Thyroid Symptoms, Labs, & Supplements to Discuss with your Doctor

Published on January 27, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

It’s National Thyroid Awareness month, and if you’re reading this article, you’re likely investigating possible symptoms of a thyroid issue.

Maybe you already have a diagnosis and want to learn more about what’s going on with your body.

Or perhaps you’ve struggled with strange symptoms for some time but can’t get a proper diagnosis.

Or, you’re just not feeling right, but all the doctors you’ve seen tell you your lab work looks fine.

Regardless, if you’re experiencing strange symptoms, you are wise to be concerned. 

Especially if you’re a woman, have a pre-existing condition, have recently had a baby, are over 40, or have a family history of thyroid disease.

The truth is thyroid disease has become very common, with 1 in 8 Americans expected to develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime (and the number is much higher for women). REF#456

Unfortunately, most people who have thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

This is due to various factors, including: 

  • A lack of symptoms or symptoms that don’t make sense
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Limitations in standard testing procedures
  • A lack of understanding of the subtleties of diagnosing thyroid disease in the medical field

In other words, it’s not your fault. 

Despite advances in medicine, there is still much misunderstanding surrounding the symptoms, origins, and diagnosis of thyroid problems.

Fortunately, more and more experts are sharing what they’ve learned about identifying and addressing thyroid disease.

Austin, Texas-based Functional Medicine and Board-Certified Family Medicine physician and author Dr. Alejandra Carrasco of Nourish Medicine is one of these experts.

In this article, Dr. Carrasco shares some of her insights on lesser-known thyroid symptoms she sees in her clinical practice, plus six essential lab tests you should insist on if you or your doctor suspects thyroid trouble.

We’ll also share a brief overview of the different types of thyroid diseases and a short list of herbs and supplements that have been shown to help support healthy thyroid function.

An Overview of Thyroid Disease (It’s more common than you think!)

Thyroid disease occurs when the body produces too little or too much thyroid hormones and/or due to an autoimmune response (when the body attacks its tissues).

Thyroid disease is widespread, affecting an estimated 20 million Americans (although some experts believe that number is much higher).

Here are some more fascinating stats from the American Thyroid Association: REF#456

  • More than 12% of the US population will develop thyroid disease in their lifetime.
  • Thyroid disease affects women five to eight times more than men (but men can get it too).
  • Up to 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware they have it.
  • Undiagnosed thyroid disease may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.
  • The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.

Thyroid problems are a big deal because your thyroid plays an essential role in releasing hormones that regulate metabolism, which affect things like hormonal balance, digestive function, cardiovascular health, blood sugar, and more.

The interconnectedness of the thyroid with the rest of the body makes it essential to catch problems early on.

There are several thyroid diseases, including but not limited to: REF#457 REF#458

  • Hypothyroidism: The thyroid isn’t making enough hormones.
  • Subclinical Hypothyroidism: The thyroid is making slightly less hormones than it should
  • Hyperthyroidism: The thyroid is making excess hormones.
  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation or thyroid swelling that may cause it to produce too little thyroid hormone.
  • Postpartum thyroiditis: A typically temporary condition that occurs in 5-9% of women after childbirth.
  • Grave’s Disease: An enlarged thyroid gland that may be overactive and produce too many hormones.
  • Hashimoto’s Disease: This autoimmune condition may exist in addition to hypothyroidism or other conditions.

So, how do you know if you have a thyroid disease?

Symptoms presentation is one piece of the puzzle. However, an accurate diagnosis requires a series of lab tests.

This brings us to our next two points: symptoms and testing.

15 Lesser Known Thyroid Symptoms to Discuss with your Doctor, According to a Functional Medicine Physician

Most people typically associate symptoms such as thinning hair, low energy, or weight gain with a thyroid problem.

However, according to Dr. Carrasco, the symptoms of thyroid disease are vast. 

“These symptoms can be tricky to decode because they can vary greatly from person to person, may come and go in frequency and intensity, may mirror that of another condition, and/or may not fit the standard presentation of thyroid disease.”

Here’s a list of 15 lesser-known potential thyroid symptoms Dr. Carrasco sees in her practice:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Hormonal issues
  3. Sleep problems
  4. Dry skin
  5. Anxiety and mood swings
  6. Brain fog/trouble focusing
  7. High cholesterol
  8. Low libido
  9. Sensitivity to cold
  10. Cold hands and feet
  11. Digestive complaints, such as SIBO or intestinal permeability
  12. Muscle pain
  13. Fluid retention
  14. Thinning eyebrows
  15. Fertility problems

This is not an exhaustive list of all the symptoms one may experience. 

However, if you’ve been struggling with “mystery” symptoms, this list may give you clues to discuss with your doctor.

How to Get the Right Thyroid Labs

As mentioned previously, one of the reasons people are often in the dark about thyroid disease is due to limitations in testing.

Including a general lack of screening in annual and prenatal/postnatal check-ups and, according to Dr. Carrasco (and other experts), “Most doctors aren’t running the right tests to check for various markers that may indicate thyroid disease.”

“The TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test is considered the gold standard. However, TSH is just one player in the symphony of hormones related to thyroid function. It’s an important marker but doesn’t give a full picture.”

“For example, your TSH could be normal when other thyroid hormones are too high or too low. Or, your TSH could be low-normal, which your doctor may interpret as “fine,” but it is actually causing problems. Also, a TSH test doesn’t screen for antibodies, which could indicate Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune condition).”

