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March 18, 2023 10 min read

If you're dealing with hypothyroidism, we understand how frustrating it can be. You may feel sluggish, tired, and out of sorts. And in your quest to feel better, you might have considered taking supplements to support your health and get your mojo back.

But here's the thing - not all supplements are created equal, especially when it comes to hypothyroidism. In fact, some can do more harm than good. Yes, you read that right! Many over-the-counter supplements marketed as "thyroid-boosting" or "metabolism-enhancing" can interfere with your thyroid medication and cause unpleasant side effects.

So what supplements should you avoid when dealing with hypothyroidism? Keep reading to find out.

What is hypothyroidism?

Let's first talk about hypothyroidism. Also known as underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders. It happens when your thyroid, which is a tiny gland in your neck, can't produce enough hormones to keep up with your body's needs. The thyroid gland is an endocrine organ located in the neck that produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are essential for regulating metabolism, growth, and development.

T4 is the more abundant hormone produced by the thyroid, but it is mostly inactive. The body converts T4 into T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone that plays a crucial role in controlling metabolic rate. That's why having healthy thyroid function is important. Insufficient levels of T3 and T4 in the blood can lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, and a slow heart rate.

The production of thyroid hormones is regulated by the pituitary gland through thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). When thyroid hormone levels are low, the pituitary gland produces more TSH, which signals the thyroid to produce more hormones.

Autoimmune thyroiditis, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. In these cases, the immune system attacks the thyroid, leading to its malfunction. Other causes of hypothyroidism include dietary iodine deficiency, radioactive iodine therapy for Graves' disease, and thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer.

Can supplements be bad for your hypothyroidism?

Believe it or not, some supplements can do more harm than good if you have hypothyroidism. While supplements like selenium can support thyroid hormone metabolism, some can interfere with your thyroid medication, which can reduce its absorption and metabolism. In addition, there are certain supplements that are best avoided altogether for those with thyroid disease, as they may pose potential health risks and don't necessarily improve symptoms or support thyroid health. It's important to be cautious and well-informed when considering supplements for hypothyroidism.

What supplements can interact with your thyroid medication?

Many supplements and over-the-counter medications have the potential to interact with your thyroid hormone replacement therapy. When taken within an hour of dosing, some supplements may decrease the absorption of thyroid hormones, leading to potential health risks for those with hypothyroidism. However, even if taken later on, certain supplements can cause problems. It's important to be cautious and informed when choosing which supplements to take when treating hypothyroidism. Here are some supplements to watch out for:

1. Multivitamins

Many people with hypothyroidism often experience vitamin deficiencies, particularly in vitamin D and vitamin B12. People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, for example, may benefit from vitamin D as it can improve both TSH levels and thyroid antibodies.

While maintaining a well-rounded diet is the most effective way to obtain the necessary 13 essential vitamins, taking supplements, such as multivitamins, can provide an easier solution for many individuals. However, it's important to note that multivitamins can potentially decrease the absorption or reduce the efficacy of your thyroid medication. Ultimately, this will prevent you from obtaining optimal thyroid hormone levels necessary for improved thyroid health. As a result, you'll need a higher dose of thyroid replacement medication to make up for the loss of absorption.

Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you have to stop taking a multivitamin. After all, it might be important for your overall health. Just make sure to avoid taking your multivitamin and thyroid medication at the same time.

2. Calcium Supplements

Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is often taken as a dietary supplement to help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and makes them prone to fractures. Additionally, calcium is commonly used as an antacid to neutralize stomach acid and alleviate symptoms of acid reflux.

However, it's important to note that taking calcium supplements at the same time as thyroid replacement medication can interfere with the absorption of the medication. Calcium carbonate, the most commonly used form of calcium supplement, can cause the medication to bind to it in an acidic environment, leading to decreased absorption of thyroid hormones. This can result in suboptimal thyroid hormone levels and worsening of hypothyroidism symptoms.

Therefore, it's recommended to space out the intake of calcium supplements and thyroid replacement medication by at least four hours. This will allow enough time for the thyroid medication to be absorbed into the bloodstream before taking calcium supplements or antacids. It's also worth discussing any supplements or medication changes with a healthcare provider to ensure safe and effective treatment options for hypothyroidism.

