Let’s get something straight right out of the box. The human body is designed with a brilliance that none can truly understand. The interactions between the cells and organ systems are intricate beyond measure. Oh–except for the thyroid. That goes out in your 20’s. 


If your heart or liver or brain or kidneys were “giving out” in the 3rd decade of life alarms bells everywhere would be going off and you better darn well believe mainstream medicine is going to attempt to figure out why. But not so with the thryoid. Low levels on your bloodwork? Your doctor shakes his head, says these things happen and gives you your lifelong prescription for Synthroid.

So where’s the problem? The problem is that your thyroid is slowing down for a reason. Very often it has to do with toxic exposure. The thyroid has been called the “yellow canary” of the human body. It’s the organ that takes the initial beating when the body is exposed to allergies, heavy metals and environmental toxicants. Unless we try to identify the “why” of the thyroid failure, we’ve missed a valuable opportunity to identify and remove an exposure that the patient is experiencing that is harming their health. Sure–it may be “merely” the thyroid today, but in 20 years it’s very likely to be cancer, heart disease or dementia.

So what kinds of toxins or situations are known to affect the thyroid? This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few:

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we need to go into a little thyroid physiology lessons. The thyroid produces two hormones, T3 and T4. T3 has a very short half life and gets broken down in the bloodstream relatively quickly. So the body, in its brilliance, makes primarily T4 in the thyroid and then the individual tissues that need T3 convert it when and where it is need.

The variable factor here is the conversion of T4 to T3.  It is not always an efficient process. Things like stress, selenium deficiency can slow the conversion to T3, leaving you with symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal lab values. This is why supplementation with T3 (such as Cytomel or Armour) is trickier but will likely produce better outcomes. This particular article further supports this concept, demonstrating that those taking T3 achieved better body weight and better lipid levels.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.


  1. What if you don’t have a thyroid? Is Cytomel or Armour better than Synthroid? If yes, why? On another note, I’ve noticed since my doctor increased my Synthroid dosage my nails are growing.. Is there any connection between nail growth and thyroid medication?

  2. Cytomel and Armour are T3. It can be a little harder to manage on the front end, but will likely be a much better bet in the long run. And yes–nail and hair growth are strongly related to thyroid health.

  3. I have tried unsuccessfully to find a dr that will give me anything besides synthyroid. I have no thyroid and they claim I don’t need T3 and my body can’t handle it. Very frustrating on my end.

  4. Can’t handle T3? What do they think your body uses?? The metabolic activity of T3 is 3-5 times that of T4. Regardless of what they tell you, in a normal person, the thyroid is producing primarily T4, but it gets converted to T3 where it is needed. You should find a doctor that practices functional medicine ( in your area.

  5. So, if taking sythroid is not the best idea, what other natural recommendations would you suggest (diet, etc.)

  6. I think the best idea is to figure what is wrong with the thyroid in the first place. Frequently, environmental chemicals insult the thyroid (flame retardants, BPA, cadmium, arsenic….). There are a wide variety of natural products that are designed to support the thryoid that can help quite a bit, but this is always an individual decision that should be made between a patient and their provider.

  7. The only caution I have (based on personal experience) is that T3 acts as a stimulant and taking too much can cause heart arrythmia along with shakiness, and rapid breathing and pulse rate. There needs to be a balance between T3 and T4 in order for your body to work effectively.

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