Originally Posted December 2017
Updated March 2020
Those with thyroid disease are familiar with its symptoms including inhibited cognitive function, fluctuations in weight, fatigue, and many others. One symptom that can easily be overlooked is reduced immune function.
There are multiple reasons why you may experience thyroid and immune malfunction but one that often goes unnoticed is Vitamin A deficiency.
Deficiencies and Thyroid Disease
In order to keep the body running at its best, it must be supplied with the appropriate vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Unfortunately, those with thyroid disease are frequently deficient in multiple areas including vitamins D, E, K, and A. These vitamins all play important roles in maintaining various bodily functions.
Levels of Vitamin A in particular are negatively impacted by thyroid disease. This is unfortunate because this essential vitamin is a critical element of healthy immune function.
Poor thyroid function and Vitamin A deficiency are frequently seen among those with autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In fact, many symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency and thyroid disorders overlap. This may be due to the fact that both conditions influence and promote the other.
Symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Frequent sickness such as colds or respiratory issues
- Reduced sperm count
- Poor vision
- Dry eyes
- Brittle or dry hair
- Skin conditions such as acne or dry, scaly skin
- Thyroid disease
- Poor digestion and nutrient absorption
- Infertility or miscarriage
Because thyroid function and Vitamin A deficiency are so often found together, many studies have been done to investigate their connection. One such study conducted in 2012 was composed of pre-menopausal women ranging from obese to non-obese. The data acquired from this research found that supplementation and treatment with Vitamin A improved lab results regarding thyroid function. Notable improvements in the areas of TSH and T3 were presented after Vitamin A treatments were administered. Both TSH and T3 are notable factors for those with thyroid disease because increased TSH and reduced T3 often indicates the presence of thyroid malfunction.
Like other vitamins, Vitamin A interacts with the body on a cellular level by directly interacting with the cell’s DNA. This action helps regulate production of proteins and dictates certain functions.
Vitamin A is also an antioxidant that supports vision, neurological function, skin health, reproduction, cellular growth, thyroid function, and regulates immune response.
Without enough Vitamin A, the body can experience significant immune dysfunction. Those with a deficiency frequently suffer from poor nutrient absorption and digestion. This may contribute to the development of leaky gut syndrome and other autoimmune disorders that negatively impact the thyroid and overall health. If the immune system is regularly exhausted, is constantly stressed, or is not supported with appropriate nutrients such as Vitamin A, the chance of developing autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s increases.
The regulatory effect of Vitamin A was the focus of a study conducted in 2010. Research showed that Vitamin A reduced the occurrence of overactive or unhealthy immune response, which is responsible for a great deal of inflammation and increased risk of developing major health conditions.
Ensuring that your body has adequate levels of Vitamin A may help improve immune function and fend off harmful autoimmune disorders.
Multiple aspects of immune function rely on Vitamin A. Various genes responsible for immune response are regulated by this essential vitamin. The same genes also play an important role in combating serious conditions such as cancer and autoimmune disease.
Supporting these genes with proper nutrition also improves your ability to fend off less serious afflictions such as colds or the flu. Disease prevention is always beneficial but those with thyroid disease should be particularly interested because they are more likely to get sick due to the inhibited immune function.
Naturally Counteracting Colds and Other Sickness
Those with a thyroid condition are more prone to infections and common illnesses such as colds and the flu, partially because the thyroid interacts with the immune system. Recognizing that your immune function may be compromised is an important step in maintaining good health and preventing disease.
The following methods can help prevent disease and may be of particular benefit for those with a thyroid condition.
Those with hypothyroidism frequently have difficulty dealing with colder temperatures. This can further contribute to reduced immune function. By keeping bundled up and wearing warm clothes like scarves, sweaters, or slippers, those with thyroid disease can keep their body temperature up and their immune system active.
Getting enough sleep is also a key element in keeping healthy. Without adequate sleep the body cannot maintain proper function in many different systems. Immunity is particularly affected by lack of sleep. Sleep allows multiple areas, including the thyroid, to reset, which can help restore immune function. As sleep quality and duration reduces, immune function declines.
Keeping track of your diet while limiting sugar and gluten intake also helps keep immunity up and running – find out how gluten can impact your thyroid function here. Consuming high quantities of these inflammatory foods forces the immune system to remain active and combating your own diet rather than threats caused by disease or infection. Rather than exhaust the immune system by consuming sugary, gluten-filled foods try to maintain a healthy diet composed of whole foods containing high levels of Vitamin A.
The following foods contain notable amounts of naturally occurring Vitamin A, which can help resolve deficiency and support thyroid and immune function.
- Beef liver
- Sweet potato
- Winter squash
- Red peppers
- Romaine lettuce
Many of the foods listed above also contain many other heart, brain, and immune boosting nutrients. Incorporating some or all of these foods into your diet can improve more than just Vitamin A levels!
Keeping the Body on Its “A” Game
Multiple studies have found that Vitamin A and other antioxidants are a necessary component of good health and greater longevity. It is recommended that Vitamin A be acquired primarily through your diet by including a high amount of fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods.
Supporting the body with better nutrition and appropriate amounts of Vitamin A can help keep the thyroid and immune system working at its best to provide greater disease prevention.
Resources1. Farhangi MA, Keshavarz SA, Eshraghian M, Ostadrahimi A, Saboor-Yaraghi AA. “The effect of vitamin A supplementation on thyroid function in premenopausal women.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):268-74.
2. Zimmermann MB. “Interactions of vitamin A and iodine deficiencies: effects on the pituitary-thyroid axis.” Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007 May;77(3):236-40.
3. Semba RD. “Vitamin A, immunity, and infection.” Clin Infect Dis. 1994 Sep;19(3):489-99.
4. Stephensen CB. “Vitamin A, infection, and immune function.” Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:167-92.
5. Doldo, Elena et al. “Vitamin A, cancer treatment and prevention: the new role of cellular retinol binding proteins.” BioMed research international vol. 2015 (2015): 624627.