothyroidism. A study published in 2018 in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that vitamin D supplements improved TSH levels in subjects with hypothyroidism as well as thyroid antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroiditis. You can get vitamin D from fortified milk, yogurt, and orange juice. “Food sources of vitamin D are often not adequate, however,” Kellman says. He recommends supplements for those who are vitamin D deficient. Your doctor can let you know if that’s necessary, and which dosage is best for you.
As with any chronic condition, a healthy diet can go a long way with hypothyroidism. “Eat an anti-inflammatory diet full of lots of fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods, and limit sugar,” Londergan says.
Some Supplements Can Affect Thyroid Medication
While there are plenty of vitamins and supplements that can help people with hypothyroidism, there are also some that may interfere with thyroid hormone absorption. According to the Mayo Clinic, supplements such as calcium, iron, multivitamins containing iron, and antacids containing magnesium or aluminum can potentially have interactions with thyroid medications. They should be taken several hours before or after your thyroid medication to avoid an interaction. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these supplements.
Additional reporting by Blake Miller
Dietary Supplements: What’s Best for Weight Loss, Diabetes, and Thyroid Disease
With Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, CDE, and Scott Isaacs, MD
If you are taking a dietary supplement—or several—you are in very good company. At least a third of Americans take what is known as MVMS, or multivitamin and mineral supplements, ranging from a daily multivitamin to green tea extract, fish oil, vitamin D, garcinia cambogia, and many others. And as you age, you’re more likely to seek out a supplement for whatever ails you.1
If you are trying to lose weight, manage your blood glucose, or improve your thyroid functioning, you may be tempted to turn to supplements to see if you avoid taking medication. Not so fast!
Reaching for a supplement without knowing exactly what you are taking and before discussing it with your doctor is a big mistake, 2 according to Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, BCPS, BC-ADM, FAADE, a professor emeritus at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy in Salt Lake City, and a certified diabetes educator.
She has done extensive research on supplements—the good, the not-so-good, and the dangerous—and presented her findings at AACE 2018, the 27th American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Scientific and Clinical Congress in Boston, Massachusetts.2 EndocrineWeb asked her to share the most relevant information for those with diabetes, prediabetes, thyroid issues and weight struggles.
“One of the top 10 reasons for supplement use is weight loss,” Dr. Shane-McWhorter says. And about one of three people who begin taking a supplement do so for better weight loss, she says, having been unsuccessful at other lifestyle changes so they turn to supplements, or return to them again hoping to shed unwanted weight.2
A variety of supplements that are promoted for weight control also claim to have benefits for diabetes control and thyroid health, she says.
Dr. Shane-McWhorter offers some guidance on the most popular dietary supplements:2
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA, or Thioctic Acid)
Promoted to help peripheral neuropathy (the nerve pain that affects many people with diabetes), this supplement has been used for decades in Germany to reduce this type of pain, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says. Its impact on weight loss is under study with some promise of benefit. For example, in one study,3 people taking 1800 milligrams of ALA daily for 20 weeks lost about 4 pounds, while those taking a 1200-mg dose lost about 2.5, and those on placebo lost about 1.8 pounds.
However, the supplement can affect the production of thyroid hormones, so it’s important that your doctor monitor thyroid function levels while you are taking this supplement, she says, especially if you have a thyroid issue. More study is needed to confirm the weight loss benefits, and to see what happens in the longer term.
Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum).
Weight loss is one of the intended uses for flaxseed, along with reducing blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, Dr. Shane-McWhorter told EndocrineWeb. The fiber it contributes makes you feel full so it may help some eat less and lose weight, she says. While some studies have found weight loss or other health benefits, there have been too few people studied to definitively know whether the results are good enough, she says.
If you take flaxseed, be aware of the potential risk for gastrointestinal side effects, she says. As for the daily dose, 10-30 g of soluble fiber taken two hours before a meal is often mentioned, but it’s best to run that by your doctor first make sure this doesn’t interfere with any other medications or health concerns.
For Dr. Oz fans, you’ll recognize this popular weight loss supplement. But Dr. Shane-McWhorter says caution is needed because “there are reports of liver toxicity, and while rare, it may occur in some people.”
There is some research to suggest that this supplement may be helpful for weight loss, she says, but the among of loss is slight. In one review,4 the researchers found after evaluating 12 published studies that the supplement did produce weight loss, but only a small amount. For people taking garcinia cambogia for 2 to 12 weeks, those on the nutritional supplement lost about 2 pounds more than those taking a placebo.4 And, some people actually experienced a slight weight gain when taking this supplement, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says.
Be extra cautious if you are taking an antidepressant as this supplement could interfere with some of these drugs, leading to greater anxiety, she warns, and garcinia cambogia could interact with diabetes medicines, increasing the risk for hypoglycemia.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
Green tea has true antioxidant properties. It is also being promoted as a weight loss aid. It works, some advocates say, by increasing the amount of fat you burn but there is simply no science behind this claim. While green tea can be sipped as is, it is often combined with caffeine and garcinia cambogia, among other ingredients, to produce weight loss, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says.
In one study,5 researchers compared those who drank green tea with 625 mg catechins and 39 mg of caffeine with those taking the caffeine dose only. The combination group lost an average of nearly 5 pounds; the caffeine-only group a little over two pounds during the 12-week study.5, However, studies results are mixed with some studies showing benefit while others do not. And, she warns, there can be gastrointestinal discomfort, as well as a rise in blood pressure.1
Before Taking Supplements: What Do You Need to Know
Few people mention that they are taking a supplement, or a variety of them, when they see their doctor, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says; yet, it is critical to share this information since nutritional supplements can interact with other medicines, or you could be taking too much, or the supplements could worsen a chronic condition.
In particular, taking MVM supplements while pregnanct can be hazardous, Dr. Shane-McWhorter points out, due to a variety of factors including ingredients added other than the one you choose to take, and other times there are ingredients added but not listed.