3. Iron supplements

Iron supplements are commonly prescribed to individuals with iron deficiency anemia or those who have difficulty getting enough iron through their diet. Iron supplements are also recommended for those with hypothyroidism as it's an essential mineral to make thyroid hormones and to support T4 to T3 conversion.

However, caution must be taken when taking iron supplements. This is because iron forms a bond with thyroid replacement medications like levothyroxine and NDT, reducing their absorption and effectiveness. Therefore, it's recommended to take your medication at least 4 hours apart from iron supplements to avoid this potential interaction.

It's worth noting that some iron-rich foods can also interfere with thyroid medication absorption.

4. Aluminum and magnesium

Aluminum and magnesium are two common ingredients found in antacid medications that are often used to relieve acid reflux symptoms. While these supplements can be effective in neutralizing stomach acid, they can also interfere with the absorption of medications to improve thyroid function.

Both aluminum and magnesium work by reducing the acidity in the stomach, which can, in turn, lower the effectiveness of thyroid replacement medications. When taken together, these supplements can bind to thyroid medications and prevent them from being properly absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, the medications may not be able to effectively regulate the level of thyroid hormones in the body, leading to potential complications for individuals with hypothyroidism as you'll still experience thyroid dysfunction.

5. Biotin Supplements

Biotin is a popular supplement among people with hypothyroidism who experience hair loss, as it's believed to support hair, skin, and nail growth. However, biotin, whether taken alone or as part of a B complex vitamin, can cause interference with the immunoassay, a laboratory technique used to measure TSH levels. This can result in TSH levels appearing lower than they actually are.

To avoid misdiagnosis, the American Thyroid Association recommends that people stop taking biotin at least 2 days before having a thyroid function test.

6. Green veggies supplements

Green supplements, which are often marketed as a healthy option, may contain a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and spinach. These veggies are usually good for you, but they also have goitrogens, which can cause problems for your thyroid. Goitrogens can interfere with iodine use and the release of thyroid hormones.

However, doctors don't suggest avoiding these healthy foods if you have thyroid disease. Instead, it is best to spread them out in your diet and avoid taking supplements that have high concentrations of goitrogens. So, enjoy your greens. Just make sure to balance them out and talk to your doctor about any concerns.

Does this mean you have to stop taking the above supplements altogether?

While the supplements mentioned above may interfere with the absorption or effectiveness of your thyroid medication, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to stop taking them altogether. The key is to use them properly and in conjunction with your thyroid therapy.

For example, if you're taking calcium, magnesium, or iron supplements, it's recommended that you take them at least four hours apart from your thyroid medication to avoid any interactions. This will ensure that both the supplements and the medication can be properly absorbed and utilized by your body.

And as mentioned above, if you're taking biotin supplements, it's important to stop them at least two days before a thyroid gland test to ensure accurate results. Biotin can interfere with the testing process, leading to misleading results and potentially incorrect diagnoses.

As always, it's important to keep your healthcare providers informed about all the medications and supplements you're taking. This will help them to monitor your health and ensure that you don't experience any negative interactions or side effects.

What supplements can be bad for your thyroid?

Although certain supplements can be taken in conjunction with thyroid medications as long as there is adequate separation between doses, there are other supplements that individuals with thyroid disease should consider avoiding altogether. The following supplements are ones to be cautious about

1. Ephedra

Ephedra was once sold in dietary supplements as a way to lose weight and get energy. But in 2004, the FDA decided that it was too dangerous to be sold in the United States. Some imported supplements and teas still contain ephedra, though.

So, what's the problem with ephedra? Well, it can make your heart rate and blood pressure go up, which is not good for anyone but especially concerning for people with hyperthyroidism. Even young and healthy people have had bad reactions to ephedra, including high blood pressure, strokes, seizures, and even death.

So if you see a supplement that contains ephedra, it's best to steer clear. It's just not worth the risk to your health.

2. Green tea extracts

Some studies suggest that green tea extracts, which contain concentrated levels of catechins found in green tea, may not be safe for people with thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism. One concern is that consuming large doses of green tea extract can negatively affect the thyroid by reducing levels of T3 and T4 in the blood while significantly increasing TSH levels. However, it's important to note that this research was conducted on rodents, so it may not necessarily be applicable to humans.

