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Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Thyroid Diet

Learn about omega-3s anti-inflammatory effects and what that means for thyroid health.
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Thyroid Diet
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The thyroid is the metabolic powerhouse of the human body. It’s a small gland in your neck about two inches long. It plays a significant role in how your heart, digestive and reproduction systems, brain, and muscles work. When your thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, a condition known as hypothyroidism, your body processes slow down and change. Hypothyroidism can negatively impact different body systems.

It’s common for those with hypothyroidism to take thyroid medication to manage this condition. However, proper nutrition also plays a role in supporting thyroid function. Reducing dietary stress can help decrease inflammation in the body. Inflammation can worsen immune reactions or disrupt thyroid function.

Recent studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids could positively impact thyroid health. Below, we’ll learn about omega-3 fatty acids and their emerging relationship with the thyroid.

Why do I need fat in my diet?

Many of us grow up thinking that dietary fats are bad for our health. And indeed, some types of fat or excessive fat consumption can harm your health. But some fats are necessary for your overall well-being. Before looking at the different types of fats, it is essential to understand why fat can be good.

Fat is an energy source. When food is scarce, or we are severely ill, our bodies can survive off the energy stored in fat tissues. It is also a crucial component for building and repairing cell membranes. Fat is also necessary for vitamin (especially fat-soluble vitamins) and mineral absorption.

Fat is high in caloric content, meaning that foods high in fat have more calories than other food types. Eating too much fat can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to health conditions such as cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Not all fats are the same. Some benefit your health, while others can be harmful.

Unsaturated fat

Often referred to as the “good” type of fat, this type is known for improving your heart health. At room temperature, unsaturated fats tend to be a liquid. You can find these fats in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils (such as olive oil and canola oil), and fatty fish (like salmon and tuna).

Unsaturated fats can be further categorized into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, while polyunsaturated fats are present in foods like sunflower oil, corn oil, and fatty fish.

Unsaturated fats have several health benefits. They can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve overall cardiovascular health. Additionally, they are rich in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which are crucial for brain function and cell growth.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products such as butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty cuts of meat, and poultry skin. They are also present in plant-based oils like coconut and palm oil. These fats are generally solid at room temperature.

These “bad” types of fat can harm your health when eaten in excess. Too much of these fats can increase cholesterol levels, which in turn puts you at risk for heart disease, including heart disease and stroke. High intake of saturated fats has also been associated with an increased risk of obesity and certain forms of cancer. Saturated fats can be found in foods such as butter, margarine, or shortening.

Trans fats are a type of saturated fat created through hydrogenation, which involves adding hydrogen to liquid oils to make them more solid. These fats can be found in many processed and packaged foods, such as fried foods, baked goods, and margarine. Consuming trans fats can have serious health risks, as they have been shown to increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease levels of good cholesterol (HDL). This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. 

Experts generally recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calorie intake and avoiding trans fats as much as possible. 

What are essential fatty acids?

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are considered “good” fats. The body can’t make these fats; thus, you must get them from your food. Not having enough EFAs in your diet can negatively impact your health.

There are different types of EFAs that you should incorporate into your diet. We will focus on omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids: the basics

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that offer many health benefits. These fats are classified as polyunsaturated fatty acids and are crucial for the proper functioning of our bodies.

You can find different types of omega-3s in various foods and forms.

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant-based sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fats in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are extensive, particularly in supporting cardiovascular health. Research suggests that including omega-3-rich foods in your diet may help:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce high triglyceride levels
  • Decrease the risk of heart disease
  • Support brain health

Furthermore, these essential fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce symptoms associated with conditions like arthritis. These anti-inflammatory properties may be the link to improving thyroid health.

Omega-3 fatty acids and the thyroid: an emerging relationship

Recent evidence suggests autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and autoimmune thyroid disease is one of the most common autoimmune conditions in the U.S. In fact, an estimated 12% of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime.

Many autoimmune disorders are rooted in inflammation. But before assuming that inflammation is the “bad guy,” it is important to acknowledge its benefits. Inflammation is part of a healthy immune response to injury and infection. The inflammatory response drives tissues to heal and fight illness. However, inflammation can harm tissues when the inflammatory system becomes overactive. We can see the harmful effects of excess inflammation in thyroid dysfunction.

Research suggests inflammation may have a more significant role in thyroid dysfunction than previously thought. Controlling inflammation is one way to help manage the symptoms produced by an unhealthy thyroid.

Studies have found that omega-3s can decrease inflammation. EPA and DHA work by reducing the production of certain substances in the body that promote inflammation. They also prevent the action of specific enzymes that contribute to inflammation.

Furthermore, EPA and DHA become part of cell membranes, impacting the cells involved in inflammation. This incorporation into these cells further decreases the production of pro-inflammatory substances. And if that is not enough, EPA and DHA also help produce specialized pro-resolving mediators. The mediator cells help clear up inflammation, promoting the body’s natural healing processes.

All these actions make omega-3s helpful in treating medical conditions that involve inflammation, like Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disorder. In Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation. The resulting inflammation is an autoimmunity trigger, releasing thyroid antibodies and may lead to hypothyroidism. So, by limiting inflammation, one can potentially reduce thyroid autoimmunity and optimize thyroid function. 

