As many as 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Women are up to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. However, thyroid disorders affect many men, and are similar to those in women.
Thyroid problems common in men include: hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism), Graves’ disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) or thyroid cancers. This article explores the connection between thyroid problems and male infertility and discusses supportive natural therapies to normalize the thyroid to encourage healthy male fertility.
Thyroid gland problems lead to shifts in metabolism, energy and reproductive health. Here are body signs to look for:
Low thyroid (hypothyroidism) symptoms in men are similar to symptoms of low testosterone and include:
higher risk of infections
cold hands and feet
Hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone-Grave’s disease) is rarer, but symptoms include:
changes in appetite
The Thyroid/Fertility Connection in Men
In a study published in Archives of Andrology, hypothyroidism in men was linked to reduced sperm volume and motility. Another study published in the journal Thyroid connects hypothyroidism to sperm defects. Hypothyroidism can also cause low libido and erection problems. It may even lower key male fertility hormones like testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
While there is less research on the topic, hyperthyroidism in men (Graves’ disease) is linked to fertility issues too. High thyroid levels can lead to higher than normal testosterone and gonadotropin hormones, which may damage sperm.
Thyroid Testing is Critical
If you’re a man dealing with unexplained infertility, have your thyroid checked out to see where you stand.
A complete thyroid panel for men should include:
- blood levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
- free and total T3 (triiodothyronine). (Free means unbound to protein; Total means unbound plus bound)
- free and total T4 (thyroxine)
- reverse T3 (triiodothyronine)
- TSI (thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibody)
- TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibody)
- TGAb (thyroglobulin antibody)
Your endocrine system is a unique symphony of glands that work together. TSH testing measures the pituitary gland’s response to the thyroid. A high level of TSH means hypothyroidism, as the pituitary is releasing more TSH to stimulate an underactive thyroid to release more T3 and T4. Low TSH means the pituitary is reducing its TSH hormone production to help control and lower the secretion of T3 and T4 from an overactive thyroid.
What thyroid values are optimal for men?
In 2002, the Society of Endocrinologists revealed that the reference ranges most used for thyroid levels (0.50 to 5.5 mIU/L ) were inaccurate. As a result, many men with hypothyroidism went undiagnosed. Unfortunately, some labs still use this outdated range.
According to the revised standards, 0.3 to 3.3 mIU/L is considered the normal range of TSH in adults. A knowledgeable physician will look for other important clues. For instance, many physicians think that your free circulating thyroid, T3 and T4, should be at the midpoint of the reference range, if not higher. The presence of thyroid antibodies is also important. Antibody presence can indicate Hashimoto’s disease (the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S.) or Graves’ disease.
Natural Thyroid Support for Male Fertility
While testing is critical, natural approaches can support the thyroid gland and optimal fertility. Diet changes are a good place to start. The thyroid gland requires iodine for proper functioning. Men with low thyroid often have more energy when they include more iodine-rich, organic seaweed, seafood, or cranberries in their diet. (Some people with Hashimoto’s are worsened with iodine, so you may need to experiment with what works for you.)
For low thyroid (hypothyroidism), it’s important to avoid anti-thyroid nutrients like excessive, uncooked cruciferous vegetables and soy foods. These foods block healthy thyroid activity. Reducing them can produce a great change, especially for men with fertility issues who have been on a “raw foods” diet or a vegetarian diet that relies heavily on soy.
A formula like ThyroFem that contains zinc, iodine, selenium and the amino acid l-tyrosine, can encourage healthy thyroid function in men and women alike. This blend includes adaptogen herbs, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), which support the endocrine system.
In addition, consider natural adrenal support. The thyroid and adrenal glands work together. A supplement that benefits one will benefit the other. A good choice is a blend like Adrenal Strength, which contains 100% whole food nutrients, medicinal mushrooms, and tonic herbs like Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis).
High thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is harder to address naturally. However, herbs like Bugleweed (Ajuga virginicus) and Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) can calm thyroid storms and relax the heart. An immune balancing program may also help normalize thyroid antibody production.
If you’re dealing with a thyroid-related fertility issue, there are many natural therapies and herbs to consider as well as medical interventions. Addressing a thyroid problem may completely resolve a man’s fertility issue, especially if there is no other suspected cause.
- DiPlacido, L. (2015, July). Hyperthyroidism symptoms in men. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/86646-hyperthyroidism-symptoms-men/
- Kellman, R. (2015, July). Low thyroid in men, not just a woman’s issue. Retrieved from: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/07/21/low-thyroid-in-men-not-just-a-womans-issue
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- Krajewska-Kulak, Elzbieta, Sengupta, Pallav (2013). Thyroid Function in Male Infertility. Frontiers in Endocrinology (Lausanne). 4: 174. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826086/
- Free T3 and Total T3 (2001- 2016) American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Retrieved from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/t3/tab/test/