Tag Archives: Synthroid

Will T-3 Help Dana with her weight, hair, skin and mood?


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).

Dana writes:

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.

My response:

Hi Dana

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.
Good luck.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-chief, metabolism.com

Michelle Gets a Boost from T3 (Cytomel)


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.

Michelle writes:

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!

More Toxic Thyroid Supplements


During 2 decades of practicing endocrinology I had not encountered an instance of an over the counter product containing enough active thyroid hormone to make a difference in thyroid levels. In the last month I consulted on two new patients who appear to have developed toxic thyroid levels due to non-prescription products. The first involved a “Metabolic Complex” obtained from New Zealand. This seemed like a fairly random event in which a non-prescribing health practitioner was able to obtain an unregulated product which was passed on to the patient. Not likely to become a common issue. This second instance is more worrisome since it involves a product purchased directly by the patient from the internet, and supposedly “vegetarian” in nature.

Here is the story. A woman with a history of hypothyroidism for about one year taking synthetic prescription thyroid hormone decided to find a more natural solution to thyroid hormone replacement. She stopped the thyroid hormone replacement prescribed by her local physician and purchased a product via the internet advertised to improve thyroid gland “health”. Prior to starting the OTC product her thyroid blood tests indicated low thyroid levels, as expected. About a month after starting the thyroid supplement her thyroid levels were clearly above normal, entering the thyrotoxic range. Fortunately she returned to her physician who alerted her to the problem and asked her to stop the thyroid supplement and one month later she was back to being hypothyroid again. It was at this time I first consulted with her and found her to have the expected symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, poor memory, dry skin and water retention (edema). I restarted her on prescription thyroid hormone replacement.

I wanted to see the product bottle myself but was unable to obtain it. Instead I went on-line and tried to track down the product’s manufacturer and list of ingredients. It was a frustrating exercise since the names of the products and the manufacturers and distributors changed from one website to another. I narrowed my search to one product manufactured in California and another in Canada. Perhaps I will be able to get the original pill container and nail this product down but for now it remains a bit mysterious.

Members of metabolism.com have asked me to pass on the name of these products. Now come on…do you think I want to make this situation worse by giving the information away to juvenile delinquents? I am hoping government regulators will become more vigilante to what appears to be a growing problem. In the mean time I advise everyone to be on the alert to similar products being marketed to an unsuspecting public.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

Some of the details of this report have been changed to protect the identity of my patient. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or therapy.

What You can Learn from Sarah’s Struggle With Hypothyroidism


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!

Wondering if t4 (Synthroid) Treatment of Hypothyroidism is the Answer


Prosanta asks metabolism.com if her thyroid blood test results indicate that treatment with t4 is required. I suspect that she is also wondering if other forms of treatment might be better (Armour Thyroid for example).

Here is what Prosanta writes:

Iamsuffering from Diabetes type2.recently on routine Blood test—
FT3(ECLIA) 2.33pg/ml
FT4 1.07ng/ml
TSH 9.32microIU/ml
AntiThyroid Peroxidase 37.02IU/ml
Do I need to take only Levothyroxine

In response to her question I offer my thoughts on whether someone beginning with thyroid hormone replacement therapy should start with t4.

Hi Prosanta

You know I can’t recommend medical therapy in this forum. I can make some general comments, however.

There is debate among endocrinologists about what level of TSH indicates a clinical degree of thyroid deficiency, but there is no doubt that a TSH of 9 is abnormally high. Since elevated TSH almost always indicates that the pituitary gland is releasing excessive TSH in response to thyroid hormone deficiency, unless there is a pituitary tumor (exceedingly rare), replacement therapy with thyroid hormone is indicated.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy in the U.S. usually consists of taking a pure t4 product such as Synthroid or levothyroxine (generic t4). On this website you will notice extensive posting about treating hypothyroidism with alternative forms of thyroid hormone replacement, particularly desiccated thyroid products such as Armour Thyroid. An appropriate concern in a situation like yours is whether to take t4 only or to use desiccated thyroid or t4 plus t3 therapy.