Supplements are treated as foods not drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so dietary supplements are not standardized and are not regulated. As such, there is no guarantee that what you’re promised on the label is actually in the pills.
If you are looking for supplement information online, Dr. Shane-McWhorter suggests using these tips, some supplied by the FDA:
- Who runs the website?
- Is the purpose to educate or to sell?
- Are the claims backed up by testimonials only, or by studies in respected medical journals?
- What date was the information posted or updated?2
The best way to select a nutritional supplement is to look for a “USP Verified” seal-of-approval, which means the manufacturer paid to have a nonprofit third-party lab test and certify that the ingredients in the pills match the labeling on the bottle. You can check to see if the manufacturer of the supplement you want to take has earned the safety seal at USP Quality Supplements or ConsumerLab.
An Endocrinologist Offers an Added Dose of Reality
Caution should be your mantra when considering whether to take a dietary supplement, Scott Isaacs, MD, FACP, FACE, an Atlanta endocrinologist tells EndocrineWeb who attended the presentation at AACE.
“A lot of claims are made for supplements with essentially no scientific evidence to support the vast majority of the time,” says Dr. Isaacs, in fact, “most of the claims made are simply not true.”
Dr. Isaacs tells his patients: Taking fish oil supplements may help lower serum triglycerides in some people at risk for cardiovascular disease, and many in the US may need to take vitamin D. The only other supplement that has been shown to be even slightly effective is a fiber supplement for weight loss. However, he cautions patients not to expect dramatic results when taking it, and to discuss options to improve your health condition with your doctor to be sure it’s a wise choice for you personally.
He also warns that iodine supplements can ”shut down” the thyroid. Some alternative medicine doctors might suggest iodine tablets or kelp (high in iodine) help those with a low thyroid function (hypothyroidism),6 according to Mayo Clinic experts. While it is true that an iodine deficiency can lead to low thyroid function, this kind of nutrient deficiency is very rare in the United States and other developed countries, since salt and other foods are fortified with this nutrient to assure we all get enough. So not only is extra iodine typically not needed, too much can worsen the low thyroid in some people.6
When shopping for dietary supplements, Dr. Isaacs says, keep in mind that the proper role for vitamin and mineral supplements is to address a confirmed nutrient deficiency. Vitamin D is one such nutrient that is commonly low in many people in the US, particularly those in the northern climates, and for which a single vitamin supplement is warranted if prescribed by your doctor. However, if you do not have a known deficiency, don’t expect any significant benefit. More importantly, be aware of potential harm.
Nutrient Supplements to Avoid
Certain dietary supplements should be avoided due to adverse side effects or other harmful interactions, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says.
Here is her list,1 and her explanation as to why to avoid them:
HCG: This hormone, produced by the human placenta during pregnancy, is marketed along with a very low calorie (500/day) diet for weight loss. HCG is OK’d by the FDA as a prescription drug for certain conditions, such as female infertility, but not for weight loss. It’s not approved for sale in over-the-counter products, either.7
Bitter Orange This replaced ephedra when it was taken off the market. One form of bitter orange, with m-synephrine, can cause heart toxicity, Dr. Shane-McWhorter says.
Red Raspberry Ketones: This dietary supplement may be more popular given all the attention to the Keto diet but don’t be swayed as this supplement can also lead to heart problems, and is especially dangerous if you take the blood thinner warfarin.
Caffeine: Especially In large doses, caffeine can raise blood pressure and lead to heart problems. Many experts say up to 400 milligrams a day consumed as coffee is generally OK, but your own doctor has the best advice based on your history and conditions.8
Shane-McWhorter reports no financial conflicts. Dr. Isaacs is a consultant for Novo Nordisk and on the speaker’s bureaus for Novo Nordisk, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, and Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc.
Last updated on 03/05/2019 Continue Reading Dietary Supplements: Time to Consider What You’re Really Taking View Sources
Vitamins and Supplements for Thyroid Health
Although it’s only a small gland at the bottom of your neck, a malfunctioning thyroid can cause a lot of problems. The thyroid gland is primarily responsible for regulating your metabolism. It does this by producing or limiting certain hormones that are flushed through your body. If your thyroid gland doesn’t work properly, you may have hypothyroidism, which causes a litany of symptoms. A simple blood test will tell you if you suffer from this ailment.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Loss of sex drive
Fatigue and exhaustion
Weight gain despite diet
You may also suffer from other thyroid conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, goiters, thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
To combat hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems, there are a number of vitamins and other supplements that you can take to minimize the symptoms and regulate your hormones. Let’s take a look at some of the best thyroid supplements for this purpose.
Ashwagandha for thyroid health
In Sanksrit, Ashwagandha means “the smell of the horse,” though we pinky promise that a supplement of this Indian herb does not actually taste like horse!
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. This means that it helps your body adapt to changes in your immune system and metabolism, primarily by balancing them out. As you might guess, this is great for combating hypothyroidism since the herb regulates hormone imbalances. A paper from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ashwagandha improved the levels of certain hormones critical for thyroid gland health and normalcy.
In addition, ashwagandha appears to reduce cortisol levels, which reduces your overall stress level, restores insulin sensitivity, moderates depressive moods and improves your estrogen and progesterone production levels. This is important if you’re a woman nearing menopause age.
One note of caution is that ashwagandha is not safe for women who are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant, as it has abortifacient properties.
Zinc for thyroid health
Zinc is so much more than a white paste lifeguards smear on their noses in the middle of the summer. This essential mineral is a star when it comes to healthy thyroid function. In particular, zinc is one of the few minerals required by your thyroid to produce the correct hormones to regulate the rest of your metabolism and maintain hair growth. Without enough zinc, your thyroid gland may suffer from hypothyroidism and you may experience severe hair loss.
As the International Journal of Technology reported, without adding a zinc supplement you may not regain the hair you lost from hypothyroidism. Therefore, zinc supplements are a key addition to your diet in order for your thyroid to maintain healthy regulation of hormones.
