When polled, an astonishingly high number of thyroid patients rate the need for new thyroid therapies at 10 out of 10.
This number never ceases to amaze me for one big reason:
It’s not actually true, we don’t have any need for new thyroid medications or treatments.
And in this article, I’m going to explain to you in detail why this is the case.
I know what you are thinking:
“If we don’t need new therapies then do I just have to suffer with my symptoms forever?”.
And the answer to that question is no.
Just because you aren’t feeling well with what you are currently using doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution to your problem.
I will explain why this is the case and how to solve the problem.
Let’s jump in…
What You Should Know About Available Thyroid Treatments
When thinking about fixing thyroid problems you have to remember that your thyroid gland is first and foremost an endocrine gland.
This means that your thyroid produces hormones that then interact with the body.
This distinction is small but very important.
Medical treatments and prescription medications work by targeting various pathways in the body.
If you have high blood pressure, for instance, prescription medications can work in various ways to help reduce that blood pressure.
The result is a reduction in your blood pressure.
This is how a lot of prescription medications work but it’s not how thyroid medications work because your thyroid gland is a hormone gland.
When there is a problem with a hormone-producing gland in your body the treatment is to always replace the lost hormone.
Which is exactly what we do when you have a thyroid problem.
If your thyroid function is low then you are given an exact replica of the thyroid hormone that your thyroid gland would produce if it was working normally.
Think about this example to help this idea sink in:
Imagine your thyroid gland produces 100mcg of T4 thyroid hormone every day.
Instead of producing 100mcg of T4 thyroid hormone every day, your thyroid gland can only produce 60mcg per day.
This leaves you with a deficit of 40mcg per day that you are missing.
And it is this deficit that causes all of the symptoms you experience with thyroid dysfunction such as weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, cold intolerance, depression, and so on.
When you are diagnosed, your doctor gives you a prescription for thyroid medication to make up for that difference.
In a perfect world, they would provide you exactly with that 40mcg deficient you need to get back up to your normal and healthy production level of 100mcg per day.
When it comes to replacing lost hormones in the body, pharmaceutical companies will sometimes go rogue and create what I call Frankenstein-like hormones that are similar but not the same as what your own body produces.
This is true of just about every birth control pill which contains Frankenstein-like progesterone and estrogen compounds but this is not true of thyroid medications.
So if your thyroid medication isn’t working then you can rest assured that it’s almost always a dosing problem and not a medication problem itself (though there are some nuances here as well).
In other words, there’s no problem with thyroid treatments but instead with how doctors prescribe them and what doses they use!
I bet you are probably thinking I’m just a shill for standard levothyroxine treatment but I can assure you that’s not the case.
This example really just touches the surface so let’s dive a little deeper so you can better understand how to apply this philosophy to your thyroid medication.
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Mimic The Healthy Thyroid Gland to Help You Feel Better
Whether you believe that the human body is the product of a divine creator or the product of evolution, both sides can admit that it is truly a marvel to behold.
Most people don’t appreciate just how much of a miracle it is that your body functions the way it does day to day.
If systems inside of your body like the clotting cascade stopped working for even a few minutes, it would end your life very quickly (4).
Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often.
And I don’t bring this up to debate the origin of life but instead to suggest that whenever medical doctors and physicians look at fixing a problem inside of the body, we should use the healthy body as a guide.
This extends to thyroid hormone medication replacement treatment.
If we look at how the thyroid gland operates in a healthy state then doesn’t it make sense that we should try to mimic that state when we treat thyroid patients?
So what do we see when we look at a healthy functioning thyroid gland?
We see that thyroid healthy thyroid gland produces a combination of both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones.
The amount of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones that each person produces is a little bit different but we can average them out to be about 80% T4 and 20% T3 (5).
This can and should serve as a guide whenever you are taking thyroid medication.
Remember above when I mentioned the example of the thyroid gland producing 100mcg of T4 thyroid hormone every day?
That was really a simplistic assumption and perhaps a more accurate example would be to assume the healthy thyroid gland produces 80mcg of T4 and 20 mcg of T3 every day.
When you change the numbers to closely match the healthy thyroid gland, the reason thyroid patients feel so poorly with their current options starts to become a lot more clear.
This is why:
The standard thyroid medication that doctors prescribe for patients with hypothyroidism is known as levothyroxine.
Levothyroxine contains an exact replica of the same thyroid hormone that your body produces naturally but it only contains one of those hormones: T4.
