We recently wrote about the role of selenium in protecting our thyroid and repair from autoimmune antibodies. Let’s look now as some other nutrients that can be useful in reducing inflammation caused by thyroid damage.
You may have read in the first blog in this series that the centre of a thyroid cell is filled with a very hot lava. Ok, it’s not actually lava, but it is a potent reactive liquid. This environment is necessary to make the thyroid hormone, but we need to maintain a safe boundary around it. When thyroid cells are damaged, unfortunately, this means this protective boundary is breached. Damage and inflammation ensues. The immune army of white cells is recruited and just stomps in like an elephant causing even more damage. What we need here is anti-inflammatory reaction, wave the white flag and tell everyone just to calm down!
Omega-3 for thyroid health
Omega-3 is one of our best anti-inflammatory nutrients. It increases the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids (immune signalling molecules) and dampens down the immune signals. This reduces that invasion of the immune army into the thyroid cells.
Omega-3 active components EPA and DHA also give rise to resolvins and protectins. As you can imagine from their great names, these resolve inflammation by reducing white cell migration to sites of active inflammation. They put the brakes on the immune signalling that is triggering further activation, over and over, as is characteristic of chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. They can also reduce adhesion molecules on circulating white bloods cells. So even if they do make it to the site of inflammation, they will find it harder to stick around.
Interestingly despite all of this, lots of human trials in autoimmune diseases do not show clear benefit. It is very likely that there is a dose dependent effect. You may need to take supplements or increase your intake over a long period of time. This is probably not a quick fix.
Of course you can supplement, but remember if you are eating oily fish, then you may also be replacing meat in the diet with it – reducing pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid (mainly in meat and dairy) and replacing it with omega-3 – which has got to be a most effective strategy. Consuming 2 portions of oily fish per week will equate to about 500mg of omega-3 per day, so aiming for 4 portions is a good start. Your Nutritionist can devise an eating plan to help support a reduction in inflammation so that you can reach the right balance, and determine what dosage of supplement would be best.
Vitamin D for thyroid health
We know that vitamin D is an essential regulator of the immune system. If we were to list here the potential immune signals involved in thyroid inflammation, we could also show evidence as to how vitamin D can regulate each and every one. The funny thing though is that there are no direct studies to show the effect of vitamin D levels on thyroid autoimmunity.
Ok that’s a lie – there are two studies. One is of very poor design and does not contribute to understanding of vitamin D at all sadly. This study involved treatment of hyperthyroid patients with the medication methimazole. One study group also added 60IU vitamin D per day. This level of vitamin D is absolutely tiny – the mind boggles. A child’s recommended daily supplement is 400IU. The study itself is a little misleading when you read just the abstract – a good example of why it is important to really get an understanding of published studies. In the end, their study design was extremely flawed in terms of making any claims or conclusions about vitamin D – they simply did not use nearly enough.
The second study we cite here, is not yet published. There are preliminary reports of reductions in thyroid antibodies but this is not available yet to read. So we can’t make any claims regarding vitamin D and thyroid function other than vitamin D is essential to immune function and calming inflammation. We highly recommend getting your vitamin D levels checked so that you can tailor your dosage correctly. Too much or too little is not helpful.
If you would like more information about the services we offer, including testing, please get in touch.