Supporting your Thyroid is Easy... or is it?
It might be tempting to think that you can take a thyroid support complex and call it day.
Surely this will help improve your thyroid and give your body everything it needs, right?
While supplementing for your thyroid is incredibly helpful, it's only helpful if it's done correctly.
And not all thyroid support complexes contain the ingredients that your thyroid needs!
I've been treating thyroid patients for 5 years and in that time I've also sold over 30,000 thyroid support supplements to thyroid patients.
I've seen what works, what doesn't, and I know from personal experience, research, and testing what thyroid patients actually need.
This list reflects that research and experience...
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Foods to Avoid if you have Thyroid Problems:
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6 Things That Your Thyroid Support Complex Should Contain:
#1. It should contain Zinc and Selenium
Zinc and selenium are what I refer to as powerhouses for the thyroid.
If you are taking a thyroid support complex and it doesn't have either of these then you know that whoever created that supplement is doing something wrong.
BOTH of these nutrients play an important role in regulating thyroid hormone function at multiple levels.
In addition, MOST (if not all) thyroid patients are usually deficient in both of them.
Zinc helps improve T4 to T3 conversion, it helps reduce inflammation, and it helps support immune function.
Selenium helps improve T4 to T3 conversion, it plays a role in regulating thyroid gland inflammation, and it is required for your body to produce glutathione.
How much of each do you need?
Well, it really depends on the situation but you should know a couple of things when trying to figure out your dose.
The first is that large doses of zinc (more than 10g) cannot be absorbed by the body, so taking smaller doses more frequently is often preferred.
Second, high doses of selenium can lead to hair loss and other issues so it's often better to keep the dose of selenium to a minimum.
Here is an example of the type of dosing that I prefer to use for both zinc and selenium in thyroid supplementation.
#2. Iodine is not always necessary.
Iodine is another hot topic when it comes to thyroid support.
There are usually two groups of thought when it comes to iodine:
The first is the group which states that iodine is dangerous for thyroid patients and should be avoided at all costs.
And the second is the group which states that iodine is essential and required for all thyroid patients and a lack of iodine is causing the rise in thyroid problems that we see in developed nations.
In reality, the truth is somewhere in the middle but leans more towards the side which states that iodine is required.
Iodine is absolutely required and it's something that many thyroid patients are deficient in, there is no question about that.
But there is some truth to the statement that iodine may trigger problems in some select individuals.
The problems that can stem from iodine supplementation tend to come in cases where high doses of iodine are used and in cases where iodine is used when selenium deficiency is also present.
But where does that leave us in this conversation?
My recommendation is to look for thyroid support supplements that have BOTH iodine and selenium (if you want iodine) and to avoid supplements with iodine if you are unsure about your selenium status or if the product doesn't also have selenium.
This will give you the best of both worlds.
It will ensure that you are safe and protected if you use iodine and also ensure that you won't cause any problems when using it.
So, in a nutshell, iodine certainly isn't required in a thyroid support complex but it can definitely be hugely beneficial for many thyroid patients.
You should also know that iodine can trigger a detox-like reaction when taken by people, especially those who have a history of consumption of halides.
This is NOT necessarily a problem but it can definitely freak out a patient who isn't aware that it can happen.
This type of reaction may result in acne-like pustules (1) that form on the face or body and which coincide when taking supplements that contain iodine.
Again, it's not dangerous at all and doesn't indicate a negative reaction, but it's something you should be aware can happen.
#3. Look for adrenal adaptogens or adrenal glandulars.
The thyroid gland and the adrenal gland are linked in such a way that if one goes down it tends to take the other with it.
I have yet to meet a thyroid patient who doesn't ALSO have problems with their adrenals.
Because of this, when supplementing for your thyroid you also want to keep adrenal function in the back of your mind.
I would recommend looking for a thyroid support supplement that contains either adrenal adaptogens or adrenal glandulars.
Both of these ingredients help your adrenals function and can help balance cortisol levels.
Adrenal adaptogens include:
- Holy basil
Adrenal adaptogens are great at supporting the HPA axis as well as indirectly supporting thyroid function.
Yes, it's actually possible to improve thyroid function by improving adrenal function (at least somewhat).
Adrenal glandulars are completely different from adrenal adaptogens but they are similar in that they help your support your adrenals.
Adrenal glandulars, like thyroid glandulars which we will talk about next, come from animals.
They are literally crushed up adrenal glands from animals that have had the active hormones, such as hydrocortisone, removed.
They provide your body with nutrients that aren't found in adrenal adaptogens such as proteins, hormone precursors, and enzymes.
You will want to make sure that your thyroid support complex has EITHER adrenal adaptogens OR adrenal glandulars OR both.
#4. Thyroid support with thyroid glandulars are often more powerful but don't always have to be used.
Thyroid glandulars refer to supplements that contain the thyroid gland of an animal.
