Saul Marcus, ND - Naturopathic Doctor

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4. Conventional versus natural treatments for hypothyroidism

The following are treatment plans different doctors may take with the same hypothyroidism patient.

Doctor 1: Does nothing unless TSH is over 4.0.

Doctors often do not treat hypothyroidism unless TSH is over 4.0 (or out of reference range). [19]

Patients are often told nothing is wrong with (just because TSH is not high enough) despite having many symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Frequent retesting of TSH may be ordered as part of "watchful waiting." Thyroid medications are only prescribed when things look bad enough on lab tests. Never mind that for some time the patient may have been feeling bad enough despite what the labs said.

When thyroid medication finally is prescribed, it is typically the form of Synthroid or thyroxine.

Doctor 2: treats according to symptoms, not labs

Some doctors who are more knowledgeable about hypothyroidism will prescribe medications based upon symptoms and not lab tests.

However, this approach has problems as well.

  1. Replacing thyroid hormone does nothing to treat the original causes of hypothyroidism.

  2. There are natural treatments which may be able to reverse the hypothyroidism. Some hypothyroid patients may unnecessarily be put on thyroid medication for life.

  3. Not everyone with symptoms necessarily needs thyroid hormone medication. This is especially true for those with low-normal TSH. In fact, giving thyroid hormone can make some people feel worse.

Often these doctors will use natural forms of thyroid hormone such as Naturethroid and Armour. Cytomel (a T3 medication) or T3/T4 blends from a compounding pharmacist may also be prescribed.

Doctor 3: Medication when needed, but also works on underlining cause.

Some people do need thyroid medication. But prescription should be based upon overall assessment of the individual and given when the body is unable to make enough thyroid hormone on its own. Whenever possible, work should be done to find the cause of hypothyroidism and reverse it when possible.