Thyroid Supplements for Weight Loss: Do They Actually Work?

Is it possible to take supplements to help you lose weight if you have thyroid disease?

Do they actually work? Or will they not work because of your condition?

I've treated thousands of patients with thyroid disease and I can tell you that while some supplements may help with weight loss they are probably not the weight loss cure you are searching for. 

Don't get me wrong, though. 

Certain supplements may be able to promote weight loss if combined with other therapies (we will talk more about those below). 

But you'll want to avoid those gimmicky weight loss supplements as they can often cause more harm than good - you know the ones that I'm talking about. 

They often sound too good to be true. 

In this article, I'm going to dive into weight loss supplements that actually work for thyroid patients, which supplements you should avoid, and why thyroid patients dealing with weight problems, to begin with. 

Let's jump in: 

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Dealing with Weight Gain & Thyroid Disease

If you are one of the many patients with thyroid disease (there are millions in the United States and around the world) then you probably are also suffering from weight gain. 

But why do thyroid patients tend to suffer from weight loss resistance and weight gain?

Why is there a need for them to turn to supplements to help? And do they actually help?

The reason for this issue has to do with how your thyroid functions in your body. 

As you probably know, your thyroid is the major contributor to your metabolism. 

Which means, if you have any problem with thyroid hormone production it will result in a sluggish metabolism (1). 

What does that mean?

From a practical standpoint, it means that your body will be burning fewer calories than what is normal for your weight and height. 

This will almost always result in some weight gain. 

This is complicated even further by the fact that many thyroid patients are also being undertreated with thyroid medication, especially if they are focusing on the TSH as a marker of thyroid status

If you fit into this category, then it's no surprise that you may want to turn to supplements, diet, or exercise to help you manage your weight. 

Download my Free Resources:

Foods to Avoid if you have Thyroid Problems: 

I've found that these 10 foods cause the most problems for thyroid patients. Learn which foods you should absolutely be avoiding if you have thyroid disease of any type. 

The Complete List of Thyroid Lab Tests:

This list includes optimal ranges, normal ranges, and the complete list of tests you need to diagnose thyroid hypothyroidism correctly!

Download more free resources on this page

Can Supplements Help? 

Yes! Well, potentially. 

But it's important to realize that supplements are NOT medications. 

Medications (such as T3 thyroid hormone, hCG, LDN, etc.) are concentrated compounds which cause very specific effects inside of the body. 

These medications are required to go through rigorous testing before they can be released to the public and they must be proven to at least be effective for some people. 

Supplements do not have to follow the same rules. 

Anyone can create a supplement, slap on a weight loss label, and promote it as a weight loss supplement... even if it doesn't work. 

This is where it can get confusing for many people. 

To help you navigate this mess, I've included 3 categories of supplements which I have used successfully for patients with thyroid disease to help them lose weight. 

As you read these categories, it's important to realize that I never recommend the use of supplements by themselves for weight loss. 

If you go this route you will almost always be disappointed. 

Instead, you want to use supplements as a part of your weight loss regimen and strategy and also include other therapies such as diet, exercise, and so on. 

When you use supplements in this way they can augment your weight loss and help you feel better. 

T3 is King When it Comes to Weight Loss

The first thing you need to know when it comes to weight loss in thyroid patients is that T3 is king. 

T3 is the active thyroid hormone and it is this hormone which is responsible for helping you lose weight and turning on your metabolism. 

If you are going to take a supplement, then ideally you want it to include ingredients which help your body create more T3. 

But how does your body get T3?

It makes it from T4 (otherwise known as thyroxine). 

You've probably heard of thyroxine before because it is the active ingredient in most thyroid medications (including Synthroid and levothyroxine). 

But T4 by itself isn't active unless your body turns it into T3. 

And several nutrients can help either speed this process up or slow this process down. 

If your goal is to speed up the conversion of T4 to T3 then you'll want to find supplements which contain the following:

These specific nutrients can either directly (or indirectly) help your body produce more T3 naturally through this conversion process. 

I recommend a supplement, such as this one, which contains many of these ingredients in a synergistic blend. 

Remember:

This is not primarily a weight loss supplement, but it may help improve the overall function of your thyroid gland and ultimately help you balance your weight. 

Protein Powder May Help

Another beneficial supplement is protein powder. 

It's probably better to think of protein powder as more of a functional food rather than a supplement. 

Functional foods are products which contain nutrients beyond vitamins, minerals, and macromolecules. 

They help promote functions which other foods cannot because they have been enhanced with added ingredients. 

Protein powder can become a functional food when it has vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory ingredients added to it. 

