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June 17, 2023 9 min read

If you've been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, you may be wondering how long it takes to start feeling the effects of your medication. It's normal to want a quick fix and fast results, but the truth is that everyone responds differently to medications. However, there are some general guidelines to help you gauge how quickly your body should start responding to your treatment plan.

What is hypothyroidism?


The thyroid gland

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck and above your windpipe. It's an important endocrine gland.

Its significant role is to continuously produce and release thyroid hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), into the bloodstream. These hormones regulate your metabolism and important body functions such as the brain, heart rate, temperature, nervous system, etc.

The exact amount of hormone your thyroid produce and release is monitored by your pituitary gland. Specifically, the pituitary gland creates and secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which "stimulates" the thyroid to produce and release the right amount of T4 and T3 into the bloodstream. If the thyroid hormone levels in your blood are too low, your pituitary gland produces more TSH to trigger the thyroid to release more. If there's too much thyroid hormone in the blood, your pituitary gland will produce little to no TSH.


When your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormone, you have a condition called hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. Since the thyroid plays an important role in your body's function, not having enough of it can cause numerous problems. Your metabolism will slow down, and you'll experience symptoms like slow heart rate, weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, etc.

Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease. It's typically diagnosed through blood tests that measure levels of TSH. Elevated TSH levels indicate low thyroid hormone.

What is thyroid hormone replacement therapy?

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is a form of medication prescribed by your doctor to help treat hypothyroidism. It may also be used for other thyroid disorders like goiter (enlarged thyroid gland).

This treatment works by providing your body with supplemental thyroid hormones it's lacking. The goal of the treatment is to restore normal levels of these hormones so that metabolism remains regulated and normal functions, such as energy production, digestion, and temperature regulation, remain unaffected.

When it comes to thyroid hormone replacement therapy, you are often faced with two common choices: synthetic or natural. There are two synthetic medications available, levothyroxine (the synthetic form of thyroid hormone thyroxine T4) and liothyronine (the synthetic form of thyroid hormone triiodothyronine T3). Levothyroxine is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism, so your doctor will likely prescribe this medication for you. However, since liothyronine and levothyroxine work by replacing a single thyroid hormone, T4 or T3, they don't always work well for some patients.

In contrast, the natural option known as natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) or desiccated thyroid extract (DTE) contains both T4 and T3, as well as T2, T1, and Calcitonin. These are all produced naturally by your thyroid. That's why many hypothyroid patients prefer it and consider it as the more effective option. NDT is considered natural because it's derived from dried pig thyroid glands.

How long does it take to feel better on thyroid medication?

A woman looking happy after taking thyroid hormone replacement

If you're wondering how long it will take for thyroid medication to start making you feel better, the answer is that it depends. Every person is different, and some people may see results faster than others.

It generally takes 4 to 6 weeks before you'll notice any changes in your energy levels or other symptoms after taking the right dose of thyroid medication. However, some people may experience improvements in their hypothyroid symptoms as soon as 1 to 2 weeks after starting.

Keep in mind that finding the right dosage of thyroid medication can take time and patience, as it requires a little bit of trial and error. Your doctor will likely start you with a lower dose of medication and gradually increase it as necessary until you find the optimal dosage. Therefore, your doctor will work closely with you to find the right dose by monitoring your symptoms and test results.

It can seem daunting at first since you may need to do several blood tests and dosage adjustments. But once you get the right dose, you can get on track toward feeling healthier than ever. For most people, thyroid hormone replacement medication can be part of their daily routine for many years - or even for life. That's why finding the right dose is important.

How to take thyroid medication properly

To make sure you get the best results from your medication, it's essential that you take it properly. Here are some tips to help you take your thyroid medication effectively, so you can stay on track and feel better.

Take your medication on an empty stomach

Certain types of thyroid medication, mainly levothyroxine, must be taken on an empty stomach to avoid food and drug interactions occurring in your intestines, which lead to decreased absorption. This means that you shouldn't eat right before or after taking your medication. You should also avoid taking your meds with tea, coffee, or any beverages besides water.

Although most healthcare providers recommend taking your thyroid medicine at least 60 minutes before breakfast, you can also choose to take it at night, about 3 hours after eating. So which option is better? This is not an easy question to answer. The best advice is to choose the option that suits your lifestyle.

Taking NDT with or without food doesn't affect its absorption in the body. So, if convenience is more important than anything else, then you can take it as soon as you finish eating - no waiting required.

Avoid taking other medications at the same time

Drug interactions can make your medicine less effective or causes unwanted side effects. If you are taking thyroid medication, you should be aware of the following medicines:

  • Medicines that can decrease T4 absorption are Calcium Carbonate, Bile Acid Sequestrants, Sucralfate, Antacids, Proton pump inhibitors, etc.

  • Medicines that can decrease the conversion of T4 to T3 include Beta-adrenergic antagonists, Glucocorticoids, Amiodarone, etc.

In addition, drug interactions can occur if you take your thyroid medication with other medications, such as oral anticoagulants, ketamine, and antidepressant. Supplements like calcium and iron supplements can also interact with your thyroid medication.

