If you're researching thyroid supplements, you most likely suspect, or have received a diagnosis of, hypothyroidism. This is a condition where the thyroid produces too few hormones to maintain proper metabolism. It is more common in older women than in men and may initially cause few symptoms. Over time however, hypothyroidism can cause intolerance of cold, elevated cholesterol, weight gain, stiffness, constipation, depression, and dry skin and nails. While there is no cure for hypothyroidism, it can be successfully managed with thyroid supplements. Follow these five steps to learn how to start your own treatment course.
- Determine if you really need a thyroid supplement. You may suspect hypothyroidism if you are experiencing unexplained fatigue or any of the above symptoms. Your doctor can perform a thyroid function test to determine if you have the condition. Thyroid health disorders can be tricky to diagnose, so if you are dissatisfied with the results, seek a second opinion or consider visiting a thyroidologist, a doctor who specializes in thyroid care.
- Consider your mainstream thyroid treatment options. Most doctors recommend synthetic hormone supplements. These are available only by prescription and are taken either orally or by injection. Possible side effects include appetite changes, irregular menstruation, nausea, vomiting, and headache. In many cases, these symptoms can be alleviated by adjusting the dosage of your medication.
- Consider natural thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism used to be treated with hormones originating from pigs or cows. Some people do better on natural hormones since they tend to be absorbed more easily than synthetic ones. Natural hormones can cause the same side effects as the synthetic version and studies have not shown one to be more effective than the other. Ask your doctor about natural supplements if you'd like to try this route.
- Determine the correct way to take your medication. It's important to take your supplements at the correct time, usually once a day. Do not double up on doses if you forget one; just return to your normal dosing schedule. Check with your pharmacist or read the package label to see if your medication requires refrigeration. Try to take it on an empty stomach to enhance absorption and be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking. If you experience side effects, contact your doctor. She may wish to adjust your dosage. Although it is rare, high dosages of these supplements can trigger the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a condition where there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. These symptoms include fast heart beat, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness and anxiety.
- Choose over-the-counter supplements to enhance your treatment. You may choose to treat your hypothyroidism with over-the-counter supplements in addition to the hormone supplements your doctor prescribed. These OTC versions do not contain hormones, so they cannot replace your prescription medication. Taking a good multivitamin each day will help your thyroid function at an optimal level. Since some supplements, such as calcium and iron, can interfere with your thyroid medication, it's important to seek the guidance of your doctor when considering additional supplements. Instead of pills, you could also try optimizing your diet to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish.