Women's Health

Taking This Overprescribed Medication Backfires for 60% of Women With Sluggish Thyroid

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Maintaining a healthy thyroid is key for helping to regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism, and mood. A sluggish thyroid might otherwise impact those important bodily functions. Levothyroxine is commonly taken to treat a slow thyroid, but research reveals that it’s overprescribed in many cases and causes harmful side effects.

The Possible Side Effects of Taking Levothyroxine

Levothyroxine, the drug often used to treat sluggish thyroid, is inappropriately prescribed in millions of cases, according to a Yale study. The researchers say that in people with subclinical hypothyroidism, the drug doesn’t ease symptoms like fatigue, fog or blue moods. And Fred Pescatore MD, points out, “The drug can produce headaches, rashes, and sleep problems that can leave women even more drained than they were before.”

Doctors overprescribe due to improper diagnosis, says Dr. Pescatore. They often test levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that can indicate the gland is underactive, and prescribe levothyroxine, which supplies the thyroid hormone T4. But the body has to convert T4 into T3, the active form of the hormone. “Many women can’t make the conversion, so the meds won’t lift T3 or ease symptoms.”

To identify a sluggish thyroid, ask for reverse T3, free T3, TSH and T4 tests. If results reveal a severe problem, your doctor may prescribe desiccated thyroid hormone, which contains T4 and T3. “It’s more effective than levothyroxine for 99 percent of my patients,” Dr. Pescatore says. But for subclinical problems, the steps below can reduce or eliminate the need for medications.

2 Easy Ways to Supercharge a Slow Thyroid

Trading processed food for natural fare can rev a slow thyroid within three weeks. To do, eat 5 servings of veggies daily, plus nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry, and wild-caught fish. Nutrients in these foods nourish the thyroid and tame thyroid-hampering inflammation. Also key: Avoid gluten, which can trigger inflammation for many women.

Taking 200 micrograms of selenium a day can help, says Dr. Pescatore. In an Italian study, 49 percent of hypothyroid patients who did so healed their thyroid within 16 weeks.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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