Did you know that common over-the-counter and prescription medications can throw off thyroid levels and keep your symptoms hanging around?

Here are 5 drugs you may want to reconsider if you have a thyroid condition.

1. Proton Pump Inhibitors 

These medications are used to treat acid reflux, GERD, and ulcers. They include over-the-counter drugs, such as Prevacid, Prilosec, and Aciphex, and their prescription versions lansoprazole, omeprazole, and rabeprazole.

The thinking is that acid reflux is caused by having too much stomach acid, so you need to produce less. In reality, reflux usually occurs because you have too little stomach acid. 

PPIs not only make the problem worse, they make it harder for you to digest the thyroid-supporting nutrients from your food and they decrease the absorption of other drugs, 

including thyroid medications like levothyroxine or Synthroid®.

2. Birth Control Pills and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Estrogen increases your level of thyroid binding globulin (TBG), a protein that transports thyroid hormones through your bloodstream. When thyroid hormones remain attached to TBG they can’t be absorbed or used by your cells. 

This explains why women taking estrogen in the form of birth control or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may experience hypothyroid symptoms.

3. Steroids

A specific type of synthetic steroids, known as glucocorticoids, are known to inhibit the release of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Your brain uses this messenger to tell your thyroid when it’s time to ramp up hormone production. When it’s inhibited, your thyroid doesn’t get the memo, your levels remain low, and you suffer from symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, and a sluggish metabolism.

These drugs, including prednisone and cortisone, are most often prescribed to treat autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis, as well as inflammatory conditions like eczema and asthma.

Since the vast majority of thyroid dysfunction is autoimmune, and people tend to have more than one autoimmune condition, they are very common among thyroid patients.

4. Amiodarone

This medication is used to help maintain a regular heartbeat in patients with atrial fibrillation, which affects almost 3 million Americans. It contains high amounts of iodine and can be directly toxic to your thyroid gland.

Six to 10% of patients taking amiodarone are reported to develop hypothyroidism and three percent are reported to develop hyperthyroidism.

5. NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most frequently taken over the counter medications and some can impact thyroid hormone testing.

Aspirin and Aleve, in particular, have been shown to reduce thyroid hormone levels in your blood by interfering with serum carrier proteins. This means they have the potential to skew your thyroid lab results, which inform your treatment protocol and thyroid medication dose.

What to Do If You’re Taking Any of These Medications

If you’re taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor about how they may be impacting your thyroid and what alternatives are available. And keep in mind that many of these medications can be eliminated altogether when you treat the underlying imbalance that’s causing them.

For example, you can cut out PPIs by restoring healthy levels of stomach acid and move away from anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids and NSAIDs by decreasing inflammation and supporting your immune system

By relying less on prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and optimizing the factors involved in thyroid health you can restore your body’s natural function and ability to heal.

About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.

Want to work with Dr. Osgood and the GrassRoots team? Become a patient in our West Lebanon, New Hampshire Functional Medicine clinic, our Burlington, Vermont Functional Medicine clinic, or our Austin, Texas Functional Medicine clinic!

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