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  • Writer's pictureMaxine G. Klak, C.H.N.

You Can Change Your Story!

I thought I'd tell you how I recently ditched (in a responsible way) my thyroid medication. This is not medical advice, but my own personal experience to demonstrate what is possible.

What is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, which includes the adrenals, the pituitary, the pancreas, hypothalamus, thymus, parathyroid and pineal glands, as well as the ovaries and testes. Thyroid hormones affect numerous processes including the consumption of oxygen, bowel function, fertility, the rate of energy consumption (metabolic rate), body temperature, the formation of red blood cells, and the turnover of minerals in our bones.

Back in 2018, I went to my MD (my allopathic, family doctor) for my annual check-up. I wasn't having any issues or concerns, just wanted my annual bloodwork and other labs done as a preventative measure. The doctor called me back to tell me that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was too high, and I'd have to go on Synthroid (a man-made thyroid hormone used to treat hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid). She said that most women at some point in their lives need this medication, and that I'd be on it for the rest of my life, in ever increasing dosages as I grew older.

Causes of Underactive Thyroid

Potential causes include exposure to free radicals, radiation (x-rays, air travel, etc.), endocrine disruptors, (mercury amalgams a.k.a. dental fillings), too little protein in the diet, and iodine deficiency (whether due to iodine deficient soil and/or too little intake in the diet). Adequate selenium and vitamin D (ideally from sun exposure) is also necessary for a healthy thyroid gland. Any imbalance with any other part of the endocrine system, such as excess stress, menopause, etc., can cause an imbalance in the thyroid.

Like most people do, I filled the prescription and followed doctor's orders. Though I was on the lowest possible dosage, I was still concerned, and looked up warnings and side effects online and in my course materials as best I could. It didn't seem too dangerous, as far as medications are concerned, so I took as directed. It did always bother me though, that the doctor didn't mention any dietary or lifestyle options or recommendations to improve the health of my thyroid - just the drugs.

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

This is not an exhaustive list, but signs of an underactive thyroid include lethargy/lack of energy, depression, hair loss, dry skin, low body temperature, constipation, weight gain and memory problems.

I wasn't experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of a thyroid issue, but was only partially through my holistic nutrition studies, so didn't feel I knew enough at that point to question my MD. Although the doctor that first prescribed the Synthroid has since retired, her replacement was not receptive to this discussion and told me to just keep taking it. This past winter, I decided to see a naturopathic doctor (ND) to see if I could somehow get off this drug in a measured and responsible way.

What I learned

The first thing my ND told me was that the reference range for TSH had changed since 2018, and my TSH levels at that time would no longer suggest medication. That was news to me, and I was very disappointed that my MD was either not aware of this or was aware but didn't feel it was relevant to discuss with me.

Next, she ordered a thyroid panel - not just for TSH, but also free T3, free T4 and TPO (Anti-Thyroid Peroxidase) which is a test for antibodies (to rule out an autoimmune issue). (TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce T3 and T4, and T4 is also converted to T3 - to fully understand what is going on, all of these measures should be taken into account).

Once I had those results, which came back perfectly "normal", she recommended taking a half dose of Synthroid for a week, then stopping altogether. After 6 weeks, I was again tested for TSH, free T3 and free T4 - all perfectly "normal".

I certainly don't recommend ignoring your MD's advice, but I do recommend asking lots of questions about the drugs they prescribe, what might be at the root of your problems, and what measures other than prescription medications you can consider to get you back to good health. In the vast majority of cases, the prescription meds deal with the symptoms and fallout of your underlying health issue, which is important, but they do not address what caused your problems in the first place. If we give our bodies what they need to operate as designed, they have amazing resilience and healing abilities.

I realize now that, without getting too personal, there were things going on in my life back in 2018 which were very likely putting extra demands on my endocrine system. Those things are no longer present. That, along with the change in reference range for TSH levels (science is always learning and refining) means my thyroid is considered healthy - at least for now, and I plan to keep it that way!

This is not medical advice, but my own personal experience to demonstrate what is possible.

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