Treatment options for hypothyroidism?
May 11, 2004 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I am researching different options for treating hypo-thyroidism. I personally have been taking Synthroid for a long time and would like to know what other routes, if any, are available. [More inside]

First, let me say, I am not asking for medical advice. I have already consulted with doctors and, unfortunately, have been given different opinions. I'd like to a bit more research on my own and would welcome opinions and personal experiences of others in order to provide me with different avenues of investigation. I know this is a common problem, or Synthroid would not be one of the top 5 most prescribed drugs in the US. But I have reasons to doubt that consumers are being told the whole story.
posted by vacapinta to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not that consumers aren't being told the whole story, but that people are just taking what they're prescribed without questions. I'm on Synthroid (since 2001), but I've been trying to find more research on managing the condition through diet and herbs.

Synthroid gives us what we're missing and it's hard to make up for that through foods and herbal remedies, but some might trigger chemicals in the body that activate the thyroid. It's a possibility, but not one that's being thoroughly researched. So for now, I'm taking my little bluish-purple pill.
posted by mkelley at 12:33 PM on May 11, 2004

Emedicine usually does a great workup of research and medical treatments; it looks like Synthroid is one of the only options right now.
posted by gramcracker at 1:05 PM on May 11, 2004

I'm on a very high dose of the generic (Levoxyl) because I had my entire thyroid taken out due to thycancer about 7 years ago. FWIW, I find that the Levoxyl has slightly fewer side effects than the Synthroid (less of that overly revved up feeling). I've known of a few hypothyroid people who've switched entirely over to natural (Armour) thyroid hormone off the synthetic and swear by it (fewer side effects), but I don't have any firsthand experience with that.
posted by scody at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2004

The answer probably depends a lot on *why* you're hypothyroid - like scody, I'm hypo because I had my thyroid ablated (in my case with radiation rather than surgery) - so there's no option to attempt to, say, stimulate a sluggish thyroid with acupuncture or something. If I had a thyroid gland, I'd probably investigate those options instead of thyroxine, but I'm pretty comfortable with thyroxine, since it's basically just a replacement hormone for one my body no longer makes...
posted by judith at 2:03 PM on May 11, 2004

Hypothyroidism may well be one of the least well understood and most undertreated health challenges extant among a significant portion of the population. A good - progressive - doctor can make a huge improvement in quality of life, in my experience.

The thyroid gland produces a number of thyroid hormones - the most prevalent is T4, but most of our cells rely/run on T3 to regulate our metabolisms. The internal process to convert T4 to T3 may work effectively or not depending on the individual. Synthroid and its equivalents provide only T4 - no T3, and none of the trace hormones (some of which apparently we still don't understand the function of). Armour provides both T3 and T4, as well as the full complement of trace hormones. Lack of T3 is tied to not only the full panel of hypo symptoms, but also depression and fibromyalgia.

The best advice I ever read regarding managing hypothyroidism was to try to maintain my levels (measured through blood tests) of free T3 and free T4 in the upper third of the "normal" range. To achieve this, I'm prescribed a combination of Armour thyroid and Levothyroxine - I do much, much better on Armour than on T4 alone, but it has a higher ratio of T3 to T4 than humans need, so we balance it by adding back in a little straight T4.

There's a fair bit of information at, including an active forum - there can be some good ideas there if viewed with a critical eye. The guide also has a book that may useful. If you have further questions, I'll do my best to answer according to my experience. Of course, IAOAP (only a patient). The time I spent educating myself was more than worth it.. you are on the right path.
posted by vers at 5:55 PM on May 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

Just curious do you eat/drink a lot of soy? There is evidence linking soy and thyroid problems which I can post more of if your interested (or email me).
posted by stbalbach at 8:33 PM on May 11, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you all for your responses!

Wow, this scrolled off the page in about 12 hours!
posted by vacapinta at 1:52 AM on May 12, 2004

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