Hypothyroidism: How To Best Take Thyroid Medication

Avoid these mistakes to make thyroid medication work best for you. We also list 5 best practices for how to take thyroid medication.

When starting hypothyroid treatment, your doctor should talk with you about how to take thyroid medication. Sticking with the following dos and don’ts will put you on the fast track to feeling better.

How to Take Thyroid Medication: 5 Best Practices

1. Double Check the Pharmacist

Although pharmacies must adhere to high standards, pharmacists still sometimes make mistakes. Thyroid medications work with precision; even the slightest changes or inconsistencies will impact your treatment. When you receive your prescription, make sure you receive the correct:

  • Brand and type of medication (even seemingly insignificant differences between a generic and name brand will affect your treatment)
  • Number of pills and dosage

You should also make sure the pills you receive will not expire before they have been taken.

2. Ask about Drug Interactions

Several hundreds of prescription drugs, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements react with thyroid medications.

Bring a detailed list of everything you take with you to your doctor appointment and to the pharmacy to be certain you are not taking other medications or supplements which will affect your thyroid treatment plan or which will be unsafe to take in conjunction with thyroid medication.

3. Store Medications Properly

Medications should be stored in a dry, relatively cool location. Exposure to heat and moisture breaks down the active ingredients in your medications, making them less effective. In other words, the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is not a suitable storage location for your thyroid medication.

4. Stick with Your Medication Schedule

Keeping the levels of medication and thyroid stimulating hormone in your body as consistent as possible is paramount to effective treatment. Most doctors recommend taking medications first thing in the morning for the best absorption. Others recommend taking pills before bed at night.

For the best treatment outcome, be sure to remember to take your medication every single day and try to take it at about the same time each day, too.

5. Take Medications on an Empty Stomach

Your body will better absorb thyroid medication when taken on an empty stomach. After taking your medication, wait at least an hour before eating or drinking anything, other than water. If taking medications at bedtime, wait for at least three to four hours after your last meal before taking your pill.

Avoid These 4 Mistakes When Taking Thyroid Medication

1. Starting or Stopping Other Medications without Asking Your Doctor

Consistency is the key to effective hypothyroid treatment. It is advisable to use a solution to track and – if needed – remind of pills.

Always ask your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.

2. Consuming Inconsistent Amounts of Fiber

Fiber intake affects the body’s ability to absorb thyroid medication. Sudden changes in the amount of fiber in your diet can adversely affect hypothyroid treatment.

3. Taking Medication with Coffee, Calcium, Iron and/or Iodine

All of these substances block the body’s ability to absorb thyroid medication. While it’s obvious to avoid supplements and foods containing these ingredients, also be wary of foods fortified with calcium and iron and calcium-rich antacid tablets.

4. Changing Brands without Your Doctor’s Consent

Sometimes insurance companies pay more on generic prescriptions, but there is actually a big difference between different brands of thyroid medication. Always speak with your doctor before switching medication brands and take all thyroid medications exactly as prescribed.

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What is hypothyroidism? 10 Surprising Signs and Causes

In order to understand the answer to the question, “What is hypothyroidism?” you need a basic understanding of the thyroid gland and how it regulates your body. Your body contains many glands, and they are all responsible for regulating different systems throughout the body.

Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck and produces the hormones which are primarily responsible for regulating your body’s metabolism (the processes with which your body converts food into energy).

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also commonly called underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland upsets the body’s natural chemical balance by not producing enough hormones to effectively regulate the body’s metabolism.

Hypothyroidism can lead to several secondary health concerns

Over time when left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to several secondary health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, infertility, and joint pain.

10 Signs You May Have Hypothyroidism

In its early stages, hypothyroidism’s mild symptoms sometimes go unnoticed, ignored or are improperly diagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you might notice the following the signs and symptoms affecting your everyday life:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Unexplained weight gain
  3. Weak, aching muscles and joints
  4. Feeling cold
  5. Constipation
  6. Itchy, dry skin
  7. Hair loss
  8. Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  9. Depression
  10. Reduced memory and concentration

Hypothyroidism Causes and Diagnosis

Hypothyroidism has several underlying causes, including:

