Best Treatment for Hypothyroidism: Synthroid, Desiccated Thyroid or Supplements?

Thyroid disorders are one of the most common disorders across the world. Most of the patients with hypothyroidism follow the advice of conventional doctors and take synthetic medications such as Synthroid (levothyroxine) to maintain their levels of thyroid hormone.

Taking Synthroid and Still Suffering from Hypothyroid Symptoms

Synthroid works fine for several patients. But it does not for others,  who only feel a partial improvement. So, why is it that some people continue to suffer from the symptoms of hyperthyroidism even after the blood reports suggest that there is nothing wrong in their thyroid levels?

We can think of 5 reasons why this may be happening:

1. Synthroid is not thyroxine hormone (T4). Drugs such as Synthroid are identical to thyroxine (T4) and not the same. If you look at the structural and functional properties of each substance in the image below, you can see they are actually very different.

synthroid

Image source: GreenMedInfo

Unlike some other man-made hormones such as synthetic insulin, which is 100 percent bio-identical and equivalent to naturally produced insulin, Synthroid is unlike any substance found in the human body. So, it makes me assume that there is some function in body that this synthetic hormone can not do as effectively as the original thyroxine hormone would have done.

2. Synthroid does not provide all that a sluggish thyroid does not produce. A healthy thyroid gland produces T4, T3, T2, T1, calcitonin and few other hormones in sufficient quantity. The medical science believes that only T4 is necessary hormone among these and so doctors generally prescribe T4 only medications (Synthroid) to hypothyroid patients.

But the question is why would the human thyroid gland include all these components if they weren’t all important? While its true that majority of T3 hormone is synthesized from T4 in our body; a small amount of T3 is also produced directly by the thyroid gland. This can not be without a reason. Thyroid also produces T2, yet another hormone, which currently is the least understood component of thyroid function and the subject of much ongoing study. Calcitonin, another important hormone produced by thyroid works to control calcium and potassium levels in the blood. It does this by inhibiting the activity of the osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone.

Clearly all of these hormones/components are important and just because medical science has not been able to prove/find their use in our body, they are ignoring them.

3. Problem in Conversion of T4 to T3. In a health human body T4 is converted into T3 hormone in the liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs with the help of deiodinase and intestinal sulfatase enzymes. Most of the hypothyroid people cannot effectively convert the T4 in synthetic thyroid preparations to T3 due to various reasons. This may explain why research has shown that people taking a combination of T4 and T3 are often more satisfied with treatment than people taking T4 alone.

4. Underlying medical conditions. People with gastrointestinal problems, adrenal issues and liver diseases like hepatic cirrhosis usually have reduced peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 [1]. It is therefore important to manage one’s stress levels and to keep a healthy GI tract and liver.

5. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  It is important to address the vitamin and mineral deficiencies in your body. In absence of these minerals and vitamins, the production and conversion of thyroid hormones gets affected. The most important minerals and vitamins affecting thyroid health are: Selenium, Zinc, Iodine and Vitamin D. It is now a well known facts that Iodine and Vitamin D deficiency is associated with the thyroid disease. [2] Also, selenium and zinc are required to activate enzymes that help in conversion of T4 to T3.

Which is the Best Treatment for Hypothyroidism ?

Every human being is unique and has its own body chemistry. We suffer from different medical conditions, have different nutritional deficiencies, and react differently to various medications. Our uniqueness is what makes finding the right thyroid treatment tricky.

The best treatment for hypothyroidism is the one that works best for that particular patient. Instead of looking strictly at T4-only medications, doctors should look at the bigger picture of treatment options, to find what’s best for each patient to alleviate their symptoms.hypo

1. Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)/Armour Thyroid

Natural Thyroid pills are made from desiccated porcine (pig) thyroid glands which contain Thyroxine (T4), T3, T2, T1 and Calcitonin. Most of the people report feeling better with Natural Thyroid (NDT/Armour Thyroid) compared to synthroid. This was found in a study conducted in year 2013 of 70 patients with hypothyroidism who were treated with either natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) extract or Synthroid (levothyroxine) for 12 weeks followed by a switch to the other option for another 16 weeks. The researchers report that both types of thyroid hormone were able to normalize the abnormal thyroid blood tests but still 49% of the patients preferred desiccated thyroid extract, 19% preferred levothyroxine and 23% had no preference. These results suggest that there may be a certain number of patients in who desiccated thyroid extract might be a reasonable treatment option.

2.  Compounded T4/T3 Products

Compounded T4/T3 products offer a great alternative to those who are unhappy with T4 only medications but don’t want to take natural desiccated thyroid. Its also a great alternative for people with allergies to fillers such as lactose or gluten. These medications are generally given on prescription of a physician who decides the T3:T4 ratio and also decides whether to add additional minerals and vitamins to it. These medications are prepared by a specially trained compounding pharmacist on order and thus cost much more than the other two hormone replacement pills available.

3.  Mainstream Medicine

Mainstream medicine doctors believe that pure T4 is normally the best, most stable, and most reliable form of thyroid hormone replacement. They consider T0, T1 and T2 as hormone precursors and byproducts of thyroid hormone synthesis. Regarding T3, they believe that taking T3 (or using Armour thyroid) bypasses the natural regulation, which is generally an unhelpful thing to do.

If your body responds well to Levothyroxine/Synthroid treatment then its a great thing and you should continue using it.

4. Address Nutritional Deficiencies of Your Body

Nutritional deficiencies can affect the thyroid functioning in several ways. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with autoimmune thyroid disease in several medical studies.  Iodine is required to produce thyroid hormones and Selenium & Zinc are required for synthesis of enzymes that help in proper conversion of T4 into active T3 hormone.

A good multivitamin with liver detox ingredients like milk thistle, green tea extracts etc is what I take for my fatty liver and thyroid problem and it works great! You can buy it Here.

Supplements alone will not fix your thyroid problem. So, you should use them along with the hormone replacement medication. Whenever you start a supplement, you should get your thyroids levels tested in 7 to 10 days to know if you need to adjust the dosage of your hormone replacement pill.

5. Take Care of your Liver

About 20% of the conversion of T4 to T3 takes place in the liver, and so if you don’t have a properly functioning liver then this can also cause problems with the conversion. A good liver detoxification supplement may be beneficial if you are have a sluggish liver/ fatty liver.

6. Address the T4 To T3 Conversion Problem

Most medical doctors don’t do anything to address a T4 to T3 conversion problem.  And those few that do something will usually just recommend natural thyroid hormone or T4-T3 combination pill.

Maintaining healthy gut and supplementing with nutrients that are deficient in your body is the first step towards addressing the T4 to T3 conversion problem. In addition to that, certain herbs can help with this conversion and I am a big advocate of herbs. One such herbal medication is “Kachnaar Guggul $4.83“.  It contains Commiphora Mukul (Guggul) and  Bauhinia variegata (Kanchanar) among other ingredients.  It is a powerful detoxifying agent and helps the conversion of T4 to T3.

If you decide to try this herbal composition, then you will most definitely need to adjust the dosage of your thyroid medication. Its a great herbal medicine to reduce your dosage of hormone replacement pill and stimulate your body to produce and convert thyroid hormones effectively.

Conclusion

Finally, if you are not happy with your thyroid medication, insist on further exploration. Get a second opinion, a third opinion, even twentieth medical opinion until you find a doctor that explores the options to find what’s right for you. That is the only way to find the best treatment for hypothyroidism that works for you.

Resources:

  • Desiccated thyroid Vs Levothyroxine double-blind, crossover study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23539727
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC301912/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921055/

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