Beware of fads and Internet promises when it comes to thyroid health.
“There’s a lot of Internet chatter and not a lot of data to support it,” said Michael Adler, MD, FACE, an endocrinologist at Endocrinology of Evangelical Community Hospital.
Supplements and diets abound, and along with them misinformation from “people trying to take advantage of people who are not feeling well,” he said.
Truth be told, little is known about how to prevent thyroid disease.
Dr. Madiha Alvi, an endocrinologist at Geisinger Medical Center, said that while a lot of research has been done, some of that research is controversial, and data has been inconsistent.
While some diets have become major talking points and may have worked for some, she said it’s unlikely that they present a one-size-fits-all solution. However, she said most diets will help other things in the body, even if it might not help the thyroid, so she never discourages the effort. She also encourages her patients to refrain from smoking, as there is good research that shows it can trigger immune disease that “finds the thyroid to be a very easy target.”
With thyroid health, it’s important to remember that it is a sensitive organ, and there could be a number of different reasons why it’s not functioning correctly. Treatment should be sought via reputable medical institutions and professionals, not fads or vague promises, because as Adler cautioned, “A lot of times, bad information can actually harm patients and lead to unnecessary workups and treatments.”
Alvi agrees. She sees a number of patients who will come into her office, having been on an iodine supplement. Initially, she said, it may help you to feel better, “but after awhile it starts damaging and harming and shutting down your own gland. Unmonitored use of supplements or nonprescription use of any of these medications can cause harm down the road.”
Alvi explained that the thyroid is a sensitive organ, and before experimenting with any sort of treatment, it’s necessary to know what might be affecting it. In some instances, it could just be temporary.
For example, postpartum thyroiditis is common in women right after childbirth, and is an abnormality that will wear off as the immune system returns to its normal function.
In addition, while autoimmune diagnoses may show that you may have a tendency to develop thyroid issues down the road, treatment is not initiated until a problem has been diagnosed.
In many cases, there are medications with side effects that may create thyroid problems. In cases like this, Alvi said she’ll “tag along and do damage control.”
But the best course of action for all people looking to have optimal thyroid health is to first talk with a professional – someone specially trained in dealing with thyroid disease.
“There are a lot of hokes out there that can be misleading,” Alvi warned.