thyroid supplements

What Vitamins Are Good for Thyroid Problems?

Using nutrition to boost overall thyroid health is a perfect place to start. A diet with a variety of nutritious foods can support all aspects of thyroid and hormonal health. Leafy green vegetables, beets, carrots, colourful fruits such as berries, nuts, seeds and eggs should be part of daily routines. Iodine comes from the sea naturally and helps support the building of thyroid hormones. Seafood, fish, sea vegetables, seaweed and sea salt are the highest foods with respect to iodine content. Nutrients such as selenium, magnesium, Vitamin A, zinc, Vitamin B12 and B Complex along with the amino acid tyrosine support a healthy thyroid.

Are Vitamins Helpful for the Thyroid?

Yes. Providing the building blocks for thyroid hormone production and conversion will help flood the gland with nutrients to support proper hormone building and transport. If the thyroid gland is able to produce enough thyroxine (T4), it will use the nutrients from diet and supplementation to do so. Thyroxine is converted into triiodothyronine (T3) which is a highly active hormone, responsible for metabolism. Each step in the process of building, transporting and activation is very important and requires different nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients derived from foods or supplementation.

Can you take vitamins if you have thyroid conditions?

Yes. However, it is always advisable to seek medical advice before starting any supplement regime. Some vitamins and minerals might not be indicated based on an individual’s thyroid condition or symptoms. Iodine for example is very important but can be dangerous depending on the quantity.

Vitamins & Supplements As An Alternative Treatment

Sometimes nutrition and supplementation can be the only treatment required for underactive and overactive thyroid conditions. Proper evaluation of laboratory tests and symptoms will enable a trained medical practitioner to advise on medical interventions or supplementation of nutrients. In cases of subclinical hypothyroidism, prescriptions can at times be avoided with relief of fatigue, weight gain, depression, hair loss and feeling cold. Individuals with auto-immune diseases of the thyroid such as Grave’s and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can often work on the inflammatory aspects and reduce severity of symptoms without prescription drugs.

Can You Start Taking Vitamin Supplements Without Consulting a Doctor?

No. Even simply instructing someone to drink 2-3 litres of water per day without knowing a full health history can be dangerous if kidney disease is present.

Increasing your nutrient content through diet is an excellent way to start improving thyroid health overall. Leafy green vegetables, colourful fruits and vegetables, high quality protein and plant-based healthy fats should be the dietary focus. Taking specific nutrients in supplement form should be discussed with a knowledgeable practitioner.

Best Vitamins & Supplements for Thyroid Health

Once a thyroid condition has been identified, dietary focus should be with a whole-foods approach. This could mean following the most studied diet, the Mediterranean Diet or a plant-based approach depending on preference. The most common nutrients required for thyroid hormone production and utilization are iodine, selenium, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, iron and the amino acid tyrosine.

Iodine & Tyrosine

The Standard American (and Canadian) Diet includes more iodine through salt than needed for a healthy thyroid. However, when we try to eat more cleanly, it often involves cutting out salty foods overall. Less processed and more nutritious food is important, but it can lead to an iodine deficiency which lowers thyroid hormone production (aka good energy, mood, weight…). Foods from the sea are the most iodine-dense options that also fit the healthy model of eating. Fish, seafood and sea vegetables or seaweed are excellent but think about buying a Kelp shaker that allows you to sprinkle kelp on salads, vegetable dishes and soup.

The first thyroid hormone produced (called thyroxine) in the thyroid requires four iodine molecules and the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, beans, soy, peanuts, and produce like bananas and even avocados. Assuming that digestion is functioning well enough to absorb these nutrients, dietary tyrosine is all that is required. Supplementation may be useful if bloating, gas and inconsistent bowel movements limit absorption.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Enlarged thyroid
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Cold body temperature

B Vitamins

Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin, Biotin, Pyridoxine, Pantothenic acid, folic acid and methyl cobalamin make up the B vitamin family and are also known as B1,2,3,5,6,7,9,12. Each type has a role in metabolism, energy production, nervous system function, detoxification and multiple other functions. Food sources are varied and most diets include a variety of these vitamins such as eggs, vegetables, grains, fish and meat. B Complex supplements are one of the most commonly prescribed nutraceuticals due the wide-spread health benefits, including thyroid health.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Low energy
  • Exhaustion after exercise
  • PMS
  • Low mood
  • Weight gain
  • Poor skin quality
  • Hair loss

Magnesium

Magnesium is estimated to be a part of over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Yet, about half the population is deficient in this ultra-important nutrient due to difficulties absorbing in the digestive tract. It is the second most abundant nutrient after phosphorus in the body, 60% is stored in bone, 25% in muscle and the rest in fluids and soft tissue.