Vitamin B12 for thyroid health
Even if Vitamin B12 were called B13, this key nutrient would be a lucky one for our bodies. While the exact use of Vitamin B12 by the thyroid gland is unknown, the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18655403) Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common among people suffering from hypothyroidism.
What this means is that if you have low levels of Vitamin B12, then you’re likely more at risk for hypothyroidism. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered: boost your Vitamin B12 levels if you have a deficiency, or might have one. Vegans, and sometimes vegetarians, find it really hard to consume enough B12 in their diets.
Vitamin D for thyroid health
In honor of keeping this light and sunny, we’re about to introduce a non-scientific unit of measurement. You ready? It takes buckets of sunshine to synthesize the Vitamin D we require for regular health. So if you just threw a snowball at someone, or if you spend a lot of time inside, it’s likely you don’t get enough Vitamin D as part of your daily activities.
While Vitamin D deficiency can lead to all sorts of complications, such as autoimmune diseases, it also may affect thyroid function.
The International Journal of Health Science published evidence that people suffering from hypothyroidism have significantly lower levels of Vitamin D. While it hasn’t been proven that Vitamin D deficiency leads to hypothyroidism, the evidence suggests the two are strongly correlated.
That makes our job a whole lot easier: in order to promote bodily health and induce proper hormone regulation,increase your Vitamin D levels by spending more time in the sun or taking nutritional supplements.
Do keep in mind that the time of the day, your skin type, the season, and many other factors determine how much Vitamin D your body can produce from the sun.
Let’s say it’s high noon in the summer, somewhere on the frontier, and you’re about to watch a shootout between a bad guy and the sheriff. You likely would be getting enough Vitamin D that day. If it were winter, or you have darker skin, or you’re a little pale but love Netflix and chill, you should consider a Vitamin D supplement, which can help your thyroid gland recover, allowing you get back to what really matters, like throwing snow balls and watching movies.
Fish Oil for thyroid health
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry discovered that dietary fish oil greatly affects thyroid hormone levels. Since hypothyroidism is a malfunction of the thyroid gland’s ability to properly produce and regulate the right hormones for your body, increasing your fish oil levels can assist your gland in rebalancing its outputs.
This is likely due to fish oil affecting hepatic lipid metabolism.
Your thyroid gland uses these lipids for its own health and for creating or dismantling hormone levels throughout your body. Eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements are two ways to increase the level of fish oil inside your body.
Other Questions about Thyroid Health
Is hair loss due to thyroid permanent?
Those suffering from hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism often suffer from hair loss. This loss affects the entire scalp instead of specific patchy areas. This is because hair is constantly grown and shed and new hair replaces old hair thanks to hormones produced by your thyroid gland under healthy conditions.
The good news is that, if you lose your hair due to thyroid disease, there is a good chance that it will grow back with the proper thyroid medications, which will rebalance your hormone production. Since the problem begins with issues in the thyroid gland, your hair is free to grow back once your thyroid gland is functioning properly.
It may take several months to see the effects of hair loss reversed. This is particularly true if you have suffered from a thyroid disease for a significant amount of time. However, hair will always grow back provided that your thyroid gland is healed from its ailment.
Do thyroid supplements have side effects?
Thyroid dietary supplements are usually minerals or vitamins that the human body already needs to function properly. Some hypothyroid patients suffer from other issues, such as an iodine deficiency. There aren’t any side effects with balancing your body’s necessary levels of these supplements unless you ingest an abnormal amount of them.
According to a study published in JACM, ashwagandha didn’t produce any adverse effects in the test patients that could be strictly blamed on the herb. This likely indicates that ashwagandha is fine for most people.
Can hypothyroidism ever be cured completely?
This depends on the exact nature of your hypothyroidism. In most cases, hypothyroidism is caused by a genetic factor that cannot be permanently cured. But it can be treated with certain supplements and other methods that can restore a normal quality of life for a patient.
Can vitamins help with Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease can inhibit your thyroid glands absorption of thiamine (or Vitamin B1). This can lead to increased fatigue or exhaustion.
Certain supplements, such as Vitamin B1, can help patients experiencing fatigue from Hashimoto’s disease. However, while Vitamin B1 can help with fatigue caused by Hashimoto’s, the disease itself requires medical intervention and cannot be treated via supplements alone.
Hypothyroidism and other thyroid diseases are not unbeatable. With the right supplements, you can combat any symptoms you might experience and get back to leading a normal life.
The 4 Best Supplements for Hashimoto’s Disease
Is it possible to live well with Hashimoto’s Disease? YES, YES, YES, and YES.
Here are 4 of the most well-researched supplements.
Written by Nikolas R. Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I., D.A.C.B.N.
Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Chronic inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s Disease then damages the thyroid, which produces less of the hormones your body needs to fulfill various functions. A majority of hypothyroid sufferers have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Is it possible to heal Hashimoto’s Disease? Yes, absolutely.
Today I’m going to go over research abstracts and talk about four of the most well-researched supplements for Hashimoto’s Disease.
J Am Coll Nutr 1994 Feb;13(1):62-7
Title: Zinc supplementation alters thyroid hormone metabolism in disabled patients with zinc deficiency.
After measuring serum free 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3) and free thyroxine (T4) in 134 persons, TSH-releasing hormone (TRH) injection test and estimation of Zn status were conducted in persons with low free T3.
After oral supplementation of Zn sulphate for 12 months, levels of serum free T3 and T3 normalized, serum rT3 (Reverse T3) decreased, and the TRH-induced TSH reaction normalized. Serum selenium concentration was unchanged by Zn supplementation.
Zinc may play a role in thyroid hormone metabolism in low T3 patients and may in part contribute to conversion of T4 to T3 in humans.
