Recovering from COVID-19 is often only half the battle. Many people who have survived COVID-19 infection report symptoms that have lingered for weeks or months after they’ve recovered, a condition that’s come to be known as “long COVID.” Some of the most persistent symptoms include brain fog or memory problems, pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, impaired vision and hearing, sleep problems and anxiety or depression.
Also, studies have shown COVID-19 infection can do long-term damage to the body, including the lungs, kidneys, heart and nerves. It can leave behind swollen and inflamed tissue, impaired blood flow or clots and gangrene.
Now, there’s another part of the body to add to the list of areas that COVID-19 can impact over the long term…
COVID-19 can affect the thyroid
A study recently presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting indicates that some patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 appear to experience thyroid inflammation that’s different from that caused other viruses.
Researchers found one-third of study participants still showed signs of thyroid inflammation after three months, despite their thyroid function having normalized. The study is following these patients to see if this ongoing inflammation will lead to permanent thyroid problems.
In spring 2020, 15 percent of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Policlinico Hospital of Milan in Italy showed altered thyroid hormone caused by a number of factors, including thyroid inflammation. By comparison, thyroid hormone alterations occurred in only 1 percent of hospitalized patients during the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
People with thyroiditis, or thyroid inflammation, that’s been triggered by other viruses usually recover thyroid function in the short term. But their risk of permanently reduced thyroid function is elevated over the long term thanks to late-onset effects of viral infection or the immune system attacking the thyroid.
Lead researcher Dr. Ilaria Muller of the University of Milan in Italy wanted to determine if the thyroiditis connected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, follows the same pattern as that caused by other viruses. To do that, she began a program to monitor the thyroid function of patients every three months after they were hospitalized for moderate to severe COVID-19 disease. Routine blood and ultrasound testing is done to monitor their thyroid function and check for any signs of inflammation.
Muller discovered the thyroiditis in people with moderate to severe COVID-19 differs from typical thyroiditis in several ways, including a lack of neck pain, the presence of mild thyroid dysfunction and higher frequency among men. After three months, patients’ thyroid function has normalized, but signs of thyroid inflammation were still present in about one-third of patients.
“We are continuing to monitor these patients to see what happens during the following months,” Muller says. “It is important to know whether SARS-CoV-2 virus has late-onset negative effects on the thyroid gland, in order to promptly diagnose, and eventually treat, the condition.”
Best diet for the thyroid
Since low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) often occurs with thyroiditis, doctors usually prescribe a thyroid hormone supplement to allow the thyroid time to rest and recover. If the patient is experiencing thyroid pain, they’re advised to take a mild anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen.
But if you have had COVID-19, there are other natural ways you can help support your thyroid function and avoid thyroiditis. Make sure your diet is low in processed foods, gluten-containing foods and added sugars, all of which can contribute to inflammation.
Instead, try eating plenty of leafy greens, green beans, colorful vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and non-gluten whole grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, cornmeal, sorghum and amaranth — all of which support thyroid function. Your diet should also include animal protein from pastured beef, eggs from free-range chickens, mercury-free fish and shellfish, cheeses, eggs and dairy.
If you do develop thyroiditis, you may want to avoid eating too many cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage, because they can interfere with thyroid function.
There are some nutrients you can take that can help with thyroid function. Iodine can help, but only if you’re deficient in the mineral, so it’s a good idea to get your levels checked by your doctor before taking a supplement. Vitamin D also supports the thyroid and is considered anti-inflammatory. Most of us don’t get enough, though there are a few ways to increase levels: you can get vitamin D through diet, supplements or exposure to sunlight for at least 20 minutes a day.
As far as herbs go, ashwagandha can raise blood levels of thyroid hormone. But you need to use it with care; if you take too much ashwagandha, it could lead your body to produce too much thyroid hormone.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
COVID-19 can cause atypical thyroid inflammation — EurekAlert
Thyroiditis — American Thyroid Association
Supplements And Foods That Boost Your Thyroid — And What To Avoid — Easy Health Options