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How Supplements for Thyroid Help Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid disorder and it is one of the diseases in which natural supplements are widely recommended. The supplements that can improve thyroid functioning include vitamins, minerals, herbs, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids. These natural thyroid supplements are effective and well tolerated but how do they improve thyroid functioning? Read on to find out.
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What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones.

Once, it was believed that hypothyroidism is an uncommon medical condition. However, new clinical data are suggesting that the condition is more prevalent than believed and that most sufferers are not getting the right treatment.

The major thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

These hormones are synthesized in the thyroid gland from iodine and tyrosine. However, the thyroid gland makes more T4 than T3.

Even though T3 is the more bioactive of the two hormones, only 20% of the T3 produced in the body is made in the thyroid gland. The rest is obtained from the conversion of T4 to T3 in other sites in the body.

Because of the importance of iodine to the syntheses of thyroid hormone, iodine deficiency is one of the major causes of hypothyroidism.

Other common causes include chronic stress, autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland and the destruction of the cells of the thyroid gland by radioatherapy used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.

The production of hormones in the thyroid gland is under the control of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) which is released from the pituitary gland. The TSH itself is under the control of another hormone produced in the hypothalamus and known as TRH or thyrotropin-releasing hormone.

Hypothyroidism can be caused by disruption in any of these 3 levels of control. Therefore, hypothyroidism can be classified into three.

Types of Hypothyroidism
  • Primary Hypothyroidism – Caused by damage to the thyroid gland and accounts for the majority of hypothyroidism cases
  • Secondary Hypothyroidism – Caused by damage to the pituitary gland and therefore low production of TSH which is required to induce the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4. It accounts for 5 – 10% of hypothyroidism cases
  • Tertiary Hypothyroidism – Caused by the failure of the hypothalamus to release TRH in sufficient quantities. Low TRH levels means low stimulation of the pituitary gland to release TSH and then low levels of T3 and T4. Less than 5% of hypothyroidism cases fall under tertiary hypothyroidism

Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Symptoms

Endocrinologists depend on the measurements of T3, T4 but especially TSH levels to diagnose hypothyroidism. Primary hypothyroidism is usually diagnosed if TSH levels are higher than normal while T3 and T4 levels are low.

However, sometimes TSH levels are high but still within the normal range even though T3 and T4 levels are low. In such cases, subclinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is even more common than hypothyroidism. It occurs more frequently with age and it affects more women than men.

Subclinical hypothyroidism and other forms of silent hypothyroidism may persist for a long time without being correctly diagnosed. Even though it is difficult to diagnose such cases of hypothyroidism, they may still present with known but undefined symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is associated with a long list of symptoms. Some of these are fatigue, weight gain, edema, reduced sweating, dry skin, depression, low heart rate, high cholesterol levels, constipation, joint pain, muscle cramps and increased sensitivity to cold.

Later symptoms include goiter, low body temperature, edematous swellings, slow speech, sluggish reflexes, abnormal menstrual cycle, female infertility and decreased libido in men.

Hypothyroidism may also impair cognitive function and memory, cause hair loss, anemia, deafness, psychosis and hypoglycemia.

Hypothyroidism is commonly treated with iodine supplements or thyroid hormone replacements.

However, there are other natural supplements that can support thyroid functioning either by protecting the thyroid gland from injury or by increasing the production of thyroid hormones.

Discussed below are some of the most effective thyroid supplements for treating hypothyroidism.

Natural Thyroid Supplements for Hypothyroidism

These natural thyroid supplements can boost thyroid function and may make it easier to increase the efficiency of the thyroid and metabolism and reverse a sluggish thyroid. 

Iodine

Iodine is the classic remedy for hypothyroidism and there is a reason for that. Iodine is one of the two ingredients needed by the thyroid gland to synthesize thyroid hormones.

T3 and T4 both contains iodine. In fact, they are named after the amount of iodine they contain: each T3 molecule contains 3 atoms of iodine and T4 holds 4 iodine atoms. Without iodine, the syntheses of these hormones cannot proceed even when TSH keeps stimulating the thyroid gland to produce these hormones.

Most countries mandate the sale of iodized salt and other iodine-fortified food products for this reason.