Zinc is required for the production of T4 and the conversion to the active form of thyroid hormone known as T3 (triiodothyronine). T4 (thyroxine) is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and does not become active until it converted into T3. T3 enters your cells and fires up the energy-producing parts of your cell known as mitochondria. Zinc is required for healthy T3 receptors in your cells so even if you have enough T3, it won’t work optimally if you are deficient in Zinc. TSH-releasing hormone (TRH) is normally made by the hypothalamus in the brain and it signals the pituitary to make more thyroid-stimulating hormone TSH. Reverse T3 can create hypothyroidism because Reverse T3 is an inactive form of T3 and it can bind to thyroid receptors and cause hypothyroidism. You want your Reverse T3 levels in a healthy range otherwise you may still have symptoms of hypothyroidism even though your lab tests may look normal.
Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51(2):188-94. Epub 2007 May 30.
Title: Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. A case study of two college females.
Zinc is crucial for proper thyroid hormone metabolism; zinc deficiency may result in decreased thyroid hormone levels and resting metabolic rate (RMR). The purpose of this investigation was to assess the effects of zinc supplementation on plasma zinc, serum ferritin, plasma total triiodothyronine (T(3)) and thyroxine (T(4)), serum free T(3) and T(4), and thyroid-stimulating hormone concentrations, and RMR in zinc-deficient, physically active women.
Two zinc-deficient female college students (ZD1 and ZD2) were supplemented with 26.4 mg/day of zinc (as zinc gluconate), and the above parameters were analyzed at 0, 2 and 4 months.
Zinc deficiency was clinically corrected in both subjects, while serum ferritin concentration declined to classify both subjects as borderline iron deficient (ZD1 = 15.3 and ZD2 = 15.3 ng/ml at 4 months). At 4 months, total T(3) concentrations increased in ZD1, while all thyroid hormone concentrations increased in ZD2. RMR increased in both subjects by 4 months.
Zinc supplementation appeared to have a favorable effect on thyroid hormone levels, particularly total T(3), and resting metabolic rate RMR.
Since thyroid hormone controls metabolism, resting metabolic rate RMR is an excellent marker to look at for thyroid function. Ferritin is how much iron is stored in the body. Iron and zinc will compete. Why did they administer only 26.4 mg/day of zinc in the study? Once you begin to take more than 30 mg/day of zinc then you can start to cause a copper deficiency and also an iron deficiency. Copper is very important in the body and you don’t want to create a copper deficiency by taking too much zinc. At the right dosage, zinc is one of my favorite supplements for thyroid dysfunction. Zinc is important for a healthy immune system, so in the case of the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s not only does zinc supplementation improve thyroid hormone levels but it also helps balance the immune component.
2. Vitamin D
When was the last time you had your vitamin D levels checked? Why would you want to know your status of this powerful yet too often overlooked vitamin? Vitamin D is not just a vitamin that is important for bone health and the prevention of rickets. It is a prohormone that is essential for modulation of calcium metabolism, cell growth, cardiovascular dynamics, immune/inflammatory balance, neurologic function, and genetic expression. Vitamin D is produced when the ultraviolet rays of sunshine strike the skin. It is then converted in the liver and kidneys to it’s active form. 30 minutes of sunshine on the entire body is required to produce adequate physiologic levels of vitamin D in the body. Full-body exposure to ultraviolet light will provide approximately 4,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D. Most people simply do not get this much sun exposure, especially at higher latitudes. Sunscreen blocks 97%-100% of natural vitamin D production and contributes to a deficiency state. D3 is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D and can be obtained through high quality supplements.
Hormones (Athens). 2016 Jul;15(3):385-393.
Title: Low vitamin D status is associated with hypothyroid Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
A total of 776 patients in whom serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D , thyroid function, and anti-thyroid antibodies had been measured were analyzed retrospectively. Vitamin D insufficiency was defined as serum 25(OH)D level <75 nmol/L.
The prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency was significantly higher in the 369 patients with AITD (autoimmune thyroid disease) than in the 407 without AITD. Among HT (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) cases, patients with overt hypothyroidism had a significantly higher prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and lower 25(OH)D levels compared with those with euthyroidism (normal thyroid function) and subclinical hypothyroidism or those without AITD.
Vitamin D insufficiency was associated with AITD (autoimmune thyroid disease) and HT (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), especially overt hypothyroidism.
Here is another study about Vitamin D and Hashimoto’s.
Indian J Endocrine Metab. 2016 May-Jun;20(3):391-8.
Title: Vitamin D supplementation reduces thyroid peroxidase antibody levels in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease: An open-labeled randomized controlled trial.
This study aimed to evaluate the impact of Vitamin D supplementation on thyroid autoimmunity (thyroid peroxidase antibody titers) in patients with newly diagnosed AITD in a randomized controlled trial.
One hundred two patients with newly diagnosed AITD (TPO-Ab > 34 kIU/L and/or sonographic evidence of thyroiditis) patients were randomized into Group-1 (intervention group) and Group-2 (control group). Group-1 received cholecalciferol 60,000 IU weekly and calcium 500 mg/day for 8 weeks; Group-2 received calcium 500 mg/day only for 8 weeks.
Vitamin D supplementation in AITD may have a beneficial effect on autoimmunity as evidence by significant reductions in thyroid peroxidase antibody TPO-Ab titers.
Did you know that the thyroid gland has the highest concentration of selenium compared to any organ in the body? Selenium is found mainly in high-protein foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and Brazil nuts. The content of selenium in foods is dependent on the soil concentration of selenium which is very low in some areas.
Thyroid. 2007 Jul;17(7):609-12.
Title: Effects of 12 months treatment with L-selenomethionine on serum anti-TPO Levels in Patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
We studied the effects of selenium (Se) treatment on serum anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) levels in Greek patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT).
We prospectively studied 80 women with HT, median age 37 (range 24-52) years, for 1 year. All patients received 200 mcg Se in the form of l-selenomethionine orally for 6 months. At the end of the 6-month period, 40 patients continued taking 200 mcg Se (Group A) and 40 patients stopped (Group B). Serum thyrotropin (TSH), free triiodothyronine (FT(3)), free thyroxine (FT(4)), anti-TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin (Tg) levels were measured at baseline and at the end of each 3-month period.
