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Should You Take Thyroid Hormone Medication?

When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I chose not to take antithyroid medication or beta blockers.  Was this the right decision on my part?  Well, everything turned out okay, and it’s not as if I didn’t do anything to manage the hyperthyroid symptoms, as I took the herbs bugleweed and motherwort.  These herbs were effective in managing my symptoms while I addressed the cause of my condition.  However, recently I was consulting with a patient who has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and she asked me if I would have taken thyroid hormone medication if I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.

Obviously it’s difficult to give a specific answer since I wasn’t diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but the truth is, if I needed to take thyroid hormone medication then without question I would take it…while addressing the cause of the condition.  The person who asked me this was under the impression that I don’t recommend for people with hypothyroid conditions to take thyroid hormone medication.  In past articles and blog posts I have mentioned that some people with hypothyroid conditions do need to take thyroid hormone medication, and some people will need to take it on a permanent basis.  However, while it’s fine to take thyroid hormone medication when necessary, the main reason many people with Hashimoto’s take thyroid hormone continuously is because nothing is ever done to address the autoimmune component.  I’m not suggesting that everyone with Hashimoto’s who is taking thyroid hormone medication can successfully wean off of it, but doing so definitely is possible if the cause of the condition is addressed.

The Pros and Cons of Thyroid Hormone Medication

During most of my webinars on hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis I talk about the pros and cons of taking thyroid hormone medication, and I’ll expand on this here.  First of all, there is no question that healthy levels of thyroid hormone is important for optimal health.  As a result, if someone has low or depressed thyroid hormone levels then it probably is a good idea to take either synthetic or natural thyroid hormone medication.

However, the obvious disadvantage of taking thyroid hormone medication ALONE is that it does absolutely nothing for the underlying cause of the condition.  Of course there are times when nothing can be done for the cause.  For example, if someone has received a complete thyroidectomy then they will need to take thyroid hormone medication for the rest of their life, as there is no natural substitute for thyroid hormone medication.  If someone has received a partial thyroidectomy or radioactive iodine treatment there is a good chance they will need to take thyroid hormone medication, although this isn’t always the case.  In fact, my staff person Kate received a partial thyroidectomy years before she began working for me, and she hasn’t taken thyroid hormone medication since.

In any case, while addressing the cause of the problem doesn’t always mean the person will be able to avoid taking thyroid hormone medication, many times this is the case.  The problem is that most endocrinologists don’t do anything to address the autoimmune component, and so over time the thyroid antibodies continue to damage the thyroid gland, and as a result the person will usually need to take thyroid hormone medication.  But if the autoimmune component is addressed then the person might be able to eventually wean off of their thyroid hormone medication, or if they aren’t currently taking thyroid hormone they might be able to avoid taking it altogether.  It depends on how much damage has occurred to the thyroid gland.

Once On Thyroid Hormone Always On Thyroid Hormone?

I’ve received emails from people taking thyroid hormone medication stating that they were told by their medical doctor that once someone starts taking thyroid hormone medication they will need to remain on thyroid hormone medication.  In other words, if someone gets diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and takes synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, they will need to continue taking this for the rest of their life.  If the cause of the condition isn’t addressed then this most likely will be true.  And as I’ve mentioned numerous times already, most medical doctors don’t do anything for the cause of the condition, and so the person not only will usually need to remain on thyroid hormone, but as further damage of the thyroid gland takes place they most likely will need to take higher doses of thyroid hormone medication in the future.

On the other hand, if someone is taking thyroid hormone medication while the cause of the condition is being addressed, then many times they will be able to eventually wean off of the medication.  This is especially true when the hypothyroid condition is directly caused by nutrient deficiencies or toxins, as correcting the deficiency or removing the toxin will usually allow the person to stop taking thyroid hormone medication.  But it’s also true for many people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, although as mentioned earlier, this does depend on how much damage has been done to the thyroid gland.  So there is no guarantee that someone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis will be able to wean off of thyroid hormone medication if the cause of the problem is addressed, but at the same time, not everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who is taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone will need to take the medication on a permanent basis.

What Would I Do If I Had Hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Getting back to the question that I was asked, if it was determined that I was hypothyroid I would of course try to detect and address the cause of the problem.  However, if my thyroid hormone levels were depressed I am pretty sure I would take thyroid hormone medication while the cause of the condition was being addressed.  If they were low but not depressed I still might take thyroid hormone medication, or perhaps I would choose to take a thyroid glandular while addressing the cause of the problem.

In summary, thyroid hormone is very important, and if I had depressed thyroid hormone levels in all likelihood I would take thyroid hormone medication, or at the very least take a glandular with thyroid hormone.  I would of course try to address the cause of the problem while doing this.  Some people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are hesitant to take thyroid hormone medication, as they fear that once they begin taking it they won’t be able to wean off of it.  While some people do need to take thyroid hormone on a permanent basis, not everyone who takes it will need to take it on a continuous basis.