Can Thyroid Supplements Help You Lose Weight? The doctors explain.

SELF LOSE WEIGHT TOP your health goal list, you may be tempted to try different types of supplements to help you get there. But there is one group of supplements you should be careful of.

Several supplements sold as “thyroid health” or “thyroid support” products promise to help you shed a few extra pounds, but doctors say they can be risky.

Some people get thyroid supplements thinking it will help them lose weight why an underactive thyroid, a condition called hypothyroidism, can cause weight gain, explains Florence Comite, MD, endocrinologist and founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine and Health.

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But the only way to know if your weight gain is related to a thyroid condition is to have your thyroid hormone checked at your doctor’s office. Then, your doctor might prescribe medications to balance your thyroid hormone levels.

Prescribing medications to treat hypothyroidism can lead to weight loss, says Dr. Comite. But that doesn’t mean that thyroid supplements are helpful for weight loss or even safe in those with optimal thyroid function.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. Its main job is to create a hormone that helps regulate your metabolism, according to the American Thyroid Association.

Thyroid supplements not necessarily increase metabolism, however, and could actually do more harm than good. Jean Chen, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at Texas Diabetes and Endocrinologystates that there is no over-the-counter or lifestyle way to really directly boost thyroid health.

Some thyroid supplements have been shown to have high amounts of thyroid hormonewhich could trigger the condition of hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, and lead to a variety of health consequences, such as irregular heartbeats, hand tremors, sweating, anxiety and muscle weakness.

However, you’ve probably seen thyroid health supplements and wondered if they can help you lose weight. Here’s what you should know about them, according to endocrinologists.

Can Thyroid Supplements Help You Lose Weight?

Probably not. Dr. Chen says there is no proven thyroid supplement that can help weight loss.

Supplements are not required to be regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. And they’re not the same as the thyroid medications doctors prescribe for thyroid conditions, says Comite.

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Some thyroid supplements may contain nutrients, such as iodine, iron, selenium, zincvitamin D and vitamin A, which are necessary for proper thyroid function. But if you already have a healthy thyroid, getting too many of these nutrients could actually cause a thyroid problem.

Taking extra amounts of these substances could also interfere with some thyroid medications or affect thyroid blood tests for people with thyroid problems.

Dr. Comite recommends talking to your doctor before taking thyroid supplements. They will probably want to have your thyroid hormone levels checked.

The benefits of thyroid supplements

There are no proven benefits to taking supplements to support or improve your thyroid, says Dr. chen.

However, a 2018 study suggested that selenium supplements could be beneficial for Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that leads to an underactive thyroid. But more research on the topic is needed.

Iodine deficiency can cause thyroid problems. Doctors often prescribe medications that contain the hormones T3 and T4, the main products of the thyroid gland, says Dr. Comet. The gland uses iodine to make these hormones.

But some supplements contain much higher levels of T3 and T4 compared to prescription drugs used to treat thyroid conditions. Taking too many hormones can cause an overactive thyroid.

If you think your thyroid is not working well, a doctor, not supplements, is the way to get to the root of the problem and get an effective solution.

The risks of thyroid supplements

Thyroid health supplements often contain high amounts of thyroid hormone or excess iodine.

It’s difficult, rather impossible, to know how much of either you might be ingesting in an over-the-counter supplement, says Dr. Comet. Supplements are not regulated.

Too much thyroid hormone could lead to hyperthyroidism. Too much iodine could cause an underactive or overactive thyroid.

Over time, this can lead to iodine toxicity and cause thyroid dysregulation, says Dr. chen.

The thyroid is sensitive and precise, says Dr. Comite. Deviation in thyroid hormone levels can lead to health problems, such as rapid heart rate, bone thinning or poor muscle formation, and also affects memory and cognition.

How to take thyroid medication correctly

Doctors generally don’t recommend thyroid supplements, as they are unregulated, says Dr. Chen.

It’s hard to know if these supplements actually contain the ingredients listed, she adds. However, if a patient decides to start a supplement, I usually recommend stopping it if they don’t feel improvement or develop new symptoms.

The safest way to take any thyroid health supplement is to talk to your doctor first, says Dr. Comet.

They can check your thyroid hormone levels and prescribe medications if your levels are out of control. If not, they may offer other advice to help you reach your weight loss goals, such as adopting or changing your exercise routine or diet plan.

Are there natural ways to improve thyroid health?

There’s really no way to directly boost the health of your thyroid, says Chen.

I always tell patients that they are advised to try eating less processed foods or even cut out some foods that contain gluten or dairy, she explains. However, there is no solid data that dietary or lifestyle changes help or protect the thyroid gland.

man sitting on grass eating mixed salad, partial view

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However, making dietary and lifestyle changes could help you manage some symptoms and improve your overall health, says Dr. Comet. This could even lead to weight loss.

Here are some tips, according to Dr. Comite:

  • Lower and manage stress, which can affect how your body and mind function
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly (cardio and strength training), which will support optimal thyroid activity
  • Adopt restorative activities like yoga and meditation to promote overall health

While some nutrients are needed for your thyroid to function at its best, it’s more beneficial to get these nutrients from foods rather than supplements. Follow a healthy diet that includes:

  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats
  • Antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, oranges and spinach, which have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Fish, lean meats, legumes and nuts that contain omega-3s, selenium and zinc, which are good for thyroid function

Avoid going overboard on iodine-rich foods, such as seaweed, kelp, cod, dairy products, tuna and eggs, says Dr. Comet.

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Erica Sweeney is a writer who focuses primarily on health, wellness and career. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

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