When it comes to our health, nothing is more important than understanding what is happening inside our bodies. But when it comes to taking thyroid hormone replacement medications, many of us are left scratching our heads. We know that these medications are something we must take for the rest of our lives, but why? What would happen if we stopped taking them suddenly? What if it doesn't make you feel better, and you want to stop?
In this article, we will explore what happens when someone stops their thyroid medication and answer this question once and for all!
Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a thyroid dysfunction that occurs when your thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It produces and releases two main hormones known as T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These hormones play an important role in regulating your metabolism. They also control many bodily functions like body temperature, heart rate, and digestive function, among others. Since thyroid hormones affect almost every organ in your body, not having enough of them can slow down your metabolism and cause symptoms like weight gain, depression, constipation, weight loss, hair loss, and dry skin.
The treatment plan for hypothyroidism typically involves thyroid hormone replacement medication to boost thyroid hormone levels in your body back up to normal so that your body can function optimally again. The medication restores your thyroid function and provides relief from hypothyroidism symptoms, restoring balance within your body. That's why taking this medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider is important – it's the key to properly managing the condition, keeping you feel energized throughout the day, and ensuring optimal health.
There are several types of thyroid medications for hypothyroidism. The standard medication is levothyroxine, which is commonly known under its brand names like Synthroid and Levoxyl. Levothyroxine is the synthetic version of the T4 thyroid hormone. Another popular option is natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), such as Armour Thyroid and VitaliThy. This natural thyroid medication is made of pig thyroid glands and has been used for over 100 years. It contains both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, which many hypothyroid patients find to be more effective than T4-only medications.
If you have hypothyroidism, then thyroid medication is generally necessary for life in order to keep your symptoms under control and maintain your energy levels. Many people find themselves tempted to stop taking their thyroid medication as soon as they start feeling better, but this can lead to serious health risks that must be avoided.
Remember that your thyroid hormones are vital for your body to function optimally. Stopping your thyroid medication will throw off the balance of thyroid hormones in your body, causing your levels to drop too low and creating an array of uncomfortable symptoms. During the first several days, you can expect to feel tired and have a low mood. The longer you avoid your medication, the worse your symptoms are likely to become. Moreover, it can worsen any existing health conditions you may have, like depression and sleep apnea.
Stopping your thyroid medication suddenly is especially risky if you have had your thyroid removed through thyroidectomy or destroyed using radioactive iodine ablation. Without a functioning thyroid gland in place, your body will not be able to produce the hormones necessary for normal functioning at all.
But even when you still have a working (but underactive) thyroid gland, stopping thyroid medication suddenly is not a good idea. This is because if you've been taking thyroid meds for a while, your body becomes reliant on them. The medication essentially shuts down your body's natural ability to produce thyroid hormone. Thus, when you stop your medication, you'll likely feel awful since your body won't be able to produce its own hormone for at least a few weeks.
Living with a lack of thyroid hormone can eventually lead to a myxedema coma, a life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism that can lead to death. Untreated hypothyroidism can sometimes cause the development of thyroid nodules, which is an abnormal growth within your thyroid that can be cancerous or non-cancerous.
You'll likely experience worsening symptoms of hypothyroidism; these include:
You might have heard stories of people who feel better when they stop taking their thyroid medication. Believe it or not, some people don't need the medication in the first place. When a doctor prescribes thyroid medication, they want to be sure that the patient's body is getting enough of this hormone. But sometimes, what seems like a hypothyroid condition can just be an indication of other health issues.
Some people may also have subclinical hypothyroidism, which is a mild form of underactive thyroid that occurs when your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are just slightly elevated, and your T4 levels are normal. This condition is often temporary and can resolve by itself, so treatment is not always necessary.
So, how do you know if thyroid hormone medication is not actually necessary for you?
Paying attention to your test results is the best way to know where you actually fall on the hypothyroid spectrum. Ask your doctor for blood tests to check your thyroid function: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 test.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is the hormone produced and released by your pituitary gland. It regulates the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid should release into the bloodstream. If your body lacks thyroid hormone, your pituitary gland produces more TSH to tell your thyroid to work harder. In contrast, when you have too much thyroid hormone or overactive thyroid, your pituitary gland will make less TSH. By checking the levels of TSH in your blood, your doctor can help you determine if your thyroid is producing the appropriate amount of hormones.