Magnesium helps muscles relax after a contraction, lowers blood pressure, lowers stress and anxiety. It also helps to decrease menstrual cramps, reduce headaches and promotes deeper sleep. Magnesium plays a role in the biochemistry of thyroid hormones as well as participating in energy production in the mitochondria. Obviously, magnesium is very important in the body!

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Muscle tightness and cramping
  • Muscle twitching
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual cramps
  • PMS
  • High blood pressure

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is most notably required for vision, immune protection against viruses, healthy and clear skin and bone growth and development. The complicated nature of absorbing and converting Vitamin A into active forms along with the safety and risk of overdosing makes this vitamin one to ask for medical advice first before taking. In certain supplemental forms, it is unsafe for pregnancy. Food sources include yellow/orange foods such as carrots, sweet potato, squash and animal products like organ meats, eggs and dairy. Vitamin A can be used to treat acne, heavy periods, wound healing, viral infections, skin conditions, eye disorders and cervical abnormalities. It also has a role in thyroid hormone metabolism.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Low immune function
  • Eye conditions
  • Acne
  • Low hormone levels
  • Psoriasis
  • Cervical dysplasia

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is the nutrient that impacts the most amount of systems in the body. Traditionally synthesized in the body by sunshine, it is also found in small amounts naturally in fish, and fortified into milk or alternative dairy products. Vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone, meaning that it acts to influence multiple other hormones in the body. It has a role in immune health, brain and mood, inflammation, bone formation and maintenance, cancer prevention and skin condition healing. Living in the northern hemisphere predisposes everyone to Vitamin D deficiency. A minimum of 2000 IUS should be supplemented daily but most individuals require more. Testing blood levels of Vitamin D will help to determine an individual’s needs. Vitamin D can help to lower the auto-immune aspects of thyroid diseases such as Grave’s and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Energy
  • Frequent illness
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Inflammation
  • Joint pain
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Depression

Zinc

In order to make thyroid hormone, a small amount of zinc is needed. This mineral is also important for all cells to grow, especially the skin, and aids the immune system, testosterone production and insulin function. Did you know that sometimes a lack of the sense of taste can be due to zinc deficiency? One of the most nutritious ways to include high zinc foods in your diet is to eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The highest source of zinc is found in oysters, especially ones form the East Coast (5 times as much as those from the Pacific ocean!). Our nails will show signs of zinc deficiency – horizontal indents or lines, hangnails, white spots and poor growth can often correlate with low levels.

What you need to know about zinc

The mineral zinc is an important part of human nutrition and chances are you know someone who is currently supplementing with it. Zinc is required for vision, cell growth, reproductive health such as synthesis of testosterone, insulin balance, immune and skin health to name a few. Zinc is stored in muscles, the spleen, bone marrow and the liver. Severe zinc deficiencies can cause delayed growth in children, a loss or decrease of smell or taste, swollen tongue, eczema and even hair loss. Clinical signs of zinc deficiency are observed with nail imperfections – white spots, hangnails, inflammation around the nail bed and vertical ridges or lines that can create a bumpy surface.

In practice, zinc supplementation is used to treat many different conditions. A short list includes:

  • auto-immune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s etc)
  • acne, eczema, skin damage and post-surgery scar tissue
  • poor immune health
  • reproductive health – prostate conditions, infertility
  • eye health (cataracts, macular degeneration)
  • lack of taste or smell

The recommended daily allowance is 15mg per day, but typical supplementation is between 30-50mg per day. Long term (3 months or more) consumption of 30mg or more requires a small amount of copper to also be consumed. Minerals often compete for absorption, thus copper can become too low. A typical ratio of Zinc:Copper is 15mg:2mg or 30mg:2mg. Good quality supplements will often have a combination product to ensure balance. Of note, zinc doses above 20mg can sometimes cause nausea so taking with a big meal or just before bed can help.

