Figuring out which thyroid supplements to take for hypothyroid can be confusing. Most people can go a lifetime without knowing that they have an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
According to world-renowned thyroid expert and author of the book Why do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?, Dr. Datis Khazzarian, over 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases are autoimmune in nature. In fact, a person could have autoimmunity for years before experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
The reason for this is that the immune system gets confused and creates antibodies that attack healthy thyroid tissue. When enough thyroid tissue is destroyed and insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones are produced, this is when symptoms of a low-functioning thyroid appear.
The good news is that there are thyroid supplements that you can take to balance and support the immune system as well as the thyroid to put the attack on the thyroid into remission. Having a good diet and avoiding certain foods is also key. This article reviews the latest research on some supplements that can act as an integral part of hypothyroidism therapy. Of course, it goes without saying to consult your doctor or functional medicine practitioner in order to assess if these supplements are right for you.
Best Thyroid Supplements for Hypothyroidism
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Most people that eat today’s highly processed diet are exposed to high levels of oils (like genetically-modified corn and soy) that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. The problem with this is that when omega-6 fatty acids out-number omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, increasing levels of inflammation are seen. This sets the stage for an array of diseases that include autoimmune thyroiditis, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
When it comes to autoimmunity, the role of omega-3 fatty acids is well documented. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and studies have found that their use in autoimmune disease is significantly beneficial as Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation decreases disease activity and lowers the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. 1
Omega-3 fatty acids found from fish oils seem to be the most beneficial when it comes to fighting inflammation. Naturally, the best way to guarantee that you are getting optimal amounts of fish oil is to consume wild-caught fatty fish like salmon and mackerel three to four times per week (if you’re concerned about mercury, read this first). Fish and seafood not only contain omega-3 fatty acids, but they also contain important vitamins and minerals that act like antioxidants.
Another option is to supplement with fish oil. As fish oils are highly volatile and can be easily oxidized when exposed to heat (like when you consume it), it is important to find fish oil supplements that are blended with antioxidants. Studies have found omega-3 fatty acids mixed with olive oil extracts to be effective in combating inflammation. 2
Selenium is a multi-faceted trace mineral when it comes to thyroid health. Studies have found that taking selenium supplements every day can decrease thyroid antibodies. 3
Selenium is also a crucial ingredient needed to form thyroid hormones. A selenium deficiency cannot only decrease the amount of thyroid hormones that are formed, but it can exacerbate an autoimmune condition. This is because selenium is responsible for clearing the hydrogen peroxide that is formed with iodine (the inactive form) is turned into iodide (the active form). If large amounts of hydrogen peroxide are formed, this causes inflammation and signals the immune system to clear it. If this process becomes dysfunctional, a lack of selenium can be a very real trigger of autoimmune thyroiditis.
Dr. Isabella Wentz, an expert in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and author of the books, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s Protocol, recommends taking selenium along with vitamin E and thyroid medication on an empty stomach in the morning.
The majority of people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have a deficiency in zinc. This has to do with the fact that zinc needs a good amount of stomach acid to be sufficiently absorbed. People with Hashimoto’s typically have low levels of stomach acid, hindering the optimal absorption of nutrients like zinc.
Zinc deficiency is often the cause for hair loss associated with an underactive thyroid. A case study done on a woman with severe alopecia (or hair loss), scaly lesions on her scalp, and hypothyroidism found that supplementing with thyroid medication did nothing for her hair loss. When zinc supplementation was added to her therapy, the scaly lesions disappeared within a month and she had complete hair re-growth within four months. 4
4. B-Complex Vitamins
People with one autoimmune disease are more susceptible to acquiring other autoimmune diseases. One common autoimmune disease associated with Hashimoto’s is pernicious anemia. Antibodies attack the parietal cells of the stomach, hindering their ability to produce intrinsic factor, which is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, muscle aches and weakness, and depression and anxiety (all symptoms associated with hypothyroidism).
To date, most doctors replete vitamin B12 with intramuscular injections. However, there are a few studies that have found that a vitamin B12 spray under the tongue can be just as effective. 5
Other B vitamins are equally as important in boosting the metabolism as they are responsible from drawing energy from the foods that we eat and from body fat. Since people with hypothyroidism suffer from lower metabolism, it is important for this population to also take a b-complex vitamin. This will work synergistically with thyroid medication to enhance metabolism.
Many natural health care practitioners automatically prescribe iodine when they detect a thyroid issue. However, this may be a mistake. Statistically, in countries where there are severe iodine deficiencies, goiters (or the enlargement of the thyroid) are seen. In countries where iodine is put back into the food system (like in salt), higher incidences of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are seen.
When you consider that most people eat a highly processed diet with a lot of salt, their exposure to iodine is increased and there is a higher danger of iodine affecting an autoimmune disease negatively.
It is important not to get more than 150mcg of iodine per day in order to avoid an autoimmune attack. Typically, you do not need a supplement to do this.
Assessing the Right Thyroid Supplements for Hypothyroidism
Many nutritionists argue that supplementation is often not necessary if you eat a diversified diet. However, it is my view that avoiding certain foods and adopting a nutrient-dense Paleo diet with whole food thyroid supplements can really enhance therapies for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism.
Unfortunately, many patients are so deficient in certain nutrients, that supplementation is the only way to alleviate their deficiencies. Remember to choose supplements from whole food sources and to check with a trained nutritionist or doctor with a nutrition background to help you assess which and how much of specific nutrition supplements you will need to heal.
Foods to Avoid For An Underactive Thyroid
Certain foods can exacerbate issues associated with low thyroid function. Make sure you aren’t consuming these foods that can make your thyroid issues worse.
Best Foods for Hypothyroidism
A good diet is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting healthy thyroid function. Make sure you are including these foods that help the thyroid function better.
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About Tina Christoudias, The Thyroid Dietician
Tina Christoudias is a Harvard-trained registered dietitian with nearly 18 years of experience as a nutrition counselor. Having had personal experience with hypothyroidism, she specializes in diet protocols for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism and has recently finished her book, Tired of Feeling Tired? She is a strong advocate of the Paleo diet and is currently getting certified as an autoimmune protocol certified practitioner.
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