Normal TSH levels in healthy people are between 0.45 to 4.5 milli-international units per liter (mIU/L), while normal total T4 levels range from 5.0 - 11.0 micrograms per deciliter of blood (ug/dL).
When your TSH is only slightly over the normal levels, around 4.5 - 8 mIU/L, but your T4 levels are normal, then you have subclinical hypothyroidism. In this case, you may or may not need thyroid medication.
If you have subclinical hypothyroidism, there's a chance that your thyroid medication will cause overtreatment. Taking thyroid medication when you don't actually need it may cause more harm than good. You'll likely experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism like excessive sweating, heat intolerance, and chest pain.
Certain diagnostic testing or treatments for thyroid cancer, such as radioactive iodine (RAI), may need high levels of TSH. Therefore, your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop your thyroid medication several weeks before your treatment. This process is known as thyroid hormone withdrawal.
During the thyroid hormone withdrawal process, your thyroid hormone will drop significantly. Thus, you may experience symptoms of acute hypothyroidism.
Thyroid hormone medication has been touted by some as a weight-loss tool and a fertility enhancer. However, these claims are proven untrue if you don't have hypothyroidism. As explained before, taking thyroid medication when you don't actually need it can only cause you to experience symptoms of another thyroid disease called hyperthyroidism, which can potentially be dangerous.
If you've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but your medication doesn't make you feel better, don't suddenly stop taking it. Here are some things you may consider:
1. Talk to your doctor and ask for thyroid tests
Ask your doctor for tests to check for your thyroid function. If you have subclinical hypothyroidism, your doctor may help you stop taking your thyroid hormone medication. But if you have primary or overt hypothyroidism, the test will help you see if you're on the right dose.
2. Make sure you are on the right dose
Finding the optimal dose of medication will take time and require several adjustments along the way. Don't get discouraged, though - make sure you are taking the right amount is essential for feeling like yourself again. When your dose is too high, you'll have symptoms of hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, a dose that is too low won't provide you with relief from your hypothyroid symptoms.
3. Switch your thyroid medication
If you're currently taking levothyroxine and you don't feel better, it may be time to consider switching to natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) like Armour Thyroid and VitaliThy. NDT contains both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones, so it works wonders for many hypothyroid patients. In fact, a study found that NDT is preferred over levothyroxine.
The problem with NDT is that it can sometimes be hard to find. Plus, finding a doctor who will prescribe NDT can sometimes be a challenge. But don't worry, there are options available. VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, consists of Thyroid (USP) just like Armour Thyroid. It's also lactose and gluten-free, as well as free of shellfish, fish, and eggs. Thus, it's not only effective in treating your hypothyroidism symptoms but also free of common allergens.
4. Make healthy lifestyle changes
Making simple adjustments to your daily routine can help you maximize the benefits of your medication and make sure that you are feeling your best.
Start with basic diet modifications: make sure you're getting enough iodine from seafood and iodized salt; cut back on processed food; and switch out refined carbohydrates for whole grains. Adding in a few servings of fruits and vegetables each day is also recommended, as they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that can boost thyroid health.
In addition to eating right, make time for physical activity like walking or swimming at least three times a week; this will help keep your metabolism running strong as well as improve overall moods.
5. Take your thyroid medication the right way
Taking your thyroid medication the right way is essential. Some thyroid medications, like levothyroxine, need to be taken on an empty stomach. The general rule is to take it first thing in the morning and wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes before eating a meal or drinking anything besides water. You can also take it at night before you go to sleep, ideally 3 to 4 hours after your last meal or snack. That way, your body can absorb the medication without any interference from food and drinks.
Additionally, try not to miss a dose - if that happens and you remember later in the day, don't double up – just skip it altogether until tomorrow when it's time for your next one.
If you have hypothyroidism, you may feel like you're stuck in a rut when it comes to your treatment. It can be tempting to just quit taking medication altogether, but that's not the best solution! Stopping thyroid medication suddenly is definitely not recommended; this could cause serious health consequences.
If levothyroxine isn't quite cutting it and symptoms such as low energy levels or weight gain are still persisting, you might want to consider switching to NDT, like VitaliThy, instead. This form of treatment is derived from pig thyroid glands and contains both T4 and T3 hormones, which can help regulate your metabolism more effectively than synthetic medications. You can easily buy desiccated thyroid like VitaliThy online from the comfort of your own home, so you can skip the hassle of going to the pharmacy. With just a few clicks, you can have your medication delivered directly to your doorstep. No more waiting in line or dealing with long drive times.
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