Thyroid supplements are taken to augment or replace the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. These supplements are commonly used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland functions but not as efficiently as it should. In other cases, they are used to compensate for a missing thyroid gland. Thyroid supplements are commonly given to humans but can be used to improve the metabolic health of animals suffering from similar conditions. Some other products are marketed as supplements and may boost or modify the functioning of the thyroid gland but are not generally reviewed by reputable agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which makes it difficult for consumers to judge how effective such supplements might be.
The thyroid gland serves as a sort of master switch to control overall metabolic rate. It works by producing hormones that circulate throughout the body and direct certain key systems to function at an appropriate rate. In many people, particularly older women, the thyroid gland fails to produce a sufficient quantity of these hormones, and the metabolic rate will fall, leading to weight gain, lethargy, and other symptoms.
An underactive thyroid gland can be easily treated with thyroid supplements. These supplements are usually well-tolerated and act to naturally restore the body’s metabolic balance. A physician will monitor the level of thyroid hormones in a patient’s body and gradually adjust the dosage of thyroid supplements until a healthy and normal level is reached.
In some cases, the thyroid gland may be completely destroyed. This is most often a result of radiation exposure, usually intentional, to treat cancer of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is the only part of the human body that uses iodine, and so cancer of the thyroid can be treated very easily by giving a patient a small amount of radioactive iodine. This will generally destroy the thyroid gland and all of the cancerous thyroid cells but leave the rest of the body unharmed. Patients who have undergone this treatment or suffered other damage to their thyroid gland will need to take thyroid supplements continuously to replace the hormones the gland would normally have produced.
Veterinarians may sometimes prescribe thyroid supplements for animals. Thyroid glands in animals perform the same tasks that thyroid glands in humans do. Animals who are sluggish, have poor appetite, or have other metabolic problems that can often be easily treated with medication to boost their thyroid levels.
Some thyroid supplements are produced as natural supplements rather than standard medications. These substances are typically processed from tissues that do contain thyroid hormones. They are not, however, generally regulated as carefully as are medical thyroid supplements, and so care should be used in evaluating their purity and efficacy.