There are many excellent food sources of zinc that can be enjoyed. The highest source is Eastern Oysters with around 100mg per 1/2 cup serving! If you aren’t an oyster lover, other foods include turkey (dark meat), Swiss chard, oats, pumpkin seeds, Swiss cheese and beef. It is important to note that supplemental doses of iron and calcium will lower the amount of zinc absorbed, so try to ensure taking these supplements at different times. If supplementing with high amounts of iron to correct anemia, it may also be recommended to take zinc to prevent deficiency. Some iron supplements will contain small amounts of zinc for balance.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Skin infections
  • Frequent illness
  • Poor sense of smell or taste
  • Infertility
  • Low libido
  • Low energy
  • Inflammation
  • Acne

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is primarily sourced from animal-based foods. Se vegetables and greens such as chlorella provide plant-based B12 but in much lower amounts. Vitamin B12 has many functions including detoxification, and red blood cell production. Deficiencies can result in anemia, skin conditions, fatigue, inflammation, insomnia, depression and even heart diseases. Many people have genetic difficulties processing or using B12 effectively and require supplementation in various forms or even injection therapy. Vitamin B12 is easily measured by blood and genetic testing can be done to determine any genetic variants involving B12.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Numbness and tingling in limbs
  • Insomnia
  • Skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis
  • Nerve pain such as sciatica
  • Migraines

Selenium

This mineral is very important to make the most active form of thyroid hormone. It also helps to regulate immune function and is used in a number of biochemical processes in our bodies such as detoxification. Selenium content in food varies greatly, but Brazil nuts are highly packed and it only takes a couple of them to reach the daily selenium requirements. Other options are snapper, halibut, salmon, scallops, clams and oysters for the seafood lovers as well as Swiss chard and sunflower seeds.

Study

In the International Journal of Endocrinology June 2020 (PMID: 32676110 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32676110/), a dose of 200mcg of selenium were given to 40 patients with normal thyroid function for 3 months. Blood markers were used before and after. The anti-thyroperoxidase antibody had a significant decrease in levels after treatment.

Is Selenium Good for Thyroid?

In other words: We all make some level of antibodies against aspects of our thyroids. This is normal and can be thought of as the body dealing with dysfunctional or old proteins that need to be recycled. When antibody levels are above a threshold and a person exhibits thyroid-related symptoms, Hashimoto’s is diagnosed. This study showed that the most common antibody found in Hashimoto’s can be lowered using the mineral selenium.

Of note: Overdosing or taking too much selenium can cause a person to have hypothyroid symptoms, which is interesting because deficiency does too. Ideally, testing selenium levels using a red blood cell analysis can be used prior to supplementing.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Dry hair, skin
  • Wound healing
  • Inflammation
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Cold body temperature
  • Hair loss
  • Memory and concentration decline
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain

Iron

Iron is one of the most tested nutrients. Typical symptoms include fatigue and hair loss but it can be much more involved. Iron is best measured int the blood by the value ferritin which is the stored form. Ferritin levels should be at least 100 units, however many individuals have difficulties achieving this without supplementation. Iron can be dangerous if over supplemented, thus careful monitoring with blood work and evaluation by a trained medical professional is advised. Food sources include animal products, but leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds and lentils are iron-packed too.

Iron has an integral role with the thyroid hormonal system in that the transportation mechanisms within the cells depend on iron. Sometimes iron deficiency is the cause of hypothyroidism and it can be difficult to determine this without a careful evaluation of symptoms and labs. Oral use of iron is the best place to start when low, however intravenous iron infusions can correct deficiencies in one treatment. This service is provided privately to patients with low ferritin levels or those who meet the criteria and results in alleviation of iron-deficiency symptoms within a matter of weeks.

Helps With These Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Impaired mental ability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Heavy menstrual periods

Benefits of Using Vitamins & Supplements for Thyroid Issues

Hypothyroidism is sometimes due to the cells not being able to receive enough hormones because there are difficulties with transportation.

In this case, prescription medications may not be the answer, and nutrients such as iron can upregulate the fluid movement of hormones and responses within the cell. Low iron is often the cause for hypothyroidism and it can be difficult to differentiate the difference between symptoms of low iron and symptoms of low thyroid. Even thyroid lab results can be confusing when iron is low.

Vitamin D has a strong impact on the immune system. Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are both auto-immune conditions that affect the thyroid. The majority of patients with these conditions are deficient in Vitamin D when tested. High doses of Vitamin D can be prescribed to reverse deficiencies at a faster rate than by diet alone.

Drawbacks of Using Vitamins & Supplements for Thyroid Issues

Sometimes, prescription hormonal therapy of Synthroid, Cytomel or Desiccated thyroid is required. When the thyroid gland can no longer produce enough thyroxine to support the proper metabolic rate, medication is required. Often supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbs can be used in conjunction with thyroid prescriptions, but it is important to check with your practitioner before starting. Just like medications, supplements can have side effects and adverse reactions.