How is hypothyroidism treated?

Treatment of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is simple. Basically you take a pill to replace the thyroid that you're missing. People who do have the symptoms of hypothyroidism will, within a month or two of getting on thyroid hormone, usually feel significantly better. Often it takes several months to get the dose where you need it to be; however, once you achieve the dose that's necessary for you to have a normal thyroid hormone level, you usually only need to test your labs once or twice a year.
Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There's no hypothyroidism diet. It is generally managed with thyroid medication hormone. Although claims about hypothyroidism diets abound, there's no evidence that eating or avoiding certain foods will improve thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism. If you have hypothyroidism, take thyroid hormone replacement as directed by your doctor — generally on an empty stomach. It's also important to note that too much dietary fiber can impair the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone. Certain foods, supplements and medications can have the same effect.

Mayo Clinic suggests to avoid taking your thyroid hormone at the same time as:

  • Walnuts
  • Soybean flour
  • Cottonseed meal
  • Some ulcer medications, such as sucralfate (Carafate)

To avoid potential interactions, eat these foods or use these products several hours before or after you take your thyroid medication.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is usually treated with a daily dose of synthetic T4 (levothyroxine sodium), in pill form. Levothyroxine works exactly like your body's natural thyroid hormone. It's available in the generic form and under such brand names as Unithroid, Levothroid, Levoxyl, and Synthroid. Some patients also require a small dose of T3 (Cytomel). The goal of drug treatment is to lower your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to about the midpoint of normal range and maintain it at that level. Typically, you'll start with a relatively low dose and have your TSH checked six to eight weeks later. If necessary, your physician will adjust the dose, repeating this process until your TSH is in the normal range. Once the right dose is established, your TSH and possibly T4 levels will be checked once or twice a year. Most people who take enough synthetic T4 to normalize TSH levels find that their symptoms disappear.

The treatment of hypothyroidism includes replacing the body's natural thyroid hormone with a pill form of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone replacement is typically a form of T4 (also known as levothyroxine); it is long lasting and only needs to be taken once a day. During treatment, the patient's TSH level must be monitored to ensure that the correct dose is given.

The starting dose is based on the patient's weight and is usually around1.6 mcg/kg although some patients require significantly more or less than that dose.

There are several situations where the dose may need to be adjusted. For example, in elderly patients, thyroid hormone replacement should be started at a lower dose due to the risks of heart problems and increased bone loss. In patients with thyroid cancer, the dose is adjusted to suppress TSH below normal levels.

For more information go the

Diseases of thyroid function: Hypothyroidism

Treatment for hypothyroidism can be by several means:  synthetic hormone levothyroxine (Synthroid R) or via natural hormones (Armour ThyroidR) or if necessary compounded in a base acceptable to the patient with appropriate levels of T3 and T4. Blood levels of hormone are evaluated and when the hormones levels are well within in the normal ranges their dose is set. But sometimes this dosage must be changes due to fluctuations of blood hormone levels. Most doctors will follow a patient carefully checking blood hormone level on a regular basis.

The goal of treatment for hypothyroidism is to compensate for the lack of naturally produced thyroid hormone. For nearly everyone, the treatment involves taking synthetic thyroxine. Thyroxine is a thyroid hormone. You will be required to take this medication for life, even if symptoms are relieved. Doctors typically start with the lowest dose possible that brings TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels back to normal. Initially, TSH levels are tested every six to eight weeks until the optimal dose is found. After that, testing once a year is sufficient.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.