How to Take Your Thyroid Medication

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Your thyroid is a gland that is located along your body's throat. It releases hormones that control growth, development and metabolism. When your thyroid is out of balance, it can cause problems with energy, thought, and weight gain. For those with an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, they have trouble keeping weight on, their mind races, and they often can't sleep. For those who have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, they have weight gain, bloating, low energy and fuzzy thinking. The medication for both conditions is the same, and is an artificial form of thyroid regulating hormone. IT can be prescribed in varying doses, but it does have some special considerations when you take it. Here are some tips on how to make it most effective:

Time of Day
Thyroid medication is best if it is taken first thing in the morning, an hour or more before you eat anything. If you take it too close to when you eat, there can be interactions with certain foods. If you take it too late in the day, especially if you are hypothyroid, it can keep you from getting a good night's sleep. If you forget to take it first thing, or you need to eat food then, you need to find a time to take it that is early enough in the day that you won't be sleepless, and far enough from meals (1-2 hours on each side) that you aren't going to underabsorb the medicine.

Interactive Foods
There are a number of different foods that can interact with thyroid medication. These include milk and dairy products, due to the fact that calcium binds to the medication and doesn't allow the larger, bound molecule to pass into the intestines. Though the general pharmacy regulation on thyroid meds is to take them an hour before food, some doctors recommend four hours between a thyroid pill and any form of dairy. Grapefruit is known for its ability to interact with different medications, and many caution eating grapefruit within an hour of taking thyroid meds. Finally, there are some studies that suggest that coffee may interact with thyroid medication as well, and prevent it from fully working. This is not part of the general recommendations, and others claim these studies are inconclusive. Since caffeine can have other effects on the metabolism, it is a difficult line to draw between reduced medicine effectiveness and caffeine stimulation.

For many, you may begin at a certain dosage of thyroid medication and have to change it over time. This may be because you gain or lose weight, get pregnant, or because your thyroid begins to normalize with the help of the medication that you are taking. Make certain to re-check your medicine levels annually to be sure you're on the correct dose for your needs.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Take Your Thyroid Medication," in, February 21, 2016, (accessed March 21, 2023).