Do you wonder if you need t3 (Cytomel, triiodothyronine, liothyronine) added to your thyroid hormone treatment to feel normal again? The answer could be in your genes.
Recent discoveries reviewed by Antonio C. Bianco, M.D., Ph.D. at the recent American Thyroid Association meeting, reveal how genetic differences influence the effectiveness of thyroid hormone replacement. Dr. Bianco’s lecture focused on studies pinpointing inborn differences in the way people metabolism thyroid hormone to explain why t3 treatment of hypothyroidism is probably required by some to restore normal functioning of their brain, muscle and heart.
The most frustrating problem for people with hypothyroidism is being unable to convince their doctor that treatment with Synthroid, Levoxyl or similar pure t4 product, isn’t working. Continued symptoms of fatigue, weakness, inability to concentrate or think clearly, and inability to lose weight despite really trying, result in tension between the doctor and the “complainer”. When assessing the adequacy of thyroid hormone replacement therapy most doctors rely on the blood tests known as the Thyroid Function Panel. Typically this includes a measurement of t4, t3, t3RU, and TSH. Some panels may also include free t4 or free t3 measurements. If the hormone levels on these tests are “within normal limits” the doctor will often insist that the treatment is a success but it is the patient who fails to recognize this. A minority of endocrinologists know many of these “failures” can be turned into success by the addition of t3, the less utilized but much more powerful form of thyroid hormone.
Most of the biological effects of thyroid hormone in the body are due to the action of t3. The most common forms of thyroid hormone replacement however, involve giving t4 in the form of Synthroid, Levoxyl, levothyroxine etc. The t3 required by our tissues is produced by specific enzymes which convert t4 to t3 in the cells of the liver, kidney, brain, muscle, heart etc. These converting enzymes are known as deiodinases and under normal conditions they are responsible for about 80% of the body’s t3. The process by which t3 is produced from t4 is known as peripheral conversion.
It has long been the contention of the leaders in thyroid disorders that based on their arithmetic, t4 replacement is sufficient to provide all the t3 the body needs via peripheral conversion and giving t3 supplementation doesn’t make good medical sense. Now, based on the new information provided by researchers like Dr. Bianco, the “arithmetic guys” will, in my opinion, need to revise their thinking finally allowing the way for acceptance of t3 replacement approaches.
I will continue the explanation of the new breakthrough in genetic control of thyroid hormone replacement treatment in Part 2 of this post.
DTE stands for “desiccated thyroid extract” which is made up of thyroid hormones refined from pig thyroid and used to treat people with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone). This is possible because human and pig thyroid are very similar in the types of thyroid hormone they contain. For over 100 years, DTE had been used successfully to treat hypothyroidism.
T4, also known as levothyroxine, is the most abundant of the 4 thyroid hormones and synthetic levothyroxine has almost completely replaced DTE treatment since the 1980’s. There is no scientific evidence however, that synthetic T4 is better than DTE for treating hypothyroidism. The almost universal switch to levothyroxine and away from DTE appears to be due to a shrewd worldwide marketing campaign by the makers of brand synthetic T4.
Due to this marketing, Synthroid, the major brand of synthetic T4, became the most widely prescribed medication in the U.S. Only in recent years has the medical community begun to recognize the benefit of using DTE treatment for individuals suffering with persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism, despite what appears to be satisfactory amounts of thyroid hormone replacement with T4. Could this benefit be due to the higher concentration of the active thyroid hormone, T3 (liothyronine) , provided by DTE compared to T4? This is the subject of on-going studies by medical scientists at this time.
On April 11, 2016 an article, Doctors Hear Patients’ Calls for New Approaches to Hypothyroidism, appeared in the Wall Street Journal regarding the growing influence of patient preference on treatment selection for hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid). The article was written by the WSJ health columnist Melinda Beck. I might have missed it but thanks to a motivated patient I received a copy within a week after its publication. With a glance I knew this report could be a highly significant addition in the on-going debate between specialists treating hypothyroidism (endocrinologists) and advocates of alternative approaches. (more…)
Dr. Gary Pepper and Dr. Paul Aoun discuss recent findings about thyroid hormone treatment at the 15th International Thyroid Congress
According to experts, 10 to 20% of hypothyroid individuals fail to respond completely to T4-only (levothyroxine, Synthroid) treatment. Dr. Anthony Bianco, the president of the American Thyroid Association, and his associates believe this is due to genetic variations in the way thyroid hormone is converted in the body from T4 into T3. T3 is the much more potent form of thyroid hormone and unless the cells of the body receive enough T3, normal function cannot be achieved and symptoms of low thyroid such as fatigue, mental fogginess, constipation, muscle aches etc, persist. Based on the research conducted by Dr. Bianco and colleagues it is thought that in those with the genetic trait making T4 treatment ineffective, blood tests would show low T3 levels. (more…)
Metabolism.com received this message from one of our readers. Her story seems typical of the sort of dilemma so many people face today. The best advice usually comes from others who face the same problem. It would be helpful to hear what others would do in her situation.
Tara’s message: “I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in 2009, I had RAI in 2011, after my daughter turned 3 months. Being pregnant with Severe Grave’s was the scariest thing in my life at the time. I gained weight prior to my pregnancy, during, and after RAI. My family doctor told me no matter how much you ate while severe Hyperthyroid you should have been anorexic, so something else is wrong. ” (more…)
The mission of the The Thyroid Project is to encourage sharing of information and experience between the public and the medical community about the treatment of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). For at least the past few decades there is a growing awareness of â€œsomething missingâ€ in the way suffers of hypothyroidism are treated for their disease.
Too many patients, as documented in an on-line study of 12,000 individuals conducted by the American Thyroid Association published in June 2018, (https://doi.org/10.1089/thy.2017.0681) , complain of persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism despite what their doctors believe is successful treatment with levothyroxine (brands include Synthroid, Unithroid, Tirosent, Levoxl). We believe something needs to be done to resolve this conflict between patients and their doctors.
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