Natural Thyroid Treatment Methods
Graves' Disease & Hyperthyroidism
Hashimoto's & Hypothyroidism
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“Why Do I Feel Worse When Taking Thyroid Hormone Medication?”

Many people with hypothyroidism experience a significant improvement in their symptoms upon taking thyroid hormone medication.  However, some people actually feel worse when taking thyroid hormone medication.  Some people feel worse when taking synthetic thyroid hormone and feel better when taking natural thyroid hormone, although there are some people whose symptoms worsen when taking natural thyroid hormone.  There are numerous reasons why someone can experience a worsening of their symptoms when taking thyroid hormone, and in this blog post I’ll discuss some of the more common reasons.

Fillers and other ingredients.  One of the main reasons why someone might feel worse upon taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone is because they are reacting to one of the fillers or other ingredients.  For example, many brands of synthetic thyroid hormone include ingredients people can react to.  Synthroid is probably the most well known brand of synthetic thyroid hormone, and it includes corn starch, lactose monohydrate, as well as artificial coloring.  And so if someone has an allergy to corn or dairy, or if they have a reaction to the artificial colors, then they probably will feel lousy when taking Synthroid.  There are also fillers in some brands of natural thyroid hormone, such as Armour.  I discussed the ingredients in greater detail in an article I wrote entitled “Synthetic vs. Natural Thyroid Hormone: Breaking Down The Ingredients“.

But what can someone do if they are reacting to one or more of these ingredients?  Well, there are a few different options.  One option is to ask your medical doctor to switch you to a different brand of synthetic or natural thyroid hormone medication.  For example, Tirosint is a brand of synthetic thyroid hormone that doesn’t have all of the fillers and artificial colorings that Synthroid has.  As a result, someone might do poorly when taking Synthroid, but do well when taking Tirosint.  With regards to natural thyroid hormone, some people don’t do well when taking Armour, but do fine when taking Nature-Throid.  Another option is to visit a compound pharmacist, as they should be able to put together a hypoallergenic form of synthetic or natural thyroid hormone medication.

Conversion problem.  If someone has a problem converting T4 into T3 then they might not do well when taking certain forms of thyroid hormone medication.  Remember that most people are told to take thyroxine, which is T4.  And so if someone is taking levothyroxine, which is synthetic T4, and they are unable to efficiently convert this into T3 then they will most likely continue to experience hypothyroid symptoms.  Switching to a natural form of thyroid hormone very well might improve the symptoms since this form includes both T4 and T3.  However, taking natural thyroid hormone won’t do anything to address the cause of the conversion problem, which can be due to high cortisol levels, a selenium deficiency, gut dysbiosis, or other problems.  I discussed this in greater detail in a blog post I wrote entitled “6 Factors Which Can Affect The Conversion of T4 to T3“.

Autoimmune Response To Thyroid Hormone.  If someone takes natural thyroid hormone (i.e. Armour, Nature-Throid) and feels significantly worse, this might be due to an autoimmune response to thyroid hormone.  In other words, your immune system can produce antibodies towards T3 and T4.  This is one reason why some doctors won’t prescribe natural thyroid hormone to any of their patients.  I find this to be rare, although over the years I have had a few patients feel horrible when taking natural thyroid hormone and I suspected their immune system might have been reacting to it.  While in most cases I still prefer natural thyroid hormone over synthetic thyroid hormone, this is something to be aware of.

Adrenal Problems.  Although an elevated TSH usually is related to a hypothyroid condition, in some cases it can be due to problems with the adrenals.  One study examining three case reports linked adrenal insufficiency with subclinical hypothyroidism (1), while another study showed a relationship between the TSH and cortisol (2).   As it result, if someone has subclinical hypothyroidism (high TSH and normal thyroid hormone levels) and the thyroid antibodies are normal, then it probably would be a good idea to address any adrenal problems before the person takes thyroid hormone medication.

Thyroid Hormone Resistance.  Thyroid hormone resistance is when the thyroid receptors are not responsive to the actions of thyroid hormone.  If someone has this condition then taking thyroid hormone medication probably won’t cause their symptoms to worsen, although they most likely won’t notice an improvement in their symptoms when taking thyroid hormone.  I discussed this condition in greater detail in a blog post entitled “Thyroid Resistance and Natural Treatment Methods“:

In summary, when someone with hypothyroidism has a worsening of symptoms after taking thyroid hormone medication there can be numerous reasons for this.  Some of the most common reasons include the person reacting to fillers and other ingredients, having a conversion issue, an adrenal problem, or perhaps thyroid resistance.  In addition, for those taking natural thyroid hormone it is possible to experience an autoimmune response to the thyroid hormones.  Sometimes it can be challenging to determine why someone is having a negative reaction to thyroid hormone medication, and while there can be causes other than the ones I listed in this post, initially it’s a good idea to look into these factors I discussed.


 

8 Comments

  1. Brendalee says:

    I have recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease all my thyroid level seem to be normal at the moment they also said I have small nodules all over my thyroid is there any way of treating this disease naturally

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Brendalee,

      It is very possible to treat Hashimoto’s naturally, as even when the thyroid hormone levels are normal the goal should be to improve the health of the immune system. After all, Hashimoto’s is an immune system condition, not a thyroid condition, and so while some people do need to take thyroid hormone medication, the primary goal still should be to address the autoimmune component.