Supplementing iodine in food is the single most effective and affordable means of reducing the incidence of hypothyroidism, infertility and cretinism in the population. And such supplementation is absolutely essential for people living far away from the coast.

For those who restrict their salt intake, sea vegetables are another important source of iodine. Kelp is an excellent example of sea vegetables taken for their iodine content.

Where iodine cannot be adopted into the diet, iodine dietary supplements can be taken to improve the level of this essential mineral.

However, care must be taken when taking iodine for hypothyroidism. It is important to constantly monitor the levels of the thyroid hormone during iodine supplementation because there is only a thin line separating a euthyroid state (normal thyroid levels) from hyperthyroidism.

Furthermore, iodine is not the magic pill for every case of hypothyroidism.

Iodine supplementation only works when the cause of hypothyroidism is low levels of the mineral. In hypothyroidism cases due to other causes, iodine supplementation can actually worsen the patient’s condition.

For example, when hypothyroidism is caused by autoimmune thyroid disorders or low levels of TSH, giving the patient more iodine will only cause iodine toxicity.

Therefore, it is important to determine if a hypothyroid patient also suffers from iodine deficiency before recommending this supplement.

Selenium

Besides iodine, selenium is another essential mineral needed for proper thyroid functioning.

In fact, the thyroid gland contains more selenium than other body parts and during selenium deficiency, the body meets the selenium needs of the thyroid even before it sends selenium to the brain.

The body uses selenium to make selenoproteins, a group of antioxidant enzymes required for different biochemical reactions.

The thyroid gland needs 11 different selenoproteins to make T3 and T4 and to also function properly. For example, the selenoproteins making up a family of enzymes called iodothyronine deiodinases are required for the conversion of T4 to T3.

This conversion is important for 2 reasons. First, T3 is the more active of the two thyroid hormones. Secondly, 80% of the T3 found in the body are made from T4.

However, the benefits of selenium to the thyroid extend beyond increasing the amount of T3 produced.

Selenium is also known to prevent some of the presentations of iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency causes severe hypothyroidism only when it is followed by selenium deficiency.

For example, selenium deficiency is required before iodine deficiency can cause cretinism. In addition, selenium prevents the formation of goiter. However, goiter is not the only thyroid presentation worsened by selenium deficiency. Other conditions that get worse without selenium include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ hypothyroidism.

Because the relationship between the two minerals are intertwined, selenium supplementation is regularly recommended along with iodine supplementation for hypothyroid patients with iodine deficiency.

Selenium, T4 and Reverse T3

Recent clinical studies have also established that selenium reduces the serum levels of T4 and reverse T3. This effect is important for a number of reasons.

First, high serum levels of T4 means that its conversion to T3 is low. Since T3 is the bioactive thyroid hormone, high levels of free T4 can be an indication of hypothyroidism.

Secondly, T4 production is accompanied by the release of hydrogen peroxide in the thyroid gland. Therefore, if T4 levels are high, it follows that the thyroid gland may be under considerable oxidative stress. By reducing T4 production, selenium prevents the oxidative destruction of the thyroid gland.

Thirdly, reverse T3 is an antithyroid hormone. It works by blocking the effects of T3.

Therefore, a high level of reverse T3 is another indication of hypothyroidism. By reducing the amount of reverse T3, selenium ensures that more T3 is produced from T4 (T4 can also be converted to reverse T3) and that the metabolic functions of the thyroid hormones remain unblocked.

Zinc and Copper

Other minerals that contribute to thyroid functions include zinc and copper. These metals fulfil smaller roles but they are also important.

Zinc, for example, is required for the release of TRH from the hypothalamus.

Since TRH stimulates the release of TSH which then induces the thyroid to produce T3 and T4, zinc supplementation can also be used to treat hypothyroidism.

However, zinc competes with copper for absorption. When the zinc level rises, copper levels fall. Therefore, copper supplements should be given alongside zinc during hypothyroidism therapy. In addition, copper is an antioxidant that may help protect the thyroid gland from oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species.

Vitamin D

Of all the vitamins, vitamin D is the most important one for thyroid functioning.

The “sunshine vitamin” mostly serves a protective role in this regard. Several studies have established the immunomodulatory property of vitamin D and how the vitamin protects the thyroid gland from autoimmune destruction.