When using protein powder in this way it can potentially help promote a normal weight through a variety of ways including:

  • Promoting a normal appetite
  • Providing your body with thyroid enhancing nutrients (such as vitamins which promote T4 to T3 conversion)
  • Promote muscle growth and sustain existing muscle mass (2)
  • Enhance gut microbial diversity and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria

So what type of protein powder should you look for?

As someone with thyroid disease, you want to be very careful about the type of protein powder that you use

Protein powders that contain soy (3) or dairy (4) (such as whey protein) are generally not your best bet. 

These types of protein can be inflammatory and may cause reactions in thyroid patients who tend to suffer from GI-related problems. 

Instead, you'll want to focus on powders which contain plant-based protein. 

My recommendation would be a vegan based protein powder which also contains thyroid enhancing nutrients such as this one

You might also find other supplements which meet this criterion but you'll need to look outside of the typical whey protein powders. 

Proteins such as hydrolyzed collagen can also help thyroid patients. 

Balancing your Gut Microbiome May Also Help

Another option which is often overlooked is that of probiotics. 

And yes, probiotics can potentially help you with weight loss

But how?

What you may not realize is that there is a complex relationship between the bacteria concentration in your gut, the number of nutrients and calories that you absorb from your food, and the signals that your stomach/gut sends to your brain to help regulate your appetite. 

If you have an imbalance of gut bacteria then these signals can become dysregulated.

The result?

Changes to your appetite which promotes cravings for unhealthy foods. 

An increased absorption of calories which can cause weight gain. 

T3 conversion booster results

A reduction in your metabolism and thyroid due to inflammation. 

But what causes changes to your gut bacteria?

For starters, hypothyroidism itself can result in some changes but also the food that you eat heavily influences the concentration of bacteria in your gut. 

It can be difficult to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria and that's where probiotics step in. 

Probiotics, more specifically multi-strain and high-potency probiotics, can actually help with weight loss in an indirect way. 

Taking probiotics may help restore normal gut microbial diversity, promote a reduction in gut inflammation, and improve the signals that your stomach sends to your brain. 

This often overlooked strategy is one that you may find helpful, especially if you have thyroid disease. 

The key to getting the best results is by using a high-quality, ultra-high potency probiotic. 

You'll want to find one that contains at least 300 billion CFU per serving (which is around 50x higher than most standard probiotics). 

By using these high doses you can obtain the results outlined here. 

I recommend a probiotic which contains at least 300 billion CFU and at least 10 different probiotic strains like this one here

Supplements which Probably Won't Work

Are there any supplements that you'll want to avoid if you have thyroid disease?

The answer is definitely yes!

Certain supplements, especially the 'typical' weight loss supplements, can actually cause more harm than good. 

Most 'typical' weight loss supplements work by either reducing your appetite or by attempting to stimulate your metabolism to burn more calories. 

The problem with this method is thyroid patients already have a low metabolism (because the thyroid controls your metabolism) and putting more pressure on the metabolism doesn't actually help to normalize it. 

The only way to normalize your metabolism if you have thyroid disease is by promoting thyroid function either by taking thyroid enhancing supplements or by using thyroid medication. 

No amount of metabolism boosters will help normalize your metabolism!

Other supplements, such as those which reduce your appetite, can also cause metabolic damage if they are used long-term. 

Thyroid patients are especially susceptible to this effect because their metabolism is usually lower than normal, to begin with. 

Supplements you should avoid if you have thyroid disease include: 

  • Gimmicky weight loss supplements - These are supplements which often make claims that sound too good to be true. If you've never heard about a supplement before, if it has few reviews (or if the reviews look fake), then it's best to save your money and move on. 
  • Raspberry Ketones (5) - Most studies with raspberry ketones are done on animals (mice) and the results have been conflicting. With better options available it's usually best to avoid this supplement. 
  • Orlistat (6) - Orlistat works by blocking the absorption of fat. This is usually not the cause of weight gain in thyroid patients so it generally does not work. Orlistat is technically a medication but it is available over the counter and places such as Costco and Amazon. 
  • Garcinia Cambogia (7) - While some people may experience minor weight loss using Garcinia cambogia, these results generally do not extend to people with thyroid problems. 
  • Hydroxycut (8) - Hydroxycut contains caffeine which attempts to stimulate your metabolism. 

Remember:

You'll always find hear stories about some of these supplements which have worked for some people. 

It's easy to latch onto these stories and hope that they work for you. But, let me assure you that while these stories may be true, it doesn't mean that they will necessarily work for you. 

