The thyroid is a large ductless gland in the neck that is responsible for the hormones that control growth development through metabolism. Irregularities in this gland can result in many adverse side effects, the most common of which is weight gain.
Controlling the health of the thyroid is generally done through diet. Often times this isn’t enough and you should add thyroid supplements to your daily regimen. However, because of the sensitivity of the gland itself, how hormones are delivered as well as received by an individual and what irregularities might already be present, choosing the right thyroid supplement can be difficult.
In this complete guide, we will discuss the function of the thyroid, the common ingredients and treatments of the thyroid gland. We will also discuss supplements and medications, both prescription and over the counter, that claim to aid in the protection, development, and function of the thyroid gland.
When discussing the thyroid supplements, we will cover natural supplements, synthetic supplements, ingredients, sources, and which supplements are best for which function. Thyroid health supplements, thyroid glandular supplements, and thyroid support supplements all have different factors and benefits. We will even cover the claims and evaluations of thyroid supplements of weight loss to see what type of supplement may be right for you and if you should start a thyroid supplement regimen.
The Function of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a gland in the front side of the neck that is shaped like a butterfly. When you hear or talk about thyroid problems, issues or irregularities of the thyroid you are talking about items that affect the gland itself and its ability to regulate hormones sent to the body.
The thyroid gland sits just below the Adam’s apple and uses iodine to produce vital hormones. The first hormone it produces is called Thyroxine and is known as T4. Once the T4 is released into the bloodstream a small portion is released by the thyroid and converted into triiodothyronine, commonly known as T3.
The function of T4 is to spread throughout the body and stimulate the consumption of oxygen by cells and tissue. This increases metabolism and helps our bodies maintain homeostasis. If T4 is too high, we can become anxious, irritable, nervous and even suffer physical effects such as hair loss and missed menstrual periods.
T3, on the other hand, is the most active hormone in the human body. Its primary function is bind to protein and regulate heart rate. Using T4 and T3 together our bodies regulate body temperature, metabolism, heart rate and turn calories into energy.
The thyroid gland receives signals from the pituitary gland to produce more T4 hormones. This is caused by signals in the brain that regulate these levels and have sensed a low T4 balance. The brain sends a signal to the pituitary gland to regulate the bodies homeostasis, which in turn results in the thyroid producing more T4 and as a byproduct, more T3.
Common Irregularities in the Thyroid Gland
There are several disorders that arise when the thyroid is irregular. The most common are: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid nodules, goiter and thyroid cancer.
Hypothyroidism is caused when the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 or T3. This can be caused by a problem in the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland or the thyroid itself. Correct diagnosis is essential to determining which gland is causing the issues.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Poor concentration
- Dry skin
- Fluid retention
- Low body temperature, or feeling cold
- Muscle and joint pain
- Prolonged menstrual bleeding
Hyperthyroidism, then, is when the thyroid produces too much hormone. Again, this can be caused by either the hypothalamus, pituitary gland or the thyroid itself. Correct diagnosis will help treatment for the specific gland in question.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Feeling nervous
- Constant bowel movements
- Increased perspiration
- Unintentional weight loss
Thyroid nodules are abnormal masses on the thyroid gland. They can be singular or masses of nodules. Size and number will vary. Larger nodules can cause issues with nearby tissue by causing pressure or strain.
Thyroid nodules are generally benign. However, they can also become cysts, or even (though far less common) thyroid cancer.
A goiter, which is not a disease on its own, is a term used to describe a glad that is enlarged. This can be caused by any of the other thyroid irregularities listed here. Anytime the thyroid is enlarged it will be known as a goiter. The amount of enlargement or swelling can be minimal to severe.
In severe cases, the goiter will be noticeable from outside observers as a large lump on the neck.
Women will be susceptible to thyroid cancer far more regularly than men or children. About 75 percent of all thyroid cancer cases are women. The good news is that when detected, especially in early stages, thyroid cancer is very treatable. The survival rate is one of the highest of all cancers, depending on which cell type has become cancerous.
You should always seek medical advice when dealing with the thyroid and any of its irregularities before starting any supplement regimen.
Treatments for Thyroid Irregularity
Treatment options will vary depending on the irregularity involved. For the purposes of this article, we will focus primarily on the most common: hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism will also be touched on as the hormone regulation is key for supplement regimens to work.
Goiters, Thyroid Cancer and Thyroid Nodules should be diagnosed and treated only by medical professionals and is outside the scope of this article. If you suspect you may suffer from any of these irregularities of the thyroid, up to and including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, you should seek the counsel of your primary care physician. This guide is not medical advice.
Treatments for hypothyroidism come in two standard forms: prescription supplements and over the counter supplements. Diet is also important in the regulation of the thyroid and supplying the body with enough iron to allow the gland to produce hormones.
