A dietary supplement is a manufactured product meant to supplement your diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. Dietary supplements supplement can provide nutrients to increase the quantity of their consumption. Sometimes supplements are an attractive option to help relieve symptoms and improve your health.
Certainly, dietary supplements provide many health benefits! However, excess nutrients aren't always better — especially if you have a thyroid condition. What ingredients and when you take them can impact how beneficial supplements are to your health. To feel your best, avoid making these seven common thyroid dietary supplement mistakes.
Seven common thyroid supplement mistakes
Mistake #1: Assuming that supplements can eventually replace your thyroid medication
Every single cell in your body needs thyroid hormones to work properly. People who do not have enough thyroid hormone suffer from symptoms that can impact their overall health and quality of life. If you do not make enough thyroid hormone, a thyroid hormone replacement medication like levothyroxine helps to replace low thyroid hormones in your body.
Sometimes, people wish to turn to dietary supplements for their thyroid because they are marketed as a natural treatment option. Supplements may also have fewer side effects than prescribed medication. For people who have hypothyroidism or are on the border of having low thyroid hormones, it is especially important to work with a thyroid doctor to see the best course of treatment.
Mistake #2: Using a thyroid glandular supplement without consulting your doctor
Some glandular thyroid supplements may contain real hormones from the tissues of animals, such as cows (may be listed as "bovine thyroid tissue"). Healthy thyroid hormone levels are very precise. If you have an underactive thyroid and take prescribed thyroid hormone replacement medication, supplements that contain additional hormones can alter your thyroid levels in unpredictable ways.
Glandular thyroid supplements are NOT to be confused with natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) medication. NDT is a prescription medication derived from the dried (desiccated) thyroid glands of pigs or cows. It provides T3, T4, and other thyroid hormones found in the human thyroid. Pigs produce T4 to T3 at a 4:1 ratio, which is higher than the human proportion of 14:1.
Talk to your doctor before taking a glandular thyroid supplement.
Mistake #3: Taking a calcium supplement at the same time as your thyroid medication
Calcium can interfere with the absorption of levothyroxine and other thyroid hormone replacement medications. Many people use calcium supplements to keep their bones healthy and improve their cardiovascular health. Indeed, most people in middle age and beyond should take a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis and bone fracture, especially postmenopausal women. Calcium is also in some common over-the-counter medications, including antacids.
If you are taking a calcium supplement or another product with calcium, you must separate it from the time you take your thyroid medication. Most sources recommend taking calcium at least 4 hours before or after you take levothyroxine. You must ingest thyroid hormone replacement medication on an empty stomach. Most people take their medication first thing in the morning or before going to sleep at night. Therefore, you may want to take your calcium supplements at the opposite time of day as your thyroid medication.
Mistake #4: Taking an iron supplement at the same time as you take your thyroid medication
Iron is an essential mineral for thyroid health and plays a critical role in creating T4 and T3. Low iron levels, or iron deficiency, can worsen hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue, cold intolerance, and joint pain.
People with hypothyroidism can benefit from taking supplements that contain iron. However, like calcium, iron can interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication, making it less effective. If you take a supplement with iron in it, such as a prenatal vitamin, be sure to separate your iron supplement from your thyroid medication.
Mistake #5: Using too much iodine
Iodine plays a critical role in thyroid function. When a person is deficient in iodine, they can develop a goiter, hypothyroidism, or even complications in pregnancy.
Many thyroid supplements contain iodine because it is a necessary component to creating thyroid hormones. However, there is a fine line when it comes to the right amount of iodine. Taking too much iodine can cause Hashimoto's through the Wolff-Chaikoff effect, where excess iodine leads to the overproduction of hydrogen peroxide in the thyroid. Hydrogen peroxide causes oxidative stress, which leads to inflammation and damage to thyroid tissue.
It is necessary to test your iodine levels before taking a supplement with iodine to prevent further damage to your thyroid.
Mistake #6: Not taking enough selenium
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that plays a crucial role in your thyroid health overall.
Benefits of selenium include:
- Produces antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress in the thyroid gland.
- Acts as an immunomodulator to regulate and normalize the immune system, especially in the presence of autoimmune disease.
- Help facilitate the conversion of T4 and T3
Keep in mind that consuming selenium is a delicate balance. Consuming too much selenium can cause toxicity. Symptoms of selenium toxicity include garlic breath, nausea, diarrhea, and skin rash, as well as hair and nail loss. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day.
Mistake #7: Taking too little zinc
Zinc is a vital mineral that is necessary for supporting the immune system. This mineral has been found to increase cellular communication between immune cells, helps heal leaky gut, and plays a role in thyroid hormone production. Zinc is "the catalyst" for different enzyme reactions in the body, including the thyroid gland.
The bottom line about supplementation
The Food and Drug Administration has set some guidelines to help you understand how much of a nutrient you should consume. The Daily Value (DV) is listed on food and supplement labels to inform you how much of a vitamin or nutrient is optimal from a diet of 2,000 calories per day.
High doses of some supplements can have risks, so knowing the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of a nutrient can help you understand what is safe. Sometimes you can take a dose higher than the DV while still staying below the UL.
Remember, supplements are to compliment your diet. Dietary supplements alone are not the answer to top health. We recommend you eat a nutrient-dense diet and take supplements to fill in any nutritional gaps.
A note from Paloma Health
Paloma Health offers a Daily Thyroid Care vitamin supplement that is iodine-free and contains ten necessary essential nutrients that support thyroid health. Talk to your thyroid doctor to discuss your individual needs and treatment options.