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The Best Supplements For Hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s Disease

Apr 5, 2023 | Blog

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Best Supplements For Hypothyroid (Hashimoto's)

HYPOTHYROIDISM or Hashimoto’s (the main cause of hypothyroidism) is a common thyroid disorder characterized by brain fog, depression, dementia, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, hoarse voice, irregular menstruation, infertility, muscle stiffness and pain plus a wide range of other unpleasant, persistent symptoms. Fortunately, the problem of STUBBORN, UNRESOLVED HYPOTHYROIDISM can be solved if you know the REAL UNDERLYING CAUSES (the major ones being NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY, AUTOIMMNITY and TOXICITY).What are the best SUPPLEMENTS for hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s disease?

An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of THYROID DISEASE and the number continues to rise each year. Levothyroxine, (brand name Synthroid) a SYNTHETIC form of thyroid hormone, is the fourth highest selling drug in the United States and 13 of the top 50 selling drugs are either directly or indirectly related to HYPOTHYROID, or sluggish thyroid. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder (yet up to 60 percent are unaware of their condition).

So, let’s examine the importance of OPTIMAL THYROID FUNCTION and how a safe, natural and science-based approach to detecting and correcting root causes can restore your overall health and make you look, feel and function at your best.

 

CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL APPROACH TO THYROID DISORDERS

 

The thyroid gland produces HORMONES responsible for the basic biology of ALL major body systems.

THYROID HORMONE directly acts on the brain, GI tract, cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, steroid hormones, glucose metabolism, gallbladder and liver, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism, and body temperature.

 

In medicine, if the diagnosis isn’t correct, the treatment will be ineffective—or even cause harm.

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is common in the management of hypothyroidism.

If a person visits a doctor with hypothyroid symptoms and tests positive, she will simply be given REPLACEMENT HORMONES without any further inquiry into the CAUSE of her condition. Even worse, if she has hypothyroid symptoms but her lab tests are normal, she’ll be told that she’s “fine.”

If the patient insists that she’s not fine, she might be sent home with an antidepressant, but no further clue about the CAUSE of her symptoms.

The problem with this approach is that thyroid physiology is complex. The production, conversion, and uptake of thyroid hormone involves several steps.

An error in any of these steps may cause hypothyroid symptoms but may not show up on standard lab tests. Assuming that all cases of hypothyroidism require the same treatment is a flawed approach.

Yet that’s exactly what the standard of care for hypothyroidism does.

CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE is almost always “disease management”. This means using drugs or surgery to suppress symptoms.

In FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE, we focus on addressing the underlying cause of disease without unnecessary drugs or surgery.

Although a prescription for thyroid hormone replacement is sometimes necessary, the first step should always be to determine WHY the thyroid is malfunctioning in the first place.

 

UNDERLYING CAUSES OF THYROID DISORDERS

 

TWO MAJOR CAUSES of thyroid disorders are NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY (primarily iodine, zinc, and/or selenium) and AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.

Iodine is a crucial nutrient for thyroid function and deficiency of iodine can cause both hypothyroidism and GOITER (a swelling of the thyroid gland).

Zinc is required for thyroid hormone and deficiency has been shown to result in hypothyroidism.

Selenium is required to convert T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) into T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone).

The most common cause of thyroid problems is an AUTOIMMUNE disease called HASHIMOTO’S disease.

In HASHIMOTO’S, the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland, destroying its ability to produce hormones and resulting in hypothyroidism.

Some studies suggest that up to 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s disease. GRAVES DISEASE is another autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland, but it causes the thyroid to become enlarged and OVERACTIVE, which results in HYPERTHYROID symptoms.

Many conventionally trained clinicians will simply run a TSH test and call it a day. However, this misses critical information you need about your patient’s thyroid metabolism.  Always order a combination of thyroid markers including TSH, T3, T4, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies.

To confirm if your thyroid issues are due to an autoimmune process, we test for THYROID ANTIBODIES (thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase antibodies). While not all people with Hashimoto’s have hypothyroid symptoms, thyroid antibodies have been found to be a marker for future thyroid disease. It is a crystal ball test of what may occur in the future!