Prescription medication is generally synthetic. The drug known as levothyroxine is a synthetic thyroid hormone that will regulate the thyroid by restoring adequate hormone levels, thus reversing the signs of hypothyroidism.
This supplement can only be received by going to your doctor and having a prescription filled. It should be monitored for effectiveness and the correct dosage can only be determined by tests performed by a medical professional.
Over the counter medications are generally non-synthetic thyroid hormones either from porcine (pig) or bovine (cow) thyroids. Most of the top supplements found over the counter will also include iodine to help in the restoration of T4 and T3.
It is generally advised to understand the source of the thyroid hormone as well as the iodine. While there are no known life-threatening side effects, you may experience more or less than you are required. Because over the counter supplements are not regulated, one pill in a bottle may have zero T4 hormones while the next pill may have quadruple the amounts.
You should read all labels carefully. Know where the ingredients are sourced and how much is in each capsule. Iodine is also important to understand when treating hypothyroidism. Iodine harvested from kelp, for example, will produce higher quality iodine in lower doses, than that which is synthetic or lab-grown.
Different levels will affect people in different ways. What works perfectly for one person may not work for another. While trial and error are aspects of finding the right supplement for you, knowing ahead of time what is contained in the bottles will go a long way to getting the right supplement sooner, and saving you time, hassle and money in the long run.
Treatments for hyperthyroidism follow the same rules. The supplements, either prescription or over the counter, should reduce the amount of T4 and T3 the thyroid produces. You should be aware that these medications are not magic pills and they work in a slow, methodical and gradual manner. You will need to stay constant on taking the pills to achieve the full effects and benefits.
Prescriptions include the two medications propylthiouracil and methimazole. Both are categorized under the anti-thyroid medication label. They will slowly, over time, reduce the hormone levels produced by the thyroid which, in turn, will reverse and eliminate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
When checking labels and adjusting your diet, it is important to note the amount of calcium you ingest. Calcium has been noted in studies to reduce the absorption of levothyroxine as well as natural and synthetic over the counter supplements.
If you take calcium supplements, you may not absorb enough of the thyroid supplement for it to make a difference. Consult your doctor for more information on how to maintain calcium levels as well as obtain the proper amounts of thyroid medications.
Natural Thyroid Supplements
Natural thyroid supplements are derived from porcine thyroid glands. The main issue behind this supplement type is that there is no method of regulating how much of the hormones T4 and T3 are in each capsule.
Because of this, you may end up with a bottle with very little hormone included and the next bottle may have too much. Depending on your specific needs you may end up with too much or not enough or even the precise amount. The main problem is that there is no way to know.
Higher quality supplements will try to regulate the T4 and T3 levels, but the process is not perfect, nor even close to perfect. However, there are other factors to consider. Your thyroid supplement, when natural, should also include eleven other vital additives.
Iron, iodine and zinc are just the three major ones, however, for complete absorption, effectiveness and quality you should also see these other names on the label:
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
If you do not see these ingredients as well, you can assume it is a lower quality supplement and should avoid it entirely.
This is not to say that you will find a natural thyroid supplement with all eleven additives. You will have to ensure that if you select one that has a missing vitamin or two that you also add those specific vitamins to your daily intake.
Of the natural thyroid supplements the ones noted for the highest standards, ingredients and levels are:
- Zhou Nutrition Thyroid Support
- Thorne Research Thyrocsin
- Thyromate Thyroid Support
- Natural Thyroid Supplements
If you decide on trying an over the counter natural thyroid supplement you should always be cautious of claims on the labels. Always do further research into the brand, the sources of ingredients and levels of natural hormones per bottle and per pill.
Thyroid Health Supplements
Thyroid health supplements are generally taken as a precaution to help avoid any issues with hormone production in the future. While these treatments tend to not be so biased on a specific irregularity of the thyroid, they focus more on the overall health of the gland.
Similar to taking a multi-vitamin or a dose of Vitamin C to maintain your bodily levels, thyroid health supplements tend to work the same way. When there isn’t an issue, it helps prevent an issue from forming. While this cannot ever be a guarantee, it is worth noting that they have been shown to help thyroid function.
Because the thyroid is generally in a healthy state, specific supplements may not be the correct answer. Instead, you should focus on supplements of a specific nature, those that contain the ideal ingredients the thyroid needs: iodine, zinc, iron and Vitamin D.
The top supplements for this situation are:
- Pure Encapsulations Thyroid Support
- Nature’s Sunshine Thyroid Support
- NatraBio Thyroid Support
You could also get each of the four main vitamins separately or as a part of a multivitamin. You just need to double check the amounts, sources and availability to maintain the correct dosages.
