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Myo-inositol is considered part of the vitamin B-complex group. Specifically, it is a type of carbocyclic sugar that is naturally in the human body. It is particularly abundant in the brain and is responsible for enhancing cellular signaling with hormones and neurotransmitters. Myo-inositol used to be categorized as an essential vitamin called B8. Then, researchers discovered our bodies make it naturally, so we no longer need to ingest it to have it. With that said, some people do not produce enough myo-inositol, and thus become deficient.
People can take myo-inositol as a dietary supplement over the counter. But, of course, it is also available in a wide array of foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and legumes. Blueberries, in particular, are packed with myo-inositol.
Because of its role in cellular signaling, myo-inositol may help balance hormones and other chemicals in the body. For example, some studies show myo-inositol may regulate "feel-good" neurohormones in conditions like:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
It may also help regulate blood sugar and insulin distribution in people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These conditions are often closely tied to cardiovascular complications like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which myo-inositol may help normalize.
Furthermore, some studies show that myo-inositol can be effective in people struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and infertility. In PCOS, oral ingestion of a myo-inositol supplement may decrease testosterone levels, improve ovarian function, balance blood glucose levels, and lower triglycerides.
Because of its role in balancing hormones, myo-inositol supplementation may help reduce thyroid antibodies and stabilize TSH levels. The cellular signaling involved in TSH is highly complex and involves several pathways. However, one of the main pathways is myo-inositol dependent. Thus, when there is not enough myo-inositol, it can lead to resistance of TSH in the thyroid. Resistance of TSH means the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone, which subsequently increases TSH levels.
Myo-inositol may lower TSH levels
Evidence for myo-inositol improving TSH sensitivity is in one 2013 study where patients with Hashimoto's were divided into two groups. One group received a combination treatment of myo-inositol and selenium, and the other group just received selenium. Both groups show improvement in their thyroid antibodies, which wasn't surprising, given that research has long shown that selenium is essential in helping reduce thyroid antibodies and improving thyroid symptoms. Interestingly, the group that received selenium and myo-inositol also decreased TSH levels, not observed in the selenium-only group.
Myo-inositol may improve Hashimoto's symptoms
Aside from regulating thyroid hormones, myo-inositol may also help with other symptoms that show up with Hashimoto's disease, such as depression and anxiety. While research is still inconclusive on how effective myo-inositol is compared to medications that deliberately target "feel-good hormones" like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), there is evidence that it does have a positive effect on serotonin and dopamine.
Aside from mental symptoms, many people with Hashimoto's also experience difficulties with blood sugar balance. A 2017 study found that high thyroid antibody levels correlated with high fasting blood sugar levels and high insulin levels. Yet, several studies on different populations (such as postmenopausal women and people with type 2 diabetes) found that myo-inositol supplements improved fasting blood glucose levels. These individuals also had better outcomes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which leads to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
So, can myo-inositol improve Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
There is pretty solid evidence that it may be beneficial in lowering TSH levels and thyroid antibodies. Furthermore, it may also improve other symptoms related to a poorly functioning thyroid.
There are relatively few side effects of myo-inositol. However, certain people need to be cautious when taking it.
- Firstly, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should probably avoid myo-inositol, or at the very least, consult their doctor before use.
- Secondly, people with kidney clearance issues, such as those with kidney disease, should be wary of using myo-inositol. This carbocyclic sugar needs to be cleared by the kidneys. It may not be effectively removed if kidneys are not at optimal functioning.
- Thirdly, individuals with diabetes should also be cautious with myo-inositol, as it can lower your blood glucose levels and may lead to hypoglycemia.
- Finally, people with a history of heavy bleeding or coagulation problems may need to be cautious with myo-inositol, as it may increase how much they bleed.
Aside from the above precautions, a few people have reported nausea, headaches, and dizziness when taking myo-inositol.
As always, when you want to try a new medication or supplement, make sure to connect with your doctor to see if it is safe for you to try. Checking with your doctor before adding a new supplement is especially important for people already taking medication like thyroid medication or insulin.