Always do These Things When Taking Supplements

If you decide that you want to take supplements to enhance your thyroid then you also need to be doing a few other things. 

The first?

Make sure that you ALSO alter your diet while you take these supplements. 

You should be focusing on eating clean, healthy foods which are low in processed sugar and processed ingredients. 

Consuming whole foods will help lower inflammation and naturally promote thyroid function in your body. 

In addition to altering your diet, you'll also want to make sure that you add in exercise!

Exercising, especially low-intensity and high-intensity exercises, can help promote muscle growth and enhance your metabolism. 

If you aren't sure where to start, I've created a 10-day thyroid reset guide which can help guide you on the basics

You can also find more information on how to adjust your diet to meet your needs in this post

As a thyroid patient, you want to make sure that you eat foods which can enhance your thyroid and avoid foods which can potentially block thyroid hormone production. 

Bottom Line: Always use supplements with other therapies such as eating a clean, whole food diet and exercising an appropriate amount for your body and metabolism. 

Conclusion

Can you use supplements to help with weight loss if you have thyroid disease?

The answer is not as straightforward as you might like, but the truth is that the right kind of supplements can potentially help you achieve a more normal weight. 

The best way to get there is by using supplements which enhance thyroid function, improve your metabolism, and contain ingredients to help your thyroid function. 

While you do this, make sure to avoid supplements which can be harmful to your thyroid. 

Now I want to hear from you:

Have you used supplements to help you lose weight?

Did they work for you? Why or why not? 

Are you planning on trying any of my recommendations? If so, which one?

Leave your questions or comments below! 

References (Click to Expand)

This post was most recently updated on March 15th, 2019

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.

24 thoughts on “Thyroid Supplements for Weight Loss: Do They Actually Work?”

  1. Just my 2 cents about protein powders…I agree about using the plant-based ones. I use one with pea protein when I have a breakfast smoothie to help it “stick” more and burn slower. I guess though when I really think about the concept of weight loss, I myself think of the thermal effect of eating. Protein powder, even plant-based ones are highly processed and do not require much thermogenesis in the body. Eating whole, solid foods that require more energy to digest create more weight loss. I myself am my ideal weight (a miracle as a hypothyroid patient!), but if I were trying to lose weight, I wouldn’t consume foods that are mostly broken down. I’d have brown rice at breakfast with an apple, instead of my breakfast smoothie, for an example. On a side note, while I prefer pea protein to soy, I have read recent research studies that soy isn’t bad for health or the thyroid. Of course, the soy in plant-based protein powders is so highly processed that I wouldn’t use it myself.

  2. I am using probiotic supplements currently.I am not having any success in losing weight. I do exercise 2-3 times a week and eat mostly whole foods. Feeling frustrated. My probiotics is high in microbes it is developed by a doctor, Dr Gundry.

    • Hi Kaylene,

      The probiotic you are using only has 30 billion CFU per serving. My recommendation is to use 300+ billion CFU if weight loss is your goal (which would be about 10 capsules per day).

  3. I had thyroid cancer and don’t have a thyroid. What is a good level for my T3? Do the supplements help even though I am taking NP Thyroid with T3 an T4?? I read where I should take this later. Should I just take extra T3? Hoping doctor will give me more. Can’t lose weight even though I exercise and watch what I eat.

    • Hi Tracy,

      Even if you take NDT or any thyroid medication which contains T4 your body must still convert it to T3 (it doesn’t matter if you produce it or if you take it by mouth). This conversion process can be inhibited by things like inflammation, nutrients deficiencies, and so on.

  4. Hi Dr Childs, I was prescribed 20mcg T3 in addition to 100mcg T4 since I was still experiencing hypo symptoms of weight gain fatigue and brain fog. I was on this for 3 months with a slight improvement in fatigue, but not much improvement in brain fog and no improvement in weight, despite eating a low carb diet. I had done private testing and discovered I am heterozygous for DIO2 gene. My endo said I could increase T3 to 30mcgs, which I did. For the first couple of weeks I experienced increased energy but also started to gain weight and mucin in tissues. Over a month I put on 12 pounds in weight, which I suspect was mucin. I came off all meds for 10 days to try to “reset” my hormones. Blood tests showed that my TSH increased to 9.7 (from 0.005) and my T4 reduced to 13.2. After 10 days I started on T4 and gradually added T3 titrating back up to 20mcg. I again started Lighter Life a VLC diet and I have lost 10 lbs in a month. My question is, if I am as my endo says “a slow converter” as regards T4/T3 conversion, why did the increase in T3, not result in a reduction in weight? I have eaten a low carb diet for nearly 10 years. I have been diagnosed with Hashi’s 6 years ago, but looking at my medical records I have been underactive for nearly 20 years, TSH has always been over 3.0 for all of this time. I am still fatigued and am concerned that this weight loss will stall. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Will supplements like something for weightloss for example… help for thyroid functions etc even after a total thyroidectomy?
    I am with a functional dr here in South Africa and he says thyroid is out, why do I want to assist the thyroid? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Renette,

