The Pros and Cons of Current Thyroid Medications
The standard treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other forms of slow thyroid is to supplement with one of the synthetic thyroid medications. The most commonly used one is the levothyroxine, sold under various brand names and in generic form. Common names to look out for include Levothroid and Synthroid.
This medication is supposed to mimic the natural thyroid hormone T4, in the hope that the thyroid will naturally produce T3, even more essential than T4 for many bodily functions, and restore the body back to balance.
However, there are a number of pros and cons in relation to the current oral thyroid medications being used to try to treat slow thyroid, medically referred to as hypothyroidism. (Think of the rhyme HYPO=slow, so you don’t confuse this condition with HYPERthyroid, which is a fast thyroid and also needs to be treated, but in different ways.)
A slow thyroid presents with a range of symptoms, including feeling tired all the time, weight gain, hair loss and more. The pros of synthetic hormone are that you should start to gradually feel better and may be able to lose weight more easily and become more energetic. Another advantage of the medicine is that it lowers cholesterol levels as well.
It can take some time to find the right dose, which means regular blood testing. It can also take some time to feel better until you get the right dose. Most people have to keep on taking it for the rest of their lives. Statistics show that 1 in 6 people still suffer slow thyroid symptoms even on medication.
Too little hormone is not enough to relieve symptoms fully. Too much, on the other hand, can cause:
• Increased appetite
• Trouble sleeping
• Heart palpitations
• Nervous and shaky feeling.
These are classic symptoms of HYPERthryroidism. So treating with thyroid hormone is a delicate balancing act. Your doctor may have to titrate the dose very slowly, that is, give you a small dose to start with and gradually increase it.
If you have a pre-existing condition, such as heart disease, for example, you would also need to be extremely careful.
Interaction with other medications
Certain medications can interact with the synthetic hormone, or interfere with your ability to absorb it, which means it won’t be as effect and your symptoms will still linger. Over the counter medicines, prescription medications and vitamins and supplements can all interfere.
In some cases, people might make their situation worse by adding or avoiding the mineral iodine. While it is true that iodine is important for normal thyroid function, there can be too much of a good thing. In addition, depending on the reason for the slow thyroid, this might actually make things worse.
If you are on synthetic thyroid hormone, it’s best to avoid:
Iron supplements or multivitamins that contain iron
Aluminum hydroxide, usually found in antacids
Calcium supplements, often taken to maintain bone health
If you eat a lot of soy, or eat a high-fiber diet, these habits can also interfere with absorption.
Natural supplements may sound healthier, but they are derived from pigs, so they are not suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those holding certain religious beliefs. They also contain T3 and T4, so they can flip over your symptoms to those of someone with hyperthyroidism. These extracts are available by prescription only.
However, there are also a range of glandular concentrates and other supposed thyroid support supplements found in health food stores. It is important to note that none of them are clinically proven and they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Not dealing with the root cause
Thyroid Medications such as synthetic hormone will relieve symptoms in most cases, but not get at the root cause of what might be going wrong with the thyroid.