In addition to the standard TSH test, Carrasco recommends the following thyroid function tests. The American Thyroid Association, REF#459 the National Institutes for Health, and other global medical institutions also recommend these tests. REF#460

  • Free T3: T3 is one of the body’s main thyroid hormones that affect metabolism and energy. Low levels can indicate hypothyroidism.
  • Free T4: T4 is the other main thyroid hormone that acts more like a storage hormone. Most T4 is converted to active T3 for metabolic functions and energy. Low levels may mean hypothyroidism.
  • Reverse T3: Reverse T3 is also converted from T4 and helps slow down metabolism. High levels can indicate hypothyroidism.
  • TPO antibodies: The presence of TPO antibodies may indicate Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid condition.
  • Thyroglobulin antibodies: This also tests for Hashimoto’s. 

Although things are changing, most doctors will not automatically offer these tests unless you request them.

Says Dr. Carrasco:

“People often come to me feeling frustrated and defeated because they know something is wrong with them and may even intuitively suspect a thyroid problem. Yet, their doctor tells them their TSH test is normal. 

Or worse yet, they’re not even offered a basic test and told it must just be stress. So you really need to advocate for yourself and insist on all six tests for a proper diagnosis.

If you’re not having any luck with your doctor or specialist, I’d recommend seeking out a functional medicine physician who specializes in thyroid disease and can order these labs and interpret them properly.”

Herbs and Supplements for Thyroid Health

Doctors and integrative healthcare practitioners approach thyroid disease differently.

Sometimes, thyroid support measures such as reducing stress, addressing sleep, taking certain supplements, and changing diet and lifestyle can make all the difference.

In other cases, prescription medication is required to maintain proper function and help prevent other health issues.

Often, you may be presented with an integrative approach that may include all of the above.

The following are some herbs and supplements shown to potentially support thyroid function.*


Ashwagandha has a long history of use for supporting hormonal health, stress response, energy, endurance, and thyroid health.*

In addition, a 2017 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 50 women ages 18 to 50, published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that taking 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily led to significant improvements in thyroid hormone levels. REF#461

It is believed Ashwagandha’s positive effects on cortisol levels (your body’s master stress hormone) may be responsible for this effect.*

Ashwagandha has also been shown effective for improving sleep, REF#462 which can positively impact thyroid and overall hormonal health.*

Gaia Herbs offers several herbal supplements with Ashwagandha, including: 

Sea Vegetables, like Brown Seaweed and Kelp

Iodine deficiency is often associated with various types of thyroid disease.

Sea vegetables are rich in natural iodine and have been shown to help support thyroid function, including T4, T3, and TSH levels. REF#463

Brown seaweed can be combined with Ashwagandha and Schisandra in Gaia Herbs Thyroid Support Formula.

Selenium, Zinc, Iodine, and Vitamin D

All of these nutrients are essential to proper thyroid function. They’re also commonly deficient in people with thyroid disease.

Note: Iodine supplementation is not appropriate for everyone and every condition, so always check with your doctor.

For example, low vitamin D levels are considered a risk factor for thyroid autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease. REF#464 REF#465

Vitamin D supplementation is potentially helpful for regulating immunity in those with thyroid disease. REF#466 However, more studies are needed.

Optimal zinc levels have been shown critical for proper thyroid hormone synthesis and action and are influential on T4, T3, and TSH. REF#467

Selenium deficiency has been associated with a variety of thyroid diseases. And selenium supplementation has been shown to be potentially beneficial for mild Grave’s Disease REF#468 and Hashimoto’s. REF#469

Also, a review titled “A concise review of Hashimoto thyroiditis (HT) and the importance of iodine, selenium, vitamin D and gluten on the autoimmunity and dietary management of HT patients. Points that need more investigation” the authors recommended careful supplementation of each of these nutrients for patients with Hashimoto’s. REF#470

Ultimately, more extensive studies are needed to provide more insights into the effects of supplementation on various thyroid conditions. 

However, many doctors and healthcare professionals recommend supplementing with these nutrients to support thyroid health.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a common herb that grows throughout the spring and summer in many parts of the world.

It’s often found in teas, supplements, gardens, and can even be found growing wild.

Lemon Balm’s most well-known for its calming effects and cognitive/mental health benefits.* REF#471 REF#472 REF#473

However, it has also demonstrated efficacy in supporting thyroid health.*

A research article published by Iranian researchers at the University of Medical Sciences titled “A Brief Overview of the Effects of Melissa officinalis L. Extract on the Function of Various Body Organs” REF#474 notes a study REF#475 demonstrating Lemon’s Balms effect on the pituitary-thyroid axis in rats with high cholesterol. The study showed increased thyroid hormone levels and reduced thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.

Researchers believe the thyroid/metabolic effects of Lemon Balm may be the result of specific plant compounds that protect the liver and reduce the amount of lipid profiles, influencing thyroid hormone function.

Lemon balm may provide additional benefits to those with thyroid concerns by helping calm anxiety, promote healthy sleep, support the adrenals, ease digestive complaints, and support immunity.*

Lemon balm is delicious as a tea, such as Gaia Herbs Sleep & Relax Herbal Tea, as a tincture, such as Gaia Herbs Certified Organic Lemon Balm Tincture, taken as a convenient capsule, such as in Adrenal Health Nightly Restore, or as a healthy gummy in our Relax Gummies.

How to Get the Support you Need for Thyroid Health

If you resonate with any of these thyroid symptoms, talk to your doctor or trusted healthcare practitioner about your concerns.

As Dr. Carrasco stated earlier, “You really need to be your own advocate.” 

In other words, if you feel dismissed or aren’t offered the appropriate lab work or a sensible diagnosis, it is your right to find a provider who will go that extra mile.

With the proper diagnosis and appropriate care (be it medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of multiple options), the prognosis for living a healthy life with various types of thyroid disease is generally positive. REF#457

So if you suspect a problem, don’t wait around hoping the symptoms will disappear.

Reach out to your healthcare practitioner or family doctor, or find a functional medicine physician specializing in thyroid disease and get on the road to better thyroid health.


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