Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, affects approximately 4.6% of Americans ages 12 and older, or approximately five out of every 100 people.
It is also much more likely to affect women and those over the age of 60.1
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck, does not produce enough hormones for the body to properly function. In many cases, a hypoactive thyroid tends to be mild and develops very slowly. As a result, many people may not realize that their thyroid hormone levels are low. In other cases, they may be looking for an alternative to standard drug treatments, which may have undesirable side effects such as rapid heart rate, insomnia, and nervousness.
This is why it is important to know about nutritional supplements that support the thyroid and hypothyroidism, as well as the best vitamin and nutritional supplements to help boost your patients’ thyroid hormone levels.
What is hypothyroidism?
The thyroid produces hormones that are vital for controlling metabolism, or how the body uses energy. If somebody has a slow metabolism because their thyroid is not producing enough hormones to efficiently use the energy from food that is consumed, they may experience fatigue, weight gain, and joint and muscle pain.1 Other symptoms may include:
- puffy face
- difficulty tolerating cold
- dry skin and dry thinning hair
- heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- slow heart rate
It is important to remember that no two people will necessarily have the same set of symptoms, so you may wish to consider including questions about these symptoms on your medical history intake forms.
According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, proper iodine intake is important for the body to create the proper amount of thyroid hormone.2 It recommends a daily intake of 150 mg for most adults. Most of this can come from food sources, including milk, cheese, poultry, eggs, and kelp and other seaweeds.
2. Vitamin B
A 2016 article in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the research on vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with hypoactive thyroids to look for patterns of similarities among the results.3 The researchers concluded that while vitamin B12 deficiency screening may not necessarily be necessary for all patients with hypothyroidism, it is recommended for those who have pernicious anemia or atrophic gastritis.
Both of these autoimmune disorders are associated with malabsorption of vitamin B12, so may be associated with hypothyroidism.3 Whole grains, legumes, nuts, milk, yogurt, meat, fish, eggs, seeds, and dark leafy greens such as spinach are all excellent sources for the full spectrum of B vitamins.
3. Vitamin D
There has been recent research showing that low levels of vitamin D can be associated with hypothyroidism. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Health Sciences compared vitamin D levels between 30 subjects with hypothyroidism (levels below 20 ng/ml) and 30 healthy subjects.4
The researchers found that those subjects with hypothyroidism had both decreased vitamin D and calcium levels compared to controls.
Furthermore, female subjects with hypothyroidism had lower levels than their male counterparts. Based on this, the researchers recommended both screening for vitamin D deficiency and offering vitamin D supplements to patients with hypothyroidism.4
Main food sources for vitamin D include fortified milk, yogurt and orange juice, but these may not provide high enough levels, so it may be best to recommend vitamin supplements.
If your patients are already taking thyroid medication, it is vital that they discuss with their regular doctor or endocrinology specialist how nutritional supplements may be added into their treatment plans. For your patients who may only have slightly low thyroid levels and are not taking medication, nutritional supplements alone may help boost their metabolism.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism. Accessed March 30, 2019.
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Iodine. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/#h2 Updated Sept.26, 2018. Accessed March 30, 2019.
Collins AB, Pawlak R. Prevalence of vitamin B-12 deficiency among patients with thyroid dysfunction. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;25(2):221-226.
Mackawy AM, Al-Ayed BM, Al-Rashidi BM. Vitamin D deficiency and its association with thyroid disease. International Journal of Health Sciences (Qassim). 2013;7(3):267-275.