If your doctor is only prescribing levothyroxine then you are missing out on one of the most powerful thyroid hormones the body can produce: T3.
And you aren’t following the general guidelines above of trying to match what the healthy thyroid gland produces naturally.
If you wanted to try and match this, and it would be a great idea to do that, you would need to add T3 thyroid hormone to your T4 thyroid medication.
And guess what?
The reason most thyroid patients feel poorly isn’t that the treatments available for thyroid patients don’t work, it’s because they are not being used appropriately.
Would it surprise you to know that there are prescription thyroid medications that contain exact replicas of T3 thyroid hormone that your doctor can prescribe?
Two of the most common are known as liothyronine and Cytomel.
Cytomel is the brand name and liothyronine is generic.
Just like Synthroid is the brand name and levothyroxine is generic.
In a perfect world, your doctor should be using both of these medications to replace what your own thyroid gland is no longer capable of producing.
But you don’t have to stop there, you can take it one step further.
Using Triple Combination Thyroid Hormone Support: T4, T3, & T2
Taking a combination of T4 and T3 thyroid medications will likely help you feel much better but even if you use both of these medications you are still missing out on one important thyroid hormone: T2.
You can still go a long way using a combination of T4 and T3 thyroid medications but why stop there? If you are already going down the path of mimicking the healthy thyroid gland then wouldn’t you want to keep on going?
Using the combination of T4, T3, and T2 is what I like to call triple combination thyroid support and represents what I think is the best overall strategy for replacing thyroid hormones.
It closely matches what the healthy thyroid gland produces and replaces all of the most important thyroid hormones.
Here’s a brief overview of what these thyroid hormones do and why you need each of them:
- T4 thyroid hormone: Acts as a reservoir for T3 production (6), and acts directly on brain tissue, cardiac tissue, and bones. T4 thyroid hormone has some affinity for the T3 receptor.
- T3 thyroid hormone: The most powerful thyroid hormone responsible primarily for most of the action of thyroid hormone at the cellular level (7). Preserving T3 thyroid hormone is a top priority for maintaining the impact of just about every function in the body.
- T2 thyroid hormone: Primarily responsible for managing metabolism (8), cholesterol metabolism (9), fat tissue, cellular ATP production, and other metabolic processes.
As you can see, these thyroid hormones work to complement one another.
In a pinch, you might be able to get by using just one, but that’s not how your body intended them to be used nor how it was designed.
And yet that’s exactly what most doctors do when they treat hypothyroidism.
They only prescribe one thyroid medication, usually levothyroxine, and call it a day.
Then when you continue to feel poorly they will blame your symptoms on some other factor instead of evaluating the need for these other thyroid hormones.
If you want to get the most out of using thyroid hormones, which means feeling your best, then using a combination of these hormones is the way to go.
Here’s how you can get each of these thyroid hormones:
- T4 thyroid hormone: Requires a prescription medication. Can be found in the following medications: levothyroxine, Synthroid, Tirosint, Levoxyl, and Tirosint-sol.
- T3 thyroid hormone: Requires a prescription medication. Can be found in the following medications: Cytomel and liothyronine.
- T2 thyroid hormone: Only thyroid hormone that doesn’t require a prescription and is available over the counter in supplement form. The most active form is 3,5 Diiodo-L-thyronine.
- Medications that contain T4, T3, and T2: Require a prescription medication. Can be found in all NDT formulations including Armour thyroid, NP thyroid, WP thyroid, and Nature-throid.
Let me give an example of how this might work.
Imagine you are currently taking 100mcg of levothyroxine every day and still feeling poorly.
What should your next step be?
You can create a more balanced thyroid hormone replacement regimen by adding in T3 thyroid hormone in the form of liothyronine as well as T2 thyroid in the form of 3,5 diiodo-l-thyronine.
Instead of taking 100mcg of levothyroxine every day, your new medication regimen would look like this:
- 80mcg of levothyroxine
- 5-20mcg of liothyronine
- 100mcg of 3,5 diiodo-l-thyronine
This new regimen more closely matches the thyroid production of the healthy thyroid gland and takes advantage of already existing thyroid medications and thyroid hormones.
Make sense? Good!
One other important point worth mentioning here is the dose of each thyroid hormone will vary from person to person.
Some people are more sensitive to T3 thyroid hormones than others, other people do much better on T4 compared to others, some people need more T2 thyroid hormone, and so on.
The best way to figure out how much you need of each will require some trial and error so don’t be alarmed if you need to adjust your dose downward or upward from the generic numbers I mentioned above.