Another concern is that some people with thyroid disease have reported experiencing signs of liver damage when using green tea extract. Due to these potential risks, it may not be safe for people with thyroid dysfunction to take green tea extract.

3. Bovine thyroid extracts

Bovine thyroid extracts are supplements made from the thyroid glands of cows and are available for purchase. It's important to note that these supplements should not be mistaken for other thyroid hormone treatment options such as Armour Thyroid.

However, there are some potential risks associated with the use of bovine thyroid extracts. First and foremost, using these supplements could lead to under-treatment or over-treatment of hypothyroidism, which can have negative consequences. Additionally, there is a slight chance of being exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, if the health status of the cows used for the extract is unknown.

If you're considering a natural desiccated thyroid supplement as an alternative to thyroid hormone replacement medication, it's important to choose a product that is derived from porcine (pig) thyroid glands. This type of NDT supplement, such as VitaliThy, is generally considered safer than bovine thyroid extract since it doesn't carry a risk of exposure to mad cow disease.

It's also important to note that NDT supplements shouldn't be taken in conjunction with thyroid hormone replacement medication. Doing so can increase the risk of overtreatment and potentially lead to adverse health effects. Instead, if you choose to take an NDT supplement, it should be taken as a replacement for your medication and under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

4. Iodine supplement

While we have always recommended iodine supplements for thyroid health, it's important to note that the key to iodine's benefits lies in finding the right balance. Both too much and too little iodine can contribute to thyroid problems. Most people get enough iodine through iodized salt, certain foods like fish, milk, eggs, and supplements.

However, iodine deficiency is very rare in countries like the United States, which means that taking iodine supplements may not be necessary and could even be harmful. This is especially true for kelp supplements, which are often high in iodine. Some experts even argue that excessive iodine intake could potentially make thyroid problems worse. Therefore, there's a significant debate over the use of iodine supplements for thyroid health. If you don't have an iodine deficiency, it may be best to avoid iodine supplements altogether.

How to choose thyroid supplements safely

If you have hypothyroidism and are considering taking any dietary supplements, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to ensure they are safe for you. To make an informed decision, you should ask your healthcare provider several questions.

Firstly, you may want to ask about the potential benefits of the supplement and whether there are any scientific studies to support these claims. It's important to determine if the supposed benefits are supported by evidence or just hearsay.

Secondly, it's essential to know the potential side effects of the supplement and what symptoms may indicate a possible adverse effect. Your healthcare provider can advise you on what to look out for and what to do if you experience any negative symptoms.

Thirdly, you should ask how the supplement may interact with other medications, including how it may affect the absorption of thyroid medications. You may also need to know how long you should wait after taking thyroid medications before taking the supplement and whether you should take it with or without food.

Finally, you may want to ask whether you will need to have more frequent thyroid testing if you decide to take the supplement and how often these tests should occur.

By asking these questions, you can make an informed decision about whether a dietary supplement is right for you and how to take it safely.

Conclusion: Always exercise caution when considering supplements

While supplements can provide benefits to your health, it is important to exercise caution when considering them for thyroid support. Some supplements, such as selenium and zinc, have been shown to support thyroid function and help with thyroid hormone production.

Iodine supplements, on the other hand, may not be necessary and could potentially worsen thyroid conditions if taken in excess. Bovine thyroid extracts and green tea extracts may also pose risks for those with thyroid conditions. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen, as they can interact with other medications or exacerbate existing conditions. Asking questions about potential benefits, side effects, and interactions with other medications is crucial to making informed decisions about supplements and thyroid health.

One supplement that's good for improving thyroid function is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. While it's a supplement, it contains Thyroid USP, just like Armour Thyroid. But don't worry about safety. VitaliThy is a Vietnam-based product, and it adheres to the high-quality standards set by the Good Manufacturing Practices of the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture, an institution renowned for its stringent guidelines.

Want to know the best way to take your thyroid medication? Check out our comprehensive guide on how to take thyroid medication.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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