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July 03, 2023 7 min read

If you're reading this article, you've probably been prescribed levothyroxine. How long does it take for it to work? The answer is more complex because everyone's body reacts differently to medication. Here's what you need to know.

What is levothyroxine?

If you have thyroid disease, specifically hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), you might be prescribed levothyroxine. According to the American Thyroid Association, this medication is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism.

Levothyroxine is the synthetic form of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). It works by replacing the thyroid hormone, which your body isn't producing enough of, allowing you to have balanced thyroid hormone levels. Levothyroxine is a tablet that you take once a day, usually in the morning, on an empty stomach.

Keep in mind that it's important to take levothyroxine at the same time each day for the best results. Depending on how severe your hypothyroidism is, it may take several weeks or even months for you to start feeling better after starting this treatment.

Apart from treating hypothyroidism, levothyroxine can also be used to prevent an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter, and to treat certain types of thyroid cancer. But remember, always follow your doctor's instructions carefully and never change your dose without consulting them first.

How long does it take for it to work?

When starting levothyroxine, it's important to understand that it takes time. The first few days may not show any noticeable improvement in symptoms, but after 4 to 6 weeks, patients may start to feel better. However, it can take up to 6 to 12 weeks for the full effects of the medication to be felt, and ongoing care is necessary to properly manage thyroid levels.

1. The First Few Days

During those first few days, you might start feeling body changes as you take levothyroxine. Here are some things that you might experience during the first few days of taking levothyroxine at the prescribed dose:

  • You may feel more energetic and less fatigued

  • You may notice an improvement in your mood and mental clarity

  • You may experience fewer symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as dry skin or hair loss

  • You may also have trouble sleeping or feel jittery, which could be signs that our dose is too high

It's important to give yourself time to adjust to this new medication and not make any adjustments to the dosage without consulting with your doctor first.

2. 4 to 6 Weeks

After the first few days, your body may continue to adjust to the medication, and you might notice changes in your metabolism like a furnace slowly heating up. It can take up to six weeks for levothyroxine to work fully and for you to feel the full effects of treatment for hypothyroidism. It's important to continue taking the medication as prescribed and follow any other recommendations from your healthcare provider during this time.

As you wait for levothyroxine to fully kick in, you may experience ups and downs in how you feel. You may have moments where you feel more energized or less fatigued than before starting treatment. At other times, you may still feel some symptoms of hypothyroidism. With time and patience, the benefits of levothyroxine should become more noticeable and help you manage your hypothyroidism symptoms effectively.

At this stage, blood tests may be recommended by your doctor. The blood test will measure the levels of thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the patient's bloodstream. If the TSH levels are still high, indicating an underactive thyroid, the dosage of levothyroxine may need to be increased. Conversely, if the TSH levels are low, indicating an overactive thyroid, the dosage may need to be reduced. You need to follow your healthcare provider's instructions and attend all scheduled appointments to ensure proper management of your condition.

3. 6 to 12 Weeks

During weeks 6-12, we may notice gradual improvements in our energy level and mood. You might even start to combat weight gain during this time. However, it's important to continue taking levothyroxine as prescribed and consult a healthcare provider before making any changes. By week 12, we should have completed blood tests to check if our TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels have returned to normal range. If they haven't, adjustments may need to be made to our medication dosage or treatment plan.

4. Ongoing Care

Now that you've been taking levothyroxine for some time, keeping up with your medication schedule and follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider is important. This will ensure that your levothyroxine dose works effectively and you receive the correct amount of medication.

Ongoing care also includes monitoring any symptoms or side effects that may arise from taking levothyroxine. Suppose you notice any changes in how you feel or experience new symptoms. In that case, informing your healthcare provider as soon as possible is important. They may need to adjust your levothyroxine dose or perform additional tests to ensure everything functions properly. Maintaining communication with your healthcare team is crucial for managing your thyroid condition and achieving optimal health outcomes.

What if you don't experience any improvements?

Managing thyroid diseases can sometimes be a tricky affair, and not everyone responds to treatments in the same way. If you've been using levothyroxine and haven't noticed any improvement in your hypothyroidism symptoms, don't be disheartened - there are still other steps to take.

