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Natural supplements & multivitamins for hypothyroidism

By Dr. Sharon Stills, NMD

natural supplements for hypothyroidism

If you are struggling with symptoms of low thyroid – fatigue and low energy, weight gain, brain fog, thinning hair, cold sensitivity and skin changes – it’s a warning sign from your body that your thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormones for normal function, or isn’t doing a good job using the hormones it does produce. 

Experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism can also be a telltale sign that you are not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals your thyroid needs for healthy function. Optimizing intake of key nutrients helps to correct deficiencies and improve thyroid hormone production and function – providing you with thyroid symptom relief. 

Natural supplements & multivitamins for low thyroid symptom relief: 

  • Iodine 
  • Selenium 
  • Zinc 
  • Iron
  • Hops 
  • B vitamins
  • Ashwagandha
  • Coleus forskohlii 
  • Bacopa monnieri 
  • Probiotics

Compared to medication, nourishing the thyroid with natural compounds helps to resolve deeper issues driving thyroid dysfunction so that normal thyroid function can resume and symptoms disappear. Medication provides thyroid hormone replacement, but does not correct the underlying issues that resulted in impaired hormone levels in the first place.   

Approaching hypothyroidism with supplements, in addition to lifestyle changes, often helps women avoid the need for thyroid medication in the future. Here’s more about how each nutrient supports thyroid health

Iodine for hypothyroidism

The mineral iodine is an essential ingredient needed by the body to produce thyroid hormones. These hormones – known as T4 (thyroxine) and the more active T3 (triiodothyronine) – ensure healthy signaling between your thyroid, brain and body to regulate your energy, weight, cell metabolism and much more. 

Food sources of iodine include:

Iodine and other natural supplements for hypothyroidism

Iodine is metabolized into its active form – iodide – in the gut. You need about 150 mcg (micrograms) of iodine daily to maintain adequate levels of iodide. The problem with relying on diet alone for iodine intake is that many women just aren’t getting enough on a daily basis. Even iodized salt is not as high in iodine as you may think.

Iodine deficiency has a direct link to risk for thyroid diseases. If you are worried that you are deficient, your health care provider can help you with testing your iodine levels. See the infographic below for a simple iodine deficiency test you can do on your own.

A simple test for iodine deficiency you can do at home.

However remote, there is danger in getting too much iodine. According to a 2014 study in the journal Endocrinology and Metabolism, taking in excessive amounts of iodine can increase risk for hypothyroidism and autoimmune-related Hashimoto’s disease. The safe upper limit of iodine intake is approximately 1,100 mcg daily.  

Selenium for hypothyroidism

The trace mineral selenium supports the body’s ability to create and use thyroid hormones. Selenium is converted in the body into compounds called seleno-proteins. Functions of these proteins include: 

  • Regulating thyroid hormone synthesis.
  • Supporting the conversion of thyroid hormonesT4 to bioactive T3.
  • Protecting thyroid tissues from oxidative stress.

Selenium is also used to make key enzymes that help to maintain appropriate T3 levels in the thyroid, liver, kidney and brain cells. Another selenium-assisted enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, helps to limit T4 when its levels get too high. In people with hypothyroidism, a 2018 study in the journal Diagnostics found that selenium reduces levels of an antibody known to interfere with thyroid hormone production.

Foods that provide selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts 
  • Seafood (tuna, shrimp, salmon, sardines, scallops) 
  • Meat: lamb, chicken, beef, turkey 
  • Eggs 
  • Shitake mushrooms

Selenium and other natural supplements for hypothyroidism

The recommended daily intake for selenium is 200 mcg. Many people with low thyroid often don’t get enough of the mineral. Eating two Brazil nuts a day can give you close to 200 mcg, or you can take a supplement for targeted thyroid support. The safe upper limit of selenium is 400 mcg. Common symptoms of getting too much selenium are garlic breath, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea.

Zinc for hypothyroidism

Like selenium, the mineral zinc is needed for thyroid hormone production and the conversion of T4 to T3. Researchers have found a link between adequate zinc blood serum levels and levels of available T3. Zinc may also help improve thyroid function in women with Hashimoto’s disease and overweight and obese women with low thyroid. A deficiency in the mineral can result in hypothyroidism.

Food sources of zinc include: 

  • Oysters 
  • Beef 
  • Eggs 
  • Dairy products

Legumes, nuts and whole grains contain zinc, but bioavailability of zinc is lower than in animal foods because these plant-based foods contain phytates that block absorption. For adult women, the recommended daily intake of zinc is 8 mg. Women at risk for zinc deficiency include vegans and women with gastrointestinal disorders.

Iron for hypothyroidism

Research shows a link between iron-deficiency anemia and decreased thyroid function. Low iron can prevent iodine from working effectively and also reduce the efficiency of zinc, thus interfering with T4 to T3 conversion and contributing to lower T3 levels. Some researchers have found that when people with iron-deficiency anemia and hypothyroidism improve their iron levels, that may be all that is needed to restore healthy thyroid function.

Food sources of iron include: 

  • Red meat 
  • Seafood 
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dried apricots

Women generally need 18 mg of iron per day. It’s possible to get too much iron, so even if you have iron-deficiency anemia, be sure to get your levels tested to understand how best to supplement.