If you need to take other medications or supplements, make sure to take them at least 4 hours apart from your thyroid medication. Moreover, you should discuss with your doctor any medications you are taking or plan to take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbs, and supplements.

Take it at the same time every day

The key to taking your medication properly is consistency. That's why doctors often recommend building the habit of taking your pills at the same time every day. Taking the same dose of medication at the same time every day can help you keep your thyroid hormone levels steady, allowing your body to function properly.

Don't miss your dose

Missing one or two doses of medication can be inevitable and understandable. Some thyroid medications have a long half-life. The half-life is the time it takes for the concentration of the drug in your blood to be halved. Thyroid hormone T4 has a half-life of 6 to 7 days. While the half-life of the T3 hormone is shorter, about 6 hours to 1 day.

Thus, you usually won't feel a significant difference if you don't take thyroid medicine like levothyroxine tablets for a few days. But hypothyroidism symptoms get worse if you miss too many doses. Therefore, try to set an alarm on your phone or even write down reminders in your Google Calendar to make sure that you remember to take your medication.

Don't adjust your dose without your doctor's supervision

Don't adjust the dose of your thyroid hormone replacement medication without consulting with a doctor first. Some people might think they can save time and money by simply adjusting the dosage on their own instead of visiting their doctor and paying those pesky fees - but that's just not smart. Sure, the process may be more convenient, but there are risks involved in self-medicating with this particular drug.

Too much and you risk hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid, a thyroid disease that occurs when you have too much thyroid hormone in the bloodstream). On the other hand, too little won't do enough for hypothyroidism. Therefore, only adjust your dose if your doctor asks you to do so.

Don't switch brands or medications whenever you want

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) advises against switching thyroid medication brands without consulting a healthcare professional. Different brands may have varying levels of thyroid hormones, which can lead to health issues for patients. It's also possible that you may absorb one brand of medication well but not another brand with the same function.

Additionally, research has shown that changing brands of thyroid medications like levothyroxine can lead to abnormal TSH level test results. As a result, it can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

Store your medications properly

Many people often underestimate the importance of proper drug storage. But the truth is that improper storage can decrease the effectiveness of the medicine and potentially cause poisoning and harm to your health. A study conducted by the American Thyroid Association (ATA) found that if you don't store your thyroid medication correctly, it might not work as well as it should. This can happen even if you are taking the right amount of medicine.

Thyroid medication should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a cabinet or shelf, at a temperature between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. It's also important to avoid storing the medication in places with high humidity, such as the bathroom, and to avoid exposing the medication to direct sunlight.

Don't stop just because you're feeling better

Many hypothyroid patients become disgusted with their dependence on thyroid hormone replacement medicine like a levothyroxine dose after a long period of use. But it's important to know that for most people, thyroid medication is something they need to take for the rest of their lives. This is especially true for those whose hypothyroidism is caused by the absence of the thyroid gland due to surgical removal (thyroidectomy) or congenital problem (born without the thyroid).

What to do if your thyroid medication doesn't seem to work

NDT and levothyroxine work by replacing thyroid hormones.

Even when you're taking your medication properly and at the right dose, sometimes it doesn't provide enough relief from your symptoms. But don't worry, that doesn't mean you should give up! There are plenty of ways to feel better, even if your medications aren't providing the results you want.

Try other types of thyroid medication

Usually, if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, doctors will prescribe levothyroxine. But it's not the only treatment available.

If you've been taking levothyroxine and don't experience any improvements, you can opt for a more natural and preferred option, Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT). Because it is derived from the animal thyroid gland, it can closely mimic the functions of the natural human thyroid gland. Specifically, NDT contains the hormones T4, T3, T2, T1, and Calcitonin, which are also produced by your thyroid gland. This complex combination will bring more benefits to many people, especially those whose bodies cannot convert T4 to T3.

Keep in mind that T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and needs to be converted to T3 for your body to use it. Thus, since levothyroxine only has one component – T4 – your body needs to convert it first to get its benefit. The problem is that not everybody can do the conversion properly. NDT, on the other hand, already contains both hormones, so it doesn't rely exclusively on the conversion of T4 to T3 and can work effectively on almost everyone.

If you are looking for an end to your struggle with fatigue and other unpleasant symptoms of hypothyroidism, you should consider VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. In addition to providing you with all the necessary thyroid hormones, it's also gluten and lactose-free.

Try splitting your dose

This depends on the type of thyroid medication you're taking. However, some alternative practitioners and thyroid patient advocates, such as Ray Peat, Ph.D., suggest taking your NDT several times a day by splitting your total daily dose. This method is believed to support more stable T3 (thyroid hormone) levels throughout the day.

Conclusion: Results can vary from one person to antoher

The answer to "how long does it take to feel better on thyroid medication?" is not simple. Every person is different, and some people may see results faster than others.

Most people will experience relief from hypothyroidism symptoms in 4 to 6 weeks, but others may feel better as soon as 1 to 2 weeks after taking their optimal dose. If you have been taking the same dosage for at least 8 weeks yet still aren't feeling any better, talk with your doctor about changing up your dose or trying another type of medication altogether. The key to finding the right solution is patience and working with a medical professional who knows what they're doing!

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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