Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Thyroid Patients
Antioxidants Defeat Free Radicals
Well-known antioxidants are vitamins C, E, A and polyphenols. Most polyphenols are flavonoids, which include quercetin and anthocyanins in foods like dark-colored berries. Antioxidants vanquish free radicals in the body, so a healing diet should include plant foods rich in antioxidants. Free radicals (atoms that are missing an electron) are oxidative stress, which causes cell damage. Too many free radicals can lead to faster aging and inflammatory diseases: Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, cataracts, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and cancer.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant, too, but it isn’t found in plant foods. Mitochondria in our cells make alpha-lipoic acid, because it turns glucose into energy. As a supplement, alpha-lipoic acid is easy for cells to absorb, because it’s both water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid & Fiery Inflammation
Thyroid patients often have too much inflammation from too many cytokines (immune-system proteins that can damage our organs). Alpha lipoic acid helps by decreasing free radicals and cytokines in lung tissues and the gut, for instance.
Inflammation also affects the brain, in part because of a poor blood-brain barrier. The brain should be protected from anything harmful in the bloodstream, but this barrier is weakened by a cytokine called IL-17, which is secreted by Th17 T cells. Two thyroid diseases—Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and Graves’ Disease—can be linked to Th17 T cells, so thyroid patients often have a poor blood-brain barrier. Alpha-lipoic acid, as well as resveratrol and NAC (N-acetylcysteine), strengthen this barrier.
Conversion, Timing & Blood Vessels
One side benefit of alpha-lipoic acid is mild, short-term weight loss, but a caution for thyroid patients involves timing: don’t take an alpha-lipoic acid supplement within four hours of swallowing thyroid medication, because a study from 1991 revealed that taking alpha-lipoic acid with levothyroxine reduced the conversion of T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone ) into T3 (the usable form) by 56%. Not having enough free, usable T3 in the body produces weight gain.
Alpha-lipoic acid is also good for cardiovascular health. People with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis may have endothelial dysfunction, which means that large blood vessels on the surface of the heart may narrow and constrict instead of dilating. This can cause chronic chest pain. Endothelial dysfunction may also lead to atheroschlerosis, a condition where plaque builds up in arteries and results in blood clots and aneurysms. Use of alpha-lipoic acid improves endothelial function.
Alpha-lipoic acid has one more benefit: it helps to increase glutathione levels in cells. See my next blog for more about glutathione, the champion of antioxidants.
Everyone has a unique physiology. I use in-office and lab testing to evaluate what supplements would be most helpful for each of my patients, at each stage of their healing journey.
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