Do you feel tired and cannot wait to go to bed even though you have just woken up? Do you gain weight even though you are exercising 6 times a week at a local bootcamp (hey, stop doing chronic cardio and bootcamp right away)! Were you told that you had subclinical hypothyroidism? Does any little task feel overwhelming and hard to accomplish? I hear you and I can relate!
When I first was diagnosed with hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s, I was given an option to take low dose levothyroxine and see if it helps me. I was horrified at the idea of taking a pill every day for the rest of my life. So, I saw a naturopathic doctor who did her best to address nutrient deficiencies (such as selenium, Vitamin D, B vitamins). She also started me on iodine which felt great at first, but rechecking the antibodies to the thyroid showed that they doubled and were so high that Sonora Quest could not even register them (my thyroglobulin antibodies went from 1,000+ to 3,000+). As soon as I stopped iodine, they got back into a 1,000 range. Since then I am very careful with iodine supplementation in Hashimoto’s patients.
So, after 6-months-trial of a nutritional therapy together with a thyroid tincture my TSH stayed at the same level of 4.2, my Free T3 and Free T4 did not budge from low normal. My symptoms were so vague that it was hard to pinpoint them to the lack of thyroid hormone. One day I would have so much energy and get accomplished a lot, the next day I would be dragging my feet and making a breakfast would command all my willpower. I had no idea that it was my hypothyroidism to blame. I only found out that when I started supplementing with natural thyroid hormone, i.e. NDT (Natural Desiccated Thyroid). Supplementing with levothyroxine kept my levels steady throughout my pregnancy, but my symptoms were still there and I was afraid to switch to something else, and, frankly, my new naturopath/midwife was afraid too.
Needless to say, I can relate when my clients come to seek an advice and are also horrified at the prospect of taking a pill EVERY day for the REST of their lives. But through my experience of feeling amazingly great on thyroid hormone vs. trying to heal with nutrition and always feeling tired, having no motivation, no passion, no zest for life and professional/personal development, I choose to supplement. I also advise my patients that meanwhile they can work on a healthier diet (paleo or autoimmune paleo is the diet that works for me) and healing their gut, which may decrease the need for higher doses of thyroid medication. Also, it is much easier to function when your thyroid is at its’ optimal level and when you do not feel as if you are going “through molasses” – slow, trying to preserve every bit of energy you may have left.
There are only so many ways to supplement with thyroid hormone:
Levothyroxine (Synthroid) – T4 only synthetic hormone. It has numerous fillers, including gluten that may not be tolerated by many people.
Nature-Throid, NP Thyroid, WP Throid, Armour Thyroid – T4/T3 natural desiccated hormone (from pigs) – natural, aka bioidentical. There are trace levels of T2 found too – unfortunately, there is no information on T2 or its’ function in the current research.
Compounded T4/T3 thyroid hormone – can be used for people who are vegetarian/vegan or with religious beliefs that prevent them from eating pork and pork-derived hormones.
T-3 only medication – Cytomel (liothyronine) or compounded Slow-Release T3, if T4/T3 medication does not help. If it works for you, it could be life-changing!
A trial of the best for you thyroid hormone is warranted if you experience hypothyroid symptoms. It matters to some extent what your labs say, but labs do not show the whole picture of what is really happening in your body.
Once you start feeling better and function better, you will have more energy to figure out what is causing inflammation in your body: parasites, bacterial overgrowth, Candida, food intolerances and sensitivities, etc.
I have seen it times and again that a lot of holistic practitioners start working on the detox, gut healing, diet, lifestyle optimization instead of giving their patients what they actually NEED: Thyroid REPLACEMENT Hormone. Just like a person may be deficient in B12 or other vitamins/minerals that warrants replacement, thyroid hormone should be replaced too. Thyroid hormone is essential for one’s well-being and life. It is a life-saving hormone without which a coma and death may come within weeks or days depending on the level of deficiency.
Unfortunately, thyroid autoimmunity and hypothyroidism could be caused by a chain of events and more often than not it is hard to pinpoint one certain trigger. Even if triggers are identified and you take them away or work on resolving inflammation, parasites, heavy metals, healing the gut and optimizing the microbiome, the thyroid still may not go back to normal function. Sometimes, it is possible to decrease the dose of thyroid supplemental hormone. It is often necessary to replace the thyroid hormone or at least, do the trial of thyroid hormone to see if the symptoms of hypothyroidism or any other symptoms (joint pain, for example) get better.
What is your experience with thyroid medication and healing? Please, share your thoughts! I am always happy to learn more!
Zhanna Tarjeft, FNP is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a founder of Sprouts Health Functional Medicine Practice in Gilbert, Arizona. Her articles are a matter of personal opinion and do not constitute direct medical advice. All conditions are unique and require the direct review and care of your own physician. To book an appointment with Zhanna Tarjeft contact her at (480) 550-9551