There are a number of treatments for hypothyroidism, and they usually involve medication. Some people also use alternative medicines to help them manage their disease as well.
Common medications for hypothyroidism
Treatment for hypothyroidism generally involves taking the oral medication levothyroxine, which is sold under the brand names Levothroid, Synthroid, and others.
Levothyroxine works by replacing thyroid hormone, which is the hormone your body can no longer produce in sufficient amounts. It is usually taken daily to reverse symptoms of hypothyroidism.
“Studies after studies show that levothyroxine is the best treatment of choice,” explains Dr. Endo. She notes that some people are allergic to the generic form of levothyroxine, mostly because of the color pigment. In this case, you can use levothyroxine 50 mcg tablets (they don’t contain dye) or the Tirosint brand, although this is more expensive.
Levothyroxine may lower high cholesterol levels associated with hypothyroidism and may help you return to your starting weight. The drug causes very few serious side effects and is relatively inexpensive.
The generic form of the drug is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans.
Treatment with levothyroxine will usually last for the rest of your life, but your doctor may adjust your dose over time.
Why it can take time to determine the correct dose of TSH
The process can take time to work, which is why doctors usually retest within six to eight weeks of a new thyroid medication prescription.
Factors that can affect the proper absorption of levothyroxine
The absorption of levothyroxine, the most common prescription medication used to treat hypothyroidism, can be affected by many foods and medications. It is important to take levothyroxine in the morning with water, at least 30 minutes before eating.
A quick warning about subclinical hypothyroidism and ineffective treatment
Alternative and complementary therapies
Treatments can include yoga, meditation, hypnosis, nutritional supplements, or special diets.
Hypothyroidism treatments that don’t work
One treatment doctors don’t recommend? Natural desiccated thyroid products (whether pig or bovine products). The most common is a pig thyroid extract called Armor. Because the components of pig thyroid hormone are so different from those in a human, medical professionals recommend against using this agent, Endo says. These medications are often prescribed by naturopathic doctors.
Learn more about treating hypothyroidism: complementary and alternative therapies, medications, and more
If you are taking thyroid hormone replacement for hypothyroidism, you may want to avoid eating certain foods within a few hours of taking your thyroid medication. Certain foods, such as calcium, iron, and multivitamins, may inhibit the absorption of parathyroid hormone, says Endo, so they should be eaten four hours apart from levothyroxine.
- Soybean flour and cottonseed meal
- Iron and calcium supplements
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Some ulcer or cholesterol-lowering medications
In general, it’s very important for people with hypothyroidism to eat a balanced diet, rather than eating any particular food group, says Endo.
Learn more about what to eat and avoid if you have hypothyroidism