Taking Synthroid? Be proactive for your thyroid!

Prescription Drugs

By pH health care professionals

Many patients with hypothyroidism are given a prescription drug called levothyroxine sodium (one of the branded versions is called Synthroid), a synthetic hormone replacement for the hormone normally produced by your thyroid (T4) to regulate the body’s energy and metabolism. According to research firm IMS, Synthroid is the most prescribed drug in America, at 21.6 million prescriptions between April 2014 through March 2015.

Why are so many people taking levothyroxine?

Thyroid problems are quite common. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of them don’t even know it. Women are between five and eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. And, according to the American Thyroid Association, the causes are “largely unknown.” Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, elevated cholesterol, irregular menstrual periods, thinning hair, depression and impaired memory, among others.

If you are among the millions of Americans taking Synthroid, be proactive and make sure you understand your condition, ask questions, and make informed decisions about your health.

What should you know about levothyroxine?

Levothyroxine is a man-made thyroid hormone. Doctors prescribe levothyroxine for hypothyroidism and to suppress TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone, from your pituitary gland) production in some cases of thyroid cancer.

Generally, thyroid hormone replacement treatment is meant to be taken for life.

What are some examples of times when  levothyroxine is not appropriate?

  •  Temporary hypothyroidism. Levothyroxine is commonly used to treat hypothyroidism, except in cases of temporary hypothyroidism (usually associated with an inflammation of the thyroid gland), according to the maker of Synthroid.
  •  Hyperthyroidism and adrenal issues. You probably should not use levothyroxine if you have an over-active thyroid or uncorrected adrenal problems, symptoms of a heart attack, or if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Safety issues to know

  • This is not a weight loss drug. Thyroid hormones should not be used for obesity or weight loss. Using larger doses may be life-threatening, especially when taken with other appetite-suppressing drugs.
  • Women may experience bone loss. Long-term treatment with levothyroxine has been associated with increased bone loss, the manufacturer of Synthroid warns. Partner with a health care professional who can help you be proactive about bone loss.
  • Supplements may interfere. Iron and calcium supplements and antacids can lower your body’s ability to absorb the drug, so they should be taken four hours apart.
  • Honesty is the safest policy. Tell your doctor about any supplements, over-the-counter remedies or prescriptions you are taking, any plans to become pregnant, if you are currently pregnant, or if you are breast-feeding, and any other medical conditions you may have, especially heart disease, diabetes, blood clotting problems, or adrenal or pituitary gland problems. This way your doctor can effectively determine whether levothyroxine is safe for you, and what dose. Your doctor also needs to look at the dosage of the other medications you take and see whether they need to be modified.

How can you be proactive?

Nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, food allergies, stress and toxins have all been named as suspected culprits of thyroid problems – it’s just a matter of working with a knowledgeable health care professional who can assess your individual situation, consider all angles, and ensure you are getting a comprehensive treatment plan that gets to the root of the issue and sets you up for success. Here are just a few other areas that you should consider as part of your treatment plan with your doctor:

  •  Test vitamin levels. Research shows a link between low vitamin D levels and hypothyroidism, so you should consider vitamin D testing.
  •  Test for triggers. Depending on what other symptoms you are experiencing, a health care professional might recommend testing for a gluten allergy or sensitivity, especially when there is autoimmune activity causing your hypothyroidism. You may also need to test for mercury toxicity, as mercury can affect thyroid function.
  •  Monitor thyroid hormones. If you have hypothyroidism, testing on a regular basis, at least once a year, is important so that your health decisions are made based on the improvements or declines in your thyroid health. More frequent testing may be needed.
  •  Get an advocate on your side when you’re not happy with your treatment. When you know there is something the doctor is missing (or doesn’t have the time to explore), you may need a second opinion. Learn more about My pH Advocate.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

 The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.