Are nutritional supplements really needed in thyroid treatment? Thyroid hormone production depends on several nutrients. The poor nutritional status of the body affects the ability of the thyroid gland to release hormones.
When your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones, it is referred to as hypothyroidism. This could be because there are antibodies attacking your thyroid gland. The most common thyroid problem seen in women is an underactive thyroid. Around 15-20% of all women over 50 are affected with symptoms of hypothyroidism.
If your body does not have the right nutritional support at this time, producing the hormones becomes even more difficult. Therefore, even if you are regular with your thyroid medication, adding the right supplements is beneficial.
Some specific supplements can help manage hypothyroidism and support the body in its recovery. If you want to learn more about which these supplements are and how to use them, read on.
Iodine is the most important nutrient for thyroid health. This is because the iodine atom is itself a part of the thyroid hormone. When the body does not have access to enough iodine, it cannot produce thyroid hormones at all. The four and three numbers associated with thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) indicate the number of iodine atoms attached to each.
It might surprise you to know that your body cannot produce this vital nutrient itself. The need has to be fulfilled externally through food. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states that a person can take 150 mcg of iodine per day. There is an interesting story of how India meets this daily requirement.
If you notice the salt we use to cook daily, it says iodized salt. In India, many areas have soil with a low iodine content. Subsequently, the food grown in these areas had a low iodine content as well and iodine deficiency was very common.
To provide easy access to iodine supplementation, The Government of India made it a norm to add iodine to salt to ensure that everyone gets the required amount. Other food sources include fish, dairy products, poultry, egg, watercress, strawberries, etc.
Iodine tablets are only prescribed for specific cases. They should not be taken without consulting a doctor. Iodine in excess can actually worsen hypothyroidism instead of treating it. The dose for iodine supplementation is decided by a doctor depending on the extent of iodine deficiency.
It is better to check the iodine level in the body and always have the thyroid doctor recommend supplements only in case of iodine deficiency.
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland makes the T4 hormone, which is usually inactive. But the body cannot use these inactive hormones to function accurately. It needs active hormones, i.e., the T3 form.
An enzyme converts T4 to T3 active hormones. Selenium safeguards your body's thyroid cells from oxidative harm during this conversion process. That is why it is considered an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production.
According to research, selenium deficiency is common in people with Hashimoto's, an identified trigger of autoimmune thyroid conditions. As per RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), an adult person requires 55 mcg daily. Pregnant and lactating women require about 60 and 70 micrograms every day.
It is pretty challenging to satisfy the selenium requirement through diet alone, and if you have Hashimoto's, it becomes more difficult for you because it causes poor nutrient absorption.
Research indicates that therapeutic doses of selenium supplementation for three to six months for people with Hashimoto's reduce TPO antibody levels by up to 40%. Antibodies are early signs of Hashimoto's, even if the TSH level says you don't have a thyroid problem.
There are numerous foods that you can add to the Indian diet for hypothyroidism, for instance, tuna, shellfish, turkey, chicken sardines, legumes, eggs, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts. Selenium is available as a supplement if you cannot take it naturally. Always go for supplements containing selenomethionine that is easy to digest.
Zinc deficiency can also affect the thyroid gland. Zinc is used in several steps in the process of thyroid hormone production, release, and use. An added benefit is that it also helps improve gut health, especially in people with leaky gut.
According to RDA, men require 11 mg, and women need 9 mg of zinc intake every day. You can include avocados, spinach, lentil sprouts, green peas, asparagus, eggs, pumpkin, sesame seeds, quinoa, cashews, beet greens, oats, chicken, and oysters in your diet.
If you are zinc deficient and cannot satisfy your zinc level with natural foods, a zinc supplement could help manage your thyroid disease. Always consume doctor-recommended supplements only because every supplement available on the market is not appropriate for your health.
Iron is not only crucial for building red blood cells only; it plays a vital role in synthesizing thyroid hormones also. Iron is an essential component of numerous enzymes, including TPO (thyroid peroxidase). TPO performs the vital step of adding iodine during the production of T3 and T4. So, iron deficiency can result in low production of T3 and lead to hypothyroidism.
Iron-rich food supports normal thyroid function. You can include fish, quinoa, chicken, red meat (in moderation), pumpkin seeds, spinach, kidney beans, lentils, turkey, beetroot, spinach, apple, etc.
You can use the iron supplement to maintain optimal iron levels in the body. Before you start taking an iron supplement, it is better to run a test and find out if you are really iron deficient or not. If yes, always take doctor-recommended iron supplements only.
Like other nutrients, magnesium is required to convert T4 thyroid hormone to T3 active hormones.
People with hypothyroidism feel tired most of the time and take the help of caffeine to boost their energy level. But they are clueless about the fact that caffeine intake affects magnesium absorption from the gut. Over the long term, this can result in low levels of magnesium.
Magnesium loss increases the risk of Hashimoto's disease and is associated with raised thyroid antibody levels. Ginger, turmeric, pumpkin seed, dark leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, and bananas are excellent magnesium sources. You can correct magnesium deficiency with a magnesium supplement to improve Hashimoto's symptoms.
As per numerous studies, Magnesium supplementation showed a therapeutic effect on the thyroid, resulting in a normalization of TSH levels.
Supplement intake can interfere with thyroid medication absorption, so avoid taking supplements for at least four hours after taking your thyroid medications. To take the right supplements in the correct dose, it is always recommended to consult your thyroid doctor.
What else you can do
Besides these supplements, the thyroid requires other supplements like B-complex vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. According to a study performed in 2018, vitamin D supplements enhance TSH levels in hypothyroidism and thyroid antibodies in people suffering from autoimmune thyroiditis.
The bottom line
Nutrient deficiency is one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism, and adequate supplement intake supports thyroid health. Following a thyroid diet is beneficial to complete daily nutrient requirements. However certain nutrients are needed in larger quantities and that is where supplements help. This depends on your individual requirement and health status.