Vitamin D Deficiency and Thyroid Eye Disease

Last updated: June 2023

A vitamin D deficiency means you are not getting enough of the vitamin D your body needs to stay healthy. A 2020 study found that a deficiency in vitamin D increases a person’s risk of developing thyroid eye disease (TED).1

Based on these findings, researchers often recommend people with TED take vitamin D supplements to ensure they are getting an optimal amount of the vitamin.2

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate the immune system, reduces inflammation, and helps the stomach absorb calcium. This is essential for the development of healthy bones. Vitamin D works with calcium to keep bones from becoming brittle, thin, and weak. It also prevents muscle cramps and spasms.1,3

Vitamin D is found in some foods and supplements. Sunlight also helps our bodies make vitamin D. You absorb vitamin D through your gut when you eat foods that contain vitamin D or when taking supplements.3

A vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in children. This is a condition in which the bones soften and weaken. In older people, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.3

How does vitamin D deficiency impact TED?

Research shows that low levels of vitamin D are linked to TED diagnoses and play a role in the development of the disease. And for people who already have TED, a vitamin D deficiency can worsen signs and symptoms.1,2

This is because vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation. This means that if a person has very low levels of vitamin D in the body, inflammatory diseases like TED can become worse.1

Sources of vitamin D

Sunlight is the most common and efficient source of vitamin D. This is because our bodies make vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we are outside. However, our bodies do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight from late fall until early spring. This is when you may need to get vitamin D from other sources.3

Vitamin D is not naturally found in many foods. These days, most of our vitamin D comes from fortified foods, meaning vitamins have been added to a food product. This includes things like cereals, milk, and tofu. Some foods that naturally contain vitamin D include:3

  • Fatty fish like salmon and trout
  • Cod liver oil
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

How to get more vitamin D

Experts often recommend that both people who are newly diagnosed with TED and those who have been living with the condition for many years take a vitamin D supplement.1,2

Many multivitamins and vitamin D supplements can be purchased over-the-counter at local drugstores and pharmacies.

People with TED should also aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This includes things like:2,3

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Protein from lean meats, beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats like olive oil and low-fat dairy
  • Fortified cereals, milks, and yogurts

If you have TED, talk with your doctor about maintaining a healthy diet and whether you should consider vitamin D supplements.

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