Thyroid replacement therapy
© Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, D.O. Do not reproduce this article without permission.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is one of the most common medical problems in the United States.
Shaped like a butterfly and consisting of two lobes connected by a bridge (isthmus) of tissue, the thyroid gland is located just below the Adam’s apple and manufactures hormones essential to the normal metabolism of nearly every cell in the body. These hormones, including triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), are made from combining iodine and tyrosine (an amino acid).
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is a deficiency of iodine in the diet. In the U.S., an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is responsible for most thyroid problems.
Recently, I received two separate questions from CHM members about thyroid replacement hormone medication.
One member wrote:
Hi Dr. Jacobson,
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism almost two years ago when I went to see an endocrinologist because my emotions were feeling “off” without an identifiable cause.
Blood work and a medical consultation confirmed that I had developed a goiter that, if left untreated, would need to be surgically removed.
After a year of taking levothyroxine (100mcg), the doctor said the goiter was gone and I was functioning at normal levels. I’ve felt great. However, I’ve gotten more into natural and holistic solutions for other health concerns and wondered if there are such options for improved thyroid function, too.
I’ve found multiple essential oils that have helped support various areas of health and have read about a few oils that could help support healthy thyroid function. If possible, I’d love to transition from taking the levothyroxine every day but I don’t know how to go about that or if it’s even an idea worth considering.
Dr. Jacobson responded:
If I were you and I were doing as well as you say you’re doing, I would not change a thing. As the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” There is no natural substitute for thyroid hormone. It is either something your body makes (from raw materials such as iodine and amino acid), or you get deficient in it and your health is seriously affected. I’m not opposed to many natural health options, but in your case, I’d just take the synthetic thyroid medication. It’s almost exactly what your thyroid makes anyway.
Another member wrote:
I have been taking levothyroxine since late last year for hypothyroidism, which was diagnosed from a blood test. A subsequent blood test showed my thyroid hormone levels were better, and the medicine is working to combat the fatigue I had been experiencing. In fact, in terms of my energy level I haven’t felt this good in years.
However, since I started taking levothyroxine I have noticed an increase in anxiety. I even have to purposely breathe slowly at times to help quell the feeling. I also bite my lips a lot more.
It really does seem that the anxiety is due to the medication. I would hate to stop the medicine because it’s helping me so much. Do you have some advice on how to manage the anxiety while still staying on the medicine? Alternatively, is there another remedy for hypothyroidism that you know about?
I prefer not to take a separate medication to address the anxiety, but will do so if necessary. Do you have other ideas for me? I have also put a call in to my doctor but am hoping for more than one opinion.
Dr. Jacobson responded:
I suggest that you ask your doctor if they think that you can safely cut your levothyroxine dosage. Since you’re otherwise doing well, I suggest more than a 25 percent dosage reduction. Perhaps you can find that “sweet spot” where you’ll feel very well with the thyroid replacement, but aren’t experiencing too much stimulation of the metabolism—this might be what’s contributing to your anxiety symptoms).
By the way, there is no manmade or medical substitute that can measure up to the brilliant design of the thyroid. Its function is fundamentally important to health and the intricate balance of feedback mechanisms at the brain, organ, and cellular levels is unparalleled.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14 (KJV)
O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Psalm 104:24 (KJV)