      It’s still important to assist thyroid conversion even if you don’t have a thyroid. For instance, if you are taking T4 only thyroid medication (like Synthroid) your body must still convert it to T3, and to do this it still needs certain nutrients.

    • Hi Melissa,

      It has more to do with your body rather than your medical conditions. Sometimes it works but sometimes it can cause problems. I tend to recommend it only to certain people.

  6. Hi doctor. I have a question. My test say that my TSH is 0.01 suppressed but my Free T4 is .05 low. My doctor is confused about this. Do you know the reason? Or test I can do

  7. Hi Dr Childs, thank you for this very interesting article. I am currently taking no thyroid medication as my blood tests all come back within normal ranges – this may be due to me watching my diet carefully (no gluten, low amount of nightshades, no soy etc). I also take these vitamins daily: magnesium, zinc, ashwagandha, A, and B.
    I’ve lost a small amount of weight but would ideally like to lose another 10kg’s – not sure what else I can do, other than possibly exercise (I only do small amounts of walking as I have crappy knees!).
    Thanks in advance for any guidance you can offer.

  8. Any advice to someone who has hypothyroidism and breastfeeding? I’m overweight by 40 lbs. Working out and eat Whole Foods isn’t doing anything for me. I’m on nature thyroid 1/2 grain. I’m a bit frustrated at this point.

  9. I am currently taking thyroid medication and am gaining weight I am not a big eater and stay away from fried and fatty foods. I believe the medication I am taking is not converting to T3 I was interested in taking a supplement to help with metabolism which I know my is very slow. I
    exercise three times a week for 2 hours and walk 2 miles on days I am not in the gym. What do you recommend. Thanks Mrs. F. DeMayo

  10. Probiotic question…….Three weeks ago I started a new diet eating whole foods, a lot of vegetables, about 60-80 gm protein. Even though I have hypothyroidism it’s working very well with weight loss, but the problem is gas. I mean lots of it. I’m almost afraid to go out in public! So embarrassing. I take a probiotic…shouldn’t this help?
    My question is…how long does it take for probiotics to establish the good bacteria balance so I can digest stuff without all the side effects. I eat some cruciferous vegetables, but it’s mostly lower starch vegetables and almost no dairy except for plain Greek yogurt for breakfast.

  11. I’d like to try it, but anything with Ashwaganda makes me ravenous to the point of not being able to stop eating. Please make the T3 conversion without Ashwaganda. I am having the hardest time with my appetite, and Ashwaganda makes it impossible for me to stop eating. I have no idea why Ashwaganda does that to me, but I know I’m not alone, it seems like many others get this side effect as well, do you know why?
    I am also taking compounded T3 15mcg, mostly bc of poor T4 to T3 conversion due to gut issues. I would like to get off it after healing my gut, currently on Biocidin, Biotonic, SBI & Glutashield, Butyrate, and probiotics (homemade & pill form). Also take Bi-Est, Progesterone, DHEA and a little Pregnelenone when I need a cognitive uptick.

  12. Hi Dr. Childs, do you have any recommendations further than these? I have struggled for years with weight loss resistance and have worked with 3 naturopaths as well as the Cleveland Clinic func med institute and have had no success. I have done all these things you have recommended with these docs and nothing has improved. My t3 and t4 have remained at the very bottom of the “conventional range” no matter what I have done, except when I did try synthroid and cytomel. Those brought my numbers high in the range but absolutely no symptom change. I actually continued to gain weight while on those. I consistently exercise 3-4 times a week and I have tried all manner of diets and still nothing has helped. I’m very frustrated.

  13. Hi! So a while ago I took nature throid but had to stop because my hair was falling so so much and I felt drugged; the dosage wasn’t high and they also tried to increase it without a successful response. So I stopped and my last labs indicate my t4, TSH and reverse T3 is normal but my free t3 is low and my estrogen and testosterone as well. I don’t really know what’s causing the hair loss and if the low free t3 has any medical relevance since most doctors have told me it’s normal? I just got the thyroid support supplements from your shop and the hair support as well! I will appreciate any recommendations (:
    Thanks

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