  • Medications – Certain medications have the ability to affect the thyroid gland’s proper function.
  • Autoimmune Disease – Several autoimmune diseases can lead to hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example, occurs when the body’s immune system causes increased inflammation of the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism.
  • Congenital Disease – An inherited disorder, babies, sometimes, are born with incorrectly developed thyroid glands or no thyroid glands.
  • Iodine Deficiency or Excess – Iodine is necessary for the proper function of the thyroid gland. Taking in too little or, conversely, too much iodine can cause hypothyroidism.
  • Pregnancy Disorder – Women sometimes develop hypothyroidism following or during pregnancy because their immune systems begin producing an antibody to their thyroid glands, leading to inflammation.
  • Pituitary Disorder – One of the rarer causes of hypothyroidism, pituitary disorder occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (the substance which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce hormones).
  • Thyroid Surgery – Sometimes surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland is necessary, which leads to hypothyroidism.
  • Radiation Therapy – When used to treat cancers in the head, neck and upper chest, radiation therapy can have adverse effects on the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism.

Although anyone can develop hypothyroidism, some might be predisposed to the condition, including:

  • Women over age 60
  • Individuals with a family history of thyroid issues
  • Women who have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the last six months
  • Those with an autoimmune disease
  • Those who have received radiation or radioactive iodine treatments
  • Those who have had thyroid surgery

If you think you might have hypothyroidism, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination, order blood tests, and he or she might also order an imaging scan of your thyroid gland. In case you get diagnosed, check out our article on how to deal with hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is most commonly treated by addressing the underlying condition and with medications to supplement hormones. When being treated with medications, it is necessary to follow your treatment regimen exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Nowadays there are sophisticated, inexpensive smart tools that help you stay on track.

Thyroid Medication: Here’s What To Expect When Starting

When starting thyroid medication it's important to remember, people respond differently to the treatment. Find out more on what to expect.

Medication for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) aims to balance the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (THS) inside your body and as a result, restore your body’s hormones and metabolism to normal levels.

When starting thyroid medication, it’s important to remember that hypothyroidism, has no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Determining the best medication for a patient and the right dose requires patients to work with their doctors through a process of trial and error, which can sometimes take several weeks or months to get exactly right.

After a patient’s initial hypothyroidism diagnosis, his or her doctor will likely prescribe a low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone (thyroid medication). The doctor will also schedule follow-up blood tests every six to eight weeks after the patient begins medication. During this time, doctors work with patients, adjusting medication dosages, until a healthy level of thyroid stimulating hormone consistently shows up in blood tests.

Once an appropriate dose has been determined, your doctor will likely schedule a six-month follow-up blood test and appointment and then ongoing annual wellness exams to ensure proper treatment.

Potential Side Effects of Starting Thyroid Medication

When starting thyroid medication for an underactive thyroid, it can take some time working with your doctor to determine the exact dose needed to balance your body’s hormone production. Patients who begin with too high of a dose can experience side effects of the medication which feel similar to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). These side effects include:

  • Heat sensitivity
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety and/or nervousness
  • Shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Brittle hair
  • Thin skin
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

If you experience any of these symptoms after starting a new thyroid medication, changing medication brands or after changing the dose of your thyroid medication, you should speak with your doctor.

Reaching Prescription Perfection Takes Patience

Thyroid medications are categorized as having what is called a narrow therapeutic index, which means that even the slightest differences in dosages can make huge differences inside the body. As a result, your doctor might need to make lots of minor adjustments to your prescription before you feel completely normal and healthy again.

For consistent and effective results, medications with a narrow therapeutic index must be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor, at the same time each day. You can read an article on how to best take thyroid medication.  Also, to ensure proper absorption, these medications should also always be taken on an empty stomach and at least four hours apart from other medications, vitamins, and fiber supplements.

Hypothyroidism is, unfortunately, a lifelong condition and usually requires lifelong treatment. After finding the right dose of thyroid medication, certain life changes can affect your body’s chemistry, prompting another period of dose adjustment with your doctor. Physical changes which might lead to an increased or reduced dose include pregnancy, menopause, and the natural aging process.

Since everybody is different, every person will respond a little differently to thyroid medication. When starting a new thyroid medication or adjusting your medication dose, you should stay in close contact with your doctor to discuss any physical changes or side effects you experience.

Here are our 5 top tips on how to deal with Hypothyroidism. With a little patience and a daily reminder, individuals with hypothyroidism should be able to find the right dosage and return to living and enjoying life with restored energy and balance.