On April 11, 2016 an article, Doctors Hear Patients’ Calls for New Approaches to Hypothyroidism, appeared in the Wall Street Journal regarding the growing influence of patient preference on treatment selection for hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid). The article was written by the WSJ health columnist Melinda Beck. I might have missed it but thanks to a motivated patient I received a copy within a week after its publication. With a glance I knew this report could be a highly significant addition in the on-going debate between specialists treating hypothyroidism (endocrinologists) and advocates of alternative approaches. Continue reading
Our member, Ella, has analyzed her own T4 plus T3 thyroid replacement needs and offers a terrific explanation of how she arrived at her conclusions. Follow her thinking in her message to metabolism.com
The 2013 guidelines issued by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association reiterated their long standing opinion that only a single hormone, T4 (Synthroid, levothyroxine) is advised for treatment of hypothyroidism. These key organizations
I was diagnosed Hypothyroid 10 years ago, I have two sisters and several aunts with the same problem. I was prescribed synthroid and it was a Godsend for the first three years even though I was up and down, however I began to be more and more tired and just generally did not feel good, my dosage was up and down, finally doctor prescribed cytomel to go with it. still no good my bones hurt all the time especially my hip going down my leg and in the middle of my upper back, my beautiful teeth damaged. I finally told my Doctor to either give me the Armour or I was going to find another Doctor who would, He did and shazamm all symptoms disappeared, I feel great Like before I ever had this problem, I Thank God for Armour, and I also avoid flouride, chlorine
Although we often speak of the metabolic effects of thyroid hormone, we are really referring to the fact that this hormone helps to regulate the function of every system in the body. A system that is often a source of concern is known as the integument; the hair, skin and nails. The effects of disease is often first noticed due to effects on the integument and thyroid disease is one of the most likely to show up here. Brittle hair that sheds easily, and skin that is dry, itchy and flaky are often noticed early in hypothyroidism. Here is Dana’s story and I’m hoping that the addition of T3 will help her lose her excess weight and also reverse the deterioration she is experiencing in her integument, and her nervous system (mood).
I was diagnosed as hypo a few years ago and my doctor just added 25 mcg of liothyronine (Cytomel) along with 100 mcg of Synthroid. In the past year I have gained 35+ pounds and it’s been alomost impossible to take it off. Last year I competed in my very first fitness/ figure competion. At 135lbs I came in 2nd place. I play softball and basketball on competitve level teams for the psat 15 years and I run about 3-4 times a week. I eat relatively healthy and have recent gone gluten-free, soy free, and nitrate free. Today is my very first day on the combined T3/T4 thereapy. I steppeed on my scale and it said 174lbs. Im hopeful that not only my weight will decrease but my hair will stopp shedding, dry skin/ scalp, joint pain, hopelessness and depression, and fatigue will all go away. I know patience is the key so I will be patient and wait.
As you read here, some people are unable to return to normal thyroid equilibrium on t4-treatment alone; this may be due to an inherited form of enzyme defect preventing the normal conversion of the t4 hormone into the more potent t3 hormone; I am happy you found a doctor who will prescribe T3. Sometimes this needs to be given twice daily since t3 is a short acting hormone and the benefit may wear off within 6 to 8 hours. Some people don’t notice this while others definately do.
Good luck with your treatment. Also remember, thyroid hormone allows you to lose weight normally but doesn’t make weight “melt off”. You still have to do the right things with diet and exercise but at least your efforts should start paying off.
Gary Pepper, M.D.
Zach points out that most of the posts about thyroid treatment issues at metabolism.com are from women. That makes sense because autoimmune thyroid disease is approximately 10 times more common in women than men. But man or woman, thyroid hormone treatment is still the same and his success with Cytomel is something worth noting.
Hi everyone. From what I can gather, most posters here are women, well I’m a guy with similar problems. I thought my story might be useful so that men don’t think it’s a women only problem. I gained a hypothyroid diagnosis at the age of 25 due to Hashimodo’s. There was no direct cause, it runs heavily in my family. For a year, or two, maybe even three (it’s hard to tell due to widespread symptoms), I was feeling nervous, bad memory, attention problems, sleep problems, low appetite, and easily fatigued from a normal 8 hour work day. I assumed my lifestyle choices were causing these symptoms so didn’t go to the doctor for years.