There was a significant reduction of serum anti-TPO levels during the first 6 months (by 5.6% and 9.9% at 3 and 6 months, respectively). An overall reduction of 21% compared with the basal values was noted in Group A. In Group B, serum anti-TPO levels were increased by 4.8% during the second 6-month period.
Our study showed that in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients 6 months of Se treatment caused a significant decrease in serum anti-TPO levels, which was more profound in the second trimester. The extension of Se supplementation for 6 more months resulted in an additional 8% decrease, while the cessation caused a 4.8% increase, in the anti-TPO concentrations.
Which form of selenium is best and how much is a safe dose? Sodium selenate and selenite are the most popular forms of selenium but only about 50% is absorbed. In addition, these forms of selenium increase the risk of selenium toxicity. Selenomethionine is the preferred form of selenium supplementation as it is the form found naturally in food and about 90% of it is absorbed. 200 micrograms each day is a safe dose as long as it is in the form of selenomethionine.
J Pharm 1998 Sep;50(9):1065-8.
Title: Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice
The root extract administered daily for 20 days increased serum 3,3′,5-triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4) concentrations.
These findings reveal that the ashwagandha root extract stimulates thyroidal activity.
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a very popular adrenal adaptogen. Since it is an adrenal adaptogen, it will help keep cortisol levels in check. It helps to improve energy, stamina, mood, sleep, and immune function. Here in this study we can see it also helps increase T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels. Therefore, it is highly beneficial for a sluggish thyroid gland and sluggish metabolism. The vast majority of my Hashimoto’s patients do well on Ashwaganda but it is important to note that Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family and some people are sensitive to nightshades.
Speak to your doctor about supplementation. There are many additional supplements that I use in my practice that are beneficial but they are patient-specific. For example, there are different possible causes of Hashimoto’s and one person’s cause may be different from another. Therefore the supplementation to address the specific cause will be different. However, these 4 supplements below are a great standard stack for many people that have Hashimoto’s. The zinc is going to help with thyroid hormone levels as well as the immune system. The selenomethionine will start to bring down the thyroid antibodies. The Vitamin D will also help balance the immune system. The Ashwagandha will give most people a boost in their metabolism which is usually struggling in Hashimoto’s disease. I’ve included links below to the brand Pure Encapsulations. They are the best products for the money that anyone can buy.
You don’t want to go over 30mg a day, unless you are also taking a supplement that has a small amount of copper in it. For example, 30mg of zinc with 1mg of copper would prevent a copper deficiency. Test your zinc. If you are deficient, I recommend taking 30mg of zinc a day with food for 30 days and then retesting. It may take up to 60 days to replenish your zinc levels. Make sure your zinc supplement has a small amount of copper in it because taking zinc will deplete your body of this important mineral.
Selenomethionine 200mcg (Total from all supplements)
Taking the right form and the right dose is important. L-selenomethionine 200mcg (200mcg should be the total amount of selenium from all your supplements including your multivitamin)
Vitamin D3 1,000 IU
1,000 IU of Vitamin D3 is a very conservative dose. It is extremely important to have your levels checked through a blood test in addition to consistent monitoring of blood calcium levels. Vitamin D cannot be toxic in and of itself but by raising calcium levels to a toxic range which can deposit in tissues throughout the body. This is an extremely rare problem but should be monitored nonetheless. I test and monitor vitamin D levels frequently in my practice and it has become a vital piece of the pie in achieving optimum health.
It is important to mention that Ashwagandha is a nightshade. While many people with Hashimoto’s disease do well on Ashwagandha supplements, some with sensitivity to nightshades may not. Whenever starting a new supplement, always watch yourself for adverse reactions. Our bodies are all different and how our bodies react to different supplements will vary. Common nightshade vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices include peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapeños), tomatoes, eggplant, tamarillos, tomatillos, gogi berries, gooseberries, potatoes, tobacco, cayenne pepper, chili powder, curry powder, ketchup, and paprika spice.
Ashwagandha is also a Th1 stimulating compound. T-helper cells (Th1 and Th2) are a vital part of the immune system. They are lymphocytes that recognize foreign pathogens, or in the case of autoimmune disease, normal tissue. In a well-functioning immune system, both Th1 and Th2 work together to keep the system balanced. In some people with autoimmune disease, patterns show a dominance to either the Th1 or Th2 pathway. If a person’s Th1 cells are already overactive then adding a Th1 stimulating compound could be problematic. Our bodies are all unique. It is important, whenever you begin new supplements, to make a note of those which make you feel better and which make you feel worse. Also start new supplements one at a time, rather than all at once, to help you determine which ones are working and which are not.
About Nikolas R. Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I., D.A.C.B.N.
Dr. Nikolas R. Hedberg is a Board Certified Naturopathic Physician, Chiropractic Physician, and a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition. His practice is the Immune Restoration Center in Asheville, NC where he focuses on thyroid disorders and autoimmune diseases. He is the author of the book The Complete Thyroid Health & Diet Guide and he can be reached through his website www.drhedberg.com.
READ NEXT: Hashimoto’s & The Infection Connection
While western medicine has a time and a place, and to be sure I’m grateful to be an M.D. who can prescribe pharmaceuticals when needed, too often it is assumed that they are the only solution. When it comes to Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, the right dose of the right medication can make a world of difference in how a woman feels! But the thing with these medications is that while they provide a missing element – thyroid hormones – they don’t actually do anything to nourish, heal, or boost the thyroid’s health. That’s where thyroid supplements come in.
The thyroid gland requires specific vitamins and minerals to function at its best. What’s more, the right supplements can make a world of difference in the health of your thyroid tissue.
