One of the more common issues we as pharmacists see treated is thyroid disorders. There are many people who must take thyroid hormones as part of their daily routine. So why do some humans need thyroid supplementation, or a thyroid gland at all? I’m glad you asked. First, let’s examine what the thyroid gland is, how it operates and why it is so important.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly gland located in the front of the neck and lies flush against the trachea. The function of this gland is to take up iodine and convert it to thyroid hormone, i.e. thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroxine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine. The cells combine the iodine with an amino acid called tyrosine to form T3 & T4 and it’s these hormones that regulate our metabolism (rate at which the body converts oxygen and calories into energy). Every cell in the body is dependent on thyroid hormone to regulate their metabolism. Thyroid hormone also controls respiration, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, cholesterol levels and menstrual cycles to name just name a few. Thyroid gland hormone release is under the guidance of the pituitary gland. Think of the thyroid as “heat” and the pituitary as the “thermostat”. When the pituitary, or “thermostat” registers lower body temperature, it releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is a messenger that tells the thyroid, or “heater” to release thyroid hormone and accordingly our body temperature goes up.
Any interruption in this process can make us feel pretty miserable. Elevated thyroid levels causes anxiety, weight loss, irritability, nervousness, sweating and increased body temperature, hair loss, trembling hands and missed or light menstrual periods. This can commonly be caused by Graves’ Disease which is an autoimmune disorder that results in high levels of thyroid hormone being released into the body. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Hashimoto’s Disease which causes the body to attack it’s own thyroid gland, causing it to not work, therefore resulting in sluggishness, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, weight gain, pale skin, muscle weakness, excess menstrual bleeding and depression.
Your doctor can perform several different kinds of tests to determine the current level of T3, T4 and TSH in a person’s bloodstream. If it is determined that a patient has too much circulating thyroid, the doctor may prescribe methimazole, which inhibits the production of thyroid hormone in the body. In the case of Hashimoto’s Disease, a patient would need to supplement with thyroid hormone from an oral tablet, consisting of T4 (Synthroid®, levothyroxine) or a combination of T3 & T4 (Armour Thryroid®, porcine thyroid). Yearly levels are usually checked to make sure an adjustment in dosage is needed.
Compounding pharmacies are in a unique position to formulate thyroid combinations that may be more appropriate dosages for a patient, rather than what is commercially available, since dosage requirements for humans are pretty specific and vary widely depending on the individual.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about your thyroid. We can certainly help you get back on track to feel harmonious with those necessary hormones.
Sources: EndocrineWeb, Mayo Clinic
Andrea Ewen, R.Ph., Medicine Solutions Pharmacy
Andrea Ewen is co-owner of Medicine Solutions Pharmacy located in Manahawkin. She has been with Kapler’s Pharmacy in Beach Haven, NJ for 10 years and prior to that worked at the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Manahawkin for 10 years. Ms. Ewen received her certification in compounding techniques in November of 2006 from Pharmacy Compounding Centers in America located in Houston, TX. Andrea holds a BS in pharmacy from St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Services. She has been in pharmacy practice for 20 years.