Vitamin B12 for hypothyroidism

The B vitamin complex, especially Vitamin B12, supports thyroid function and thyroid hormone regulation. In one study, approximately 40 percent of 116 participants with hypothyroidism were also found to be deficient in Vitamin B12. When administered B12, this group showed improvement in their low thyroid symptoms. Research also suggests that Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to Hashimoto's disease, with higher thyroid antibodies (a marker of Hashimoto's) associated with lower vitamin B12 levels.

Foods that are good sources of Vitamin B12 include:

  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products 
  • Fortified cereals and nutritional yeasts

The recommended daily intake for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for most adults. There is no upper limit set for Vitamin B12, as no toxic level has been found. Because Vitamin B12 primarily comes from animal sources, vegans may be at higher risk for deficiency.

Hops for hypothyroidism

Hops are the green cone-shaped flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant. Yes, these are the same hops used in brewing beer. However, hops can play a surprising role in your thyroid health. Specifically, flavonoid molecules in hops help thyroid hormones work better in the body. A specific flavonoid in hops – xanthohumol – helps iodide uptake by thyroid cells, boosting thyroid hormone production. Hops also have anti-inflammatory properties that protect thyroid tissue from inflammation and oxidative stress. 

There is no RDA for hops, but researchers have found that up to 300 mg daily is safe. Yes, you can get hops from drinking beer, but beer is also brewed with wheat – and gluten in the wheat can harm thyroid function, especially if you have a known gluten sensitivity. Your best bet is to stick with hops in supplement form.

Ashwagandha for hypothyroidism

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries as a natural health remedy, but in more recent years has received attention from medical researchers for its promising effects on thyroid health. According to preliminary studies, ashwagandha may improve thyroid levels in those with subclinical hypothyroidism. In one study, participants received a treatment of 600 mg of ashwagandha root daily for eight weeks. At the end of the treatment, serum TSH and T4 levels were significantly improved in the ashwagandha group compared to the placebo group. As researchers noted, “Ashwagandha treatment effectively normalized the serum thyroid indices during the 8-week treatment period in a significant manner.”

Another study from 2014 found that ashwagandha improved thyroid hormone levels and reduced thyroid symptoms in patients with both bipolar disorder and hypothyroidism. Researchers speculate that ashwagandha calms overactive stress hormones that can interfere with thyroid hormone production.

One caveat about ashwagandha: consult your doctor if you know or suspect that you may have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) as excessive use of the herb may worsen hyperthyroid symptoms. 

Coleus forskohlii for hypothyroidism  

Coleus forskohlii is a plant native to India used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat various diseases including underactive thyroid. Studies about the herb are encouraging. In the body, Coleus forskohlii acts as an adaptogen by encouraging production of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones when levels are too low. Coleus forskohlii also helps to increase basal (baseline) metabolism, helping the body to burn more calories by increasing lipolysis. This is a significant benefit for women experiencing low thyroid weight gain. 

Naturopathic doctors generally recommend between 100-200mg a day of  Coleus forskohlii when low thyroid symptoms appear. Coleus forskohlii is often used in combination with other helpful herbs and vitamins/minerals.

Bacopa monnieri for hypothyroidism 

Bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi, is another traditional Ayurvedic herb used to treat low thyroid. Animal studies have found that Bacopa increased thyroid hormone production by as much as 41 percent when taken daily. In this study, mice were given a 200 mg dose of the herb. Bacopa is often used in combination with other herbs. For some people, Bacopa may cause side effects including nausea and diarrhea. T-Balance Plus, our exclusive formula for low thyroid support contains Bacopa, Coleus, along with other beneficial nutrients.

T-Balance Plus

More supplements for hypothyroidism

Research is beginning to turn up other natural compounds that are helpful treatments for low thyroid. These include: 

L-theanine

High levels of stress hormones can harm the thyroid. The amino acid L-theanine helps to reduce stress response activity in the body, balancing stress hormones and helping to protect thyroid function.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

NAC is used by the body to build antioxidants, which in turn help to support improved thyroid function. 

Myo-inositol

This member of the B-complex vitamin group has been clinically shown to increase T4 levels when used in combination with selenium. It may be especially helpful for women with subclinical hypothyroidism.

Probiotics

Gut health and thyroid health are connected. Good gut health is important for the conversion of iodine into iodide as well as absorption of other vitamins, minerals and herbs for thyroid health. Of special interest to those who take thyroid medication, researchers found that taking a probiotic helped with thyroid medication absorption to such a great degree that many were able to lower their thyroid medication dose (upon the advice of their doctor). For best results, take a high quality probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.

Thyroid supplement side effects     

In general, pregnant and lactating women should check with their health care provider before taking any supplement. When taking supplements or thyroid medication, monitor yourself for side effects and let your health care provider know anything that may be of concern. The most common side effects from supplementation are GI-related distress including nausea and diarrhea. 

If you have not had thyroid testing, but suspect you have thyroid dysfunction, this can be an important first step towards understanding your specific supplement needs. Ask your doctor to test free T4 and T3 levels, not just TSH levels as T4 and especially T3 can show you how well your body is converting and utilizing thyroid hormones. 

To ensure that you are getting the correct amount of nutrients – not too much and not too little – look for a high quality multi-nutrient supplement formulated for low thyroid support. Giving your thyroid a natural boost and finding relief from low thyroid symptoms can take time as your thyroid begins to repair itself. As healthy thyroid function returns, you may notice that you are losing weight, your energy levels are returning, your hair is growing back and you have a restored feeling of good health and vitality. 

  

Published: August 18, 2022

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