Finding the right nutritional supplements to support your thyroid can be a challenge. The concern isn’t a lack of products — quite the opposite. If you search for thyroid supplements, you’ll be inundated with dozens of companies marketing all sorts of pills and potions alleged to support the thyroid. In the sea of brands, options, promises, and claims, how do you know what to choose?
Read the Nutrition Label
Always read the ingredients. Like food, the law requires supplements to have a nutrition label; it's the first thing you should check. The section under “Supplement Facts” lists the serving size and active ingredients. The active ingredients are the components that provide the most benefits. Inactive ingredients are listed under “Other Ingredients.”
Just because the label says "other" or "inactive" doesn't mean those ingredients should be ignored. As they say, “The devil is in the details.” Some of them are harmless and necessary. Liquid supplements frequently contain water, and pills might list the capsule shell itself. Other "other ingredients" aren't quite so inert. Potentially unhealthy additives include fillers, binders, chemical dyes, and artificial flavors. Generally speaking, the fewer “other ingredients” the better. Some supplements have dozens. Whenever I see more than three, I approach with caution.
The Wrong Kinds of Supplements
I recommend natural supplements... when they are truly natural. Unfortunately, “natural” is little more than a marketing buzzword and one that's abused far too often. There's no real legal definition for the term and its use is not tightly regulated. Questionable supplement manufacturers will, and do, use it on anything. Is the product 1% plant-sourced and 99% synthetic? Call it “natural”! Does the product contain toxic binders or dyes? No matter, it’s still 100% all-natural, right? Not quite.
Performing your own research, beyond the advertising, is important. Before you trust a product, you need to trust the company producing it. Are they transparent? Do they make their identity known? What's their reputation? Have other people provided reviews or testimonials about their experience as a customer? Are they positive? A lack of reviews, or reviews that sound bogus, would set off my alarm.
I don't recommend synthetic supplements. While synthetic supplements are intended to mimic natural vitamins, they rarely provide the "full picture." Synthetic supplements usually offer one particular isolated nutrient. While this sounds desirable from a purity standpoint, nutrients do not operate alone.
The nutrients contained within fruits and vegetables, for example, coexist with transporters, cofactors, and enzymes that make the nutrient in question more usable to the body. Synthetic supplements produced in the lab do not offer these extra, important components.
Additionally, ultra concentrated compounds can produce unintended consequences. For example, green tea itself has a lot to offer. Green tea extract, on the other hand, might not be good for your liver.
Desiccated Thyroid Extract
Desiccated thyroid extract is a common treatment for supporting thyroid hormone balance. Although it was most popular between the late 1800s and the 1960s, it's still used today, especially by people who’ve had their thyroid removed. Although it can be invaluable, it is produced from animal glands and may be a concern for vegans or persons trying to avoid animal products.
Desiccated thyroid extract is only available with a prescription and probably only if you consult a natural health care practitioner who specializes in thyroid issues. Most mainstream doctors recommend synthetically produced thyroid hormone in accordance with industry guidelines.
The Right Kind of Supplements
"Natural" may be an overused sales term, but it can also be a valid request. The best way to ensure your supplements are truly "natural" is to purchase supplements produced from organic or wildcrafted ingredients. Unlike “natural,” the term “organic” is regulated by the USDA and organic products are held to rigorous standards. Organic herbs are cultivated using natural methods, GMO-free, and chemical pesticides or fertilizers are not allowed.
Wildcrafted herbs are grown in nature, without any human intervention, then carefully harvested. It is, arguably, the most natural method of cultivation, but wildcrafted herbs cannot be labeled organic.
Beyond those parameters, what should you look for in a thyroid health support supplement?
Iodine is perhaps the most crucial nutrient for thyroid health. It's a basic building block for the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Without iodine, the thyroid cannot make the hormones that regulate growth, development, and metabolism. Iodine deficiency can lead to developmental concerns including irreversible physical and mental impairment, especially in children. A lack of iodine is also a cause of goiter (severely enlarged thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
How Iodine Affects Your Thyroid
Length: 2 minutes
Iodine is so important to human health that in many countries, including the United States, it's added to table salt. Although the intent may be positive, I don’t recommend relying on table salt. Table salt itself presents a host of health concerns, and the high sodium content in most food isn’t iodized table salt anyway. I recommend and use Himalayan salt because of its purity and mineral content. In terms of an iodine supplement, I believe nascent iodine suspended in a vegetable glycerin base is the best option.