These supplements take advantage of the fact that the thyroid gland from animals contains ingredients that can help the HUMAN thyroid function.
Ingredients such as enzymes, proteins, and precursor hormones can all be utilized by the human body and give a boost to thyroid function naturally.
This ingredient is referred to as thyroid glandular or thyroid gland.
You can tell if your thyroid supplement has this ingredient by looking at the nutrition facts.
You will see something like this:
The image above is from this supplement which contains thyroid glandular.
You can see in the ingredient list that the thyroid glandular component is listed as "Thyroid Gland Powder" and you can see the source that it comes from which is New Zealand or Argentina bovine (a cow source).
Thyroid glandulars are an incredibly powerful tool and can really give an extra oomph to your thyroid support complex.
But just because they are super powerful doesn't mean they HAVE to be used.
There are many people who just don't feel comfortable using ingredients found in animals or who want to avoid them due to religious or personal reasons.
If you fit into either category, then you can find vegan thyroid support complexes as replacements.
In my experience, I've seen great results in people who use vegan options and in people who use glandular options.
My personal experience suggests that the supplements which contain thyroid glandulars are slightly more powerful than formulations which do not, just as an FYI.
#5. B vitamins should all be pre-methylated.
We all know that B vitamins are important and they are also very important for your thyroid.
What you may not realize, though, is that the way these B vitamins come in your supplements is most important.
What do I mean?
Well, it's not just that your thyroid support complex should contain B vitamins (it should), these vitamins should ALSO some pre-methylated.
Pre-methylated B vitamins come in a form that is easy for your body to utilize them.
This is VERY important because many thyroid patients have what is known as MTHFR genetic mutations (2).
These mutations impact how well your body can utilize certain types of B vitamins and make them more difficult to metabolize.
If you have this genetic mutation (many people have it and don't realize it), you could be causing more harm by taking supplements that are not pre-methylated.
For these reasons, you will want to make sure that the B vitamins that come in your supplements are already activated and safe for your body to use.
You can tell if your B vitamins are pre-methylated by looking at the nutrition fact/ingredient label.
You will see something like this:
You can see that Vitamin B12 comes in the form "methylcobalamin" which has methyl in the name!
This is good and exactly what you want.
You can also see that folate comes as 5-METHYLtetrahydrofolic acid.
Again the word methyl is in the name which is a good sign.
You want to avoid supplements that contain B12 in the form cyanocobalamin and supplements which contain folic acid instead of folate.
The other B vitamins are also in their activated forms in the image above including Vitamin B2 (riboflavin 5'-phosphate), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal 5'-phosphate), and B5 (pantothenic acid).
This is EXACTLY what you should be looking for if your thyroid support supplement contains any B vitamins.
#6. There should be absolutely no gluten or dairy.
Last but not least, your thyroid supplements should be 100% gluten-free and dairy-free.
Both gluten and dairy can cause serious problems for thyroid patients and the last thing you want to worry about is getting more of these ingredients from your supplements.
Most women with thyroid problems have a condition known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disease.
This disease can be triggered by gut damage from... you guessed it, a diet high in dairy and gluten.
Avoiding gluten and dairy in your diet is a sound choice if you have thyroid problems but you should also take care to ensure that ALL of your supplements are both gluten-free and dairy-free.
Anyone who understands thyroid patients and their needs will automatically ensure that their supplement formulations don't have these ingredients but you should always double-check.
It's not possible to get everything your thyroid needs in 1 support supplement
It may be tempting to think that you can take 1 single supplement for your thyroid and call it a day.
But I'm here to tell you that this isn't really possible.
Because your thyroid is so complex and works at so many levels, it's hard to provide it with everything that it needs to function at 100%.
Even trying to get a single thyroid support complex that follows ALL of the rules above will be difficult (or impossible).
We've spent the majority of our time here talking about how to support thyroid function by supporting the thyroid gland.
But supplements can also indirectly support thyroid function as well.
Supplements like probiotics can help your thyroid by improving gut function.
And so on.
Because your thyroid is so complex and connected to so many other systems in your body, I would strongly recommend that you take a more comprehensive approach to thyroid supplementation.
Instead of trying to find the perfect thyroid support supplement, look for a bundle of supplements that are designed to support the thyroid.
Bundles can better improve thyroid function by targeting additional systems that would otherwise be ignored if you use a single supplement.
Bundles can also be tailored to your specific thyroid condition.
I have bundles that target Hashimoto's thyroiditis, bundles that are ideal for patients who are post thyroidectomy and post RAI, and supplement bundles that are designed for those with regular low thyroid.
Now I want to hear from you:
Are you currently taking a thyroid support complex?
Does your supplement meet the criteria listed above?
Are you noticing an improvement in your symptoms?
Are you planning on making any changes to your supplements after reading this article?
Leave your questions or comments below!
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