Are Thyroid Supplements Safe or Dangerous? 5 Myths Debunked

Are Thyroid Supplements Safe or Dangerous? 5 Common Myths Debunked

Debunking Myths About Thyroid Supplements

Full disclosure: I formulate and sell supplements specifically for thyroid patients.

You should know this before you read this article but I can also say that even though selling thyroid supplements is a main part of my business doesn't mean that what I am sharing is false. 

I've seen so much misinformation and straight-up incorrect information floating around about thyroid supplements that I have to address them. 

Why?

It's simple:

This bad information may cause thyroid patients to avoid therapies that can actually be helpful and that's the last thing I want. 

I've been treating thyroid patients for 5+ years and my supplements have been used by over 30,000 thyroid patients to date. 

I'm only sharing these numbers to let you know that I have seen quite a bit and I have a solid understanding of what types of things confuse thyroid patients, how they react to thyroid supplements, and what actually works. 

Today we are going to talk about just that...

I'm going to address:

  • Why many myths about thyroid supplements are simply incorrect
  • Why your doctor knows very little about thyroid supplements despite having a strong opinion on them
  • 5 common myths that are shared by your doctor and why they are all incorrect or wrong
  • Why thyroid supplements may actually benefit your body in a big way

Let's jump in...

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Most doctors are clueless when it comes to supplements and vitamins and the thyroid is no exception

"They just don't work". 

This was a phrase uttered by one of my attending physicians while I was in training in residency and she was referring to supplements. 

It shocked me because I was personally using many supplements like fish oil, pre work out supplements, and even adrenal supplements at the time. 

And I know that they were working for me because I FELT a difference. 

But what shocked me about her statement was not that she said it but that she said it with so much confidence. 

And her statement echos the feelings of practically every other doctor out there.

Endocrinologists, especially, do not believe that thyroid supplements work at all. 

You would think that they came to this conclusion from a deep understanding of thyroid physiology, a personal experience in using thyroid supplements with their patients and seeing outcomes, and a deep and continuous look at the scientific literature. 

But you would be 100% wrong. 

Instead, the reason that doctors claim that supplements don't work is just because that's what they were taught. 

And yet, they have virtually no clue how these supplements work, what they are doing in the body, or how they may be beneficial. 

But this doesn't stop them from giving you their opinion and stating it as fact! 

There are a few simple tests you can use to see if your doctor actually knows anything about vitamins/supplements:

  • Question: Ask your doctor what the best form of Vitamin D is if you want to increase your Vitamin D levels. 
    • Answer to look for: They should say Vitamin D3 (if they say D2 they are about 30 years behind the times)
  • Question: Ask your doctor how to test for Vitamin B12 deficiency. 

These are the most basic questions that you can ask and are akin to asking a mechanic if they know how to change the oil in your car. 

If they don't know the answers to these basic questions then there is no way you should trust them on their opinion of more advanced topics just like you wouldn't let a mechanic who can't change oil replace your entire engine. 

5 common thyroid supplement myths that need to be debunked

By the time we are done, I think you will have a new appreciation for how supplements can be effective and why your doctor is probably not as smart as they want you to think...

Myth #1. Thyroid supplements contain thyroid hormones. 

One of the more frustrating myths stated about thyroid supplements is that they contain thyroid hormones. 

And while this myth has some truth to it, it's not a common occurrence and it's something that is actually illegal in the United States. 

This concern stems from a study that was done years ago (2) which tested very low-quality supplements from big box stores that showed some of these supplements do contain small amounts of thyroid hormones. 

But this study was done years ago and it was done on low-quality supplements that were not third-party tested or manufactured in GMP compliant facilities. 

It simply isn't fair to take an isolated study and claim that all thyroid supplements are harmful just because there are a few bad supplement companies out there. 

I should also point out that it is illegal to include active thyroid hormones such as T3 and T4 into thyroid supplement formulations. 

