Do you Feel Worse on Thyroid Medication?
The day finally arrives...
Your doctor has finally written you a prescription for thyroid medication.
You start taking your thyroid medication each and every day hoping to see a change.
But what you experience instead is that you actually feel WORSE while taking your medication.
Instead of having more energy, instead of losing weight, instead of growing your hair back, you experience the exact opposite.
How can this be? How can you feel worse while taking thyroid medication even though it's supposed to be the answer to your problems?
Well, that's exactly what we are going to talk about today.
You should be aware that it is absolutely possible for SOME people to feel worse while taking thyroid medication.
It's not common but it definitely happens.
Today we are going to talk about...
- Why some people feel worse while taking thyroid medication
- How thyroid medication functions in your body
- The long-term effects of prolonged thyroid medication use
- And what to do if you are feeling worse on your thyroid medication
Let's jump in...
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How thyroid Medication Works in your Body
The first thing you need to understand is how thyroid medication is working in your body.
Doctors only prescribe thyroid medication to patients who have LOW thyroid function.
This means that anyone using thyroid medication is doing so because their own body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone on its own.
The medication that your doctor gives you is supposed to make up for that difference.
But there's a big problem with that:
Your body was designed to have what are called feedback loops built into it.
These feedback loops help prevent your body from creating TOO much hormone and from the negative consequences that this could cause.
So when your doctor gives you thyroid medication (such as levothyroxine) once it enters your body it sends a message to your brain.
The message it sends is to REDUCE the production of thyroid hormone from your own thyroid gland.
So the more thyroid medication you take by mouth the more your body will shut down its own production of thyroid hormone.
This effectively means that you are replacing your body's own thyroid gland for the medication that your doctor is giving you.
But how can this make you feel worse?
How shutting down your own thyroid can make you feel worse
It's actually quite easy.
Consider these facts:
- Your thyroid gland produces BOTH T4 thyroid hormone and T3 thyroid hormone
- Roughly 80% of thyroid hormone that your thyroid gland produces is in the T4 form and 20% (1)is in the T3 form
- T3 thyroid hormone is roughly 200 to 300x more biologically active (2) than T4 thyroid hormone
- When your doctor gives you replacement thyroid medication he/she is only giving you T4 thyroid hormone
- The more thyroid medication your doctor gives you the less thyroid hormone your own body can produce
This may seem a little bit confusing but consider this example to help set it in stone in your mind.
Imagine that you are someone who has a thyroid problem such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis which has damaged your thyroid gland.
A normal healthy thyroid gland may produce something like 100mcg of T4 and 20 mcg of T3 each and every day.
But because your thyroid gland has been damaged from Hashimoto's, it's only functioning at 70% of normal.
So instead of producing 100mcg of T4 every day, you are only producing 70mcg and instead of producing 20mcg of T3 every day, you are only producing 14 mcg.
This is a problem and it makes you feel worse (you experience all of the symptoms of low thyroid as we discussed above).
You go to your doctor and he/she provides you with a prescription of levothyroxine.
As you take levothyroxine you are shutting down the production of thyroid hormone from your thyroid gland even further because it is being replaced by the new medication you are taking.
Instead of producing the 70 mcg of T4 and the 14 mcg of T3 every day, your doctor gives you a prescription of 100mcg of levothyroxine which contains 100mcg of T4.
But as you take this 100mcg dose of levothyroxine your own thyroid gland SHUTS OFF.
And here's where the problem begins...
You are no longer producing ANY T3 thyroid hormone.
But if you go up just a few paragraphs you will see why this is such a big problem.
As I stated, T3 thyroid hormone is roughly 200 to 300x more biologically active than T4 and is the most powerful thyroid hormone!
Your doctor has basically replaced the most powerful thyroid hormone in your body with a much weaker version at a higher dose.
This is why thyroid patients can feel worse on thyroid medication.
Now the question becomes:
What can you do to FIX this problem so that you actually feel GOOD on thyroid medication?
That's exactly what we are doing to discuss now...
Fixing the Brain-Thyroid Connection
In order to feel better on thyroid medication, you must address the brain-thyroid connection.
This brain thyroid connection is usually referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (3) or the HPT axis for short.