Thyroid Glandular Supplements
Thyroid glandular supplements are akin to the natural thyroid supplements in that they contain the glands of porcine (pig), bovine (cow), ovine (sheep) or another animal. The difference is that these supplements are completely devoid of T4 and T3 hormones. They must be certified thyroxine free which will prevent consumers from being pushed into a hypothyroid state.
Instead of the T4 and T3 found in the natural supplements, you will find the other hormones produced by the thyroid. Namely, T0, T1, T2 and calcitonin. You should be aware that even small doses of calcium above and beyond the daily recommended levels for your specific BMI will prevent most, if not all of the hormones in thyroid glandular supplements.
The most common glandular supplements are:
- Swanson Premium Glandular Supplement
- Piping Rock Thyroid Glandular
- Solaray Thyroid Caps
Thyroid Support Supplements
This category is very similar to the natural thyroid support supplements. However, the main difference is the removal of the word natural. This is to include any synthetic or lab cultivated thyroid hormones.
One of the major benefits of these supplements over the natural ones is that they are better leveled with T4 and T3 per pill. This will help ensure you get the proper amounts as indicated by the label then you can with natural capsules.
One of the issues, though, is that because they are supplements, they are not regulated by the FDA and the ingredients are not tested for factual inclusion unless a problem is reported over time. You should always check labels, do research and find out where the ingredients are sourced, manufactured or created prior to purchase or ingestion.
Because of these types of supplements, the saying of what works for one may not work for another is never truer. Just because your neighbor uses Brand A with good results does not mean that Brand A is right for you.
The top reviewed and rated thyroid support supplements are:
- Thyroid Script
Thyroid Supplements for Weight Loss
Weight gain is the most common side effect of irregular thyroid function. Thyroid supplements for weight loss are common among those suffering from hypothyroidism. You should always speak to a doctor before starting any supplement regimen with a diagnosed case of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
There are many other factors that will cause the irregular thyroid to cause weight gain. Aside from supplements, you should also maintain other factors of your lifestyle as best as you can. The top factor is sleep. Irregular or shortened sleep patterns will boost weight gain. You should strive for a minimum of six uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. Keeping your circadian rhythm in balance is crucial for metabolism and weight control.
Diet and exercise are also important. When you plan your daily or weekly diet, you should include foods that support thyroid health and development. These include foods rich in protein, iron and iodine, such as fish.
There are some supplements that can help regulate weight gain and proactively help weight loss. However, due to the function of the thyroid, you should be wary of any supplement that claims it can cause weight loss without any other actions. This is simply not the case and with a diagnosed thyroid issue, it is also impossible.
The top reviewed thyroid supplements for weight loss are:
- Zhou Thyroid Support Complex with Iodine
- JoySpring Thyroid Support with Iodine
- 1 Body Thyroid Support
Warnings and Cautions
Thyroid supplements vary in nature, dosage and claims. Some will claim to aid in weight loss, others to support a healthy thyroid while others still will claim to reduce or increase hormone production.
If you are thinking of starting a thyroid supplement regimen, you should first seek the advice of your doctor. You should have a noted diagnosis of a thyroid irregularity by a medical professional and should always consult with your doctors prior to taking any medication, prescribed or over the counter.
If you are already taking a supplement, you should inform your doctors so they may best assist you in formulating a diet, exercise routine and supplement intake schedule that will best suit your particular needs.
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormones T4 and T3 that regulate heart rate, control metabolism and body temperature. If the thyroid, pituitary gland or the hypothalamus become irregular, these hormones can become over produces or under produced.
Dietary supplements have aided patients with thyroid irregularities and should be taken with consent of a medical professional. Depending on your specific needs you have several types of thyroid supplements to choose from.
When choosing natural supplements, you should always check where the ingredients are sourced, the levels of hormones included and if they are sourced from natural or synthetic means.
Dosages are also a concern. Too much iodine can cause adverse effects and even cause allergic reactions. If the iodine isn’t sourced from proper methods, you may ingest too much, or not enough.
Choosing a glandular supplement could be enough to help regulate the hormone production. However, is it important to note where the glandular hormones are sourced from (pig, sheep, cow, etc). You should also note if it is a natural thyroid supplement that contains T4 and T3 or if it is a thyroxine free supplement that only contains T0, T1, T2 and calcitonin.
You should also concern yourself with your other dietary intakes. Calcium will prevent the absorption of T4 and T3 into the bloodstream and body tissue. This can cause adverse effects for those taking supplements to increase these hormone levels.
Iodine, zinc, iron and vitamin d are among the most widely accepted elements to help regulate the thyroid. Any supplement that claims to support thyroid health should contain specific amounts of these and other vitamins and minerals. If they do not, or you are unsure, you should avoid that particular brand.
Always do your research when choosing the proper supplement for your particular thyroid condition and always inform your doctor of any supplements you are taking.
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