COVID-19, Hypothyroidism, and the Immune System
Updated: Jun 8
In this pandemic world, many of us have taken a keen interest in boosting our immune system, and for good reason. A healthy immune system can help protect us against coronavirus. However, COVID-19 and all other ailments aside, the immune system can be compromised for a number of reasons. The older we get, the more our immune system declines, which can give way to some medical conditions that can make us even more vulnerable to foreign invaders, such as high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease. It all feels a bit scary, especially when you add a pre-existing condition to the mix, like an autoimmune condition.
If you are living with a chronic condition, like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you may feel extra worried about the impact of COVID-19 on your health. At the moment, we don’t yet know how to completely prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19, so the next best thing we can do is focus on ways to boost our immune system. This blog will provide you with some helpful information on ways you can give yourself some additional support during this global health crisis.
Take a deep breath and remember, the body knows how to heal and take care of itself. Sleep is the best tool in our toolkit when it comes to our health. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough of it! Oftentimes, stress is the root cause of poor sleep. Whether it’s the stress we hold in our minds or feel in our bodies. Regardless, When the body is in stress mode, it sends out distress signals and chemicals that tamp down our immune system, causing it to not work properly. One of the most important steps in reducing the severity of symptoms (and flare-ups) of autoimmune thyroid disease is learning to cope with stress. The immune system works best when we get at least seven to nine hours of good-quality sleep each night. Check out this blog for additional tips for sleep hygiene and self-care.
Supplements to Strengthen Your Immune System
Key nutrients drive thyroid hormone production. When it comes to living with a thyroid condition, some of these key nutrients may already be lacking. The thyroid gland is highly nutrient-dependent, so poor nutrition can definitely contribute to thyroid dysfunction or worsening of symptoms. In managing your thyroid condition, talking with your doctor about medication and treatment is always a good idea, but there are also nutritional and lifestyle remedies that can help, too. While specific foods and supplements cannot completely treat or reverse thyroid disease, thyroid supplements and thyroid-friendly eating patterns can be supportive.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about supplements. There are so many options available on the market and some are more hype than science. Doing your research on the quality of your supplements is important. It can be tough to not only decide if you need a thyroid supplement, but what supplement it should be, what brand is good, and what ingredients it needs to contain. Consumer Lab is a terrific resource for checking out supplement quality, Not all supplements are created equal, so before you rush off to the store, do your research and give your doctor a call. It’s always a good idea to keep your healthcare provider in the loop about your interest in starting any new supplements.
When it comes to the immune system, restoring deficient micronutrients to their recommended levels may help to give our immune system a boost. Focusing on high-quality food is the best way to get your necessary nutrients, but some people with hypothyroidism may choose to supplement with vitamins and minerals in order to increase resistance to infection and support faster recovery.
Here are a few vitamins to take a look at:
Vitamin A boosts immune function and provides an improved defense against infectious diseases. It also lowers concentrations of TSH and regulates thyroid hormone metabolism.
When it comes to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, some people can experience a vitamin D deficiency. In fact, with our modern lifestyle, most people are deficient in this important vitamin. Vitamin D is an immune modulator that helps to build resilience against infections and to maintain gut health.
There's been a lot of talk about Zinc lately and for good reason. Boosting your Zinc levels can help you maintain a strong immune response, especially if you have hypothyroidism. Not only is zinc necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3, but it also increases white blood cell production which helps the body defend against foreign viral and bacterial invaders.
Much of our health originates in the gut. Probiotics are a vital component for complete health and wellness. These beneficial bacteria are good for those with autoimmune thyroid disease as they support healthy gut function, where 70% of the immune system exists.
The bottom line, food is medicine. Eating well is a great way to keep your immune system strong against unwanted invaders. Research suggests that the majority of our immune system resides in our gut. We also know that a healthy gut also impacts thyroid function because it is particularly sensitive to changes in the gut microbiome. A healthy gut means a stronger immune system to support metabolic functions and fight off infection. Included below are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to your health, nutrition, and eating.
1) Remove food triggers
First, you have to identify foods that cause symptoms to flare. Reactive foods may lead to inflammation that can worsen your autoimmune reactions or interfere with the function of your thyroid. Using the Aila Health app to track your nutrition and symptoms, or working with an Aila's Nutritionist can help you begin to identify foods that are triggering. From there, you can begin and create a personalized nutrition plan that fits your individual needs.
2) Hone in on nutrient-rich foods
Your thyroid needs nutrients like selenium, iron, and zinc for proper synthesis. While shopping during the pandemic may be challenging, you can still stock up on frozen fruits & veggies, canned fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines, and healthy fats like seeds and nuts.
3) Feed your gut
There is so much research linking gut health to physical, mental, and emotional health. Fermented foods are a great way to bring in good bacteria and rebalance your gut microbiome. You may also choose to take a probiotic supplement. There are many benefits that will come from restoring healthy gut function, but one benefit, in particular, is that it may reduce the presence of a leaky gut, a condition that can cause immune reactions like inflammation or pain.
Join a Community of Chronic Illness Warriors
Here at Aila Health, we support people in their chronic illness journey. Join our community and connect with other patients like you. Share your patient journey with others who truly understand what you are going through. Learn from others’ experiences and how they navigated their condition. Learn more.
Article written by: Shannon Sims, PhD
Shannon Sims, PhD, is an integrative wellness coach and mind-body specialist with Aila Health where she focuses on supporting Long Covid and other chronic illness warriors in their journey to greater wellness. Dr. Sims is also a professor at Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences in the department of Mind-Body Medicine.