What to Look for in a Quality Thyroid Supplement

What to Look for in a Quality Thyroid Supplement

Treatments for thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer often require medications or supplements. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, whereas hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your body produces too much. Thyroid conditions are often treated with medications such as thyroid hormone replacement, surgery, and radiation for thyroid cancer. While these medical interventions are important and necessary aspects of treatment, research has shown that other interventions such as dietary changes and supplementation may help in the treatment of some thyroid diseases. However, not all supplements are created equal, and it is important to understand what makes a quality thyroid supplement.

Anatomical model human thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of your neck. It releases various hormones that impact your metabolism. This is why the thyroid gland plays such a large role in energy production and other vital bodily processes. For example, hormones released from the thyroid play a role in breathing, heart rate, your nervous system, weight loss and gain, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels, and more. It is no wonder that when the thyroid gland is not functioning optimally, neither are you. 

Your thyroid gland produces, stores, and releases two major hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The levels of T3 and T4 in your body must be at an intricate balance in order for your bodily functions to be working properly. Both high and low levels of thyroid hormone can have negative impacts on your health and functioning. Thus, both hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) are serious problems. 

T3 and T4 are released from the thyroid gland into your bloodstream and travel to almost every cell in your body. T3 and T4 help regulate the speed of your metabolism, which is why hypothyroidism usually leads to weight gain, while hyperthyroidism leads to weight loss. In both scenarios, your metabolic rate is not functioning properly. Hypothyroidism can also cause symptoms such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, brain fog, dry skin and hair, depression, heavy menstrual periods, and joint and muscle pain. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism can lead to anxiety, irritability, hyperactivity, shaking, hair loss, and light menstrual periods. 

Thyroid hormone test

The thyroid requires certain nutrients to function optimally. These include:

Selenium: Selenium is a mineral that plays a role in thyroid hormone production and also protects the gland from oxidative stress. A deficiency in selenium can lead to thyroid irregularities.

Iodine: Iodine is essential for thyroid functioning, so much so that a deficiency causes thyroid disease. Iodine’s only known role in the body is to support the production of thyroid hormone. Both T3 and T4 contain iodine. 

Zinc: Zinc is another mineral needed for thyroid hormone production. Optimal concentrations of zinc are also required for healthy levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Iron: Iron is needed to convert T4 into T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone, and if iron levels are low, thyroid dysfunction can result. 

A nutrient-dense diet filled with whole foods should be enough to maintain a healthy functioning thyroid for most people. If you are a healthy person who eats a well-balanced diet, there is likely no need to take a thyroid supplement. However, certain populations may benefit from a thyroid supplement, such as those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have thyroid conditions or other health issues. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement. 

Selenium

Many people, especially women, turn to thyroid supplements for weight loss and energy. While some thyroid supplements may just be ineffective at improving your thyroid health, others may be dangerous. Dietary supplements typically have little or no regulations but are widely used in the United States. Many thyroid supplements contain not only the nutrients mentioned earlier but actual thyroid hormones. An increase in thyroid hormone can create serious disruptions in the body and even lead to hyperthyroidism, as discussed earlier. In one study, researchers looked at thyroid hormone content in 10 thyroid health supplements. Five of the supplements disclosed that they contained thyroid hormone, but nine of the 10 products contained T3, and five contained T4. Several of the supplements had high enough thyroid hormone content to elevate thyroid hormone in the blood and produce symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Too much T4 can even lead to palpitations, atrial fibrillation, and blood pressure issues. T4 is the active ingredient in prescription drugs prescribed to those with hypothyroidism. Therefore, a quality thyroid supplement should support your thyroid function with only the nutrients listed earlier, and you should only be ingesting thyroid hormone if prescribed by your doctor. Those with thyroid disorders should talk to their doctor before starting a thyroid supplement, as each person’s condition comes with specific needs, and you need to make sure the supplement you are taking is addressing those needs. 

Supplementing for Your Condition

Hashimoto’s Disease: Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own cells. In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, which leads to fibrosis and scar tissue on the thyroid. Thus, the thyroid gland is incapable of producing adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. Those with Hashimoto’s disease are more likely than others to be deficient in certain nutrients. Along with diet and lifestyle modifications, individuals with Hashimoto’s disease may benefit from supplementing with particular nutrients. These include selenium, Myo-inositol, zinc, vitamin B12, magnesium, iron, vitamin D, curcumin, and vitamin C. 

Hormone replacement therapy of thyroid

Grave’s Disease: Grave’s disease is also an autoimmune disorder, and is the main cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. The immune system attacks your thyroid gland, leading to overproduction of thyroid hormones and even an enlarged thyroid gland. There is some research to suggest that dietary changes and supplements can improve the symptoms of Grave’s disease. Potentially helpful supplements include selenium, vitamin D, L-carnitine, and vitamin B12. 

If you decide you would like to use a thyroid supplement, first talk to your doctor. Make sure you understand your condition and are choosing a supplement that contains the nutrients you may be lacking, and one that does not contain thyroid hormone. Purchase supplements from trusted brands that independently test their products. Many supplements have the potential to negatively interact with other medications, leading to dangerous side effects. This makes it even more important to consult with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. 

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