T3 and Your Bones
It’s a common scare tactic heard by thyroid patients who are doing great on any still-working natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), on T4 and T3, or even T3-only…AND have a low TSH: “Your TSH is too low and you will get osteoporosis, or harm to your bones (or heart problems).”
But patients have found out that to be totally ludicrous.
Doctors are confusing the low TSH seen with Graves‘ disease (hyperthyroidism caused by an attack on your thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins) with the low TSH seen when we are working to have an optimal free T3 lab test.
OUR low TSH happens when when we are giving ourselves what we need and not depending on the TSH to knock on the door of our thyroid. A very low TSH while on T3 is COMMON, and has NOT resulted in bone loss or heart problems!
Dr. David Derry, in his book “Breast Cancer and Iodine”, remembers that before labs were used to diagnosis and treat thyroid disorders (i.e. before 1973), “the normal dose of thyroid was three times the level seen now and there were no cases of fractures or osteoporosis ever reported in the previous 80 years.”
In fact, he also surmises that patients on doses used before labs came into existence “felt better, energetic and motivated, so they remained more active during all of their lives.” And this fact would be another factor in stopping Osteoporosis!
The following is a remarkable testimony of a patient concerning NDT and her bone density:
More than ten years ago, while taking synthetic Thyroid replacement hormones, a bone density study was done on me. The results were “okay” (that was in the days before I cared enough to get the real results).
I had my second bone density test done today. I have been on NDT over a year. The results? The test shows that I am adding bone mass! The nurse started to check my records to see if I was taking any medication to accomplish this, but I told her not to waste her time because I wasn’t taking anything for that. She checked my history sheet and records to see what else I am taking. The only prescriptions being used right now are NDT (every day) and Celebrex (PRN when needed). That is when I told her what she needed to know. NDT Thyroid contains T4, T3, T2, T1 and Calcitonin. The Calcitonin is what is needed to build or rebuild bone mass.
The doctor resisted putting me on NDT because he had been told that T3 can speed up the loss of bone mass. Now I can tell him that the proof is in his own records that when it is given in *Natural* form via NDT, it is beneficial, not detrimental to the body. Hooray for NDT! Oink! Oink!
And a second testimony from thyroid patient Linda D:
My TSH has been completely suppressed for 37 years and my 6 bone scans have all shown me to have well above average bone density. Doctors never believe me which explains having to have had six scans. Anyway, undetectable TSH has had no negative effect on my bones. (So don’t let unknowledgeable doctors scare you about that TSH!!)
Why do doctors and insurance companies think that a working NDT or T3 is dangerous as I age?
All over again, very poor knowledge. We have observed that many older patients are actually…
- undiagnosed hypothyroid (which negatively affects bones)
- on T4-only (which is especially a poor treatment as we age)
- held to the TSH even on NDT or T3 (which keeps us hypothyroid).
It’s also clear, because they’ve seen some thyroid patients have a bad reaction to NDT or T3, that it must be the fault of the NDT or T3…so they think it’s dangerous for older patients.
But those bad reactions were NOT due directly to the NDT or T3. Doctors don’t realize that those bad reactions are due to being held to a lower dose (causes adrenaline surges, faster heartrate and/or worsening hypo)….or even more so, due to raising in the presence of a cortisol problem (can cause heart palps, fast heartrate, anxiety and more)!! Even older people need to have the right cortisol levels, PLUS GOOD IRON LEVELS.
And even from the ultra-conservative Thyroid Foundation of Canada (page is now missing, but below is what was on it) comes this Q&A refuting the scare by doctors that taking too much thyroid meds (i.e. suppressing the TSH) can cause osteoporosis:
I have been taking thyroxine 0.15 mg for the past 30 years. At my last appointment with my new family physician, I was told my dose is too high. I feel very well and don’t look forward to the possibility of changing my hormone level. However, I understand there are risks of osteoporosis when thyroid hormone levels are too high. I wonder how great these risks are and whether my current sense of well-being should be taken into consideration when making a decision to change my dose of thyroxine.
The treatment with thyroxine can be for two purposes, either to suppress thyroid tissue or merely to treat hypothyroidism. It would be appropriate to suppress TSH in the case of a goitre or previous treatment for thyroid carcinoma. A low (subnormal) TSH may be due to pituitary damage, or may be due to excess production of thyroxine or T3, or excess intake of these agents. In the latter situation, the TSH is supressed. However, when one is trying to treat hypothyroidism, the ideal treatment would be to bring TSH down into the normal range, but not suppress it necessarily. Nevertheless, concerns which many physicians have expressed over the past few years about osteoporosis if TSH is suppressed by thyroxine have proven recently to be incorrect. Studies have shown NO reduction in bone mineral density, and no osteoporosis when thyroxine is taken even in suppressive doses. Only when patients have had actual Graves’ disease – “overactive thyroid,” is there a risk of osteoporosis and even that risk is small. Nevertheless, one should strive for ideal therapy and the ideal for hypothyroidism is to have all tests of thyroid function normal.
Bottom line: informed thyroid patients don’t get fooled by the warning that a suppressed TSH when T3 is in your treatment, or a free T3 at the top of the range, equates to Osteoporosis!!
And by the way, simply being in the “normal” range does not always equal optimal treatment.
And for you who put weight on studies, this study did not find a correlation between a suppressed TSH and loss of bone density.
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