This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the Ultimate Guide to Thyroid Medication:
- Part 1 – The Ultimate Guide to Thyroid Medication (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
- Part 2 – 3 Simple Rules to Supplementing Thyroid Hormone the Right Way
- Part 3 – [You Are Here] – The Little-Known Danger of Thyroid Hormone
It’s a commonly accepted belief…
If you’re hypothyroid then you need more thyroid hormone.
With all this talk about using the “right” thyroid medication or supplement and using it the “right way”…
…what about when the right thyroid used the right way proves to be dangerous?
In a previous post on The Ultimate Guide to Thyroid Medication (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), I discussed a couple of known troubles with thyroid medications.
But this one is different.
It’s not something most people even think about.
Yet, I’ve seen this more times than you might think.
And it can be a little concerning to say that least.
This is also one of several reasons why I always like to review blood chemistry labs when working with new clients.
There are several markers that we look at to assess thyroid function and to determine the best and safest therapeutic approach.
In fact, I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a client a couple of years ago as we discussed his lab results.
It was one of the worst cases I’ve seen to date and it quickly became evident that his doctor was putting his life at risk.
This client was a 72 year old male whose doctor had him on a Statin drug to help lower his “high” cholesterol.
Now… normally with hypothyroidism, we see cholesterol levels rise.
It’s a very common symptom of hypothyroidism.
(Note: I cover the link between hypothyroidism and cholesterol and why hypothyroidism causes high cholesterol in this post here.)
But when looking at his blood chemistry, my jaw dropped when I saw his cholesterol.
According to his doctor, his cholesterol still had room for improvement… his simple explanation was that the lower his cholesterol the better.
His total cholesterol was a whopping 127 mg/dL.
In other words, his cholesterol was already dangerously low.
Yet, you’ll rarely if ever hear a doctor talk about the dangers of low cholesterol, which I’ll cover in just a second.
Low Cholesterol and Thyroid Hormone – A Disaster Waiting to Happen
There are a couple of common causes of low cholesterol.
With this particular client I believe it was a combination of two issues.
Cholesterol is produced predominantly in your liver.
So, oftentimes there can be liver dysfunction that prevents your liver from being able to produce adequate cholesterol.
I discuss the importance of liver health in hypothyroidism in this post on “How to Heal Your Thyroid By Healing Your Liver”.
The other issue has to do with using cholesterol lowering medications and supplements like Statin drugs that dangerously force your cholesterol lower.
Either way, low cholesterol is dangerous.
Your body uses cholesterol to produce what we call your protective youth hormones, or protective steroidal hormones.
These are essential hormones that we naturally produce in abundance when we are young and that help us maintain our youthful state of health.
But as we get older, our production of these hormones naturally declines.
Thyroid hormone, T3 in particular, is required to convert cholesterol into your protective youth hormones.
And in the case of hypothyroidism, when you lack T3 your cholesterol typically rises as you’re no longer able to convert it properly.
What’s important to understand is that cholesterol is essential to life.
Without adequate cholesterol your body simply can’t produce enough of these protective youth hormones to keep you alive and healthy.
But what happens when you already have low cholesterol and you add thyroid hormone or T3 to the mix?
(Even when you use it as covered in this post on “3 Simple Rules to Supplementing Thyroid Hormone the Right Way”)
In this case, the more T3 you use the more cholesterol you’ll convert, which might seem like a good idea for the moment…
…but when your ability to produce cholesterol is already impaired, you’re simply forcing your cholesterol even lower.
Mortality studies continue to show that your risk of death from low cholesterol far exceeds your risk of death from high cholesterol.
Research analysis from the British Heart Foundation and World Health Organization has indicated that a cholesterol level of 150 mg/dL can put you at more than double the risk of death compared to a cholesterol level of 250 mg/dL.
Your risk of death from heart disease may be “slightly” better (although there’s plenty of research questioning that as well)…
…yet your risk of death from other causes increases far more drastically including:
- Liver disease
- Infectious disease
- Communicable disease
Decline in serum total cholesterol and the risk of death from cancer.
“The group with the highest decline in cholesterol displayed an excess risk for most cancer sites. These associations were more pronounced in subjects whose weight remained stable or decreased over time than in those who gained weight.”
The important thing to remember is that while thyroid hormone is important, if you have low cholesterol, then you first need to address the underlying issue that’s causing your cholesterol to be low to begin with.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your medication as there will always be cases where continued use is necessary and well warranted. This is simply for educational purposes and in no way am I recommending you change anything without proper supervision.
But if you’re total cholesterol is 160 mg/dL or less and you are taking (or thinking of taking) a thyroid medication or supplement containing T3, then you should strongly consider working to raise your cholesterol to a safer level (research shows that a total cholesterol of 200 to 220 mg/dL is far more ideal).
Otherwise, there is a chance that it can cause more harm than good.
As for my client…
…that’s exactly what we did.
We focused predominantly on his diet to restore his cholesterol to a much healthier level before we ever thought about supplementing thyroid hormone.
And we did so in large part from using one of the foods recommended in this 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol.