Patients often ask about natural products for thyroid support. As physicians specializing in endocrinology & metabolism, and internal medicine this is an interesting question. The subject of vitamins for thyroid conditions raises the subject of many commonly believed myths about having a low thyroid and treating your thyroid with supplements.
First, let’s talk a little bit about the thyroid and about the symptoms of a thyroid problem. The thyroid is a gland that sits in your neck regulates your body’s metabolism. It uses iodine (that is absorbed in the GI tract and transported through the blood stream) to produce thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland products mostly a hormone called T3 which cells in many different parts of your body convert to T4. T4 then serves to help your heart, muscles and brain function optimally. In a way the thyroid is the fuel that propels your body to metabolize other forms of energy.
So what happens when one has a thyroid condition? More often then not the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce the same amount of thyroid hormone it once did. An underactive thyroid often comes about with age and has an association with other autoimmune conditions (things like Celiac, diabetes, Crohns Disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis) because sometimes the body produce antibodies against the thyroid in a type of autoimmune response. This is known as Hashimoto’s Disease.
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone this creates the typical symptoms from a low thyroid: Fatigue, lack of energy, weight gain, thinning hair, constipation and more. While a low thyroid often causes these symptoms, do know that there are other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause many of these symptoms, especially fatigue, lack of energy, and thinning hair.
So what can be done to treat a low thyroid? The traditional medical approach is to replace the thyroid hormone you are lacking with synthetic thyroid hormone. And guess what? This actually works pretty well. Prescription medication that is identical to the hormone your own thyroid produces is a great way to treat a low thyroid (the actual diagnosis and lab testing of a low thyroid are beyond the scope of this discussion).
Are there vitamins for a low thyroid? The answer is not a simple yes or no. It is more of a yes, but… There are supplements that can help support your thyroid gland. Namely these include iodine- this important element and electrolyte is useful in safe doses to help your thyroid perform it’s natural tasks. The thyroid uses iodine to make its hormones so if you are deficient in iodine the gland can’t do it’s job and you become hypothyroid. We primarily get Iodine from Iodinated food products such as Iodized salt or processed foods. However, these days many of us are attempting to avoid table salt and use other salts such as Kosher or Sea salts which are not iodinated. Likewise we avoid processed foods when possible. Thus taking a healthy dose of iodine via a supplement is advisable, especially when pregnant. However, more is not necessarily better. Taking too much is not healthy and can back fire. Take our vitamin quiz to get the right dose of vitamins for your needs.
Another vitamin that has been used in certain thyroid conditions includes selenium. It may be helpful in certain autoimmune phenomena but its benefit has not fully been proven. It may help prevent the eye complications that are associated with various forms of eye diseases. However ,it is not recommended for the general population interested in vitamins to help their thyroid.
There are many products on the market touted as supplements for thyroid health. Some also claim to be “natural” thyroid replacement products. The concern with these is that most often they are composed of ground up glands of pigs cows. The manufacturers hope to replace human thyroid hormone with this impure and poorly replicated version. These products are not well regulated and their contents can be extremely varied from one batch to the other, often containing additional illicit ingredients. It is our strong recommendation to avoid any products that claim to be a form of “natural thyroid hormone” as they are far less natural to your body than the legitimate forms of thyroid hormone that are prescribed by a physician.
Lastly, we would be remiss in talking about vitamins and your thyroid if we didn’t mention determining what vitamin deficiencies you may have that cause symptoms of a low thyroid. Many of the symptoms that people think are due to a low thyroid (low energy, thinning hair, GI symptoms, fatigue) are often due to other vitamin deficiencies such as Vitamin D, iron and some B vitamins . Getting a personalized vitamin tailored to your unique needs is a great way to feel your best. Take our vitamin survey to get a custom daily vitamin just for you.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.