If you have Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that causes low thyroid function along with a host of often debilitating symptoms, you may have been told to take a thyroid replacement pill, typically Synthroid or the generic Levothyroxine, and you will be just fine — or that it might just be all in your head. That is just what Lorraine Carapola was told a few years after she diagnosed.
“After being treated with Synthroid for years, my T.S.H. (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels regulated, but I was still miserable. I was freezing all the time, had incredible digestive issues, migraines, brain fog, and heart palpitations. My doctor even suggested I was making it all up and treated me like I was crazy,” she says.
Unfortunately, Carapola’s experience is not uncommon. Quick chats with Hashimoto patients will all relate the same story, but why is this happening?
For starters, many endocrinologists are primarily focused on treating diabetes and for those that do treat thyroid disorders, most were trained on the simple and incorrect preface that Synthroid is a fix-all, when in reality it is not beneficial for all patients, and does not address the autoimmune present in the body; it simply regulates the thyroid stimulating hormone.
Pharmacist and author of “Lifestyle Interventions of Finding and Treating the Root Cause,” Izabella Wentz explains how despite lifestyle modifications and natural supplements being stressed as helpful treatments for nearly every other disease, that has not been the case with Hashimoto’s disease:
“The only intervention recommended by physicians was a pharmacological one, I didn’t feel that medication alone was the answer,” she says.
Leading Hashimoto specialist Dr. Datis Kharrazian says that normal thyroid stimulating hormone levels mean very little. In “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism,” Dr. Kharrazian explores the reasons behind the mismanagement of the disease under today’s old-fashioned medical standards, chiefly taking a synthetically generated Synthroid pill daily:
“It has been staggering the number of stories of we have received from patients whose medical doctors disregard their complaints once T.S.H. is normalized with thyroid hormones. They still feel awful and have symptoms, but are told to quit complaining, to start exercising more, to get a hobby, or to take antidepressants,” says the physician.
After seeing four endocrinologists in five years, Carapola saw an integrative specialist who switched her from synthetically produced Synthroid to Armour, a natural desiccated hormone (N.D.T.) taken from a pig’s gland. He also put her on vitamin D and B12 supplements along with Cytomel, a T3 specific medication.
“It changed my life. I forgot what it felt like to feel human again,” she says.
Thyroid patient, advocate, and author of the book, “Living Well With Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You That You Need To Know,” Mary Shomon explains why natural works better:
“A normal thyroid gland produces primarily T4 (the storage hormone) and some T3, and the T4 is converted into T3, the active hormone, for use by the cells and tissues of the body,” she says.
Synthroid targets T4, which in some people can convert to T3 but a healthy thyroid makes many hormones: T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin. Synthroid works on the premise of conversion from T4 to T3, which many Hashimoto patients’ bodies cannot do, and even if it does convert, patients miss the other necessary hormones for healthy thyroid functioning.
In “What Every Patient Should Know About Synthroid,” Dr. Ronald J. Grisanti explains, “Only a thyroid hormone preparation that contains T3 will accelerate these patients’ metabolism. Hence, when T4 therapy normalizes T.S.H. blood levels of many patients, it leaves their metabolism subnormal.”
He continues, “Evidence indicates that financial incentives from the marketers of Synthroid have influenced endocrinologists to endorse the product. Synthroid has a history of manufacturing, stability, and potency problems, and it has not met F.D.A criteria for effectiveness and safety. These problems with product quality led to F.D.A. action against Synthroid. Many alternative medical physicians report that treatment results with Synthroid are inferior to those with products containing both T4 and T3, or T3 alone.”
The best a patient can do is to learn about the various treatments and supplements available. Often, doctors who practice a more holistic approach to treatment are more knowledgeable in the disease.
Coming next month: Natural supplements, vitamins, and lifestyle changes that help improve Hashimoto’s disease.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.