Alert

Why you should never take thyroid supplements

By Maighan Seagrove-Guffey, D.O.

Endocrinologist

Pardee Diabetes and Endocrine Associates

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It releases hormones into your body and controls your metabolism, which is why some people attribute low energy and weight gain to the thyroid.

Each year, I see numerous patients who experience fatigue, weight gain and hair loss and blame their thyroid, even though they have normal thyroid levels. Some even start taking thyroid supplements they’ve purchased online or from an alternative health provider, with the hopes of supporting their thyroid health and improving their metabolism. But the truth is, thyroid supplements can be dangerous and I never recommend them.

Why it’s dangerous to take thyroid supplements

I’ve had several patients come to see me after taking supplements recommended by people who aren’t endocrinologists or primary care providers. In many of these patients, their hormones are out of whack. You should never take thyroid supplements, for several reasons.

First, there’s no way to safely monitor these products and their ingredients. Supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may claim to contain certain ingredients or provide results, but the FDA hasn’t evaluated these claims.

Also, studies have shown that thyroid supplements often contain ingredients not listed on their labels or they may contain real hormones. There are dangers to using these hormones. For example, testosterone supplements in young men can affect their fertility. HRT with testosterone in older females hasn’t been well-studied. Additionally, herbal supplements often contain high levels of iodine, which can also affect your thyroid function.

If you have normal thyroid levels, adding thyroid supplements can cause hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which can lead to bone loss and cardiac issues. It can even be life-threatening when left untreated.

If you have a thyroid condition, it needs to be treated by your primary care provider or endocrinologist with FDA-approved medications. It’s unsafe medical practice to start someone on thyroid hormone supplements when they have normal lab results. The lab values your medical provider use are evidence-based and the result of years of clinical trials and retrospective chart reviews.

How to support your thyroid health

The best way to have a healthy thyroid isn’t spending hundreds of dollars on supplements – it’s living a healthy lifestyle. Weight gain, low energy and hair loss can be caused by the normal aging process, lack of exercise, a poor diet, stress, other uncontrolled health conditions and lack of sleep.

Other than making healthy lifestyle choices, there’s nothing specific you can do for your thyroid health. Follow a healthy diet most of the time, exercise regularly (the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be), stay hydrated, manage your stress and get enough sleep.

Multivitamins are generally safe, but if you decide to add supplements like vitamin B or vitamin D, talk with your primary care provider to ensure they don’t interfere with any other medications you take.

Signs of a thyroid issue

You should see your primary care provider if you’re living a healthy lifestyle and have signs of a thyroid issue.

Signs of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pain, constipation, thinning hair, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, fertility problems, depression, slowed heart rate, trouble tolerating cold temperatures, a puffy face, reduced sweating and goiter (enlarged thyroid).

Signs of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) are unintentional weight loss, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, tremors, irritability or nervousness, muscle weakness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty tolerating heat, mood swings and goiter.

If you start to experience any of these symptoms, go to your primary care provider for an initial workup and they can refer you to an endocrinologist if needed.

If you have a thyroid condition and are being treated by your doctor, take your medications exactly as prescribed. If you have a hyperactive thyroid, be sure to see your doctor as required since this condition can be dangerous or life-threatening if not treated appropriately.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about your thyroid.

Dr. Seagrove-Guffey is a board-certified endocrinologist at Pardee Diabetes and Endocrine Associates.

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