1. Make sure you take levothyroxine the right way

Make sure you're taking your levothyroxine tablets correctly. Otherwise, prolong the time it takes for the medication to start working and feel better. Levothyroxine is a thyroid medication that should be taken on an empty stomach for at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything other than water. This is because food, beverages, and supplements can interfere with its absorption.

Additionally, some medications can also affect how well your body absorbs levothyroxine. These include antacids containing magnesium, calcium supplements, iron supplements, and certain cholesterol-lowering drugs. Suppose you're taking any of these medications. In that case, talking to your healthcare provider about properly handling your levothyroxine dosage is important. By following proper administration guidelines and avoiding interactions with other medications and substances that could reduce the absorption efficacy of your thyroid medication, you will increase the likelihood that levothyroxine will work as intended and help alleviate symptoms related to hypothyroidism more effectively.

2. Talk to your doctor and ask them to adjust the dosage

It's crucial to let your healthcare provider know about your situation. They could adjust your dosage of levothyroxine or check your levels of TSH, T4, and even T3 (triiodothyronine) to ensure you're receiving the optimal amount of hormone replacement.

  • Be honest about how you're feeling

  • Keep track of any changes in symptoms

  • Discuss any potential side effects

Furthermore, it's important to discuss potential side effects and seek clarity on anything that might be unclear to you. Remember, no question is too small when it comes to understanding your health.

Typically, doctors begin with a low dose of levothyroxine and incrementally increase it, seeking the perfect balance for you. A dose that's too low won't effectively treat hypothyroidism, leaving you feeling subpar. Conversely, excessive dosage can cause you to have too much thyroid hormone in your body, triggering symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which could be dangerous. Therefore, maintaining open and regular communication with your healthcare provider is crucial to finding the right dosage for your individual needs.

3. Consider switching your thyroid hormone replacement

When it comes to managing thyroid diseases, it's imperative to find the thyroid hormone replacement that uniquely complements your needs. If your current thyroid medicine isn't offering the anticipated relief, it's worth considering a switch in your hormone replacement. Aside from levothyroxine, there are several types of thyroid medications and supplements out there, with two highly regarded alternatives standing out - liothyronine and Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT).

One option to consider is liothyronine, a synthesized version of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). This is one of the two main hormones typically generated by the thyroid gland. By supplementing their usual levothyroxine intake with liothyronine, some individuals have reported a significant improvement in their symptoms.

However, this treatment approach does require a commitment to taking two different medications, which some people find bothersome. Moreover, it's worth noting that synthetic medications aren't always well-tolerated by everyone, causing some patients to seek alternative options.

That's why the alternative that seems to be winning hearts and is often considered the best bet for many is Natural Desiccated Thyroid(NDT). Extracted from the thyroid glands of pigs, NDT delivers a balanced amount of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, closely mirroring the natural hormone balance in humans.

Perhaps one of the most telling endorsements of NDT over conventional synthetic thyroid medicines comes from a compelling study that captured patient preferences. In this study, when asked to compare their experiences with levothyroxine and NDT, an astounding 25% more people declared a preference for NDT. This study clearly illustrates that a significant proportion of patients found greater satisfaction and potentially better symptom control with NDT over conventional levothyroxine treatment.

NDT is available in medication forms, such as Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid. However, you can also buy desiccated thyroid online in supplement form, such as VitaliThy. This NDT supplement works the same way as the medication form. Plus, it contains other ingredients that are good for your thyroid function, such as spica prunellae siccus extract, ashwagandha extract, and selenium yeast.

Conclusion: The effects of levothyroxine are not instant

It would be best to remember that it may take several weeks for you to notice the full effects of levothyroxine, so be patient and continue taking your medication as prescribed. It is important to understand that levothyroxine is a medication that needs time to build up in your system before it can start working effectively. If you are not seeing any improvement after a few weeks, speak with your doctor about adjusting your dose. If you've taken levothyroxine for a while and adjusted your dose several times but still don't experience any improvements, it might be time to consider switching to natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). One great option is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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