Here I've just renamed it the brain-thyroid connection to simplify the name and make it easier to understand.
In order to feel better, you must restore some of your body's ability to regulate thyroid hormone production on its own.
You can do that by following these 4 steps:
#1. Your goal should be to use the smallest effective dose of thyroid medication possible.
Thyroid medication will reduce TSH (and the brain-thyroid connection) in a dose dependent manner.
The more thyroid medication you take by mouth the more suppressed your brain thyroid connection will be.
What's the solution?
You need to use the SMALLEST effective dose of thyroid medication possible.
This means you will want to avoid taking any extra thyroid medication if at all possible.
If you or your doctor slips up and gives you too much thyroid medication then you risk shutting down the brain thyroid connection which may result in a drop in highly effective thyroid hormone production (T3).
These blood tests will help you understand how much T3 is floating around in your system and how suppressed the brain thyroid connection is.
#2. Take steps to naturally improve how well your own thyroid gland functions.
The reason many thyroid patients end up on a higher than necessary dose is because they have problems directly in their thyroid gland.
These problems ensure that your own thyroid gland is not functioning as well as it can.
Even though you may have a condition such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis which is damaging your thyroid gland doesn't mean that you have to just let it continue to damage your thyroid gland.
You can take steps to REDUCE that inflammation and autoimmune attack which will naturally improve SOME thyroid function.
If you can salvage or naturally improve thyroid function in your own thyroid gland then you will need less thyroid medication.
Look for things like inflammation using inflammatory markers as well as autoimmune attack on your thyroid gland.
#3. Provide your thyroid with all necessary vitamins and nutrients to function optimally.
In addition to reducing inflammation and damage to your thyroid gland, you should also ensure that your thyroid gland has all of the necessary nutrients it needs to function.
Your thyroid gland requires at LEAST 13 different vitamins and nutrients to function optimally.
And thyroid patients are often low many of these nutrients.
ALL thyroid patients should ensure that these levels are brought back up to normal healthy levels by taking something like a thyroid specific multivitamin.
My thyroid specific multivitamin contains all of these nutrients at levels which will replace lost levels of nutrients in your body.
But you can even take it a step further and take ingredients that can boost other aspects of thyroid function like T4 to T3 conversion.
These additional vitamins and minerals will help your thyroid function better on its own and may help you reduce your dose of thyroid medication.
#4. Ensure that other pituitary hormones are functioning well.
The last thing you will want to ensure is that the OTHER hormones produced by your brain are functioning optimally.
Your pituitary gland, the same gland that produces TSH, also regulates several other hormones in your body.
Cortisol, in particular, plays an important role in regulating thyroid function.
And if you have problems with the brain thyroid connection then you can bet you probably also have cortisol or adrenal problems.
If you want to feel better you will need to at least take a look at your adrenal hormones by testing cortisol levels.
If you find that there is a problem you can take certain steps to fix that problem which should improve your own thyroid gland function in the process.
How to feel better on thyroid medication
Last but not least, you should also take a hard look at what type of thyroid medication you are using.
Because let's face it:
Levothyroxine is a commonly prescribed medication but it just doesn't work well for most thyroid patients.
As I mentioned above, levothyroxine contains only T4 thyroid hormone.
Other thyroid medications, such as natural desiccated thyroid, contain BOTH T4 thyroid hormone and T3 thyroid hormone and more closely match the ratio that your own thyroid gland produces in the healthy state.
You should aim to use medications that more closely match this normal function because most people tend to do better on them.
But don't take my word for it, we have medical research studies which show that thyroid patients prefer these types of medications (4).
We also know that people taking these medications often have more energy and experience spontaneous weight loss simply when making the switch.
I want you to know that you don't have to accept feeling WORSE on thyroid medication.
There are things that you can do as a thyroid patient to make changes which will not only help you feel better but may help you reverse part or all of your thyroid problem.
Be aware that these things will probably not be mentioned by your doctor, however, so you may need to take things into your own hands.
Now I want to hear from you:
Are you someone who started thyroid medication but felt worse?
If so, what side effects or problems did you experience when you started your thyroid medication?
Were you able to make any changes to fix the problem or are you continuing to suffer now?
Are you planning on making any of the changes or using any of my recommendations above?
Leave your questions or comments below!
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