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
Mainstream endocrinologists seem to be moving grudgingly toward acceptance of combination T4 plus T3 therapy for hypothyroidism. A great example of the mixed feelings harbored by endocrinologists in this regard is the title of a recent editorial, “ Combo (treatment) a Last Resort for Hypothyroidism” . Although the author, Dr. Bruce Jancin of the University of Colorado, recognized the value of combination T4 plus T3 therapy, he did so with the least possible enthusiasm. In his article the doctor acknowledged the weakness of scientific studies showing negative results with combination therapy and pointed out the findings of the Watts Study which provides a genetic rationale for why some people need to have T3 added to T4 to return to proper thyroid hormone balance. Continue reading
I thought Richards comments about the battle he faces getting treatment for hypothyroidism after having his thyroid removed for cancer, would be of interest to many readers at metabolism.com.
I recently ordered Thyroid-S on Amazon.com and after all the research and apparently good results I have found online, I think I made the right choice. I had my thyroid removed because of cancer in 2005, took Cytomel at first, felt great, told to stop cytomel and start Levothyroxine, felt horrible. Two months out(125mcg) TSH was 43.0, increased dose to 137mcg wait another 2 months, TSH was 31.0 Finally told to take 200mcg and TSH started to come down. It took about 6 months to get my TSH where they wanted it and for the side effects I was given all types of medications. Continue reading
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.
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!
A patient advocacy group in the UK is fighting for recognition of combination therapy (t4 plus t3) to treat hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels). They are asking for people who have benefited from combination therapy to visit their website and demonstrate their support for this form of treatment. Why not have a look and decide for yourself?
Here is the contact info:
Please will you post the following link to the very short questionnaire , and urge those members who remained ill on T4 only, yet fared better with a T3 hormone product (either synthetic or natural) to take part.
All responses will be collated automatically online.
Thyroid Patient Advocate
Dennis wonders if Armour thyroid hormone treatment can create a dependency on the medication. In his post (http://www.metabolism.com/2009/08/25/armour-thyroid-shortage-nation-wide-problem/#comment-2177) he suggests that this might explain why people experience such discomfort when trying to switch medication or go off. Thanks Dennis for your thoughts, as I imagine others share your concern.
Below I offer my response to this theory.
I wouldn’t worry about a dependency problem from using Armour or other thyroid replacement drugs for two reasons: 1) Dependency implies that it is the medication which creates a need for itself. This occurs because over time the drug causes changes in the body to create an on-going need for more of the med. A narcotic, for example, will cause painful withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly after continuous use for weeks/months. More narcotic will relieve the withdrawal process almost immediately. This is very different than when a person takes thyroid hormone such as Armour to treat hypothyroidism. People use thyroid hormone replacement because the body is not making sufficient thyroid hormone in the first place. The medicine doesn’t cause the thyroid to stop making hormone, but it is a disease like Hashimoto’s that causes the thyroid to stop working.
2) It is true that the endocrine glands can become atrophied by administering the hormone that the gland makes for an extended period of time. This is most often seen by taking adrenal hormones like Prednisone, Cortef, Hydrocortisone, Dexamethasone etc. These drugs are very powerful adrenal suppressants used to treat asthma, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. If someone takes these drugs long enough and then stops suddenly a life threatening condition known as adrenal crisis can develop because the adrenal gland has atrophied. It can take up to a year of carefully withdrawing adrenal hormones before the gland is strong enough to function normally again on its own. The thyroid is much more resilient than the adrenal gland however. If someone with a normal thyroid gland takes thyroid medication for a year or two then stops the drug, the thyroid will be functioning normally again usually within weeks if not sooner. There is no severe withdrawal like that seen with the adrenal.
I hope this info eases your concerns about developing dependency on Armour thyroid or other thyroid hormones used to treat hypothyroidism.
My comments are for educational purposes only and do not replace the advice of your own physician.
Gary Pepper, M.D.