Comparing Thyroid Supplementation: Natural Bio-Identical Vs. Synthetic
Hypothyroidism Has Multiple Supplementation Options
Synthroid, or levothyroxine, an artificial thyroid supplement is the most commonly prescribed thyroid supplementation in the United States for people who have hypothyroidism. When someone is hypothyroid, it means their thyroid gland, which is located around the throat area, in the front of the neck, does not properly produce or release thyroid hormone. There can be multiple reasons for this, but the treatment is almost exclusively the same: thyroid replacement therapy.
Thyroid Treatment Trends are Changing
Recently, however, there seems to be a trend in physicians being more willing to consider bioidentical, or natural, thyroid supplementation instead of synthetic. Bioidentical basically means that the body sees the natural thyroid hormone as being biologically identical to the thyroid hormone the body would naturally produce if the thyroid gland is working properly.
Synthetic thyroid is a synthetic, laboratory created thyroid supplement that is supposed to act in the body the same way natural thyroid does. Most doctors, and indeed many insurance companies, as well as patients, prefer the synthetic version of thyroid supplementation because it is extremely inexpensive, costing no more than $4-5 per month for treatment, while bio-identical or natural thyroid supplementation can be more expensive.
Why Some Physicians Now Prefer Bio-Identical or Natural Thyroid
Dr. Jeffrey Dach says the following about the differences between the natural thyroid versus the synthetic thyroid. He writes, “Armour is a natural desiccated porcine thyroid preparation containing T1, T2, T3, T4 and calcitonin. Synthroid contains only T4.”
It makes sense that if the body’s thyroid gland is not functioning properly, then more than just the T4 levels in the body, the only thing synthetic thyroid replaces, might not be the only thing that is deficient. These T1, T2, T3 and T4 thyroid hormones all work together to provide optimal benefits for those with hypothyroidism, so many patients and doctors are starting to wonder why the traditional therapies have only focused on the T4. Arguably, it is the one hormone that does have easily marked and measurable deficiency.
Patients with Hypothyroidism Don’t Always Feel Better with Treatment
There are many books and websites and forums dedicated to those who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It is an increasingly common disorder in the United States. Yet, even as common is the disorder is, treatment has remained relatively the same for decades, and worse yet, many hypothyroid patients do not feel better or see complete recovery from the symptoms, even after taking T4 synthetic supplementation to return their Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels to normal.
Once the TSH is normal, many doctors will consider the patient ”¹…”fixed’ and will not look any further into the symptoms that still linger from synthetic thyroid supplementation. So is it possible, as Dr. Dach posits, that natural thyroid supplementation, which contains other thyroid hormones not replaced by synthetic thyroid, might be superior as a treatment option than synthetic replacement of only the T4?
Many patients believe so. Many doctors are starting to believe this is true too.
Should I Ask My Doctor to Change Thyroid Meds?
That question is one you’ll have to consider for yourself and discuss with your doctor. Each patient is different. It’s important to note that some natural thyroid supplementation currently comes from pigs, so those with animal concerns might not want to consider natural supplementation. But the decision should be made with full awareness of the differences between T4 synthetic thyroid such as levothyroxine and Synthroid, and natural or bio-identical thyroid supplementation that replaces more than just T4.
If your thyroid replacement therapy has gone well, your symptoms are under control, and you have no lingering loss of energy, weight gain, puffiness, pain or depression that can come from hypothyroidism, then maybe the synthetic version is right for you.
If, however, you have low-grade temperature, cold intolerance, aches and pains, joint tenderness, low-level depression, low affect and other symptoms of thyroid problems, even while on synthetic thyroid hormones, doing a little research and talking with your doctor about natural thyroid supplementation can’t hurt.
Hypothyroidism, http://www.bettermedicine.com/article/hypothyroidism-1, Retrieved 6/5/2011
Dr. Jeffrey Dach’s Website, http://jeffreydach.com/2010/06/16/why-natural-thyroid-is-better-than-synthetic-by-jeffrey-dach-md.aspx, Retrieved 6/5/2011