I am struck by the number of clients or people participating in thyroid forums who complain that after years of being on conventional and popular thyroid medications that their symptoms have increasingly become worse.
When they’ve gone to their physician to discuss their symptoms and problems, the doctor’s response is to increase the dosage of the medication. Here’s why that just doesn’t work for true healing.
First of all, your thyroid works like this:
- The hypothalamus gland sends a message using thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) to your pituitary gland
- Your pituitary gland then determines how to stimulate the thyroid by sending thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- TSH stimulates your thyroid to produce inactive T4 and active T3 (thyroid hormones)
- The inactive T4 goes to your liver to be converted to active T3
- Active T3 goes straight to the bloodstream to be delivered to your cells
What is important to know here is that Active T3 is what is used by our cells to produce energy and protective steroid hormones. Our thyroid only makes 10% of the active T3 we need to function properly. The rest of the Active T3 (the other 90%) is created when T4 gets converted in the liver.
Here’s where the problem lies – most of the conventional medications out there (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothryoxine, etc.) supplement T4; not T3.
So what happens? Oftentimes, this excess of T4 causes a buildup effect and actually slows your thyroid even further creating increasing hypothyroid symptoms…or it can cause your thyroid to atrophy and stop functioning altogether. When the doctor ups your dosage, often he/she is just adding fuel to the fire.
The next thing I’m about to say isn’t meant to scare you or freak you out at all.
I’m saying this so that you’re informed and educated on the topic…so that you can work with your doctor to make the best decisions for your health.
The other problem is that thyroid medications have also been shown in studies to be correlated with cancer. I know that I’ve seen on many forums too many people talking about getting a cancer diagnosis (especially in the lungs or in the reproductive organs) after being on thyroid medications.
And then, there’s actually another problem – thyroid cancers are often overdiagnosed!
So, it’s kind of a hot mess when it comes to thyroid medications.
This is why my own functional doctor encouraged me to heal Hashimoto’s through diet and exercise without taking synthetic thyroid or hormone medications.
However, for some people, it is crucial they take thyroid medications so it is a good thing they are available.
The key is to make sure you’re treating the root cause AND that if you’re on thyroid medication, you find the right medication or natural thyroid supplement for you.
Now, if you’re on thyroid meds currently and they aren’t working, here are 7 possible reasons why:
- You have undiagnosed Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s disease is the No. 1 cause of thyroid problems; I have a deep, personal relationship with Hashimoto’s. But it also frequently goes undiagnosed and is often missed by a standard TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood panel. I personally went undiagnosed for over two years, after seeking help from 12 different doctors and specialists and two visits to the ER! It’s all too common – ask your doctor to test for TPO and TGB antibodies.
- You have lowered thyroid receptor sensitivity.
When your body is suffering from inflammation, it can “dull” the sensitivity of receptors on cell membranes that transfer thyroid hormone for the cells to use. It can also reduce the number of those receptors overall. When the receptors’ sensitivity is dulled, the body must make more and more hormone (or you must take more and more medication) for the body to recognize and use it.
- You have poor thyroid hormone conversion.
Your body must convert T4 to T3 to help give energy to your cells. There are many factors to why your body may not be converting your thyroid hormones properly. If your body isn’t converting these hormones right, you will have to take a higher dosage in order to convert enough for your body to use.
- You have high reverse T3 levels.
Too little T3 is not good, but neither is too much. When your body is really stressed out, you can produce high levels of reverse T3, which is the opposite of active T3. It can’t be converted to T3, but it isn’t a thyroid deficiency.
- You have stressed brain-thyroid communication.
Your thyroid doesn’t work alone, of course; your brain has to tell it what to do. But stress, inflammation and autoimmune responses can put static on the line (if you will) between the brain and the thyroid.
- You have a selenium deficiency.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient for thyroid hormone conversion. And while selenium deficiency in adults is rare, it is seen sometimes in people with gastrointestinal diseases.
- Your medication contains gluten.
It’s probably not something you would think about, but yes, it’s a dirty little secret that some thyroid medications do contain gluten and other cross-reactive ingredients like corn and dairy.
As you likely know, for people with an autoimmune condition, gluten can become a vicious ogre. Medications containing gluten can cause you headaches, fatigue, congestion and other symptoms. Make sure you check that your prescribed medication contains no gluten.
These seven reasons are related to various inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including thyroid dysfunction, so if your medication is not working, this might be why.
But I think there is something else to be said: I preach to my clients and community that to heal your thyroid, you must heal your whole body. It’s not simply about masking symptoms; it’s about getting to the root of the issue.
And you can’t do that with a pill alone.
Nutrition, exercise, relaxation, meditation and yoga can all have positive impacts on your autoimmune condition. Even drinking tea has been shown to help.
However, you should also make sure your medication works as best it can for you. Like I said, there is no silver bullet when it comes to medicating your thyroid or autoimmune condition. That means that it can be a bumpy road to healing, but it’s a journey you owe yourself to take. You’ll be grateful you did.
So here’s your assignment for today:
Download the SIDE EFFECTS & SYMPTOM TRACKER here, and make a list of all the symptoms you’re still experiencing that you believe are related to your thyroid disease or your thyroid medication.
Then, pledge to take that list with you the next time you see your doctor and have a frank conversation about your symptoms and your medication.
Remember, just like the other systems in your body, your thyroid doesn’t work in a vacuum.
All the systems of the body rely on thyroid hormone to help regulate it. Thus, we must pay attention to the health of all of those systems if we want to heal.
Be sure to watch out for our next coaching session email, this is where we put all the pieces together and create your own personalized action plan!