So anyone caught doing this would be in big trouble with the FDA. 

By law, thyroid supplements can NOT contain active thyroid hormones because they would no longer be considered thyroid supplements at that point, they would instead be classified as thyroid medications that require FDA approval. 

Do not fall for the lie that ALL thyroid supplements contain active thyroid hormones because it's simply not true. 

Reputable supplement companies will third party test and verify each lot of supplements to ensure that they do NOT contain active thyroid hormones and to ensure that the ingredients in the capsules match the ingredients on the bottle (this is standard practice). 

Myth #2. Thyroid supplements contain iodine. 

So?

That's pretty much the only response I have to this statement. 

While it isn't a myth (because it's often true), it's certainly not a problem. 

And if any doctor (or anyone) throws out this accusation all you have to do is lay down a couple of important facts about iodine:

Fact #1. Iodine is REQUIRED in the human body to create T3 and T4 thyroid hormone. 

Fact #2. Humans have no way to CREATE iodine. 

Fact #3. Humans MUST get iodine from either their diet or from supplements

Fact #4. Iodine is REQUIRED for all humans including those with thyroid problems for the reasons listed above. 

If you want to suggest that iodine is somehow harmful to thyroid patients then you have to explain to me why thyroid patients are exempt from human physiology which states that humans can NOT create iodine even though it is required for life. 

The fact that iodine is required for life is well known and there are many scientists who constantly struggle with how early humanoids were able to survive without an obvious source of iodine in their lives/diets

The idea that iodine is dangerous stems from some studies which occurred in the early 2000s that showed populations of people that consume higher doses of iodine have a higher incidence of Hashimoto's. 

Doctors took this information and made the connection in their brains that iodine MUST cause thyroid problems. 

join 30,000 plus thyroid patients

But these doctors forgot that correlation does not equal causation and numerous studies have come out since which elaborate on this connection. 

High iodine intake in people who are deficient in nutrients like selenium as the potential to cause problems but this potential problem can be mitigated by supplementing with selenium. 

You will find that almost all of my supplements that contain iodine also contain selenium for this reason

Myth #3. Some thyroid supplements contain cow glandulars

This isn't a myth so much as a scare tactic. 

Why?

Because your doctor will try to tell you that consuming bovine (or cow) products will increase your risk of developing mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (3). 

Mad cow disease is a disease found in cows that is transmissible to humans if they consume brains from a cow that is infected. 

It sounds terrible, right?

Too bad there has NEVER been a reported case of BSE in humans caused by over the counter supplements. 

In fact, the disease is so rare that there are very few case reports period. 

But this doesn't stop your doctor from talking about it and freaking you out. 

In reality, you would have a higher chance of getting hit by lightning 6x in a row than you would acquiring BSE from thyroid supplements. 

Here's why you shouldn't worry about BSE in thyroid supplements:

#1. BSE is only found in the brain of cows which means you must consume the BRAIN or PITUITARY gland of the cow to get it

#2. There has never been a reported case of BSE from over the counter supplements

#3. Supplements which contain glandulars from cows come from countries that have never had a case of BSE (usually Argentina or New Zealand)

#4. EVERY lot of glandulars are third party tested and verified to ensure that they do NOT have pathogens

thyroid supplement myths

If this wasn't enough, most thyroid supplements do not even contain thyroid glandulars!

And if they do, you can easily check for that by looking at the ingredients. 

I personally have several thyroid supplements which DO NOT contain thyroid glandulars and one thyroid supplement which DOES

If you wanted to avoid thyroid glandulars, for whatever reason (usually religious reasons in my experience), then you can still take thyroid support supplements which do NOT contain them. 

So avoiding ALL thyroid supplements, for this reason, would just be silly. 

This myth is something that may give you nightmares but it's not a real or serious problem that you should worry about. 

Myth #4. Thyroid supplements interfere with your actual thyroid medication

This myth goes something like this:

"Well, you can take a thyroid supplement and it may actually work but it will interfere with your thyroid medication and that's bad!"