Additionally, omega-3s have been shown to support optimal thyroid hormone production. The thyroid gland requires specific nutrients to function correctly, and omega-3 fatty acids are among them. These fats help regulate the production of T3 and T4 hormones, vital for maintaining a healthy metabolism, body temperature, and energy levels. By supporting thyroid hormone production, omega-3s may improve symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as weight gain and sluggishness.

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health, which is crucial for individuals with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. These conditions are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, and incorporating omega-3s into your diet can help reduce this risk. Omega-3s have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels, and decrease the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. By improving cardiovascular health, omega-3s promote overall well-being and decrease the chances of developing further complications.

Another advantage of omega-3 fatty acids for individuals with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism is their potential to support brain function. These healthy fats are essential for the structure and function of brain cells, and studies have suggested that they may improve cognitive function and mood. People with hypothyroidism often experience brain fog and depression, and omega-3s can help alleviate these symptoms and promote mental clarity and emotional well-being.

What are the benefits of adding omega-3s to my diet?

Remember, the thyroid gland is the metabolic powerhouse of the body. Incorporating more omega-3s in your diet may help optimize your thyroid health. In turn, this can help improve some symptoms associated with thyroid disorders, including:

  • Brain fog
  • Digestive issues such as leaky gut and constipation
  • Dry skin and hair thinning
  • Cardiovascular health, including high blood pressure
  • Improved metabolism

What about omega-3 supplements?

To incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, you can consume foods rich in these healthy fats. Fish consumption is key, with an increased intake of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. You can also incorporate more chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts into your diet.

But, most Americans don’t eat enough of these foods rich in omega-3s, so they don’t get the essential fatty acids the body needs.

To overcome this, many turn to omega-3 supplementation. Liquid fish oil is one of the most common omega-3 based supplements people take to increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake.

Fish oil supplements and other omega-3s products are generally safe when taken as recommended. You may experience mild side effects, including:

  • Bad breath
  • Smelly sweat
  • Unpleasant taste or fishy burps
  • Headache
  • GI issues such as nausea, diarrhea, or heartburn

High doses of fish oil may increase your risk of bleeding. This risk becomes more significant when taken with other medications that also thin your blood, like an anticoagulant such as warfarin (Coumadin) or an anti-platelet medication like clopidogrel (Plavix).

Fish oil supplements may not be best for those with a fish or shellfish allergy. There is some thought that those with these types of allergies may be at risk for allergic reactions if they take fish oil. But, the data on taking fish oil in those with shellfish allergies is inconclusive.

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Choosing a supplement

When looking for a supplement, remember that not all supplements are created equal. Some may have different dosing or be combined with other vitamins and minerals. Taking higher doses than recommended of omega-3 supplements does not prevent disease or better your health. However, higher doses can increase side effects and your risk of bleeding.

It is important to know that dietary supplements, including omega-3s, don’t undergo the same Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety and efficacy approvals as prescription medications. This means the company making the supplement must ensure the product is safe and product labels are truthful before marketing them.

Many studies affirm omega-3s’ potential benefits in managing health conditions. Still, due to the absence of FDA approval, you need to check with your provider for the appropriate and recommended dose of omega-3s you should take.

A note from Paloma Health

Incorporating omega-3 acids into the diet can benefit people with Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, and other autoimmune disorders. From reducing inflammation and supporting thyroid hormone production to improving cardiovascular health and brain function, these healthy fats play a crucial role in managing these conditions. Adding omega-3-rich foods or supplements to your daily routine has anti-inflammatory effects, and can support your overall health and well-being while helping manage some symptoms of thyroid disorders.

Talk to your healthcare provider about taking fish oil supplements if you aren’t getting enough omega-3s through your diet.

Also, consider teaming up with a Paloma Health nutritionist. They can provide suggestions for incorporating foods high in omega-3s into your diet. Your proactive choices today can improve your thyroid health tomorrow! Schedule your appointment today.


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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. The Nutrition Source. Published May 22, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth. NCCIH. Published 2018. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Harvard Health Publishing - Harvard Medical School. Autoimmunity indicators on the rise among Americans. Harvard Health. Published July 2020. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Wierenga KA, Pestka JJ. Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation - You Are What You Eat! Front Young Minds. 2021;9:601068. doi:

Mancini A, Di Segni C, Raimondo S, Olivieri G, Silvestrini A, Meucci E, Currò D. Thyroid Hormones, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:6757154. doi:

Djuricic I, Calder PC. Beneficial Outcomes of Omega-6 and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Human Health: An Update for 2021. Nutrients. 2021;13(7):2421. Doi:

National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Published 2017. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Fish oil safety in a shellfish allergic patient. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Published 2023. Accessed February 1, 2024.

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Emilie White, PharmD

Clinical Pharmacist and Medical Blogger

Emilie White, PharmD is a clinical pharmacist with over a decade of providing direct patient care to those hospitalized. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. After graduation, Emilie completed a postgraduate pharmacy residency at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Virginia. Her background includes caring for critical care, internal medicine, and surgical patients.

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