The modern world has left many people with daily complaints of fatigue, depression, and difficulty thinking clearly. Most attribute these problems to ever-present societal demands and other lifestyle factors. Although these may contribute, there is another potential issue that may be the true culprit.
Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid condition that can inhibit a variety of bodily functions. Even though hypothyroidism has common traits and causes, every case is unique and requires individualized treatment. Therefore, being familiar with the condition itself and the many treatment options available is an important part of resolving hypothyroidism and the everyday issues that accompany it.
The Impact of Hypothyroidism
The thyroid is a small gland responsible for regulating numerous systems throughout the body. Perhaps the most influential being the metabolism. Hormones produced by the thyroid affect virtually every cell, meaning that any sort of disruption can lead to widespread dysfunction and a variety of symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is caused by a lack of thyroid hormone resulting in system-wide sluggishness. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive difficulties or “brain fog,” weight gain, stress, depression, and many others – get the full list of hypothyroid symptoms here. Many factors such as autoimmune disease, increased testosterone or estrogen levels, thyroid-inhibiting medications, and poor thyroid hormone conversion, can influence thyroid function and contribute to the development of hypothyroidism. Because of this, treatment must be tuned to the specific cause and the individual needs of the patient.
The Many Ways of Treating Hypothyroidism
Most doctors treat hypothyroidism through a single standardized method. However, administering thyroid treatment in a one-size-fits-all manner is not only ineffective but potentially harmful. To get the most benefit from thyroid treatments and therapies you must be aware of the pros and cons of the multiple options available. Doctors may recommend one of the following treatments or some combination depending on unique patient factors.
When the thyroid is working as intended, the storage form of thyroid hormone (T4) is converted into the active form (T3). This process regulates important bodily functions such as the metabolism. Even though T4 medications such as Synthroid, Levoxyl, and Levothyroxine are the most common treatment for hypothyroidism, they frequently do little to resolve the true problem.
Some patients do benefit from T4-only treatments, but that is frequently not the case. T4 medications are beneficial almost exclusively to patients who only have a thyroid hormone deficit. However, it is rare for hypothyroidism to be caused by this single issue. It is far more likely that hypothyroidism is caused by more complex problems such as poor conversion of T4 to T3. If the thyroid is unable to properly convert T4 into T3 there is little to no benefit in increasing T4 levels. In fact, doing so can actually cause greater dysfunction. T4 can also be converted into the T3 inhibiting hormone Reverse T3, which further slows thyroid function when produced in excess.
If conversion of T4 to T3 is an issue, circumventing the problem by supplying the body with T3 may be highly beneficial. Knowledgeable thyroid doctors may prescribe Cytomel, which is a synthetic form of T3. Alternatively, they may recommend compounded T3 medications that allow for custom strength and dosage to suit the patient’s unique needs. Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not cover compounded medications because the pharmacies that produce them are less common. However, it is still possible to acquire them by paying out of pocket.
Unlike T4-only treatments, T3 medications do not last the entire day. Therefore, typical T3 medications must be taken at least twice daily. Because the thyroid hormone is already active, T3 medications can cause a sudden burst of energy that slowly dissipates as the day goes on. Some compare this sensation to taking a shot or two of espresso, which provides near immediate jitteriness that is followed with a steady decline in energy. It is possible to have compounded medications produced in time-release formulations, which can help stabilize the effect of T3-only medications.
Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)
Natural desiccated thyroid medications are sourced from the dried thyroid gland of pigs. Common NDT brands include Armour, WP Thyroid, and Nature-Throid. As with all medications, each brand provides slightly different benefits regarding strength, formulation, and dose options. The primary benefit associated with NDTs is that they include the full collection of thyroid hormones including T4, T3, T2, and T1. Because of this, NDT medications are very effective at treating hypothyroidism caused by conversion issue.
NDTs are not only one of the most complete forms of thyroid medication, they are also very similar to the thyroid hormones naturally produced in the body. This means that NDT treatment typically has a lower risk of adverse reactions and is more effective among a greater percentage of thyroid patients than other thyroid medications.
Another benefit of NDT medications is that they contain thyroglobulin. This protein acts as a binder for thyroid hormones and improves its transport via the bloodstream.
Compounded T4 and T3
Some patients require highly-specified dosage to treat their condition. If that is the case, then a compounded combination T4 and T3 medication may be the best option. Because they are custom formulated, compounded medications can be tuned to the exact strength needed to optimize thyroid function. Additionally, compounded medications do not pose the risk of fillers and other allergens that may trigger patient sensitivities, allergies, or autoimmune activity. The minimal drawback of compounded medications when compared to NDT, is that they do not contain other beneficial substances such as T2, T1, and thyroglobulin.
Finding the Right Treatment for You
Depending on factors such as sensitivities and intolerances, lifestyle factors, and the underlying cause or causes of hypothyroidism, some treatments will provide better results than others. Before settling on a specific treatment, speak with a knowledgeable thyroid specialist to help identify your specific needs.
Treating hypothyroidism can be an arduous process and it typically takes some time to find the treatment or therapy that works best. However, through understanding the cause of hypothyroidism, your unique needs, and the many treatment options available, you can find the medications or therapies that best support your health.
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