What your doctor is really saying is this:

Taking thyroid supplements will make you feel better and will make my job harder because then I may have to adjust your thyroid medication. 

Your doctor may act like this is a bad thing but is it?

Is it a bad thing if you take supplements that naturally improve your OWN thyroid gland function which then causes you to be LESS reliant on thyroid medication?

I wouldn't call that a loss. I would call that a major win. 

In fact, the entire goal, as far as I am concerned, is to try and help the body get back to "normal" so that you don't HAVE to take prescription medications at all

This, for whatever reason, is often viewed as a bad thing by your doctor. 

They would rather you stay on a prescribed thyroid hormone for the rest of your life:

doctors want you to stay on thyroid medication forever

If you want to stay on thyroid medication for the rest of your life, then by all means avoid taking any thyroid supplements. 

If you choose to use thyroid supplements then don't worry about the positive effect that they may have on your thyroid gland which may require some adjustments to your medication (often downward). 

This is just a little bit of extra work for your doctor but a great benefit to YOUR body. 

Myth #5. Thyroid supplements contain kelp

This isn't a myth so much as another "So what?". 

And it actually makes no sense if you see myth #2. 

Let me break it down:

Your doctor doesn't want you to use thyroid supplements because they are bad and can contain iodine. 

They also don't want you to use thyroid supplements because they contain kelp and that's bad. 

The reason they don't want you to consume kelp?

Because you can get enough iodine naturally in your diet (you can't, actually, but we will talk about that in a minute). 

Except, isn't kelp one of the main ways that people get iodine from their diet?

What's the difference between eating seaweed and supplementing with a capsule that contains crushed up seaweed?

Nothing. 

This is the crazy double talk that comes out of doctors when it comes to the thyroid. 

But let's go back to the primary reason that doctors don't want you to take thyroid supplements with kelp:

Because they believe that you can get enough iodine from your diet. 

But is this actually true?

Not really.

Decades of research suggest that Americans continually do NOT get enough iodine in their diet (4). 

On top of that, certain populations such as pregnant women and lactating women (5) do not get enough iodine either despite it being MORE important for them than the regular population. 

To simultaneously suggest that kelp is harmful because it's in a supplement and that you can get enough iodine from your diet is incorrect on both counts and shows just how little you understand about thyroid physiology. 

To top it off, not all thyroid supplements even contain kelp! 

Out of the 15+ thyroid supplements I carry, only one has kelp and I just recently added it. 

And, as an aside, it has glowing reviews from people who have used it

Final Thoughts

I'm not trying to push you into using thyroid supplements but I do want you to have the knowledge you need to make an INFORMED decision. 

If you listen and trust what your doctor is saying you are getting a seriously uninformed opinion on the subject. 

I cringe every time I hear someone tell me that their doctor told them not to do something or not to take something. 

My only question to these people is this:

"Has the advice of your doctor actually worked for you in the past?"

If it did, why are you reading articles about how to naturally improve your thyroid? If your doctor was doing their job you wouldn't need to go looking for additional information on how to feel better. 

And, if your doctor hasn't helped you in the past why are you continuing to trust their opinion?

Just some food for thought!

At the end of the day, you are the one who cares more about how you feel than anyone else. 

Don't let your doctor decide how you feel. 

Now I want to hear from you:

Did any of these myths surprise you?

Were you aware of them or is this your first time being introduced to them?

Has your doctor tried to use any of these myths on you?

Are you taking thyroid supplements and feeling better?

Leave your questions or comments below! 

References (Click to Expand)

5 thyroid supplement myths debunked
Dr. Westin Childs

Dr. Westin Childs is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He provides well-researched actionable information about hormone-related disorders and formulates supplements to treat these disorders. He is trained in Internal Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine. His focus is on managing thyroid disorders, weight loss resistance, and other sex hormone imbalances. You can read more about his own personal journey here.

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