If you are like most people in this country being treated with t4, you will wonder why someone might need alternative forms of thyroid hormone replacement. In the past year or so researchers have discovered that a portion of the population lacks the ability to normally metabolize t4 into the highly biologically active t3. This means that affected individuals may continue to experience symptoms of thyroid hormone deficiency when treated with conventional t4 therapy [https://www.metabolism.com/2009/11/07/breakthrough-discovery-thyroid-hormone-therapy-part-2/ ]. How does a person know if they won’t respond to t4? The simpliest approach is to try t4 and see how you feel. Then you and your doctor can decide whether you are a t4 responder or not.

You may be aware that Armour Thyroid and similar products are in very short supply in the U.S. Even if some advocates of desiccated thyroid therapy for hypothyroidism argue that only desiccated thyroid can result in a full return to normal, in my opinion the present shortage makes t4 therapy the clear initial choice. If symptoms of hypothyroidism persist even after a full course of t4 has been tried, then you may be forced to join the ranks of those struggling with the pharma industry to get desiccated thyroid products.

Please discuss these ideas with your own physician.

The disclaimer and terms of service of metabolism.com applies to this and all my posts on this website.

Pharma Expert Examines FDA Moves on Restricting Armour


Hank Frier has been involved with the pharma industry for a long time and helps us see through the news blackout in regards to the FDA actions on Armour. He is also suffering the same fate as many others in the U.S., having been successfully treated with Armour for many years, now forced to switch to other alternatives.

Hank writes:

I too have been switched back to Synthroid after several successful years of being on Armour. At this juncture it is too early to tell how this will impact me. Luckily, my physician had the foresight to also put me on Cytomel after I suggested this from my readings. The combination of Armour and Cytomel seemed to work quite well for me without any adverse events.

This next is my opinion so take it as such. I believe the makers of Synthroid (Abbott Ross) in an attempt to increase their sales of Synthroid put pressure on the FDA to require the makers of Armour to submit an NDA. It is a devastatingly poor tactic by Abbott Ross but typical of this industry.

It is unfortunate that the FDA is caught in the middle of this since by statute and law drugs must pass regulatory muster. Where the FDA has failed is in their lack of looking at the long past history of Armour, its lack of adverse events and its benefit/risk for those individuals that have been using this drug. As opposed to demanding an NDA from Forest Pharma they should have sat with them and reviewed the long history of this drug, the number of scripts written for this drug and even contacting those physicians/endocrinologists that have been prescribing it for their patients.

The only safety question in my mind is does Armour ingestion, a foreign protein, cause an immune response. This would have been reported by the medical profession if that were the case. Secondly, historically, large segments of the population have been eating pig and pig organ meats for generations without ill affects. The ingestion of a purified material from pig (Armour thyroid a protein) is probably benign. The FDA scientists should know this and counsel their legal staff as to the benign nature of the drug.

Hank

I too have been switched back to Synthroid after several successful years of being on Armour. At this juncture it is too early to tell how this will impact me. Luckily, my physician had the foresight to also put me on Cytomel after I suggested this from my readings. The combination of Armour and Cytomel seemed to work quite well for me without any adverse events.

This next is my opinion so take it as such. I believe the makers of Synthroid (Abbott Ross) in an attempt to increase their sales of Synthroid put pressure on the FDA to require the makers of Armour to submit an NDA. It is a devastatingly poor tactic by Abbott Ross but typical of this industry.

It is unfortunate that the FDA is caught in the middle of this since by statute and law drugs must pass regulatory muster. Where the FDA has failed is in their lack of looking at the long past history of Armour, its lack of adverse events and its benefit/risk for those individuals that have been using this drug. As opposed to demanding an NDA from Forest Pharma they should have sat with them and reviewed the long history of this drug, the number of scripts written for this drug and even contacting those physicians/endocrinologists that have been prescribing it for their patients.

The only safety question in my mind is does Armour ingestion, a foreign protein, cause an immune response. This would have been reported by the medical profession if that were the case. Secondly, historically, large segments of the population have been eating pig and pig organ meats for generations without ill affects. The ingestion of a purified material from pig (Armour thyroid a protein) is probably benign. The FDA scientists should know this and counsel their legal staff as to the benign nature of the drug.