Suffering From Thyroid Symptoms? Think Beyond Thyroid Medication
Do you know what’s better than taking a triple combination of thyroid hormones designed to help you feel better? Not needing to take them in the first place!
Now that I have your attention, let me explain:
Not every patient taking thyroid hormones and thyroid medication will be able to stop taking them, but it should always be your goal to try.
One big reason that thyroid patients fail to feel better even while taking thyroid medication is that they underestimate the powerful impact that lifestyle factors can have on their overall health and thyroid function.
Let me go back to my blood pressure medication analogy above to help this make sense.
Imagine you are someone with high blood pressure taking blood pressure medication.
Your blood pressure is controlled for a while but eventually, it starts to go back up again.
You always have the option of adding a second blood pressure medication to your first to better control your blood pressure or… you could try to solve your problem and eliminate it.
One of the most common causes of high blood pressure is obesity (10).
Guess what happens if you lose weight?
There’s a high chance your blood pressure will normalize and you won’t even need your blood pressure medication anymore.
We can apply this same principle to managing thyroid conditions.
Perhaps the reason you aren’t feeling well has less to do with the type of thyroid hormones you are taking and more with your lifestyle.
Instead of focusing on new treatments for your thyroid, it may make a lot more sense to focus on different ways that you can improve your overall lifestyle.
Changing your diet, exercising regularly, meditating daily, and getting 8 hours of sleep can have a massive impact on your need for thyroid medication.
And guess what?
Even if you don’t reduce your need for thyroid medications like the blood pressure example above, I can promise you that you won’t have done any harm along the way.
By the way, even if you do decide to change your lifestyle, it’s still a great idea to use a triple combination thyroid hormone support regimen.
Doing one does not negate the need for the other!
They both complement one another.
Lesser Known & Newish Thyroid Medications
Even though I spent the last several minutes explaining why we don’t need new thyroid treatments and therapies, that’s still not entirely true.
The truth is that we still do have some need for new treatments but not in the same way you are thinking.
There are new thyroid medications that come out from time to time and while these thyroid medications don’t have any new active ingredients, they do have different inactive ingredients.
This means that all thyroid hormones contain the same bioidentical thyroid hormones that are replicas of what your own thyroid gland produces, but they do differ in the inactive fillers, binders, and dyes that are included as well.
As time has gone by, thyroid medications have become cleaner and cleaner meaning they have fewer inactive ingredients.
Believe it or not, some medications like Synthroid, contain ingredients like lactose monohydrate.
If you know anything about thyroid patients then you know a whole lot of them have problems digesting lactose.
It doesn’t really make sense to create a medication with an ingredient that people react negatively to now does it?
Not at all.
That’s why some newer cleaner thyroid medications have entered the market.
These medications are newish in the sense that they’ve been around for several years but not new in the sense that they came out more recently than that.
From the perspective of thyroid medications, though, that’s pretty new.
These newer medications can be found below:
- Tirosint: Tirosint is a T4-only thyroid medication that comes in a gel cap. It has a total of 4 ingredients (13) which makes it a very clean alternative to levothyroxine and Synthroid.
- Tirosint-Sol: Tirosint-Sol is another T4-only thyroid medication that comes as a liquid. It has only 3 total ingredients (14) which makes it the cleanest thyroid medication available.
These medications tend to be on the more expensive side of things but can definitely work wonders if you are someone who tends to react negatively to certain fillers, dyes, and binders or if you just like the idea of consuming cleaner medications.
We don’t actually need new thyroid treatments or therapies.
There, I said it, and, hopefully, after reading this article you agree.
Just because I don’t think we need new thyroid therapies doesn’t mean I don’t believe we need to overhaul the entire treatment paradigm for thyroid patients, though!
These are two completely separate things.
If you want to dive into the idea of changing the thyroid treatment paradigm you can read more about new guidelines which have emerged here.
If you are struggling to feel better on your current treatment regimen then I would recommend giving the triple combination thyroid hormone support regimen a try.
You may be pleasantly surprised that it helps control many of your lingering symptoms.
Now I want to hear from you:
Do you agree with me that we don’t need new thyroid therapies? Why or why not?
Were you aware that all thyroid medications contain bioidentical thyroid hormones?
Did you know that you could use a combination of T4, T3, and T2 thyroid hormones?
Are you planning on making any changes to your lifestyle to try and reduce your need for thyroid medication?
Leave your questions or comments below!