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How is the state of your thyroid? You might have thyroid symptoms that are not improving, despite being on medications. You might be told that your levels are normal, but why do you keep feeling unwell? Have you heard that natural thyroid is not safe?
Let’s dive deeper into the alternatives available to you when it comes to a natural and healthier thyroid. From there, we can really take some crucial steps that will put your health back in your hands.
The History of Thyroid Medication
In the United States, the first kinds of thyroid medication known to have existed were derived from natural sources such as porcine (pigs) or bovine (cows) sources1.
For up to the past 100 years, treatments for thyroid disease have been created from desiccated thyroid extracts, which consist of dried and powdered thyroid material.
Key Insight: Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) was the preferred therapy up until the mid-1970s when 4 out of 5 prescriptions for thyroid medication were written for NDT, even though synthetic medication such as Levothyroxine was available by 19271.
NDT was the preferred choice during this time due to being simple, cheap and quite superior to synthetic T4 (in terms of how well is was absorbed)1.
NDT & Synthetic Medication
The truth is that NDT had been criticized for inconsistencies in the batches of thyroid hormone content in each tablet that were ultimately produced.
Early preparations of NDT would range from twice the amount to none of the actual hormone being detectable2. Other issues regarding NDT were related to:
- Shelf life, and
- Stability of the hormones
Prior to 1979, all thyroid medications were standardized based on their iodine content. When it came to synthetic thyroid medications, all of the iodine they contained was within the active hormones.
Compared to NDT, which was not, the difference made it so that synthetic thyroid was better standardized. However, in the early 1980s, the United States Pharmacopeia changed its guidelines for how thyroid medicines were standardized. They changed to have them standardized based on the amount of active hormone per tablet, not the amount of iodine.
Bottom Line: The issue of standardization is still brought up by doctors opposed to using natural thyroid, even though it has been a non-issue ever since the Carter administration!
Around this same time, lab testing for thyroid function in people also improved. Eventually, the current highly-sensitive thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test was developed.
The TSH test allowed a physician to determine serum levels of thyroid hormone and could help objectively determine if a patient was being over or undertreated.
With time, synthetic thyroid hormone got the reputation that it could regulate TSH levels better and as a result, grew in popularity among the medical community. By 1989, Levothyroxine was then known as the drug of choice1.
NDT Compared To Synthetic Medication
In 2013, a double-blind randomized controlled study compared desiccated thyroid to synthetic T42.
Conclusions from the study suggested that patients who were administered NDT had modest weight loss and overall improvement in thyroid symptoms2. Furthermore, nearly half of patients preferred NDT over synthetic T42.
Up until today, there is still a population of people who are taking synthetic thyroid medications and continue to exhibit hypothyroid symptoms despite having normal TSH levels.
Key Insight: Have you been curious about your thyroid function? Take a moment, and take the Thyroid Quiz (1), to clear up any confusion.
NDT Making A Comeback
NDT medications have come a long way since the 1970s and now follow more strict United States Pharmacopeia (USP) guidelines.
All raw powder for NDT comes from one manufacturer and gets distributed to companies to make NDT. RLC Labs is an NDT manufacturer and is able to guarantee T4 and T3 levels in every hormone batch and none of the medications have ever been recalled for inconsistent hormone levels.
Patients prefer this treatment as an alternative to synthetic as it allows for a broader amount of thyroid hormone, including:
Bottom Line: Patients also appreciate advancements in NDT for its to properly mimic natural thyroid hormones.
Curious about the types of NDT? These are just some of them:
- NP Thyroid
- Armour Thyroid
- WP Thyroid
- Thyroid desiccated (generic)
According to industry standards, there is a 10% variation allowed from T4 to T3 hormones, and this value can be high enough to alter your labs and symptoms.
There are some great manufacturers like RLC labs that will only allow for 2% and the manufacturer brands known as:
- WP Thyroid
Vitamins and Minerals For Your Thyroid
What kinds of vitamins and minerals best suit your thyroid, and which ones should you watch out for? Let’s explore a little bit more on each…
The most studied mineral we know is iodine. Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function and either too much or too little can affect thyroid health (2).
Key Insight: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for iodine are 150 mcg daily. Your thyroid gland only needs 52 mcg daily to produce T4.
In patients taking NDT, 1 grain usually contains about 130 mcg of iodine per tablet so individuals do not need to supplement much more of this mineral to support thyroid health.
Some multivitamins and other supplements contain high levels of iodine, which can actually cause more disruption and dysfunction of thyroid production.
Selenium is known to help the thyroid make proper hormone such as T3 and help with the proper conversion of thyroid hormones. It also helps your body make antioxidants such as Vitamin E and carotenoids.
It is also critically involved in helping the liver detoxification process. The general recommendation for good thyroid health is about 200 mcg per day. This can easily be achieved in the diet by consuming 3 Brazil nuts per day.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, but it acts more like a hormone. It is made from cholesterol, similarly to your androgen hormones such as testosterone and DHEA.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, immune system function, and mood. It can increase our energy and metabolic rate and is necessary for proper thyroid function. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with thyroid autoimmunity3.
In a recent study from November 2017, Vitamin D levels of patients with Graves disease (hyperthyroid condition) as compared to the general population had lower levels4.
How Is Your Thyroid?
Is your thyroid at its best? If you are on thyroid medicine, is it right for you? If you are not on thyroid treatment, should you be? Find out in about 42 seconds with the Thyroid Quiz (3).
1. McAninch, E. A. & Bianco, A. C. The History and Future of Treatment of Hypothyroidism. Ann. Intern. Med. 164, 50–6 (2016).
2. Hoang, T. D. et al. Desiccated Thyroid Extract Compared With Levothyroxine in the Treatment of Hypothyroidism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Crossover Study. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-4107
3. Kim, D. The Role of Vitamin D in Thyroid Diseases. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 18, (2017).
4. Planck, T., Shahida, B., Malm, J. & Manjer, J. Vitamin D in Graves Disease: Levels, Correlation with Laboratory and Clinical Parameters, and Genetics. Eur. Thyroid J. 7, 27–33 (2018).
Written by Dr. Linda Khoshaba of Integrative Health. Dr. Linda Khoshaba has been practicing as an Associate Physician at Integrative health for 5 years. She specializes in treating Hashimoto’s and Graves thyroid disease, Adrenal Dysfunction and Hormone imbalance in both men and women.
Learn more about Dr. Khoshaba here.