Is Vitamin D Related to Thyroid Disorders?
By Jen Morganti, ND, NEEDS Education Director
One of the most common nutrient deficiencies associated with a poorly functioning thyroid is iodine. But other nutrients are also critical for a healthy thyroid. A form of thyroid disease called Hashimoto’s disease, is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack important enzymes involved in thyroid hormone production. The end result is hypothyroid symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, joint stiffness, or unexplainable weight gain.
Autoimmune diseases are typically triggered by excessive inflammation which can be caused by factors, such as food sensitivities or leaky gut problems. Nutrient deficiencies may occur and in the case of Hashimoto’s, vitamin D deficiency is common. This deficiency is acknowledged by mainstream medicine, but what is not understood is if D deficiency is the cause or result of the disease.
A study done in Greece, a region known for abundant sunshine and presumably plenty of vitamin D (via synthesis in the skin) explored the connection between vitamin D and Hashimoto’s disease. Researchers set out to investigate the number of Hashimoto’s patients who were deficient in vitamin D and to determine the outcome of replenishing the nutrient in the cases of deficiency.
Out of 218 Greek Hashimoto’s patients, the rate of vitamin D deficiency (set at <20ng/mL) was a remarkable 86%. Most of these patients were found to get plenty of daily sun exposure and shouldn’t have been deficient. So it’s plausible that their ability to convert sun exposure to vitamin D was impaired for some reason. The goal of the study was to increase vitamin D levels in the deficient patients to at least 20ng/mL. They took 1200 IU – 4000 IU vitamin D3 daily to achieve this goal.
To determine the effect of increasing vitamin D levels on the disease, anti- TPO levels were measured before and after the study. Anti-TPO antibodies are the marker for this particular autoimmune disease and higher levels indicate a more severe case of Hashimoto’s disease.
When the four month study was complete, anti-TPO antibodies decreased significantly—on average about 20%. Based on this limited study, it seems that vitamin D deficiency was at least partly the cause of Hashimoto’s. Because of their initial success, it would have been interesting to extend the study and see if continuing vitamin D supplementation dropped anti-TPO antibodies further over the course of the following year.
Vitamin D is surely not the only factor to cause Hashimoto’s disease, but it appears that being deficient in the nutrient can be one of the triggers for this autoimmune disease for those whom are predisposed. If you suffer from Hashimoto’s or have a family history of it be sure to check your D levels, but also investigate food allergies, especially gluten sensitivity, and take a good multivitamin to get the necessary co-factors for thyroid hormone production.
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