This is an important point:

Hashimoto’s often manifests as a “polyendocrine autoimmune pattern.” This means that in addition to having antibodies to thyroid tissue, it’s not uncommon for Hashimoto’s patients to have antibodies to other tissues or enzymes as well. The most common are transglutaminase (celiac disease), the cerebellum (neurological disorders), intrinsic factor (pernicious anemia), and glutamic acid decarboxylase (anxiety/panic attacks and late onset type 1 diabetes).

Here’s the key thing to understand: if autoimmunity is causing your thyroid problem, then balancing the immune system—and thus slowing or stopping its attack against the thyroid gland—should be a primary goal of treatment.

Replacement thyroid hormone may still be necessary; the destruction of thyroid tissue in Hashimoto’s disease is irreversible, so if it isn’t caught early on, replacement hormone will often be required to normalize thyroid function.

But addressing the immune imbalance is critical to STOPPING FURTHER DESTRUCTION of thyroid tissue, and in cases where Hashimoto’s is caught early enough, it may prevent hypothyroidism from developing in the first place.

Likewise, if iodine and/or selenium deficiency is driving your thyroid problem, then restoring healthy iodine and selenium levels is the most logical first step to take.

Again, this may not eliminate the need for replacement thyroid hormone, but it can often significantly reduce the dose that’s required to normalize thyroid function.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at dietary, lifestyle, and SUPPLEMENT strategies for addressing NUTRITIONAL deficiency and autoimmunity, the two primary causes of thyroid disorders.

 

Diet

There are FOUR main dietary concerns for people with thyroid problems:

  • Certain foods (goitrogens) that can increase the need for iodine or damage the thyroid gland.
  • Dietary intake of iodine and selenium.
  • Consumption of foods that potentially trigger an autoimmune response.
  • Very-low-carb (or VERY low protein) diets, which can decrease thyroid function.

 

GOITROGENS

Goiters are usually caused by a DEFICIENCY OF IODINE or EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS in drugs and the environment that have a goitrogenic (goiter-inducing) effect.

Goitrogenic foods or chemicals have been associated with HYPO and HYPERthyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s and Graves’), and thyroid cancer.

Foods that have been identified as mildly goitrogenic are yuca (often called cassava soy, millet, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and/or kale,.

The main goitrogenic CHEMICALS include percolates (used in jet fuel), oxazolidines (used in paints), amiodarone (used in medication for irregular heart beat), and lithium and benzodiazepines (drugs used for depression and anxiety).

At relatively low concentrations, goitrogens decrease the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. This effect can often be offset by supplementing with iodine.

However, exposure to large amounts of goitrogens impairs the incorporation of iodine into thyroid hormone itself, which means that the thyroid gland can’t properly utilize the iodine. In this case, no amount of supplemental iodine would be able to overcome a large intake of crucifers or exposure to goitrogenic chemicals.

Cooking may reduce the goitrogenic effect, but not entirely. For example, steaming crucifers until they are fully cooked reduces the goitrogens to one-third the original value on average. Boiling for 30 minutes destroys 90 percent of the goitrogens.

 

 

Once again, STRICT AVOIDANCE of these foods is NOT necessary.

 

IODINE

In North America, most people have sufficient blood levels of iodine, but deficiency is not uncommon, and this is especially true among pregnant women. Iodine is present in iodized salt, commercial dairy products (due to the iodine-containing cleansers of milk cans and teats), certain breads (where iodine is occasionally used as a bread dough conditioner), and in seafood and sea vegetables.

On a Paleo diet without grains and dairy, the primary sources of iodine would be iodized salt, seafood, and sea vegetables.

The table below lists the high iodine foods.

  • Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Hijiki
  • Arame

As you can see, the highest source of iodine by far is SEAWEED.

 

SELENIUM

Selenium is a trace element naturally present in some foods and also available as a dietary supplement. It plays critical roles in thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, reproduction, and protection against oxidative damage and infection.

Fish such as tuna, halibut and sardines are some of the best sources of selenium in the diet. A combination of seafood, along with Brazil nuts should be sufficient to reach the recommended target of 200 mcg per day.

 

FOODS THAT MAY TRIGGER AN IMMUNE RESPONSE

Certain foods like nightshade vegetables, eggs, and dairy products may worsen autoimmune disease. These foods are most likely to be problematic in those with thyroid disorders caused by Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.

In FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE we recommend an AUTOIMMUNE PALEO diet for people with autoimmune thyroiditis. This diet excludes suspicious foods for 30 days and then adds them back in, one by one, to determine if they’re causing a problem.

