How Vitamin D Affects Thyroid Conditions
Vitamin D is well known for its importance in the management of calcium in the gut, bones and blood and resistance to disease. However, many studies now show that vitamin D levels can also be a contributing factor in many other health problems.
Researchers now believe that it plays a crucial role in how cells communicate. Clinical studies link abnormal vitamin D levels to colon, prostate, and breast cancer, as well as heart disease, weight gain, and thyroid conditions.
Production of vitamin D
Vitamin D is unique compared to other vitamins, because it is almost impossible to get what you need from food. Instead, your body makes it naturally on your skin when you’re exposed to natural or artificial UVB light.
Once your body makes vitamin D or takes it as a supplement, it is sent to the liver. The liver transforms vitamin D into 25 (OH) D and sends it to various areas of the body and activates it. Once activated, it is ready to perform its functions.
Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system treats a person’s healthy tissues and cells as a threat. When this happens, your body produces an immune response and attacks. This response can cause damage, inflammation, and chronic pain in many parts of the body.
Vitamin D deficiencies can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections and can be linked to or cause autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease.
Several studies from 2014 presented at the annual meeting of the Thyroid Association are of particular interest. Researchers from Nanjing, China evaluated 34 patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and 32 with Grave’s disease against 52 healthy patients. The researchers measured many thyroid-related factors, including vitamin D3.
Vitamin D is actually a group of compounds classified as vitamin D1, D2, and D3. Vitamin D3 is the natural form of the vitamin and the most biologically active.
The researchers found that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease had significantly lower vitamin D3 levels than healthy controls. Patients with high levels of antibodies to thyroid peroxidase that the body produces in autoimmune thyroid disease also had lower levels of vitamin D. This suggests that insufficient vitamin D could be related to or caused by autoimmune thyroid disease.
Brazilian researchers studied 54 Hashimoto patients, compared with 54 healthy controls. They also found vitamin D deficiency in 63.2% of the patients. Those with low levels of vitamin D also had higher levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone and a larger thyroid.
Lack of vitamin D
Normally, the skin produces enough vitamin D when exposed to adequate UV light. However, the risks of skin cancer or melanoma now mean that many people wear sunscreen and cover their bodies. We also spend more time indoors to work and entertain ourselves.
As more clinical evidence shows a link between vitamin D and thyroid function, many physicians now recommend vitamin D testing as part of thyroid evaluation and care. However, functional physicians and physicians who follow the medical model may treat it differently based on their results.
Medical model vs functional model
The medical model recommends 400 International Units per day of vitamin D. They also define a sufficient level of 25 (OH) D in serum above 50 nmol / L since “it covers the needs of 97.5% of the population”. The test used to measure vitamin D levels in the blood test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D.
The medical model generally recommends supplementation to increase low vitamin D levels. However, the functional approach to care recognizes multiple reasons that can cause low vitamin D levels. Consequently, recommending supplements before considering overall health and Other potential problems can be ineffective and counterproductive.
Supplements don’t always correct low vitamin D levels because they don’t address the underlying problems. The vitamin D receptor in some autoimmune patients cannot be activated due to variations in their DNA sequence. Consequently, they need higher than normal levels of vitamin D in the blood to avoid vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is fat soluble, and some patients with thyroid problems, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, have low stomach acid and poor fat absorption. Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease also cause the immune system to work overtime, depleting the body’s stores of vitamin D. Therefore, addressing intestinal and digestive problems and modulating the immune system are vitally important before considering vitamin D supplementation.
Your gut and digestive health will be examined by a highly qualified functional physician and, if satisfied, may order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test to determine your vitamin D levels.
Your doctor may recommend supplementation to reach between 60 and 80 nmol / L. This is still well below the 125 nmol / L threshold where a patient could experience adverse effects. After several months, they will take the test again. If your serum level has risen to an acceptable level, your doctor will adjust your vitamin D intake so that your serum levels remain between 50 and 60 nmol / L.
Insufficient vitamin D is just one of the factors that can contribute to thyroid problems, so self-supplementation is not recommended as it may be ineffective if underlying problems persist. Discuss your thyroid problems with a functional physician to develop an effective treatment protocol.