Thyroid Supplements—Getting It Right Can Make A Huge Difference
It is possible for many people to improve thyroid hormone levels and lower thyroid antibodies without medication – or to augment levels even if you are on medication. I personally have seen patients’ antibodies go from well over a 1000 down to as low as the 40s – close to normal – and the need for medication doses be significantly reduced. However, there’s definitely a time and place for thyroid medication, which I also sometimes prescribe in my medical practice. Research suggests that certain supplements – nutrients and herbs – can reduce thyroid antibodies, improve free T3 and free T4 levels (thyroid hormone) levels, and stabilize TSH – all markers that thyroid health is improving. If these labs look like a foreign language to you, click here.
Whether you have Hashimoto’s, non-autoimmune hypothyroidism or are on the cusp of possibly needing medication but not absolutely requiring and want to help your thyroid before you cross that line, that’s where a few well-selected herbs and nutritional supplements can make a major contribution, and it’s precisely why I use them in my medical practice. The ‘new medicine for women’ is integrative – bringing together the best of conventional and traditional approaches And that’s what I bring to you in this article.
Thyroid Supplements: The ‘Starter Plan’
These 6 supplements can help to improve the health and functioning of your thyroid. These can be taken alone or in combination with each other. They can also be used in conjunction with thyroid medication for hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s, but it’s important to work closely with your medical provider because if your thyroid health starts to improve, you could actually end up needing less medication – a good thing – but you want to check so you’re not overmedicating
My usual ‘starter’ go-to combination consists of selenium, myoinositol, and ashwagandha (which is generally very well tolerated even by those who avoid nightshades). In my practice, I always check a vitamin D level in my patients, and if that is not optimal (a blood level of between 50 – 80) I add vitamin D to the ‘starter plan.’
I generally recommend trying this starter plan for at least 3 months, or as long as six months, and then staying on your supplements until thyroid health is solidly improved. You can, at any time, add in the other supplements below to get an even bigger impact, but often, simpler works just fine.
Top Supplements For Thyroid Health & Function
In some cases, especially in pregnant women and new moms, or anyone with major lab abnormalities or significant thyroid symptoms, thyroid hormones medication is still necessary – and that’s not a failure. Meanwhile, all women with thyroid problems (whether they take thyroid medication or not) can work to heal Root Causes – and support your thyroid wellness, with natural strategies and supplements.
In the descriptions below I mention whether each supplement is safe while pregnant and breastfeeding.
1. Vitamin D3
Studies show that vitamin D levels tend to be lower in people with hypothyroidism. Because the body needs vitamin D to produce and use thyroid hormones, and because vitamin D is an important immune modulator that’s involved in hundreds of health-sustaining functions in the body – including bone health, modd, blood sugar regulation, and energy – it’s important to have optimal blood levels of between 50-80 ng/mL. In some cases, vitamin D is the missing link when a woman is already on supplemental thyroid hormones, but her dose needs to keep changing or she’s not seeing results. Before starting vitamin D as a thyroid supplement it’s optimal to have your levels tested, but if for some reason you’re unable to, a standard dose of 2000 units/day is appropriate for most adults.
Dose: Vitamin D3 2,000–4,000 IU/day, depending on your serum levels; ideally, recheck blood levels six weeks after starting supplementation to determine whether you are on your personally optimal dose. Safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The body turns the mineral selenium into the powerful antioxidant glutathione, which protects the thyroid from inflammation and oxidative stress. Several studies have shown that supplementing with selenium can reduce TPO antibodies.
Selenium is also critical in the conversion of T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) to T3 (the active form) and it has been shown to decrease the risk of developing postpartum thyroiditis in women who are positive for TPO antibodies before or during pregnancy. It can be started during pregnancy and continued into the postpartum period to reduce risk.
Food sources of selenium are a great option, though they don’t replace supplementation. Brazil nuts, mushrooms, lamb, turkey, chicken, eggs, cod, and halibut are all selenium-rich. A note of caution: selenium can worsen thyroid function if you’re also experiencing iodine deficiency. Make sure you know your iodine status before starting selenium.
Dose: 200 mcg/day (do not exceed that amount), which is safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding
Recent research has discovered that the combination of selenium (200 mcg/day) and myoinositol is even more powerful at reducing anti-thyroid autoantibodies – both anti-TPO and anti-Tg antibodies – and also helping to improve thyroid function and TSH levels – than selenium alone. In one major study, six months of treatment was needed to begin to see maximum benefits. In this study, participants also reported improvements in their quality of life—one thyroid supplement success! Another study of 168 individuals with Hashimoto’s, all with TSH between 3 and 6 µIU/ml, found that participants who received myoinositol and selenium together (over those who took only selenium) saw significant decreases in TSH, TPOAb and TgAb levels, as well as in enhanced thyroid hormones and personal wellbeing.
Dose: 600 mg/day; safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding. I recommend staying on the combination at least until thyroid autoantibodies are normalized; indefinitely if needed.
In animal studies, this Ayurvedic herb has been shown to increase circulating T4 levels with no influence on T3. Other studies have shown that both hormones (T3 and T4) increased under the same protocol. Research also suggests that ashwagandha may have benefits for the liver. And since that’s where T4 to T3 conversion largely happens, perhaps explains some of the benefits.
Dose: The lowest effective dose for acute usage of ashwagandha, and perhaps the most cost-effective dose, is 300-500 mg. The optimal dose is 6,000 mg a day usually divided into three doses (2,000 mg each). Ashwagandha is safe while breastfeeding, but not safe in pregnancy.
Zinc is involved in the conversion of T4 to T3. It’s an important nutrient if you appear to have problems with thyroid-hormone conversion. In one study, participants who took zinc sulphate for 12 months had T3 levels come into the normal range. They also had decreases in reverse T3, and had better communication between the hypothalamus and the thyroid (the hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone which tells the thyroid to release TSH). Furthermore, research has connected zinc deficiency with decreased thyroid hormone levels and a lower resting metabolic rate.
Dose: 30 mg/day (take with meals to prevent nausea). Zinc is safe when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Like ashwagandha, guggul is an Ayurvedic herb that has been shown to improve T3 and T4 levels. Animal research suggests that guggul improves iodine uptake and metabolic activity of the thyroid gland.