One of the common causes of hypothyroidism is autoimmune attack on the cells of the thyroid gland. Once the specialized cells of the immune system destroys a considerable number of thyroid cells, the production of T4 and T3 permanently drops.

Therefore, vitamin D is important in the treatment of hypothyroidism caused by autoimmune factors. For example, it can prevent the development or stop the progression of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

In addition, vitamin D has also been proven to protect against thyroid cancers.

All of these benefits show that low vitamin D level is detrimental to thyroid functioning.

The Antioxidant Vitamins and Essential Fatty Acids

Vitamins A, C and E are the antioxidant vitamins, and they can also be used in the treatment of hypothyroidism.

These vitamins are not only essential for a long list of biochemical and physiological processes in the body, they are needed for the optimal functioning of antioxidant enzymes. Vitamin E, for example, works best when combined with selenium (selenium forms the antioxidant enzymes known as selenoproteins).

These vitamins can help mop up harmful free radicals and eliminate reactive oxygen species. Therefore, they can reduce the oxidative stress placed on the thyroid gland. This translates to improved thyroid functions and increase in the syntheses of T3 and T4 for hypothyroid patients.

Another essential supplement for hypothyroid patients is essential fatty acids group.

This include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The essential fatty acid supplement to take must contain more omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are useful in the management of chronic and autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building block of all proteins in the body including hormones such as T3 and T4.

With regards to thyroid hormones, the most important amino acid is tyrosine. This is because thyroid hormones are synthesized from tyrosine and iodine. Therefore, tyrosine supplementation can help increase the production of these hormones and relieve the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Tyrosine is also found in protein. Many women and men who have sluggish thyroids were found to have low-protein diets. Adding more protein to your diet is an easy way to increase tyrosine content and improve the health of your thyroid without making additional changes or taking thyroid medication. In combination with other diet changes and supplements, tyrosine can be effective at boosting a sluggish thyroid. The USDA recommends that adults consume about 35 percent of their calories from protein. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is able to reduce oxidative stress caused by hypothyroidism. Studies have found that supplementing with vitamin E can reduce thyroid cell damage. In one animal study, supplementing with vitamin E reduced thyroid cell replication in animals with hypothyroidism. In another study, vitamin E was shown to reduce thyroid cell damage.

Vitamin E is particularly effective in boosting thyroid hormones due to its ability to fight free radicals. Free radical damage is one of the number one causes of thyroid cancer and thyroid problems. Vitamin E will produce the best results when taken in conjunction with selenium. Selenium works with vitamin E to create enzymes called selenoproteins, which work to fight antioxidants in the thyroid. These antioxidants are necessary for the thyroid to function properly. Without vitamin E, the body has trouble using selenium properly. Without selenium, your thyroid won't be able to use vitamin E properly. Look for supplements that contain both vitamin E and selenium. 

Vitamin B12

Many individuals with a sluggish thyroid are also low in vitamin B12. In a study from 2008, it was found that 40 percent of individuals tested with sluggish thyroids were deficient in vitamin B12. Adding more vitamin B12 to the diet could increase thyroid speed and reduce negative effects from a sluggish thyroid.

Studies on B Vitamin Supplements for Thyroid

In 2008, a study published in The Journal of Pakistani Medical Association found that a lack of vitamin B is directly linked to thyroid function. 40 percent of the study participants who had a sluggish thyroid were also found to be low in vitamin B12. Many of the symptoms of a sluggish thyroid and a vitamin B12 deficiency overlap. The researchers found that when vitamin B12 supplements were given to thyroid patients, their symptoms decreased and their thyroid function improved. Vitamin B12 is essential for the proper production of healthy thyroid hormones, and without enough B12, the body simply cannot produce enough thyroid hormones. 

