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July 12, 2023 6 min read

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid disease, can lead to various health issues if left untreated. Some of the possible complications include heart problems, mental health issues, peripheral neuropathy, myxedema, and infertility, among others. To prevent these complications and improve patients' overall well-being, thyroid hormone replacement therapy is usually prescribed to restore balance in thyroid hormone levels and help you improve the function of your thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism 101

Thyroid hormone replacement is a tried, tested, and commonly recommended course to treat hypothyroidism. It's a condition that arises when your body does not produce an adequate amount of certain crucial hormones. Before diving into the pool of positivity and reassurance that thyroid hormones replacements can be a beacon of hope, it's pertinent to first understand hypothyroidism better.

What is hypothyroidism, you might ask? Hypothyroidism is typically characterized by too much thyroid hormone in the body. This overload can lead to a plethora of symptoms such as fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, and even impaired memory.

The root cause of hypothyroidism might trace back to an autoimmune disease, where your body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The resulting inflammation of an autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism.

Okay, so how do you know if you have hypothyroidism? Well, that's where a blood test comes in handy. A routine blood test can reveal the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your body - a high TSH level is usually a telltale sign of hypothyroidism.

Now onto the golden question - the treatment options available for hypothyroidism.

Levothyroxine (Synthetic T4)

Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), which is the main hormone produced by the thyroid. According to the American Thyroid Association, levothyroxine is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. Some common brand names for this synthetic thyroid medication are Synthroid, Unithroid, Levoxyl, and Tirosint.

Levothyroxine is typically taken orally once a day, usually in the morning on an empty stomach, and the dosage is carefully adjusted by a healthcare professional to meet the person's individual needs.

Levothyroxine is considered a safe and effective treatment for hypothyroidism, and most people who take it experience significant improvement in their symptoms.

Some people may experience side effects from taking levothyroxine, such as headache, nervousness, or difficulty sleeping. However, these side effects are usually mild and can often be managed by adjusting the dosage of the medication. Talk to your doctor if the side effect persists.

The problems with pure T4 medication

In managing hypothyroidism, doctors often prescribe a synthetic T4 thyroid hormone medicine. Though this is a common approach, it's essential to understand its nuances and potential drawbacks, particularly for certain populations. T3 is the active thyroid hormone responsible for regulating metabolism, while T4 acts as a reserve, which the body converts to T3 as needed, primarily in the liver.

For some individuals, particularly women and those suffering from severe hypothyroidism, T4-only medication might not provide optimal results. These patients may have less efficient liver function, which can impede the proper conversion of T4 to the active T3 hormone.

When T4 doesn't efficiently convert to T3, an excess may build up, leading to adverse effects that mimic low thyroid function. As a result, increasing T4 dosage could exacerbate symptoms instead of providing relief. In response to excessive T4 levels, the body tries to protect itself by transforming T4 into reverse T3, which can block T3's positive effects.

Furthermore, excessive T4 levels can disrupt the function of the pituitary gland, reducing the production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and consequently decreasing T3 levels even further. This weakened T3 production can worsen hypothyroidism symptoms.

In light of these potential issues, it's critical for healthcare professionals to consider each patient individually and evaluate alternatives or combination therapies to T4-only treatment. By exploring other options, such as including T3 in the treatment plan, professionals can provide more effective hypothyroidism management and help patients alleviate their symptoms.

Liothyronine (Synthetic T3)

Liothyronine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). It's not as commonly prescribed as levothyroxine. Since T3 is the active thyroid hormone, this thyroid hormone treatment is seen as more potent than levothyroxine.

If you're not responding well to levothyroxine alone, your doctor may recommend adding liothyronine to your treatment plan. Together, these two synthetic hormones (T3 and T4) work to regulate your thyroid levels and improve your symptoms.

As with any medication, taking liothyronine can have potential side effects. Some people may experience side effects such as rapid heartbeat, tremors, or difficulty sleeping. However, these side effects are usually mild and can often be managed by adjusting the right dose of the medication.

Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT)

Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), also known as desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), is a type of medication that is derived from the dried and powdered porcine (pig) thyroid glands. It contains both T3 and T4 hormones in a natural ratio that mimics the hormone production of the human thyroid.

Although NDT was the first treatment available for hypothyroidism, its popularity declined with the mass marketing of synthetic thyroid hormone medications like levothyroxine. However, there is a growing interest in NDT again as people seek more natural and effective alternatives to traditional hypothyroidism treatments.

One of the reasons why NDT is gaining popularity among people with hypothyroidism is that it contains both T4 and T3 hormones in a natural ratio. This is great news for those whose bodies have difficulty converting T4 to T3, as NDT already provides the active T3 hormone. Additionally, NDT can be more affordable than buying levothyroxine and liothyronine separately, as NDT combines both hormones in one medication.

Many people find NDT to be more effective than synthetic thyroid hormone medications. In fact, a study has shown that most people who have tried both prefer NDT. The study also found that NDT is associated with better ease of symptoms and more weight loss.

Non-prescription thyroid supplement

The problem with NDT is that finding it in local pharmacies can be challenging. But the great news is you canbuy desiccated thyroid online, without a prescription, in the form of NDT supplements like VitaliThy. 

While VitaliThy is classified as an NDT supplement, it contains Thyroid (USP) – the same active ingredient as Armour Thyroid – which provides all the necessary thyroid hormones to manage your hypothyroidism symptoms. This is possible because VitaliThy is a Vietnam-based brand, where regulations about medications and supplements are different from those in the US.

Most importantly, VitaliThy is a natural thyroid product that's free of allergens, lactose, and gluten, making it safe for anyone, especially those with drug allergies.

What to keep in mind while taking thyroid hormone replacement medications or supplements

The medications and supplements mentioned above can help restore the body’s usual hormone levels and thus, aid in reversing the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Sounds great, right? Well, it certainly can make a heck of a difference! But there are a few aspects to keep in mind while on this treatment route.

While taking thyroid hormone replacements, it is essential to maintain a steady intake regimen. Changes in your daily dose can lead to imbalance and destabilize your hormone levels, which isn't what you want. So, adhere to the dosage and timing prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Interactions with other medications or supplements are also biggies to consider. For instance, certain supplements like the innocent-looking calcium supplements can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication. To combat this, make it a rule to have a gap of at least four hours between taking your thyroid medication and calcium supplement.

Last, but by no means least, familiarize yourself with the potential side effects of thyroid hormone replacements. Side effects can range from increased appetite to excessive sweating and can even induce mood changes. Although these may sound intimidating, don’t fret! Regular blood tests can help monitor hormone levels and make necessary dosage adjustments.

So then, ready to take on hypothyroidism armed with the newfound knowledge? Remember to follow your doctor's advice, make lifestyle adjustments, and keep yourself well-informed! Victory against hypothyroidism could be just around the corner. Happy healing!

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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