Low Thyroid, Hypothyroidism, and Natural Hypothyroid Therapies
Mainstream Thyroid Therapies for Normal Thyroid Blood Tests
Most “mainstream” thyroid doctors believe we should not treat with thyroid hormone unless standard thyroid blood tests are abnormal. When they treat, they usually prescribe the T4 form of thyroid, Synthroid or levothyroxine. They reject any role for the T3 forms of thyroid namely, Cytomel and Armour Thyroid.
Dr. Podell’s Opinion on Natural Hypothyroid Therapies and Normal Blood Tests
I and most integrative or complementary alternative medicine thyroid doctors believe that selected persons can benefit from thyroid therapy even if they have normal thyroid blood tests. For these people, the T3 forms of thyroid may be more effective than the more commonly used T4.
I have offered this alternative approach to many patients for over 20 years. This alternative thyroid therapy has been be one of the most satisfying and effective treatments in my medical toolkit.
Rationale for Natural Thyroid Therapies
The thyroid makes mostly T4, but T4 is not the active form of thyroid hormone. T3 is the active hormone. Normally, our cells take up T4 from the blood and then metabolically convert it to T3. If an individual’s cells have difficulty turning inactive T4 into active T3, that person can become functionally hypothyroid. Since, T4 transforms into T3 within our cells, measuring the blood level of thyroid hormones cannot detect this deficiency. This is why integrative or complementary alternative medicine physicians believe that one can be functionally low thyroid despite normal blood tests.
Why Dr. Podell Prefers T3 Thyroid Therapies such as Cytomel or Armour Thyroid
If T3 levels within our cells are deficient, we can make up the difference by supplementing with T3. That’s why alternative thyroid doctors prefer to treat with thyroid supplements containing T3 such as Cytomel or Armour Thyroid. Cytomel contains 100% T3. Natural Armour Thyroid (pork-derived) is about 40% T3.
Almost all mainstream thyroid experts agree that difficulties converting T4 to active T3 can be a problem. However, most mainstream thyroid doctors believe that this problem is rare. In contrast, most alternative thyroid doctors believe that T3 deficiency within the cells is fairly common. Hence, their emphasis on natural hypothyroid therapies using T3-based hormone.
Scientific Evidence for Natural Hypothyroid Treatments
We don’t yet have enough first rate studies of natural thyroid treatments. However, we do know that the enzyme that converts T4 hormone into active T3 requires the mineral Selenium. If Selenium nutrition is sub-par, T3 production might fall. Zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D may also be needed. Certain otherwise healthful foods, in large amounts, can also block thyroid. See practical steps for information about low thyroid diets.
Severe physical illness can also block T3 as can the stress hormone, cortisol. Evidence that alternative thyroid treatment works is especially strong for people who suffer from loss of enthusiasm or depression. Adding T3 to treat difficult depression is now “mainstream” in most textbooks of psychiatry.
Dr. Podell recommends the following scientific studies for more information about alternative medicine and natural thyroid treatments. Click on the links below to see brief abstracts for key scientific papers.
Scientific Studies Showing Benefit For Thyroid Therapy Despite Normal Thyroid Blood Tests
- The use of triiodothyronine as an augmentation agent....(bipolar)
- A pilot study of the efficacy and safety of paroxetine...(depression)
- Thyroid hormones affect recovery from depression...
- Combined treatment with sertraline and liothyronine...(depression)
- Long term augmentation with T3 in refractory major depression
- Augmentation strategies in patients with refractory depression
Potential Side Effects
While low doses of thyroid hormone are relatively safe, high doses can increase the risk of potentially dangerous cardiac rhythm abnormalities, osteoporosis, and other health problems. In deciding whether to treat, thyroid physicians and their patients have to consider both the potential benefits and risks. Practical steps can help decide when natural hypothyroid treatments, hypothyroid diets, or alternative thyroid therapy should or should not be used.