Rhodiola Rosea

Stress can be a major factor in how efficient the thyroid functions. During times of stress, the thyroid slows, making it harder to eliminate excess weight and even can cause weight gain. Rhodiola rosea is an herb that supports the adrenal glands and helps the body deal with stress in a healthy way, which supports the proper function of the thyroid.DHEA and Pregnenolone

Studies have found that individuals with a sluggish thyroid are more likely to be low in DHEA and pregnenolone. These sulfates are connected with thyroid efficiency and health. Supplementing with these supplements helps support healthy thyroid function.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin required for the healthy reproduction of all human cells. Vitamin A is used in the thyroid to regulate the hormones and prevent the thyroid from becoming enlarged. Deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked with deterioration in the thyroid gland and cause imbalances in thyroid hormones. In one study, women who took 25,000 IU of vitamin A had increases in serum T3 and decreases in serum TSH levels, indicating that raising vitamin A levels can benefit a sluggish thyroid and restore proper function to the thyroid.

Low levels of vitamin A prevent the healthy production of thyroid hormones. Vitamin A and thyroid hormones are linked as low vitamin A levels lead to sluggish production of thyroid hormones. Vitamin A is also necessary to convert T3 to T4. Without vitamin A, T3 levels remain far too high and the hormones are never converted to T4. This makes it extremely difficult to regulate a thyroid and prevent a sluggish metabolism.

 

Studies on Vitamin A Supplements for Thyroid

There are multiple studies on the benefits of vitamin A for thyroid health.

A study from 2004 published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism studied a group of children with iodine deficiency, vitamin A deficiency, and thyroid deficiency. The children were given iodized salt and vitamin A. A control group was given iodized salt and no vitamins. After the study ended, it was found that all children had improved thyroid function thanks to the iodine in the salt. However, the children who also received vitamin A had even better results, suggesting that vitamin A is necessary for the treatment of a sluggish thyroid.

You can find vitamin A in many foods (look for orange and yellow vegetables), but you can also take a high-quality supplement to boost your thyroid. 

Turmeric

In 2002, a study on rats found that supplementing with turmeric improved thyroid function and reversed hypothyroidism. T3 and T4 levels were balanced, cholesterol levels were reduced, and thyroid size was optimized.

Guggul

Guggul is a gum resin from the myrrh tree. Guggul is another Ayurvedic remedy used for hundreds of years. For the thyroid, guggul has been shown to improve iodine intake, T3 intake, protein intake, and T4 intake. These functions are essential to a healthy thyroid. In one animal study, mice given guggul extracts reversed clinically-induced hypothyroidism and reduced oxidative stress.

Glutathione

Glutathione is an antioxidant that is essential for a healthy thyroid. Glutathione boosts the immune system, dampens the overactive autoimmune response, and protects thyroid tissues. It can also help heal any damaged thyroid tissue.

Indian Ginseng

Indian ginseng is used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine. Indian ginseng is used to reduce stress, calm the mind, and boost thyroid function. In a study on Indian ginseng and thyroid function, it was found that 500 mg per day was able to improve thyroid function and increase T4 levels by up to 24 percent.

Korean Ginseng

Just as Indian ginseng can boost thyroid function, Korean ginseng is also beneficial for boosting a sluggish thyroid. According to one study, supplementing with Korean ginseng was found to improve levels of T3 and T4 hormones. The supplements also improved hand and foot temperature, which is also linked with a sluggish thyroid. Just like for Indian gensing, 500 mg of Korean ginseng taken daily was enough to boost thyroid function without any other changes.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C may be just as important for thyroid health as any other vitamin or supplement. Vitamin C is highly antioxidant, which means it greatly reduces the oxidative stress on the thyroid. The less stress and damage the thyroid has, the better it can function.

One study from 2011 published in the Journal of Thyroid Research found that vitamin C was highly effective in boosting the thyroid health of rats. In the study, rats were divided into four groups given supplements of soy oil, vitmain C, lead and chlorpyrifos, or vitamin C and the lead mixture.

The lead was given to the rats to simulate environmental pollution. The groups of rats who had vitamin C given to them had boosted thyroid health and were able to protect the thyroid against the damage caused by the lead.

Magnesium

Magnesium is also an incredibly important mineral for thyroid health. Most adults are deficient in magnesium, particularly women. Magnesium is found in foods like whole grains and leafy greens, two food groups that many adults do not eat regularly. Because of the scarcity of magnesium in the diet, adults should strongly consider taking a daily magnesium supplement.

