How Well Is Your Thyroid Working?
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How Well Is Your Thyroid Working?

Interested in figuring out how well your thyroid is working? The American Thyroid Association recently surveyed over 12 thousand people on treatment for hypothyroidism and asked them how well their treatment was working.

The upsetting results were that most were not doing well. However, there were several fascinating insights about which types of treatments seemed to work the best for people. If you would like to learn more, join me today in finding out.

Understanding the Thyroid Study

The study was published in a journal in 2018. The survey was administered online to those who visited the American Thyroid Association website.

Participants were asked about their:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Cause of hypothyroidism
  • Type of thyroid hormones they were taking
  • How long they had been on treatment
  • If other issues were causing symptoms
  • If they had other medical issues
  • How satisfied they were with their current treatment
  • If not satisfied, which areas of life were affected
  • How satisfied they were with their physicians
  • How knowledgeable their physicians were
  • How often they had changed thyroid doctors
  • How important they felt that new treatments for hypothyroidism were

Key Insight: The main takeaway is that most folks on conventional thyroid treatment are not doing well. Those on natural medicine, though, are doing better.

How Did It Work?

The survey distinguished how well Natural Dessicated Thyroid (WP Thyroid, Naturethroid) worked compared to T4-only (synthroid, levothyroxine,) or combination T4+T3 therapy (T4 + cytomel, liothyronine, or compounded thyroid).

To date, there have been 14 placebo-blinded studies which were done to compare T4-only therapy to combination therapy. Their results, to this point, have been unclear.

In the recent past, there has been one single placebo-blinded study in which T4 was compared to NDT. Its results showed that people on NDT lost more weight than on T4 only. They also expressed a preference for NDT over T4, even when they did not know which pill was which!

What Were The Study’s Other Insights?

Some of the most notable results from the groups’ responses to the individual questions were the following:

Gender

96% of those taking the survey were female. This is higher than the average number of females relative to males with thyroid disease (at 80-90%).

Age

There was an even distribution of ages, between 31 to over 61. Responses were not higher in the older age groups.

Cause

43% had hypothyroidism secondary to Hashimoto’s. 34% did not know the cause (it is likely the vast majority of these were also from Hashimoto’s).

Type of Thyroid Hormones

62% was on T4 only and 29% were on NDT. I was surprised the latter was so high, especially since this was a survey of viewers to a website which strongly endorses T4-only treatment.

Length of Treatment

The largest number of respondents were on treatment for over 10 years.

Other Issues

21% felt that stress was contributing to their symptoms. 19% felt that other medical problems were the culprit.

Other Medical Issues

The most common was depression (27%) followed by GI diseases (14%).

Satisfaction with Current Treatment

The group rated their satisfaction as a 5 out of a possible 10 (with 10 being very satisfied). Those on T4 only were the least satisfied, followed by those on combination therapy (T4+T3). Those on NDT had the highest treatment satisfaction rating.

Of those who said they were not satisfied, and which areas of their lives were affected, #1 was energy (77%) closely followed by weight (69%). Memory was #3 (58%).

Satisfaction with Physicians

The average answer was 6/10 (with 10 as highly satisfied). Those on NDT were ultimately more satisfied with their physicians.

Overall, the average score of 6 represented a pretty wide range of responses. Some were highly satisfied and many were not satisfied at all.

Knowledge of Physicians

The group answer was 5/10 (with 10 being very knowledgeable). Those on NDT rated their physicians as more knowledgeable. This average also consisted of a very wide range of answers.

Changing Thyroid Doctors

39% of respondents had changed doctors 2 – 4 times in search of better treatment.

New Treatments

When asked how important new treatments for hypothyroidism were, the average score was 10/10 (with 10 being very important).

Life Changes

The group answer determining how impacted their lives were by hypothyroidism was 10/10 (with 10 being strongly affected).

Bottom Line: The last two questions were the most compelling. I looked at the raw data, and there were zero respondents who had answers lower than 3 or 4. Nearly every single response was a 10. What does this tell me? People with hypothyroidism need more help than they are getting right now.

What Can We Learn?

One takeaway from this survey was that times may be changing. The organization behind this survey has staunchly supported T4-only therapy and opposed NDT since the early 1980’s. These results and the comments included suggest that their stance is beginning to soften.

NDT

If you have thyroid disease and are not feeling your best, natural desiccated thyroid may be something worth changing to. That’s because the most effective treatment based on these results was NDT. The least effective was T4-only and combination therapy.

Why would NDT work better than T4 and T3? NDT is more than just these two hormones. It also contains T2 which is known to be important for many of the body’s functions. It also contains thyroglobulin which may lower the inflammation behind autoimmune thyroid disease.

Other Factors At Hand

It is so important to consider other factors which may be drastically impacting your health. The top three contributors to thyroid symptoms included:

    • Stress
    • Depression
    • GI issues
    • Arthritis
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Diabetes

If you are still suffering from thyroid symptoms, please know that non-thyroidal issues are more common amongst those with hypothyroidism than they are in the general population. Work with a doctor to see if any of these are factors for you and to find effective ways to help with them.

Change Doctors (But Not Too Often)

In the subgroup analysis, those who had changed doctors 2 – 4 times tended to have the best responses. If you are not at your best, this may be a good option.

Please know that my docs at Integrative Health are now available to help you (via telemedicine). We do remote consults for patients all across the United States. For outside the US – we’re not there yet, but we’re working on it!

The Full Survey

If you were curious, here is the full survey and the possible answers:

QuestionPossible answers
1SexFemale

Male

2Age31-30

31-50

51-60

>61

3Cause of hypothyroidismHashimoto/autoimmune

Radioactive iodine

Surgery

Other/not known

4Is a condition not related to thyroid hormone causing your symptoms?Current stress levels

Other medical problems

Both stress and medical problems

No condition identified

5Do you have any of these medical problems?Heart disease

Lung disease

Diabetes

Bone/muscle disease

GI disease

Cancer (non-thyroid)

Depression

6How satisfied are you with the treatment you receive?1 = not satisfied

10 = very satisfied

7If you are not satisfied, indicate relevant areas you feel are affected by your thyroid treatmentWeight management

Fatigue or energy levels

Mood

Memory

 

8How satisfied are you with your current physician who treats you for your thyroid condition?

 

1 = not satisfied

10 = very satisfied

9How knowledgeable is your doctor and/or physicians in general about hypothyroid treatment?1 = not knowledgeable

10 = very knowledgeable

10How many times have you changed doctors because you were not satisfied with the treatment you were receiving?Never

Once

2-4 times

5-9 times

>10 times

 

11How would you rate the need for new treatments for hypothyroidism?1 = no need

10 = strong need

 

12Have you tried alternative hypothyroid treatment not prescribed by a doctor?

 

Yes

No

13How has your life been affected by your hypothyroidism?1 = not affected

10 = strongly affected

 

Get Back To Your Best

The fact remains: many with thyroid disease have not gotten their health back to where they want it to be. If this statement is true for you, please do not give up hope.

Instead, reach out today to learn more. A great way to start is by taking the Thyroid Quiz (Click Here) to gain access to action steps which can improve your health drastically. Given the right guidance, recovery is possible.

P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:

1. Download and use my Favorite Recipes Cookbook Here
2. Check out my podcast Medical Myths, Legends, and Fairytales Here
3. Come see one of my Doctors that specialize in Thyroid Care Here

Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet and The Metabolism Reset Diet.

Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.

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