One of the things those who know me will be aware of is that I have a keen interest in all things to do with the Thyroid. Twenty years ago when I would visit my GP lamenting about how bone tired I was and how for the first time in my life outside of pregnancy, I was putting on weight, he would commiserate with me and tell me I was perimenopausal, and feeling this way was to be expected. He suggested HRT, about which I had heard many good reports, but I instinctively did not want to have it. ( We now know more about the perils of HRT.) Years passed, I moved to Cornwall where my new doctor tested my thyroid, which was underactive. By this time I had put on 2 stone in weight. Quite a lot when you consider I am only 4′ 10″. I was prescribed Levothyroxine, which is a synthetic hormone designed to replace T4. I noticed an immediate difference. I had become very forgettful and routinely felt cold. I got my memory back again and my body temperature was more comfortable. I was delighted also with the extra energy I felt. This lasted about 2 years until wthout me realising it the symptoms all gradually returned. I had my prescribed Thyroxine raised several times which really never made much difference. It was all becoming quite debilitating and alarming. One day when I was still working as a social worker in Child Protection, I was out making some home visits. As I approached a cross roads where normally I wouldn’t have to think about it, I couldn’t remember where I was going. In spite of thinking very hard, I just could not remember. I took a different tack and decided to think back to where I had just come from…blank. This was the culmination of a series of blanks, when I went to phone my son.. no phone number came to mind, at the cash dispenser I couldn’t remember the pin number which I had had for many years. Later, at home wit my husband, I cried, feeling very frightened that I was succumbing to Alzheimers disease at least. I knew it was pointless to go back to my GP because he would just increase the dose of Thyroxine. I had read somewhere that overtreatment with Levothyroxine could contribute to osteoporosis. I decided to take matters into my own hands and study the matter.
I learned that the Thyroid produces T1, T2, T3, and T4. Also The T4 converts to T3 which is considered to be the most active of these hormones. In years gone by if someone’s thyroid was underactive, they were prescribed Armour thyroid, which is from pigs thyroid. With the rise of Big Pharma, it was deemed that T1 and T2 were in such small amounts that they probably didn’t do anything and weren’t necessary, and as T4 converts to T3 anyway, the only thing that was needed was the T4.. enter, levothyroxine, synthetic T4. At about the same time, interestingly, Armour Thyroid came into disrepute in terms of being inconsistent quality wise, to the point that Armour was/is no longer prescribed in Britain. As it happened, I had a number of clients and colleagues who had Diabetes, who were grappling with similar issues to myself. They continued to have ongoing symptoms despite increasing amounts of prescribed insulin. Then I discovered Metabolic Syndrome/ cellular resistance, which put simply means that various hormones either do not get to a cellular level, and/or, conversions that need to happen at that level, such as T4 to T3, do not happen. This certainly explained it for me, that, I could take all the T4 in the world, but if it did not convert, then I would remain deficient in T3 and continue to have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism… although, BLOOD TESTS WOULD SHOW UP NORMAL! ( GPs often do not consider that just because there are normal levels of something in your bloodstream, it does not necessarily follow that the something reaches vital organs and cells of the body)
It was clear to me that I was one of those people for whom T4 did not convert, therefore I needed to take less T4 and have some T3 (Liothyronine) as well. By this time I had moved back to Plymouth to my old GP. He was extremely reluctant to prescribe T3. The accepted wisdom amongst British Endocrinologists at the time was that a study was being conducted in Bristol regarding use of T3 and the results would be out in 2 years. Never mind that in America and Australia, all that research had already been done years prviously and was fairly conclusive. I wrote a disclaimer and asked my GP to put me on a therapeutic trial of T3 for 3 months just to see how i got on with it. Once again, my energy levels lifted, I actually lost about a stone in weight, as well as the brain fog.