Magnesium is beneficial for the thyroid for several reasons. First, taking iodine without magnesium can be dangerous. Magnesium is necessary to balance the absorption of iodine. Magnesium deficiency causes a lack of circulation, a weakness in the heart, and a reduction in thyroid hormone production. Supplementing with magnesium in addition to the supplements listed above can go a long way toward boosting thyroid health.

Other Natural Treatments for a Sluggish Thyroid

Natural thyroid supplements for hypothyroidism are not the only way to boost thyroid function. In fact, there are many other lifestyle changes you can make that will reverse some of the negative effects of a sluggish thyroid and promote a healthy metabolism and thyroid. These lifestyle changes are just as important (maybe more) as taking supplements to reverse a sluggish thyroid. Try the following lifestyle changes to reverse a sluggish thyroid:

Don't Diet

Extreme diets can put your thyroid in shock. Your body can go into starvation mode, which causes your thyroid to slow and your metabolism to hold on to any extra fat and calories it can. If your body thinks it isn't getting enough food, it will cling to any extra fat it can, regardless of whether you are actually starving or not. A healthy diet is an important part of a funcitoning thyroid, but crash diets will make the problem worse.

Instead of crash dieting, slowly cut back on processed foods, unhealthy fats, fried foods, and sugar. Try reducing white flour, processed foods, junk food, and added sugars. Don't many any sudden changes and stick to your plan for at least six months. This will help your body become healthier without throwing your thyroid into shock.

Eat More Protein

Your thyroid uses a lot of protein to function properly. Eating protein from lean meats, nuts, legumes, fish, and beans can help up your protein intake without any adverse side effects.

Eat the Right Fats

Fat is important for a healthy thyroid function. Your thyroid hormones depend on healthy fat to function properly. You need cholesterol (the good kind) for your thyroid to function properly. Look for healthy fats like olive oil, ghee, flax, fish, nuts, full-fat dairy, coconut oil, avocado oil, and palm oil. Avoid vegetable fats and seed oils.  Omega-3 fats, found mainly in fish and nuts, are extremely important for a healthy thyroid. Eat more omega-3 fats found in fish and less omega-6 fats found in vegetables.

Reduce Gluten

Gluten and thyroid tissue is remarkably similar. If you have Hashimoto's disease (an extremely sluggish thyroid due to an autoimmune disorder), your body can mistake the two. If you are not sure if you should be eating gluten at all, consult with a doctor to see if you might have Hashimoto's disease. Even if you don't have this disease, you could benefit from reducing your gluten intake. Try eating two gluten-free meals a day.

Avoid Goitrogens

A goitrogen is a food that can have a negative effect on your thyroid. Goitrogens are found in foods like cabbage, broccoli, kale, radishes, peanuts, strawberries, spinach, turnips, watercress, and soybeans. You don't have to avoid all goitrogens, but it is helpful to keep an eye on how many of these foods you eat regularly if you are trying to boost your thyroid. If you eat more than a couple of foods on this list a week, try cutting back to one or two servings per week. Cooking these foods also drastically reduces their goitrogen levels.

Eat Probiotics

Your gut health can have a big affect on your thyroid function. About 20 percent of your thyroid's function is influenced by gut bacteria. Eating a daily probiotic can benefit your thyroid from the internal level. Consuming a daily probiotic can boos thyroid production and give your body an easier time creating necessary thyroid hormones. 

Relax

Stress is dangerous for your thyroid. Do what you can to consciously relax and avoid excess stress in your life while trying to reverse your sluggish thyroid. Cut back on responsibilities, sleep more, take a daily bath, get a weekly massage, or carve out a few hours per week to just relax. This will help your body keep your stress levels under control which will boost thyroid function.

Treating Hypothyroidism with Natural Supplements

To effectively treat hypothyroidism with these supplements, the best approach is to combine them. This will provide maximal benefits and a speedy resolution of symptoms.

There are various thyroid supplements containing different combinations of these natural remedies and by reading this article you should be able to choose the right one.

Thyax is an example of such thyroid supplements. It contains most of the remedies discussed above and then some other effective ones.

Supplements like Thyax are effective for treating different types of hypothyroidism including those caused by iodine deficiency and autoimmune attack on the thyroid. They are also safe and well tolerated.

 

 

Sources


http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/hypothyroidism/print.html

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/40/1/26

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/selenium/

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