Dose: 750 mg/day. Safe while breastfeeding, but not in pregnancy. Discontinue when thyroid levels normalize.
Always Address Your Root Causes, Too
While these supplements can help, a truly holistic, integrative plan of healing the root causes of thyroid problems is always a wise plan. For more on the Root Causes of Hashimoto’s, and how to heal them, get my book The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. It’s got the steps you’ll want to take to take back your health!
The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution
For more on the Root Causes of poor thyroid function and how to heal them, check out my book.
Have you tried natural supplements for Hashimoto’s? Let me know in the comments. Not sure where to get your supplements? Learn about DharmaMoms right here. It’s a way to get the best supplements at the best price. And you’re helping moms-in-need get access to midwives and better births. That’s something you can feel good about!
The 3 Supplements You Need if You have Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and can result in an inflammation of the thyroid. When the thyroid becomes inflamed, the thyroid then produces less hormones and begins to interfere with the body’s normal metabolism. Hashimoto’s progresses slowly and can often go undetected. Listed below are the 3 supplements you should consider taking if you have Hashimoto’s.
Zinc Deficiency. Without the existence of zinc in the body the thyroid cannot convert the less active hormone T4 to the active hormone T3. The hypothalamus also depends upon zinc to make the hormone it uses to cue the pituitary gland to switch on the thyroid. Too little zinc may lead to a low functioning thyroid. In fact, zinc is a cofactor in over 100 reactions in the body. Chronic zinc deficiency can weaken your immune system.
Selenium Deficiency. The mineral selenium is very important for your general health, as well as for your thyroid gland and thyroid hormones to function properly in your body. A deficiency in selenium can affect the conversion process of T4 to T3. Selenium deficiency can be rare; however, it can develop under certain conditions. Some conditions include: foods that are grown on poor selenium soils, malabsorption, and severe gastrointestinal disorders. Selenium is found mainly in high-protein foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and Brazil nuts.
Vitamin D Deficiency. Growing research is beginning to show how important optimal vitamin D levels can be for our health. Many people may not even know they are vitamin D deficient. Low levels of Vitamin D may interfere with the thyroid functioning properly. If you are suffering from an autoimmune thyroid condition, you can benefit from being tested for a deficiency in vitamin D. Besides taking daily vitamin D supplements, daily exposure to the sun can be beneficial.
Low vitamin D and memory problems while having an underactive thyroid
Vitamin D is necessary for brain activity—it regulates metabolism of calcium, reduces inflammation (1–3), and it’s quite active in brain areas important for focus and memory (4, 5).
Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency in people with an underactive thyroid may lead to memory and focusing problems, which increases the risk of depression and lower day-to-day life quality in people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (6, 7).
Vitamin D deficiency is considered lower than 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) (8).
The most common issues with vitamin D deficiency (9):
Feeling tired all the time
Feeling down or depressed
Muscle or bone pain
Getting sick often (repeated infections)
The most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in people with Hashimoto’s are:
Problems with short-term memory
Feeling down or depressed
Low blood levels of vitamin D are often found in people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (10,11), and can cause problems with focusing and memory, resembling early stages of Alzheimer’s (12).
Vitamin D is important in fighting off inflammation, one of the main reasons for problems with memory and focus. Research has shown that Hashimoto’s patients have an increased level of inflammatory molecules circulating in their bodies and causing inflammation in different parts of the body (13, 14). Vitamin D is known to block these molecules from causing inflammation, but only when vitamin D levels are high enough (15).
Vitamin D deficiency often coexists with higher TSH and TPO levels, as well as higher TG antibodies. Whether low vitamin D causes an increase in TSH remains to be researched, but it shows a connection between vitamin D and TSH (16–20). It’s unknown if low vitamin D levels is a cause or a consequence, because a lot of people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s have other conditions too, and these conditions might affect production or how vitamin D is used in the (by the) body (20).
Making sure your vitamin D levels are in a good range is important the whole year round.
During the summer a part of your vitamin D will come from sunlight-activation in your skin (21), and during the winter you might need to opt to take vitamin D supplements and vitamin D fortified foods to keep your vitamin D levels in a good zone.
What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?
Vitamin D rich foods
A few foods contain vitamin D: egg yolk, salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish liver oils, as well as beef liver (25, 27). Mushrooms with enhanced levels of vitamin D2 from being exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions are also available. Cooking won’t will not destroy much of the vitamin D content found in food (28).
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and other food products.
If milk products are not fortified with vitamin D, they are low in vitamin D — the only exception is butter because it’s high in fat (26).
What are the best vitamin D supplements?
What will determine how good is vitamin D is how well it is absorbed in by the gut.
25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD)-the best form of vitamin D. There are vitamin D drops (in both oil and alcohol) and vitamin D pills, which might be as oil capsules or pills using either cellulose or lactose as a carrier.
According to research oil-based capsules and drops yield the best results and best increase in vitamin D levels (28).
Genetic factors play a role in how well a person is able to absorb and use vitamin D in/from their bloodstream (29, 30).
How long does it take to improve focus and memory problems caused by vitamin D deficiency?
If your vitamin D levels are low, it might take some time to improve them. You can retest yourself after 5–6 weeks of taking vitamin D — at that time you should see improvement in your vitamin D levels ().
Your memory should improve within 6–8 weeks.
How do you know if your vitamin D levels are okay?
The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the vitamin D blood test.
Super high levels of vitamin D might not help, and might even be counterproductive in a long term.
You can track vitamin D in BOOST Thyroid app.
Published March 18 2013
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In this article I’m going to discuss five common nutrient deficiencies found in people with these conditions. So this includes people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, as well as people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.
1. Vitamin A. Vitamin A has many important roles in the body. It helps to maintain the health of the epithelial tissues, plays an important role in immune system function, vision, and other sources. While many people will supplement with beta-carotene, the problem is that some individuals might have problems converting beta-carotene into vitamin A. While it can be challenging to determine if someone has a deficiency in vitamin A, some of the common signs and symptoms of a moderate to severe vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, a decrease or loss of appetite, and being more susceptible to infection.