Finally when I was diagnosed I was put on levothyroxine. The very first day I took it I felt IMMENSLY better. However, months down the road the symptoms gradually built up again. Every time my dose was raised, I would feel better for about 2 days, but the symptoms would gradually return. My endo decided to drop my T4 dosage and put me on a combo T4/T3 (T4 was dropped by 50 mcg and one quarter of the drop was added in as T3, so 12.5 mcg of T3). This is the first day I’ve tried it, and instantly the morning of starting on T4/T3 my body aches have almost disappeared and I am feeling much less sleepy at my desk during work.
Michelle shares her success story with T3. Michelle’s story demonstrates how combination therapy with T4 and T3 can be clinically superior to T4 (Synthroid, Levothyroxine) alone. In her story she mentions Wilson’s syndrome which I personally think is a “made up” diagnosis to help Dr. Wilson’s retirement fund but I do think her experience is fairly typical of a lot of people with hypothyroidism who eventually discover they need T3 added to conventional treatment with T4 to achieve best results.
OMG! Maybe I’m not crazy after all!
I’m 47 in December and can’t remember the last time I felt good or even okay. Same thing – doctors repeating same tests, thinking I’m exaggerating, sent to Psychiatrist…Over the past 6 years or so, major stress, low immune (sick all the time), worsening depression, borderline diabetes, high blood pressure, peri-menopause. Got to the point that I’m sooo exhausted. Don’t want to do anything. Lab diagnosis finally showed up hypothyroidism so doctor put me on Synthroid – I was so happy that I cried. Devastation set in after 6 months as this was not the miracle I thought it would be.
Started taking my temperature 3 to 4 x a day as suggested to me by a naturopath I had seen but couldn’t afford to keep going to. Again, measurements taken 3 x daily for a week averaged to 97.0. Talked to doctor about Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome; she did not believe in it and sent me for more blood tests which came back normal.
FINALLY (after 20 years at same doctor’s office) was lucky enough to be accepted under the care of a physician who hadn’t heard of WTS but had heard about the T4 not converting into the T3 (you all know the fault in the system)… so right then and there wrote me a prescription for Cytomel and told me to stop the synthroid. As the WTS website recommends sustained T3, I’m taking half the dose every 12 hours.
I started today and feel like a kid on Christmas Eve a million times over! I am so hopeful that this can get to the root of so many ailments. So many that I feel that I’m not even living my life, that I’m just here putting in everything I have just to get through the day.
With the lack of memory and concentration I have right now, I hope I remember to come back to this site and update you all!
Suzi has hypothyroidism and high blood pressure. She sends the following story describing how t3 treatment appeared to help normalize her blood pressure. This is the first time I have come across this effect and thought it would be helpful to share her story on the main blog. Does anyone else have a similar (or contradictory) experience?
Hi Dr. Pepper,
I was diagnosed hypothyroid 2 years ago and given levothyroxine. On diagnosis I had lots of symptoms and my BP was 175/115 despite my whole family having low BP. After some months on T4 I did feel an improvement in a lot of ways and my BP got better. Then after a year, things started going wrong, as if my body didn’t like T4.
I tried reducing my dose of T4 back down to 75µg but went hypo. But each time I increased above 75µg my BP increased again, then on 112µg it became a serious problem, especially the diastolic. I still had fatigue, constipation, red eyes, swollen legs and so on.
About 3 weeks ago I started on 10µg T3 and reduced my T4 from 112 to 75µg and pretty much immediately felt clearer headed and more energy, the constipation went etc….. My BP has gone down by an average of 20, which I know because I check it regularly myself. I’m doing a 24-hour BP monitor this week too, because my doctor put me on Amlopidine 6 weeks ago after being shocked by the monitor results from then while on 112µg T4 (only took Amlopidine for 2 weeks after terrible side-effects incl. overwhelming fatigue and massively swollen legs).
So, it looks as though my body goes weird on T4 tablets when the dose is above 75µg, but if I stuck to that dose I’d be really hypothyroid. The T3 has changed my life completely!!
Now I’m wondering what the ideal balance T4 / T3 tablets would be? Is that possible to say or does it depend on each individual body and genetics? My typical BP now is around 120/ 95; it goes down after eating, and gets worse when I’m hungry or tired. The T3 reduced my BP so much more than the Amlopidine did, and on T3 I feel great whereas on Amlopidine I felt half dead. I’d like to get my BP back to before I got hypo, so that’d be 110/70.
