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Natural Alternatives to Thyroid Hormones

author image Christy Callahan
Christy Callahan has been researching and writing in the integrative health care field for over five years, focusing on neuro-endocrinology. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, earned credits toward a licensure in traditional Chinese medicine and is a certified Pilates and sport yoga instructor.
Natural Alternatives to Thyroid Hormones
Yellow pills spilling from a bottle Photo Credit: Kritchanut/iStock/Getty Images

The thyroid gland affects every tissue in your body. Positioned at the front of the throat over the windpipe, this wing-shaped gland regulates the body's metabolism and calcium balance, according to The gland secretes iodine-containing hormones, T4 and T3, which actively bind to receptor sites on cells all over the body. If you have a thyroid disorder, it is typically from an underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism. There are medications as well as natural options for thyroid function; talk to your doctor about your specific needs. Vitamins and alternative options can impact your current thyroid medication, and require diligent monitoring.

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Dessicated Thyroid Gland

One alternative to a synthetically made medication is a natural medication made from the dessicated, or dried, thyroid gland of an animal, usually pig. Used in cases of hypothyroidism, this type of medication contains both thyroxine and triiodothyronine, hormones needed by the thyroid gland. Traditional synthetic medications only contain thyroxine, states Dessicated thyroid medications still require a physician's prescription, and should not be confused with glandular concentrates found in grocery stores. Talk to you doctor about your condition, and what type of medication is best for you.


Selenium is a mineral that plays an important role in thyroid function. It is used to convert the T4 hormone into the active T3 hormone, a biochemical process that is fundamental to adequate thyroid function. Low levels of selenium can lead to thyroid issues like goiter, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in February 1993. Another study found that supplementation of selenium helped to restore normal levels of thyroid hormones. Published in "Acta Biologica Hungarica" in June 2010, Dr. IB Amara and colleagues found that providing selenium to rats with hypothyroidism was beneficial. Talk to your doctor about selenium, as too much in your diet can be toxic.


According to the June 1995 issue of "Mayo Clinic Proceedings," niacin, or vitamin B3, may actually lower thyroid hormone levels. The patients in the study were given nicotinic acid, or niacin, and had their thyroid hormone levels evaluated. Dr. K.M. Shakir and colleagues discovered that the nicotinic administration lowered thyroid hormone levels, but did not induce hypothyroidism. Niacin may be beneficial for cases of hyperthyroidism, although results are not guaranteed. Talk to your doctor about niacin before using.


The thyroid gland needs iodine to make the T3 and T4 hormones. According to "The Thyroid Sourcebook" by M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D., the body only requires a small amount of iodine per day, approximately 150 micrograms. However, many countries around the world have standard diets that are deficient in iodine, making even that small amount difficult to obtain. Low levels of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism and an enlargement of the thyroid gland, or goiter. Too much iodine, according to the book, can also cause goiters; therefore, it is important to discuss your dietary needs with your doctor before supplementing with iodine.

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  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Thyroid Gland
  • The Mayo Clinic: Hypothyroid: Alternative Medicine
  • "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; The epidemiology of iodine-deficiency disorders in relation to goitrogenic factors and thyroid stimulating hormone regulation; CH Thilly et al; February 1993
  • "Acta Biologica Hungarica"; Effect of selenium on hypothyroidism induced by methimazole (MMI) in lactating rats and their pups; IB Amara et al; June 2010
  • "Mayo Clinic Proceedings"; Nicotinic acid decreases serum thyroid hormone levels while maintaining a euthyroid state; KM Shakir et al; June 1995
  • "The Thyroid Sourcebook"; M.S. Rosenthal, Ph.D.; 2009
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