  2. Logan Henderson says:

    Just started taking the new WP thyroid pill (westhroid pure…pig thyroid). Purest pill available. I pray it works. Hashimoto’s is awful as you age. 🙁

  3. Michele says:

    I’ve been on Levothyroxine for 5 years now and it eventually stops working and my dose raised. I am subclinical hypothyroid. I had to fight for a diagnosis. Finally with ultrasound of thyroid it became clear I was in trouble. Enlarged thyroid (goiter) with nodules. Now a few years later I’ve been diagnosed with CFS & Fibromyalgia. I’ve found that diet plays a key role in subduing this curse.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Michele,

      Yes, eating well definitely plays an important role in improving one’s health when dealing with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. However, many times eating well alone won’t be enough to restore one’s health. Did they test the thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin antibodies to see if you have the antibodies for Hashimoto’s? Although you can’t always rely on the antibody readings (false negatives are possible), if these were positive then the primary goal should be to address the autoimmune response. In addition, mitochondrial dysfunction and/or chronic infections are common with CFS and fibromyalgia.

  4. Dr. Susan says:

    Dr. Osansky, I cannot put into words how informative, as well as timely, your email and its linked articles have been in my particular case. Thank you x infinite.

    Having been suffering with severe hyperactivity to ~ EVERYTHING with which I have come in contact — e.g., foods, insects — the insight you have provided has hit the nail on the head with me.

    Too bad other physicians, even those in high places, have no knowledge of what your posts have so clearly, astutely, brought to the fore.

    Having been plagued by classic hypo-T symptoms — including severe pretibial myxedema — and been diagnosed with the primary form of the disease, I have been on a generic liothyronine for nine weeks.

    Today, thus having endured more than enough whole-body inflammation to last a lifetime, I refrained from taking the lio-T, having suspected it as the cause of all my woes.

    Interestingly enough, however, I had already noticed a substantial improvement in how I had felt all day, when I spied your message on my list. I could not believe my eyes, since I had been trying to find articles just like yours.
    Certainly the Law of Attraction had to have been working in my favor this 21st day of May 2015.

    Right now, in fact, I am awaiting communication from the manufacturer of the lio-T I have/had been taking. Of course, I want to know all substances the drug contains, but will not take it again.

    Now though, my challenge is to determine which other thyroid medication would best address my symptoms — e.g., I have read myxedema responds to T3 only — given my having a T4/T3 conversion problem as part of my condition.

    I do not know whether you will respond to my inquiry and realize there is no doctor/patient relationship here, but what would you suggest in such a situation? How costly might it be to work with a compounding pharmacy?

    FYI, generic levothyroxine alone did nothing for the myxedema while I took it during the winter. Moreover, I recall suffering from hyper-reactivity — though to a lesser degree than what I have been, while on lio-T — on levo-T also.

    Once again, I cannot thank you enough for your superb timing and articles today.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,

    Susan

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Susan,

      Obviously you want to try to address the conversion problem if at all possible, but if you have low or depressed T3 levels then I agree that in the meantime it would be a good idea to address this. If you are reacting to the ingredients in the liothyronine then a compounding pharmacy could be a good option. As for how costly it might be, I’m not sure exactly how much it will cost, as I’m sure this will vary depending on the pharmacy you use, although I’m pretty certain it will be more expensive than taking something such as Cytomel. Taking a natural form of thyroid hormone such as Armour or Nature-Throid might also be an option, although in my experience the main cause of pretibial myxedema is the imbalance of the immune system, and not the thyroid hormone imbalance itself.

  5. Dawn says:

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I left my MD, last summer, because of this very same thing. Four years ago, this September, she diagnosed me w/ Hashimoto’s. TSH was 80. Put me on Levothyroxine, I was having side effects, namely stomach issues. I quit taking it. Went Gluten Free(another story happening @ this same time), went for my annual check up, TSH was lower but still too high to be acceptable. She put me back on Levothyroxine, stomach, dermatitis, brain fog & on & on. I called the office, talked to a nurse who forwarded the message that I was having reactions and asked what they would suggest. I was told to do my own research and let them know what I would like to take. OH I DID ALRIGHT! I called my pharmacist, explained the Hashimoto’s and Celiac and asked what they might suggest. I had the best pharmacist, who said she would do some research on ingredients and research to see what would be available. She got back to me the very same day and told me I should absolutely not be taking Levothyroxine because of the fillers and there was another possibility that did not have the corn or wheat fillers, but that pharmacy did not normally carry those products. I called another pharmacy that did and was able to get a script filled (without my Dr.). This particular med. had a depression side effect, it was listed, and I knew by the 3rd day of taking it. I immediately got off it, waited a couple days so I could be certain I was “better” before I called my MD. Called the office, talked to the nurse again, told her I just could not take any of those meds because of the side effects. She reported to the MD, whose message back to me was that she did not believe I was having all those side effects and wanted me to go in to the office so “we can address the depression issue”. I WAS FURIOUS! I told the nurse “I WILL NOT, I will not come in to be drugged for something that I know what the cause was.” I searched for a DO, had my file immediately transferred, she immediately put me on Tirosint (I had already done the research), and scheduled me with an Endocrinologist. She wanted a solid confirmation of the Hashimotos and professional feedback on the Tirosint. She did not waste any time. I also started a relationship with a Chiropractor who practices natural endocrine, just as you do. It amazes me how she can talk/treat me and next thing I know, you have an article having to do with the very same subject. She has helped me more than my MD could ever have and my DO is willing to work with the regimen I am on with her. So, Thank You, again for all you do in explaining all of this mass confusion. I know, I was like a mad woman trying to do all my own research and trying to understand it with the help of professionals like you.

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Natural Thyroid Health


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Natural Treatment Methods:
Graves Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism Treatment
Hyperthyroidism Treatment
Natural Thyroid treatment


Conventional Treatment
Methods:
Radioactive Iodine
Thyroid Hormone