Should I Take Dietary Supplements If I Have Thyroid Problems?

Woman taking vitamins and supplements.
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If you are currently managing a thyroid condition, you might be thinking about adding dietary supplements to your daily routine to aid in your treatment. But, are dietary supplements helpful or even safe, and which ones would you need?

Why Does Anyone Take Dietary Supplements?

Although dietary supplements won’t make up for an unhealthy diet, they’re best used to ensure adequate intake of any nutrients that may be missing in your diet.

A simple multivitamin and mineral supplement can safely accomplish that goal.

Sometimes certain health conditions are related to nutritional deficiencies that need a little more help than a typical multivitamin can provide. However, if you have any health conditions that are associated with a vitamin or mineral deficiencies, your doctor should discuss the issue with you and help you determine how to supplement.

You may also find various dietary supplements that carry label claims about how they support some type of organ health or can improve some biological function. These claims are often vague, and although they may be technically correct, they probably don't help treat specific diseases or conditions.

Are There Any Deficiencies Associated With Thyroid Conditions?

An iodine deficiency can cause a goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland and is also associated with hypothyroidism.

It used to be common in middlemost parts of the United States and Canada, but the widespread use of iodized salt has virtually eradicated this problem.

Although you may find dietary supplements that contain large amounts of iodine, you should not take these supplements if you have any thyroid issues.

Chances are your iodine levels are normal, so be sure to discuss with your doctor before taking anything.

Dietary Supplements to Avoid If You Have Thyroid Problems

Dietary supplements specifically designed to support the thyroid gland should be avoided. They often contain ingredients that can alter your blood tests, but there’s no evidence they’ll help your thyroid condition.

Kelp Supplements

Kelp is high in iodine. Since iodine deficiency is extremely rare in the United States, there is no reason to take kelp supplements. In fact, if you have thyroid problems, taking these can make things worse. The American Thyroid Association suggests avoiding daily consumption of dietary supplements that have more than 500 micrograms of iodine. 

Bovine Thyroid Extracts

Thyroid extracts are made from the adrenal glands of cows and sold as dietary supplements. They may contain some amount of thyroid hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), but they aren’t allowed to have any thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and they should not be confused with prescription thyroid medications.

Currently, there isn’t enough research evidence to recommend these supplements, and they can interfere with thyroid medications.

Also, there’s a very slight risk of being exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease,” if the health of the animals used for the extracts isn’t known.

Herbs and Botanical Supplements

Herbal preparations may include ingredients such as ashwagandha and bladderwrack. There’s no credible evidence to show these herbs will help a thyroid problem, but they may interact with your thyroid medication. Bladderwrack may also have dangerously high levels of iodine.

It’s best to avoid these herbs and herbal dietary supplements in general because it’s difficult to know how much of any given herb is present.

Should I Take Any Supplements If I Have a Thyroid Problem? 

As long as you eat a healthy balanced diet, you probably don’t need any additional dietary supplements. But if you don’t believe your diet is as healthy as it should be, these supplements can be added to your daily routine.

Be sure to follow the label instructions. There's no need to take any of these supplements in large doses unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Multivitamin/multimineral

Choose a multivitamin/multimineral that has an assortment of vitamins and minerals. You can buy pills, powders, gels, and gummies. Avoid any multis that have extra ingredients such as herbs or those that feature a large dose of a specific nutrient. You can also buy a fortified whole-grain breakfast cereal, such as Total, that has those nutrients built right in.

Remember that taking a multivitamin is essentially an insurance policy that you’ll get all the nutrients you need, but it isn’t the same as eating a healthy diet that helps you maintain your weight, provides enough fiber, and isn’t loaded down with junk foods that may be bad for your health.

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for normal nerve function and cardiovascular health. If you eat plenty of fish, there’s a good chance you’re getting these essential fatty acids. Other food sources include flax, chia and pumpkin seeds. Choose an omega-3 supplement from a reputable company and look for an expiration date because you don’t want to consume old rancid fish oils.

Vitamin D Supplements

Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. If you spend any time outdoors, you’re probably getting enough sunlight, but if you rarely go outside or live in areas where it’s cold during the winter you may benefit from a vitamin D supplement.

You need vitamin D for healthy bones because it helps you utilize calcium. In fact, it’s often sold along with calcium supplements. You may see two different forms of vitamin D called D2 and D3, but it doesn't really matter which form you take, you'll absorb plenty of either.

Calcium Supplements

Foods that are high in calcium include dairy products, dark leafy veggies, nut, and seeds. Calcium is important for quite a few different reasons, but the main reason is to preserve bone strength, and it’s especially important for women as they age. 

A Word From Verywell

If you don't currently eat a healthy diet, it's okay to take some dietary supplements if you have a thyroid problem. Keep in mind that dietary supplements won't help you treat your thyroid problem, and in some cases, may make matters worse. If you want to take any dietary supplements, you need to speak with your health care provider before your start to make sure you're consuming them safely and appropriately. 

Sources:

American Thyroid Association. “American Thyroid Association (ATA) Issues Statement On The Potential Risks Of Excess Iodine Ingestion And Exposure.” 

American Thyroid Association. “Goiter.”

American Thyroid Association. “Iodine Deficiency.” 

Therapeutic Research Center, Natural Medicines. “Thyroid Extract, Bladderwrack, and Ashwagandha.” 

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