Selenium is a micronutrient that's nearly as important as iodine for a normal functioning thyroid. In fact, iodine cannot do its job without selenium; selenium helps convert T4 into the more potent T3. Selenium deficiency can cause goiter and thyroid destruction. There are many foods that offer selenium, Brazil nuts are the best known. If you're not getting selenium in your diet, a selenium supplement can help fill the gap between your nutritional intake and your nutritional requirements. In my opinion, the best selenium supplements are sourced from food, not synthetically produced in a lab.
Vitamin B12 is crucial to human health and performs several important roles in the body, including supporting thyroid health. The link isn't fully understood but B-12 deficiency is unusually common in persons with a sluggish thyroid. One study found that B12 supplementation helped produced a faster recovery for persons with a B12 deficiency, as well as those without. Hopefully, more research will further clarify this relationship.
Unlike iodine and selenium, which are vital nutrients the thyroid requires to produce hormones, turmeric helps soothe the thyroid and contributes to its overall conditional status. Why does the thyroid need to be soothed? Exposure to various environmental pollutants and endocrine disrupting chemicals can irritate the thyroid and put it in the red zone. Additionally, studies have found that turmeric supplementation is associated with a reduced risk of goiter. One of the active ingredients in turmeric, curcumin, has been found in some research settings to inhibit the growth of cancerous thyroid cells.
The Right Dosage for Thyroid Supplements
More isn’t always better. Nutrition is like anything else in life – balance is important. Your thyroid needs enough iodine and selenium, it doesn't need too much. In fact, too much can be just as dangerous as too little.[8, 9] It’s best to follow recommended guidelines and consume only what you need. Consult with your healthcare professional or nutritionist to determine the best plan for your individual needs.
Who Needs a Thyroid Supplement?
Fundamentally, organic food is the best way to obtain the nutrients your body needs. However, if your diet isn't consistently balanced, you live in a region with nutrient-depleted soil, or if you suffer from certain medical conditions that affect your ability to absorb nutrients, nutritional supplements can be invaluable. Iodine, selenium, and other nutrients are important, not just for the thyroid, but for the human body as a whole. If your thyroid is sluggish and poor nutrition is to blame, find a quality source for supplemental nutrition.
Global Healing offers not one, but three supplements to support thyroid health, all available in one convenient kit. The Thyroid Health Kit™ is a collection of our best thyroid-support supplements — nascent iodine, selenium, and vitamin B12. Turmeric is offered as an optional add-on and so is our premier ginseng blend. We've received incredible feedback and I believe this is the best collection of nutrients for supporting normal thyroid health.
Have you relied on nutritional supplements to support your thyroid? Leave a comment below and share your experience with us.
- Garber, Jeffrey R., et al. “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association.” Thyroid, vol. 22, no. 12, 2012, pp. 1200–1235. Accessed 23 Aug. 2016.
- McEvoy, Miles. “Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means.” USDA Blog, United States Department of Agriculture, 22 Mar. 2012. Accessed 23 Aug. 2016.
- Wax, Emily, et al. “Iodine in Diet.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 Feb. 2015. Accessed 23 Aug. 2016.
- Arthur, JR, et al. “The Role of Selenium in Thyroid Hormone Metabolism and Effects of Selenium Deficiency on Thyroid Hormone and Iodine Metabolism.” Biological Trace Element Research., vol. 34, no. 3, 1 Sept. 1992, pp. 321–5. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
- Contempré, B, et al. “Thiocyanate Induces Cell Necrosis and Fibrosis in Selenium- and Iodine-Deficient Rat Thyroids: A Potential Experimental Model for Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism in Central Africa.” Endocrinology., vol. 145, no. 2, 23 Sept. 2003, pp. 994–1002. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
- Jawa, A, et al. “Turmeric Use Is Associated with Reduced Goitrogenesis: Thyroid Disorder Prevalence in Pakistan (THYPAK) Study.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism., vol. 19, no. 3, 2 May 2015, pp. 347–50. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
- Zhang, L, et al. “Curcumin Inhibits Metastasis in Human Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma BCPAP Cells via Down-Regulation of the TGF-β/Smad2/3 Signaling Pathway.” Experimental Cell Research., vol. 341, no. 2, 31 Jan. 2016, pp. 157–65. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
- Heller, Jacob L. “Iodine Poisoning.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 23 Jan. 2015. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
- Nuttall, Kern L. “Evaluating Selenium Poisoning.” Annals of Clinical & Laboratory Science, vol. 36, no. 4, 2006, pp. 409–420. Accessed 24 Aug. 2016.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.