All I need to do now is find my ideal dose of T4 and T3, could you possibly advise me on that? If I started 20µg T3 instead of 10µg, would you advise a reduction in T4 from 75µg? ( I’ll be doing a TSH, fT3 and fT4 test in about 5 weeks’ time, maybe I should wait till then?).
Thank you so much!
Every so often I like to bring attention to someone who has struggled to get properly treated for hypothyroidism. Not everyone shares the same dilemma regarding treatment of hypothyroidism because T4 by itself may be sufficient in many instances. But for those who continue to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism despite T4 treatment, adding T3 can be a life changing experience.
Here is Sarah’s story:
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my early twenties and Synthroid did not help. I did not know at the time that many of my symptoms were due to hypothyroidism. After changing to my long time physician, I told her of my original diagnosis some years back. She did only the TSH and told me I was no longer hypothyroid! So for some 15 years after being in her care and continuing to feel crummy, then for the last 8 steadily gaining weight and feeling worse, I was not on any medication. I begged her for Cytomel several years back and was denied…she said she didn’t treat with that. When I finally was deemed hypo by her, she put me on the smallest dose of levothyroxine. It did not help. I finally went to see a shrink and he put me on 25 mcg of Cytomel. For the first time in my post pubescent life, I feel like living. My dose was upped to 50, and I felt even better but my thyroid levels were off, so we are now working on that and I am back to 25 mcg per day. If you can’t get Cytomel from your regular physician, you might get a psychiatrist to prescribe it. It changed my life and I finally feel alive. I’ve since switched primary physician because she wouldn’t listen to me, and she didn’t like that I was on Cytomel. I don’t know what it is about this medication that regular physicians don’t like and make them refuse to treat with it, especially when so many can benefit from it. I’ve lost only 12 lbs since being on it, but I gained nearly 35 unnecessarily while not being properly treated and was told to eat less and exercise more…I only ate about 1500 calories a day and walked my dog 2 miles each day, so I don’t feel it had anything to do with my diet!
Lots of members at metabolism.com with hypothyroidism ask what is their correct thyroid hormone dosage. For those who are still confused I am posting the latest Q and A addressing this issue.
Member ecchho received radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid) and as commonly happens, developed hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid). Despite t4 levels which appear to be normal symptoms persist, so ecchho inquires about ways of dealing with this common problem.
Here is the Q and A regarding ecchho’s post:
Hi Dr. Pepper:
I had Graves disease at 23 and then had RAI at 28 and have been on synthroid for 18 years. I did try ARmour once, but I found it had too much t3 (I think the pig’s ratio of t4 to t3 is much more potent than humans) and I actually had a real hard time regulating. I don’t have a thyroid anymore, and I take 225 synthroid. i still suffer a bit with impossible weight loss (despite running, dieting, etc) and some depression that feels quite hormonal at times. My dr. brought up adding t3 last visit and tested me, and then said, oh, you don’t need any xtra t3, you seem to be converting fine.
what are the levels that the t3 should be, and is this free t3 or t3? thanks.
My reply to Ecchho’s post:
Your question regarding the correct level for thyroid functions, is frequently raised on this website. I would respond to your question with this question, ” What is the correct shoe size?” Obviously, the answer is, whatever shoe size fits best. Similarly with thyroid function, everyone has a different “comfort zone” where their body functions best. That is their “correct” thyroid hormone level. You also refer to a t4 to t3 ratio for pigs versus humans. These ratio’s are averages of several hundred individuals (human or pig)and do not apply to any particular individual. Some people function better at a t3 to t4 ratio which is higher than the average. As pointed out in my article,http://www.metabolism.com/2009/11/07/breakthrough-discovery-thyroid-hormone-therapy-part-2/ , there is recent evidence that due to genetic differences, a percentage of the population does not convert t4 to t3 efficiently and therefore are likely to require t3 supplementation when treated for hypothyroidism.
Rather than spend the money for genetic testing to discover whether the genes for conversion of t4 to t3 are abnormal, some doctors recommend simply adding an appropriate dose of t3 to the standard t4 (levothyoxine)treatment and following the patient for improvement in clinical symptoms. You might want to consider discussing this approach with your doctor.
Gary Pepper, M.D