 

THE “AUTOIMMUNE PALEO DIET”

The autoimmune Paleo diet is simply the 30-Day Paleo Diet, with the following additional foods removed completely:

  • Eggs (both whites and yolks)
  • Nightshades: potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, pimentos, paprika, and cayenne pepper (but not black pepper)
  • Dairy products (with the exception of ghee)

These are all healthy foods when well tolerated but may provoke or perpetuate inflammation in those with autoimmune disease.

At the end of the 30-day period, you can add eggs (start with yolks only to begin with, since some people are only sensitive to the whites), nightshades (do them one at a time because most people aren’t sensitive to all of them equally), then dairy products (also one at a time).

 

GRAINS

Soaked or fermented grains may be a viable option in moderation if they are well tolerated. However, most patients with autoimmune disease do better when they avoid grains entirely. This is particularly true for wheat, which contains gluten and other proteins shown to provoke an inflammatory response.

 

INDUSTRIAL SEED OILS

Industrial seed oils (corn, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, etc.) are easily oxidized and promote INFLAMMATION when consumed in excess. Minimize intake of these oils by avoiding processed and refined foods (including TAKE OUT and restaurants).

VERY-LOW-CARB OR LOW-PROTEIN DIETS

Both carbohydrates and protein promote the release of INSULIN, and insulin is required for proper thyroid hormone metabolism. More specifically, insulin is needed for the conversion of T4 into T3.

T4 is the primary thyroid hormone secreted by the thyroid gland. However, T4 must be CONVERTED into T3 for optimal thyroid function to occur. If insulin levels are chronically low due to a VERY LOW CARB or low-protein diet, then the conversion of T4 to T3 may be reduced and thyroid function may suffer.

Of course, for a patient with high blood sugar who is overweight, he or she may do better with a low carbohydrate intake.

 

LIFESTYLE – MANAGE STRESS

The ADRENALS are part of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the stress response and sleep–wake cycles.

Under stress, the HPA axis is responsible for CORTISOL, adrenaline (epinephrine), and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) release from the adrenal glands. Adrenal stress, which may appear as HIGH OR LOW CORTISOL, can drag down thyroid function, and thyroid disease can put a strain on the adrenal glands.

CHRONIC STRESS impairs thyroid function in at least five ways:

  • Hypothalamus and the pituitary gland suffer. These glands are responsible for telling the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone, so anything that affects them will also affect thyroid function.
  • It reduces the CONVERSION of T4 to T3. As I mentioned above, most of the thyroid hormone 7 produced by the thyroid gland is in the relatively inactive T4 form and must be converted into the more active T3 for optimal thyroid function to occur.
  • It promotes AUTOIMMUNITY by weakening immune barriers. The gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and blood–brain barrier are the primary immune barriers in the body. Stress weakens these barriers, weakens the immune system in general, and exacerbates autoimmune disease.
  • It causes thyroid hormone RESISTANCE. In order for thyroid hormone to have a physiological effect, it must first activate receptors on cells. Stress—via its tendency to provoke inflammation—has been shown to reduce thyroid receptor site sensitivity.
  • It causes hormone imbalances. Stress can raise cortisol levels, and prolonged elevations of cortisol decrease the amount of free, active thyroid hormone that is available to act on cells and tissues.

FIX THE GUT

There’s a strong—but little known—connection between gut health and thyroid function. 70 to 80 percent of the immune cells in the body reside in the gut, and intestinal bacteria assist in the conversion of T4 to T3.

INFLAMMATION in the gut can increase cortisol levels, and high cortisol also reduces the conversion of T4 to T3. Low stomach acid, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and chronic parasitic, fungal, or bacterial infections in the gut all contribute to leaky gut and INFLAMMATION, both of which in turn can trigger or exacerbate autoimmune thyroid disease.

INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY, or leaky gut, can be an underlying cause of autoimmune thyroiditis. Essentially, a breach in the gut barrier exposes the bloodstream to harmful foreign molecules. The immune system reacts with an inflammatory response, and this can eventually lead to a mistaken immune attack on other body tissues, like the thyroid gland.

Along with stress management, HEALING THE GUT is KEY for those with thyroid disorders!

 

GET SOME SUN

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light may help put the brakes on an overactive immune system. The more sunlight people get the lower the risk that they will develop multiple sclerosis. Evidence for benefit from sunlight is strong for other autoimmune diseases as well, such as type 1 diabetes.

