Quick disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, nor am I giving any medical advice. The opinions expressed in this post are personal. Always consult a doctor for medical advice and information on your own thyroid medication.
When it comes to Hashimoto’s and thyroid issues, everyone wants to know about medication. Easily one of the most common questions I get is about thyroid medication and whether or not I’m still on it. With thyroid medication being the main way that allopathic medicine tackles any thyroid issue, it’s with good reason that people have questions about it. Synthroid is one of the most commonly prescribed pills, and millions of women have a thyroid imbalance of some kind that is both being addressed and not addressed. So the million dollar question… is it possible to get off thyroid medication in your lifetime?
Let’s tackle the in’s and out’s of thyroid medication, my own experience, and whether or not it’s possible to work with your doctor to transition off of it.
First… As Always, Never, Ever Make Any Changes To Your Own Medication Without Talking To Your Doctor.
Thyroid medication is serious business. Truly, you can die without thyroid hormone. That’s not me being dramatic, it’s the truth.
Never take yourself off of thyroid medication or adjust your dose by yourself. This is dangerous. These conversations need to be had with a doctor. I will never give advice to anyone one on their own thyroid medication and this post isn’t for that.
The purpose of this blog post is to help give you more information to inform your conversation with your doctor and tell you my own experience and it is not medical advice on thyroid medication.
Thyroid Medication 101
First, what is thyroid medication, and why do people need it?
Thyroid medication is essentially a hormone replacement that can replace the lacking hormone in the body, or help balance imbalanced hormone. Thyroid hormone is incredibly important to keep ourselves alive and is given when the thyroid hormone is imbalanced and insufficient.
Common synthetic thyroid medication includes…
Common natural thyroid medications include…
Why I Don’t Think Thyroid Medication Is The End Of The World
Most women that I come into contact with, whether they be my clients or readers of my blog, are all on a mission to get off thyroid medication as soon as possible. They ask me when I got off mine, and how quickly they can expect to get off theirs. And let’s be honest… being medicated is never an ideal situation. It’s a sign that something is off in our body, and it propels us to want to fix it to the point where we no longer need the medication. It also comes with unpleasant side effects, and sometimes high cost.
Here’s the thing though… I don’t think that thyroid medication is the end of the world.
As previously stated, thyroid hormone is incredibly crucial in the body. We need it to stay alive, to regulate our body temperature, and to keep the rest of our hormones in balance. And all too often, women get their Hashimoto’s, hypothyroid, or thyroid disorder diagnosis fairly late in the game. If we’ve been in an imbalanced state for weeks, months, and sometimes years, our body often needs support to come back into balance.
Especially if we have Hashimoto’s and damaged thyroid tissue, our thyroid just can’t produce a proper amount of thyroid hormone naturally. Medication is necessary to help the body heal in this case, and so many people are in this spot. I can’t tell you the number of women that I see refuse thyroid medication because they want to take a natural route but continue to suffer poor effects because they truly need some added support of extra hormone.
Clearly, I’m still an enormous advocate for managing your health holistically. I’ve written an e-book on healing your gut to manage your autoimmunity, and blog posts on how to manage Hashimoto’s naturally. This is the life that I live, the approach that I teach, and my saving grace.
However, when it comes to thyroid medication, I like to view it as a tool to help jump start your healing. Your dose may change, your blood work can change, and your situation can change. But there is zero shame in taking your doctors advice to get on thyroid medication to help jump start your healing.
My Experience With Thyroid Medication
When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at 17, I was put on a moderate dose of levothyroxine. At the time, I just wanted relief and didn’t know to ask for a certain type of medication or really do my research. Levothyroxine is a synthetic thyroid hormone and was easily my worst experience with thyroid medication. I was shaky, jittery, depressed, my hair fell out, and I gained weight. Even when my dose was adjusted, it just didn’t jive with me. From there, I went to Synthroid which is another synthetic drug that I felt iffy on, but better than levothyroxine. I begged to be taken off Synthroid and get onto a natural medication, but my requests were ignored by my doctors.
After college, I suffered a huge health flare with hormone imbalance, gut issues, and Hashimoto’s symptoms galore that stemmed from stress from a new job and poor diet choices. At this point, I was seeing a new doctor who put me on armour thyroid, which is a more natural thyroid medication made from porcine glandular. At first, the dose was way too high and I swung to a hyperthyroid state with anxiety and weight loss. There was lots of tweaking involved until I went down to a quarter grain on armor… essentially the lowest dose you can get to my understanding.
The low dose of armor was just enough to keep me stable if I suffered any swings due to stress or diet (as I’m very prone to hormone imbalance as result of stress) but not too much to the point where it threw off my natural hormone balance.
Here’s the kicker… I’m still on this dose of thyroid medication.
Shocked? Don’t be. I’m not. Like I said, my thyroid medication is not the end of the world. It’s a personal choice that I made with my doctor’s guidance to help support my continued healing. My labs have been normal for a long time now, but I’ve made the choice to keep it a part of my journey for now.
You cannot do this alone, nor can you copy and paste what someone else has done. We’re all bio-individuals and have incredibly different needs. Even with my thyroid labs normal, I still take a very low dose of natural hormone. Is that to say that everyone in a similar situation as me needs the same exact dose, medication, etc.? Of course not. We’re all different.
As previously mentioned, the risk of getting off thyroid medication with Hashimoto’s comes back to tissue damage. Hashimoto’s is the process of the immune system targeting the thyroid tissue and destroying it, so if our tissue is damaged enough, we can’t effectively produce thyroid hormone naturally. The best way to gauge how much of an issue this is for you is to talk to your doctor about getting a sonogram of your thyroid to determine tissue damage. Thyroid tissue can regenerate, but it’s good to be aware of how much tissue damage you have if weaning off thyroid medication is your goal.
What I will say is that I have indeed heard of folks who have worked with their doctors to stop taking thyroid hormone. It’s not unheard of to get off of it. However, this requires working with your doctor to customize a plan for you, and to continue to test your thyroid regularly.
Optimizing Your Thyroid Mediation Experience
Thyroid medication isn’t always a walk in the park. It can produce a boatload of side effects that may make you feel worse than before, which is why so many people are scared of it. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The most important part of dealing with any chronic health challenge is being your own advocate. Do the research, understand your labs, and talk to your doctor about what direction you want to go in. Have a so-so doctor? Find a new one! You don’t have to be stuck with any one doctor.
As for getting off one medication and onto another (like how I went from Synthroid to armor) don’t be afraid to have the conversation with your doctor to determine what works best for you. In my case, it took seeking out a new doctor to get the medication that I truly helped me. Doctors exist to serve and support you and you have every right to ask for what you’d like to try for your own health and seek out a doctor that helps you make better choices.
In summary, thyroid medication isn’t the end of the world. I view it as a tool to help jump-start the healing process, and there’s no shame in it. And as always… always work with a doctor that you trust to customize your own approach!