With regards to thyroid health, thyroid hormone is involved in the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A (1). As a result, if someone has hypothyroidism, then this can potentially lead to a vitamin A deficiency. And if you attempt to correct this by giving the person beta-carotene then this very well might not correct the deficiency since the body will have problems converting it into vitamin A. So in this situation one would want to take the entire vitamin A complex in the form of a whole food supplement.
2. Vitamin D. Vitamin D not only is important for strong bones, but is also important for the health of the immune system. Many of my patients who have Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are deficient in vitamin D, as this can easily be determined by a simple blood test. And this isn’t just my observation, as studies have shown that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is significantly higher in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease when compared to healthy individuals (2). One study also showed that a vitamin D deficiency was associated with the presence of antithyroid antibodies and abnormal thyroid function tests. However, while most labs have a reference range from 30 ng/ml to 100 ng/ml, for optimal immune system health one really wants these levels to be greater than 50 ng/ml. While the sun is usually the best source of vitamin D, if someone has a deficiency then usually supplementation with vitamin D3 will be necessary. Vitamin D also has a direct effect on thyroid health, as this vitamin has been shown to influence thyrocytes directly by attenuating thytrophin (TSH)-stimulated iodide uptake and cell growth (3).
3. Iron. Iron is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormone, and an Iron deficiency impairs thyroid hormone synthesis by reducing activity of heme-dependent thyroid peroxidase (4). This mineral has a lot of other important functions. While it is more common for cycling women to be deficient in iron due to menstruation, an iron deficiency can affect menopausal women as well, and sometimes men (especially vegetarians and vegans). As a result, I think that most people should have their serum iron and ferritin levels checked regularly, along with the % saturation. Besides being important for the synthesis of thyroid hormone, iron of course is important for the production of red blood cells. It is a component of hemoglobin, and as a result it plays a role in the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and cells of the body. Iron can interfere with the absorption of levothyroxine, and so people taking thyroid hormone should take their iron supplements two to four hours later.
4. Selenium. Selenium is a very important mineral when it comes to thyroid health. Not only does it play an important role in the conversion of T4 to T3, but it also is essential for optimal health of the immune system. In fact, some research studies have shown that taking selenium can lower thyroid antibodies (5). Of course other factors are important as well, and so while some people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis notice a dramatic improvement in their health when taking selenium, many others don’t notice much of a difference. I’ve written about the importance of glutathione previously, and selenium is a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase synthesis.
With that being said, many people are deficient in selenium. And when this is the case, it is extremely important to correct this deficiency for anyone looking to restore their health when following a natural treatment protocol. Brazil nuts are a good food source of selenium. Sardines are also a good food source, although recently I learned that they are high in PCBs. However, just as is the case with other mineral deficiencies, when someone is deficient in selenium, then may need to take a selenium supplement. I usually recommend a whole food supplement, and the reason for this is because selenium is best taken with vitamin E and other nutrients and cofactors. In addition, I’ve had a few patients who had a negative reaction when taking synthetic selenium.
5. Iodine. Without question, iodine is the most controversial mineral when it comes to thyroid health. I’ve dedicated numerous blog posts and articles on this mineral, and so I’m not going to discuss this in great detail here. Iodine of course is important for the formation of thyroid hormone. As a result, a deficiency in iodine can potentially lead to a hypothyroid condition. These are facts, but from this point on the controversy begins. When it comes to an iodine deficiency, some sources claim that most people are iodine deficient, while other sources suggest that most people have sufficient levels of iodine. If I plan on giving iodine to anyone I will test them first to see if they have a deficiency. Of course there is some controversy over the different types of testing, which is yet another story.
As for whether people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can benefit from taking iodine, there is even more controversy in this area. Although there is some evidence which shows that taking iodine can benefit people with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, other studies show that taking iodine can actually cause a hypothyroid or hyperthyroid condition, and can perhaps even lead to autoimmune thyroiditis. As a result, some healthcare professionals will recommend for all of their patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions to completely avoid iodine. Other studies suggest that this is only true when someone has a selenium deficiency, and that iodine should always be taken with selenium.
So where do I stand when it comes to iodine supplementation? I’m definitely pro-iodine, and I feel that if someone has an iodine deficiency that it eventually needs to be corrected. With that being said, I’m still cautious about giving iodine to my patients, especially those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. For anyone who supplements with iodine I first recommend getting tested, and then if it shows you’re iodine deficient I recommend starting with a small dosage, along with taking antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin C, along with magnesium.
Why Are People Commonly Deficient In These Vitamins And Minerals?
You might wonder why it’s common for people to be deficient in these nutrients. Well, there are numerous reasons. For example, with vitamin D it can be due to the person not getting enough sunlight, having darker skin, living at a high latitude, or perhaps living in an area where there is a lot of air pollution. With iron it can definitely be due to poor dietary intake, but other factors which can cause problems with iron absorption include a deficiency in vitamin C and/or hypochlorhydria.
If someone has a lot of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, then there are numerous reasons why this can happen. Of course eating a diet high in refined foods and sugars can cause this. And in most cases, just changing one’s diet won’t correct moderate to severe deficiencies. Certain medications can also interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as oral contraceptives. Problems with intestinal permeability can also lead to numerous deficiencies. So while one will probably need to supplement with these vitamins and minerals to correct these deficiencies, it of course is important to address the cause of the deficiency so that one won’t need to take such supplements on a permanent basis.
In summary, many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are deficient in one or more of the nutrients I discussed in this article. And while a single vitamin or mineral deficiency can have a dramatic effect on one’s health, multiple deficiencies are very common. Although I focused on five nutrients in this article, other nutrients can also play a role in thyroid health, such as zinc and manganese. Even though supplementation is usually required to correct a moderate to severe deficiency, the overall goal should be to address the cause of the deficiency so that people will get maximum benefit from any vitamins or minerals they are taking.