Finally, EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT may improve mood through its effects on brain chemicals like serotonin. It may also help DNA repair and reduce skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, and vitiligo.

 

THE BEST SUPPLEMENTS FOR HYPOTHYROIDISM

IODINE AND SELENIUM

Selenium supplementation has been shown to benefit people with autoimmune thyroid conditions.

In general, its best to meet selenium needs from food.

However, therapeutic supplementation of selenium at a dose of 200 mcg per day for short time periods (i.e., a few months) has been shown to be safe, as long as background intake of selenium in the diet isn’t excessive.

VITAMIN D

Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is crucial for proper thyroid function. Vitamin D plays an important role in balancing and regulating the immune system, which is especially important for those with autoimmune thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s and Graves’. It’s no surprise that vitamin D deficiency has been specifically associated with autoimmune thyroid disease and that vitamin D supplementation has been shown to benefit autoimmune thyroid conditions.

Vitamin D dosage depends on many factors, including blood levels of 25- hydroxyvitamin D (25D), sun exposure, diet, and overall health status.

I recommend taking one teaspoon per day of COD LIVER OIL (I recommend Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil) to ensure adequate vitamin D (and vitamin A) intake. Patients can also eat vitamin D-rich foods such as herring, duck eggs, bluefin tuna, trout, eel, mackerel, sardines, chicken eggs, beef liver, and pork.

 

GLUTATHIONE SUPPORT

Glutathione is the master antioxidant in the body. It protects against oxidative damage, and like vitamin D, it helps to balance and regulate the immune system. Glutathione has been shown to be low in patients with Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease, and improving glutathione (with food or supplements) helps. Glutathione levels can be improved through diet, exercise, and SUPPLEMENTATION. Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and raw (not pasteurized) dairy products are good sources of glutathione in the diet.

  • Protein supports glutathione production (and the recycling of glutathione for re-use within the cell).
  • Collagen-rich animal parts (skin, cartilage, and bone) contain glycine, which is needed for glutathione synthesis and recycling.
  • Polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries, peaches, pears, pomegranates, purple sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, cabbage, spinach) stimulate the production of glutathione.
  • Selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, ocean fish, and poultry.

 

ZINC

Zinc is required for thyroid hormone synthesis, and low zinc status reduces the conversion of T4 to T3.

 

ASHWAGANDHA

Ashwagandha is an herb with a long history of use in India. It has a stimulatory effect on both T4 and T3 hormone, protects against oxidative damage, and reduces the impact of chronic stress.

 

CURCUMIN

Curcumin, the active ingredient in TURMERIC, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, helpful in autoimmune thyroid disease.

 

THYROID GLANDULARS

Thyroid glandulars (a.k.a. “desiccated thyroid”) are a nonprescription form of thyroid hormone replacement categorized as a whole-food dietary supplement by the FDA. They are simply thyroid glands (usually from pigs or cows) that have been freeze-dried and powdered and can be taken as capsules or tablets.

 

L-CARNITINE

L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps the body turn fat into usable energy. However, at higher doses it inhibits the entry of thyroid hormones into the cell, which can be helpful in cases of hyperthyroidism. This treatment is only appropriate for patients with HYPERTHYROIDISM

 

There Is Hope

Persistent, unresolved thyroid problems can be successfully addressed by addressing the ROOT CAUSES of low thyroid, the most common (but routinely ignored) being NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES and an AUTOIMMUNE attack on your own thyroid.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (AUTOIMMUNE THYROID) can appear to be an unsolvable disease but it is a stubborn puzzle that CAN be solved.

Most conventional doctors are more interested in MANAGING Hashimoto’s with thyroid medication than they are digging deep to try and reverse it by addressing WHY the thyroid is being attacked by your own IMMUNE SYSTEM.

While it may not be possible to completely cure any AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE, there are things that you can do to put it into remission by SIGNIFICANTLY calming down an out-of-control IMMUNE SYSTEM.

It starts by addressing ROOT CAUSES.

Changing up your DIET (to solve NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES), taking WHOLE FOOD (not SYNTHETIC) SUPPLEMENTS, checking for things like GLUTEN SENSITIVITY as well as other bacterial or viral INFECTIONS and OPTIMIZING your body’s own DETOXIFICATION systems are the best way to help you look and feel your best.

 

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