Nowadays immune system boosters and supplements for thyroid have become widely available in the health and vitamin stores. Most of these formulas contain natural compounds and claim to help boost and strengthen the immune system. But is it true? Can they help if you have thyroid or Hashimoto’s disease?
People with autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have imbalanced immune system when one of the Th1 or Th2 sides of the immune system becomes dominant over the other and begins to cause damage to healthy tissues. In fact, far more diseases are caused by over-reaction of the immune system than by its under-reaction. For example, inflammatory autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s and Hashimoto’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, scleroderma and many others are caused by an overactive immune system.
Research studies show that people with an overactive immune system who deal with infection and/or autoimmune disease are under a greater immune stress, have higher grade of inflammation and need more support from all body systems and glands than healthy individuals.
In this case you do not need to boost immune system but rather calm it down and support its recovery.
For many inflammatory autoimmune diseases, steroids and cortisol containing medications are usually used to suppress the immune system and reduce the inflammation. For example, in multiple sclerosis strong immuno-modulating drugs such as interferons are prescribed and remission often can be achieved. However, all these pharmaceuticals have drastic and serious side effects that diminish quality of life and can negatively affect other organs and body systems.
Pharmaceutical companies do NOT offer ANY immuno-suppressive drugs for thyroid patients that can modulate Th1 and Th2 responses in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis mainly because it is not considered in the medical community to be a severe or deadly disease and the side effects would outweigh the benefits. Majority of doctors do not explore why your thyroid is out of balance and do not test for iodine because thyroid medication has shown to successefully reduce the inflammation of the thyroid gland and lower TSH.
There is no magic pill that suits everyone, especially if you have an autoimmune disease. Some foods and botanicals can either improve an autoimmune condition or worsen it depending on which side of the immune system becomes dominated or suppressed by the natural compound used.
If you do not know what side of your immune system is dominant you can cause damage to your health by taking these over the counter immune boosters and supplements for thyroid.
Unknownly supporting the wrong side of the immune system could trigger an attack on a NEW tissue and/or organ and contribute to another autoimmune disease. If you decide to use modulations of the immune system with natural compounds you should get your immune system tested and work with a holistic practitioner who is qualified to perform this type of treatment and knows how to stop autoimmune attack on your thyroid.
Are you making this common mistake?
Many thyroid formulas contain iodine and tyroisine and are marketed as supplements for thyroid that can help with hypothyroidism. How many times did you hear that iodine supplements can cure ANY thyroid disease? It is just NOT true.
Iodine deficiency can result in hypothyroidism and this is a common cause of thyroid dysfunction in developing countries and areas with depleted soils. However, about 90% of hypothyroidism in US and other industrialized countries is due to autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease.
Both iodine deficiency and excess can trigger Hashimoto’s in genetically susceptible individuals. Iodine supplements are proven to make Hahimoto’s worse, suppress the thyroid activity and contribute to autoimmune flare-ups that can result in more destruction of the thyroid gland.
Hashimoto’s disease usually develops slowly and hypothyroidism remains borderline, undiagnosed or untreated in a lot of patients for many years. It makes iodine supplements especially dangerous for people with undiagnosed and untreated Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Iodine and tyrosine are necessary for the production of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. However, if your thyroid gland does not function any more or was removed due to surgery for thyroid cancer, thyroidectomy or thyroid nodules you do not need to supplement with iodine and tyrosine to support your thyroid hormones production. In this case tyrosine and iodine supplements provide no value because all the hormones come from the thyroid hormone replacement.
In conventional medicine, even if iodine deficiency is found iodine supplements are in general not recommended for treatment of hypothyroidism due to high risk to trigger autoimmune over-reaction and aggravate the existing thyroid condition. A doctor would usually prescribe thyroid hormones to replace the missing hormones.
Holistic medicine justifies iodine supplements for thyroid conditions only when genuine iodine deficiency is found and a person does not have autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease at the same time. Reliable iodine testing and check for thyroid antibodies can reveal if low or high iodine causes your thyroid problem.
According to naturopathic physician Dr. Alexander Haskell, adequate iodine levels are also important for breast health, prevention and treatment of breast cysts and breast cancer and iodine deficiency can cause Hashimoto’s disease. In his treatment protocol he uses small doses of iodine for his Hashimoto’s patients who were also diagnosed with iodine deficiency but only after the inflammation of the thyroid gland was reduced by using an apropriate dose of thyroid medication.
High iodine is one of the best established environmental triggers of Hashimoto’s disease. Recent research studies reported that hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s disease is reversible in some cases when it is triggered by high iodine in the diet. In this group of Hashimoto’s patients low iodine diet and avoiding thyroid boosters and iodine supplements for thyroid could be a predictable factor for restoring their thyroid function.
Most thyroid supplements and boosters in the health food stores have a combination of high dose iodine and tyrosine. Often people who take tyrosine supplements get a “wired feeling” and initial burst of energy. This effect occurs due to the ability of tyrosine to overstimulate the adrenal glands and increase the production of adrenal hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Action of these two hormones is an equivalent to an active stress response that can result in suppression of the immune system and lower thyroid hormone activity. In fact, there are no studies confirming that tyrosine supplements can increase production of the thyroid hormones.
Taking immune system boosters and iodine supplements for thyroid without proper testing and evaluation by a qualified health professional is a big risk. Next time you walk into the health store or read on the Internet claims that immune boosters and thyroid supplements with high iodine and/or tyrosine “are good for your thyroid” do not make this mistake that can cause you more harm than good.
Read about 4 other crucial mistakes ALL women with thyroid problems make.
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Why do I still have thyroid symptoms? When my lab tests are normal: A revolutionary breakthrough in understanding Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, Morgan James Publishing, 2010
Hope for Hashimoto’s by Dr. A.Haskell, ND, CreateSpace, 2011
Comprehensive handbook of iodine: nutritional, biochemical, pathological and therapeutic aspects by V.R. Preedy, G.N. Burrow, R. Watson, Academic Press, 2009
The effect of iodine restriction on thyroid function in patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yonsei Med J. 2003 Apr 30;44(2):227-35.