Hank
hfrier@comcast.net
Hank Frier
1

Breakthrough Discovery in Thyroid Hormone Therapy: Part 2


Treatment of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is accomplished by administering thyroid hormone by mouth in sufficient amounts to restore levels back to normal. At first glance this might seem like a simple goal to achieve. The truth is hormone replacement therapy is complex because there exists two very different thyroid hormones and because levels of thyroid hormone in the blood do not always reflect the amount of thyroid hormone within the cells where the hormone exerts its effects. In Part One of this blog I began to discuss how genetic differences among individuals could explain why some people need a complex mix of thyroid hormones to adequately treat hypothyroidism. In Part 2, I want to explain the nature of the differences between individuals and how it determines what sort of thyroid hormone therapy may be needed.

In May 2009 a group of researchers (Panicker, V. et al) in the UK published the WATTS study, the largest and most comprehensive study to date, of hypothyroid patients treated with combination t4 and t3. The goal of the study was to discover whether genetic differences in the population of hypothyroid patients accounts for some individuals needing t3 in addition to traditional t4 therapy. The researchers looked at 697 hypothyroid individuals and analyzed their DNA for differences in the portions controlling crucial enzymes which process thyroid hormones known as deiodinases. These enzymes are found widely distributed in the body including the thyroid, brain, muscle, liver, kidney and pituitary gland. As explained above, deiodinases convert t4 to the much stronger form of thyroid hormone, t3. At the same time the researchers measured patients’ mood and sense of well being on t4 alone and when t3 was added to the therapy.

Key findings of the WATTS study are that there is a substantial difference among individuals in the genes that make the deiodinases. In other words, due to genetic differences (mutations), there are differences in the way individuals make t3 out of t4. In a group of people, mutations in the genes that make a particular protein (in this case, the deiodinase), are called polymorphisms. The researchers discovered that a certain mutation in the deiodinase gene is associated with a poor sense of well being on t4 only therapy, and in the presence of this mutation a significantly better response to adding t3 can be found compared to those without this mutation. Of the group of hypothyroid patients studied in the UK about 16% possessed the faulty deiodinase gene. In other groups in other countries the percentage of people with this mutation could be higher or lower.

The traditional treatment of hypothyroidism is to administer t4 (Synthroid, Levothyroxine, Levoxyl etc.). It is the conventional wisdom that inactive t4 is converted in the body to the active thyroid hormone t3 by “peripheral conversion” in sufficient amounts to restore normal thyroid balance. The recent breakthrough discoveries described in the WATTS study reveal for the first time that individuals differ in how their bodies process (metabolize) thyroid hormone. While some may convert enough t4 to t3 in the cells of the body to restore normal function, due to genetic differences some individuals will not be able to make enough t3 leaving them with persistent hypothyroid symptoms. Since the problem is a deficiency of t3 within the cells of the body, measuring thyroid hormone levels in the blood cannot adequately reveal the problem. T4 replacement treatment alone can result in thyroid levels that appear normal on blood tests so doctors conclude that persistent hypothyroid symptoms are not related to the hormone therapy.

Based on my personal experience and the documented experience of many of the members of Metabolism.com it is clear that endocrinologists and other physicians are often reluctant to consider combination therapy for hypothyroidism, either by using Armour thyroid or adding t3 (Cytomel, liothyronine) to t4 only therapy. With this new research in hand, hypothyroid individuals and their advocates can finally state with confidence that: Yes! There is a firm scientific foundation for combination t4/t3 therapy and; No! We are not just chronic complainers or kooks. If I had hypothyroidism and was going to request a change in my thyroid treatment I would say something like, “Due to polymorphism of the deiodinase gene I probably possess a defective D2 deiodinase and therefore my peripheral conversion of t4 to t3 is impaired. I need t3 added to t4 to compensate for reduced intracellular t3 levels which cannot be detected on blood tests. Without t3 I continue to suffer with cellular hypothyroidism which is the likely cause of my persistent symptoms.”

If you try this approach and your doctor looks bewildered hand them a copy of the study by Panicker et al in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2009, 94(5): 1623-1629.

Gary Pepper, M.D.

Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

Notice: This article is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice or treatment of your own physician. The disclaimer for all blogs at metabolism.com, applies.