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An Integrative and Complementary Approach to Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

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An Integrative and Complementary Approach to Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

Radiation has been linked to thyroiditis, especially in higher doses. As most people are aware, radiation in high doses can be dangerous. Radiation can also destroy the thyroid gland, leading to thyroid dysfunction, autoimmune thyroiditis, and even cancer. The thyroid is extremely susceptible to radiation and can be compromised in a wide radiation dose range. This article will discuss the evidence on the effects of radiation on the thyroid gland, how it induces thyroiditis, and the integrative approaches that are used to address radiation-induced thyroiditis.


What is Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis?

Thyroiditis is when your thyroid gland gets inflamed due to radiation. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that makes hormones controlling essential body functions.

Thyroiditis includes different conditions causing thyroid inflammation, leading to too much or too little hormone production. 

There are three phases in most thyroiditis types. They include thyrotoxic, hypothyroid, and euthyroid. In the thyrotoxic phase, the thyroid is inflamed and secretes too much thyroid hormone, causing temporary thyrotoxicosis. After the thyrotoxicosis phase, your thyroid won't have enough thyroid hormones to release. This thyroid change leads to hypothyroidism or the hypothyroid phase. Hashimoto's thyroiditis and radiation-induced thyroiditis usually stay in the hypothyroid phase. The euthyroid phase, in which thyroid levels are normal. This phase may follow the thyrotoxic phase before hypothyroidism or after inflammation stabilizes and your thyroid recovers.

Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of radiation-induced thyroiditis are the same as thyroiditis, and these depend on the type and its phase. Many thyroiditis types will start with the thyrotoxicosis phase and stay in the hypothyroid phase, including radiation-induced thyroiditis. 

Here are the common symptoms of the thyrotoxicosis phase:

  • Rapid Heart
  • Appetite changes, typically enhanced
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sweating
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Tremors

Here are the common symptoms of the hypothyroid phase:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Focus issues

Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis Possible Causes

Radiation-induced thyroiditis is caused by radiation medical treatments used for certain cancers or by radioactive iodine used to treat hyperthyroidism. Evidence shows that radiation-induced thyroiditis can occur with external or internal irradiation therapies and at varying doses.

Functional Medicine Labs to Test for Root Cause of Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

The functional medicine labs to test for the root cause are the same for all types of thyroiditis, including radiation-induced thyroiditis. Here are the functional labs that can be used for radiation-induced thyroiditis:

Comprehensive Thyroid Panel

This thyroid panel thoroughly investigates the different thyroid hormones, including antibodies that may be associated with thyroiditis. Since there are different phases of thyroiditis, this functional lab test should be considered one of the main go-to's in regular lab testing for radiation-induced thyroiditis. This panel provides measurements of all the related thyroid hormones, such as TSH, T3, T4, Free T3, and Free T4, to give a complete picture of the different thyroid hormone levels.

Inflammatory Markers

Inflammatory markers should also be assessed when investigating thyroiditis since this is an inflammatory thyroid condition. Two markers are commonly used to test and monitor inflammation. These markers include CRP and ESR. Typically, CRP levels may be elevated during the acute phase of thyroiditis, when the condition first occurs, and ESR may be elevated after the acute phase.

Micronutrient Panel

Nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, and others are needed for optimal thyroid function. Although nutrient deficiencies are not the underlying cause of radiation-induced thyroiditis, this test should be included as a comprehensive approach to addressing this condition. This micronutrient panel will analyze various nutrients associated with thyroid function and overall health.

Additional Lab Tests

Diagnosing radiation-induced thyroiditis includes ensuring there is a baseline thyroid function analysis before undergoing irradiation therapy. There should also be a thorough history of symptoms and clinical examination before and after therapy. Other tests may include imaging of the thyroid by a thyroid ultrasound to assess the health of the thyroid gland itself.


Conventional Treatment for Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

The conventional treatment for radiation-induced thyroiditis commonly involves medications and is based on the phase of thyroiditis and its symptoms. Beta-blockers are often used during the thyrotoxic phase to decrease the associated symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and tremors. Medications such as levothyroxine may be prescribed during the hypothyroid phase to increase T4 levels, which are usually low during this phase.

Functional Medicine Treatment for Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

Functional medicine approaches for radiation-induced thyroiditis include personalized nutrition, targeted supplements to support the thyroid, and other integrative approaches such as exercise.

Nutrition Considerations For Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis

As thyroiditis involves inflammation, the right nutritional plan can help reduce it. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent choice. It includes fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, whole grains, beans, and legumes. This type of eating has anti-inflammatory effects, which can be helpful in radiation-induced thyroiditis. If there is an autoimmune component, a gluten-free diet might help, as cutting out gluten can lessen the autoimmune process and inflammation. Also, adding iodine-rich foods like seaweed can improve thyroid function. Ideally, iodine should be incorporated into a treatment protocol as part of the nutritional plan for patients with thyroid issues.

Using Supplements For Radiation-Induced Thyroiditis Relief

The following supplements are helpful for those with radiation-induced thyroiditis:


Zinc has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce CRP levels, which can be helpful in radiation-induced thyroiditis. This nutrient also plays a role in thyroid regulation. The recommended dose to reduce inflammation is up to 40-50 mg per day.


This form of amino acid has been shown to help manage thyroiditis, especially when it's in its thyrotoxicosis phase, and can reduce the symptoms associated with this phase. The recommended dose is 2-4 grams daily. 

Vitamin D

Insufficient vitamin D levels have been linked with thyroid dysfunction and should be considered as part of a treatment therapy for thyroiditis. Sufficient vitamin D levels can be beneficial during the hypothyroid phase. Research shows that 50,000 IU of vitamin D daily is helpful with hypothyroid patients.

Omega 3

Omega 3's are a great supplement to reduce inflammation. This supplement has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and may help reduce inflammatory responses in thyroiditis. This essential fatty acid can also reduce CRP markers related to inflammation. The general daily recommendation for omega-3s is at least 1,000 mg.

Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Although there aren't any specific complementary and integrative (CIM) approaches for radiation-induced thyroiditis, there are CIM approaches that can be helpful in managing general thyroiditis, including exercise and acupuncture. Exercise may improve thyroid levels in either hyperthyroid or hypothyroid states. In the case of acupuncture, this therapy can be effective in managing thyroiditis conditions such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, in which there are low levels of T4 thyroid hormone and antibodies. Acupuncture was shown to alleviate symptoms such as pressure, fatigue, and mood swings. It was also helpful in improving immune responses and may be helpful in reducing antibody levels that may also be present with radiation-induced thyroiditis. 



Radiation can be harmful to the thyroid gland and may induce thyroiditis. This type of thyroiditis is caused by radiation used to treat some cancers or hyperthyroidism. When radiation-induced thyroiditis occurs, symptoms may vary based on the phase of the thyroiditis. Functional medicine labs such as a complete thyroid panel can help your practitioner navigate through all the different phases of this condition so it can be properly managed and monitored. 

Integrative approaches, such as a diet promoting anti-inflammatory effects, may also help manage this condition. It's important to note that thyroiditis may be short-term but may stay in the hypothyroid state chronically. Utilizing the integrative and complementary approaches provided in this article can help you stay on top of this condition to improve your overall health outcomes.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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