Vitamin D3 and Thyroid Health

Monday, July 21st, 2014 / Sue Ryan headshot

The benefits of vitamin D3 garner a plethora of glowing press these days but little information has been reported about how this essential nutrient may be associated with thyroid disorders. An alarming number of Americans—over 25 million—suffer from thyroid disease. Women are four times more likely than men to develop a thyroid disorder. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, regulates your metabolism and affects every cell in your body. When your thyroid is not working properly, your body becomes unbalanced, potentially causing symptoms including weight gain or loss and chronic fatigue as well as autoimmune disease and cancer. Let’s look at how vitamin D3 may affect thyroid health:

Thyroid Hormonal Balance

Vitamin D receptors (VDR) are present in the cells of the pituitary, the pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain that controls your thyroid. The pituitary produces a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that signals your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormone (T3 and T4). Thyroid hormone constantly circulates throughout your body, regulating metabolism. Either inadequate or excessive thyroid hormone can wreak havoc to your health, culminating in hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Understanding the regulating effects of VDR in our cells, I surmise that the amount of activated vitamin D3 in the pituitary’s VDR may be connected to the balance of thyroid hormone.

Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases

Adequate levels of vitamin D3 may protect the immune system from attacking itself. Low vitamin D3 levels have been linked to autoimmune thyroid diseases including Hashimoto’s and Graves’ thyroiditis.

Discovered one hundred years ago by a Japanese physician, Hashimoto’s disease is caused by abnormal blood cells and white blood cells constantly attacking and damaging the thyroid. About 95 per cent of Hashimoto’s disease patients are women. A study published in a 2011 issue of the journal Thyroid revealed that 92 per cent of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis cases had insufficient circulating vitamin D3 levels.

Ten times more likely to develop in women than men, Graves’ disease is caused by antibodies that overstimulate thyroid hormone production, causing hyperthyroidism. Researchers, who investigated Japanese female and male patients with Graves’ disease over a one-year period, found a high prevalence of woefully low circulating vitamin D3 in the female patients compared to the male subjects.

Thyroid Cancer

Incidences of thyroid cancer have doubled over the past four decades. The likelihood of women developing thyroid cancer is three times greater than for men. Activated vitamin D3 regulates cell differentiation, cell proliferation, and cell death. If these vital functions go awry, cancer may develop. Epidemiological studies indicate a link between vitamin D3 and thyroid cancer. Vitamin D researcher W.B. Grant, Ph.D. published a paper in a 2012 issue of the journal Anticancer Research that indicated an association between solar ultraviolet B, vitamin D3, and cancers including thyroid.

A relatively rare form of thyroid cancer—medullary thyroid cancer—originates in the thyroid C cells where a hormone called calcitonin is secreted. Calcitonin’s functions include stimulation of vitamin D3 production in the kidneys. The measurement of calcitonin is a diagnostic screening tool for medullary thyroid cancer. VDR are present in the thyroid C cells. Understanding the powerful effect of activated VDR on cell regulation, I hypothesize that activated VDR in the C cells may possibly prevent the development of medullary thyroid cancer.

In conclusion, recent medical literature suggests a connection between vitamin D3 and thyroid health. However, additional research is required to determine if thyroid dysfunction may cause vitamin D3 deficiency, or low vitamin D3 status may contribute to thyroid disorders.

Copyright ©2012 by Susan Rex Ryan

All rights reserved.

This post was published previously September 2012.

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Hormones Matter does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.




6 thoughts on “Vitamin D3 and Thyroid Health

  1. My thyroid has been varying between 2.5, 3.9, 2.9. I think an antibody one was done in think he said the level should be under 30 I think mine was 22 I think. I have very bad joint pain been on and off anti depressants for too many years. Always cold been told I get raynards symptoms. Recently I’ve bee told my vitamin D was 22 which he said I was sever deficiant in it. Thinking I would have liked to find a research that looks at treating peoples symptoms.

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    • Hi, Shirley. Thank you for your comments. Your vitamin D level of 22 nmol/L is extremely low. Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a wide range of diseases including thyroid disorders. Please consider taking a daily vitamin D3 soft gel or liquid drops that will boost your levels. It may take some time but the effort will be worth it!

  2. I did a vitamin test years ago, and showed that I have very low levels of Vitamin D (I have hashimoto). The doctor prescribed me with 5 drops daily of oleovit d3. I took it for 7 weeks (it was a detox), so I stopped after. Had no idea that there was a link.

    Hence my question is: for Hashimoto people, how much Oleovit D3 to take? And forever, then I assume?

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    • Sylvia, thank you for your excellent question about Oleovit D3 and Hashimoto’s people. (For our readers, Oleovit D3 is an Austrian brand of vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, liquid drops.) As my article indicates, the link between Hashi’s and vitamin D3 is real. Assuming you are still D3-deficient, probably a great idea to resume taking the Oleovit D3 drops (D3 in liquid form is well-absorbed). If you could tell me the dosage of one drop, I will reply to your question about how much to take. Sue

      P.S. I also wrote a more recent post on the Hormone Matters website about vitamin D and adaptive immunity where more recent research about Hashimoto’s and vitamin D is included.

  3. Great article. I have hypothyroidism due to my thyroid removal and for the past two years I’ve had an issue with weight gain, joint problems etc. even after my meds were adjusted. It wasn’t until my endocrinologist did a very comprehensive blood work that discovered my Vit D levels were extremely low. I now take Vitamine D3 an it has made such a difference!

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