Thyroid Medication: 9 Reasons Why It’s Not Working

August 17th, 2016 by admin

Thyroid Meds Not Working?

Hypothyroidism is on the rise, and I hear from people all of the time, who are NOT feeling better on their thyroid medication. Whether or not that is you, you probably have heard this from one of your friends or family members.
Today, I want to chat with you about medication.
Most people have no idea that there is more than medication to healing their thyroid disease and reducing their thyroid symptoms.  I teach clients how to support their body so they can avoid, decrease and even wean off medications, when possible.

If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, that diagnosis likely came with a prescription for thyroid medication.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not opposed to thyroid medication per se. Especially when people have classic hypothyroidism, thyroid medication can be a viable way to get your body back into balance.
In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or autoimmune hypothyroidism, which accounts for 90-97% of all hypothyroidism (surprise, surprise!), you will likely need a thyroid medication for a period of time (or indefinitely) to support your body while you reverse the autoimmune attack on your thyroid and regenerate your thyroid tissue (yes, that’s actually possible!).


What I am against, however, is the idea that medication is a magic pill that will absolutely alleviate all of your symptoms. Magic, my friend, it is not.


Thyroid medication is not a cure.


In fact, medication rarely addresses the root causes of any disease…especially thyroid and autoimmune conditions.


Knowing why your medication isn’t working is a big step toward feeling better.  Taking your health into your own hands to reverse your condition can bring hope back again.


If you’re worried about why your thyroid medication doesn’t seem to be working, here are a few reasons why that might be the case:


1.     You have undiagnosed Hashimoto’s disease.

Hashimoto’s disease is the No. 1 cause of thyroid issues, and it frequently goes undiagnosed. It is often missed by a standard thyroid panel, which often only includes a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and a T4 (inactive thyroid hormone). It’s all too common, so ask your doctor to test for TPO and Thyroglobulin antibodies. You can have negative antibodies and still have early Hashimoto’s, so it is also wise to ask for a thyroid ultrasound if those are negative. It’s also generally advisable to ask for a Free T3, Free T4 and Reverse T3, and to have those interpreted through a Functional Medicine lens.


2.     You have lowered thyroid receptor sensitivity.

When your body is suffering from inflammation, it can “dull” the sensitivity of receptors on cell membranes that transfer thyroid hormone for the cells to use. It can also reduce the number of those receptors overall. When the receptors’ sensitivity is dulled, the body must make more and more hormone (or you must take more and more medication) for the body to recognize and use it.


3.     You have poor thyroid hormone conversion.

Your body must convert T4 to T3 to help give energy to your cells. There are many factors to why your body may not be converting your thyroid hormones properly (including nutrient deficiencies and poor digestion). If your body isn’t converting these hormones right, you will have to take a higher dosage in order to convert enough for your body to use.


4.     You have high reverse T3 levels.

Too little T3 (active thryoid hormone) is not good, but neither is too much. When your body is really stressed, you can produce high levels of reverse T3, which is the opposite of active T3 and can’t be converted to T3. If you’re making more reverse T3 and not enough active T3, that’s when reverse T3 can signal a problem. Most docs don’t order this one, so make sure to ask for it. Of course, you’ll need to work with a thyroid-literate practitioner like myself or another functional practitioner, who will spend more time on and with you, to understand what reverse T3 and your other thyroid labs truly mean for you. A lot of docs don’t know how to translate thyroid lab results into diet, nutrient, lifestyle and gut-healing strategies, in order to restore balance to your system. and that’s ok. They are not trained to do so, and it’s not their role. This is where a Functional Nutritionist can shine in your life. What’s a Functional Nutritionist??


5.     You have stressed brain-thyroid communication.

Your thyroid doesn’t work alone, of course; your brain has to tell it what to do. But stress, inflammation and autoimmune responses can put static on the line (if you will) between the brain and the thyroid.


6.     You have a selenium deficiency.

Selenium is an essential micronutrient for thyroid hormone conversion. And while selenium deficiency in adults is rare, it is seen sometimes in people with gastrointestinal diseases/ poor digestion and gut health.


7.     Your medication contains gluten.

Shocking, right? It’s probably not something you would think about, but yes, it’s a dirty little secret that some thyroid medications do contain gluten and other cross-reactive ingredients like corn and dairy. As you likely know by now, for people with an autoimmune condition, gluten can become a vicious ogre. Medications containing gluten can cause you headaches, fatigue, congestion and other symptoms. Make sure you check that your prescribed medication contains no gluten. Do that here. 

8. Your digestion sucks. 

Have ever thought that about your digestion? If so, this may be why your medication isn’t working, for a couple of reasons. One, if you have poor digestion and absorption and/or a gut infection, you may not be absorbing your medication very well. Two, if you can’t break down your foods and extract your nutrients well, you’re going to have nutrient deficiencies which lend themselves to poor T4 to T3 conversion. Synthroid, the most common thyroid replacement medication, is T4 only, which means you are still responsible for converting that T4 to active T3.

Also, it’s common for people with hypothyroidism to have iron deficiency anemia, as well poor B vitamin status, due to compromised digestion (an effect of hypothyroidism), both of which can cause fatigue and other symptoms.

9. You have untreated adrenal dysfunction. 

If you have weakened adrenals, due to chronic stress, you’ll need to address that in order to feel better, independent of the fact that you are taking meds. In fact, treating the thyroid with medication in a person who has adrenal dysfunction, can make symptoms worse. I’ve written about adrenal dysfunction before, so here’s a refresher. 

These nine reasons are related to various inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including thyroid dysfunction, so if your medication is not working, you may now know why.


But I think there is something else to be said: I preach to my clients and communities that to heal your thyroid (or any organ or system), you must heal your whole body. It’s not simply about masking symptoms; it’s about getting to the root of the issue.


And you can’t do that with just a pill.


Nutrition, exercise, relaxation, meditation, journaling and yoga can all have positive impacts on your thyroid and/or autoimmune condition. Even drinking tea has been shown to help.


However, you should also make sure your medication works as best as it can for you. Like I said, there is no silver bullet when it comes to medicating your thyroid or autoimmune condition. That means that it can be a bumpy and more often than not, unpredictable road to healing, but it’s a journey you owe yourself to take.  You’ll be grateful you did.


Here’s a small win for you today:  Download the Enlightened Wellness Medical Symptoms Questionnaire (MSQ) here, and rate of all the symptoms you’re still experiencing that you believe are related to your thyroid disease or your thyroid medication. You can use the MSQ even if you don’t know what’s going on yet. This is the starting point for every one of my clients. It’s yours to take advantage of! 


Then, pledge to take the MSQ with you the next time you see your doctor and have a frank conversation about your symptoms and your medication (and/or other issues).


Remember, just like the systems in your body, your thyroid doesn’t work in a vacuum. All the systems of the body rely on thyroid hormone to help regulate it. Thus, we must pay attention to the health of all of those systems if we want to heal.

I hope this serves you or a loved one well. Here’s to wellness BEYOND the status quo! 

If you’d like to work together to unravel your thyroid disease or Hashimoto’s, my door is currently open. Apply Here.  If you’d like to research me and my practice first, which I highly recommend, here is where you should start. 

Health and Happiness,