Diet Drug Dangers for Thyroid Patients

Prepared to take my nutritional supplements

The dangers of hypothyroidism are real.  Not only in going with an untreated condition, but there are dangers in unregulated or dangerous supplements that some people make take in an effort to lose weight, or feel better.

It is important to know what you are taking, and why, especially with supplements the claim to help with weight loss.


One substance to steer clear of as a thyroid patient is ephedra.

The stimulant ephedra, an herbal component may still be found in some diet, weight loss and energy supplements and teas, poses too great a risk to warrant its use.

Ephedra was contained in many popular products and caused problems like hypertension (high blood pressure,) followed by palpitations, rapid heartbeat (known as tachycardia), stroke, seizures, and death - and these effects can occur in people who are young and otherwise healthy. According to experts, at least 54 known deaths and about 1,000 reports of various complications were been associated with the use of ephedra since the mid-1990s.

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra, but some imported supplements available in the US continue to contain ephedra.

Implications for Thyroid Patients

Speaking to Reuter's Health, Dr. Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco said he believes that anyone with heart disease, high blood pressure, a previous stroke, psychiatric problems, an overactive thyroid or kidney disease should steer clear of any products that contain ephedra and caffeine.

These products, including ephedra supplements and drugs containing the synthetic version pseudoephedrine (i.e., Sudafed), carry warnings for thyroid patients. The main concern was assumed to be for those who are hyperthyroid, as some stimulant drugs can have an exaggerated response in people with hyperthyroidism, and cause tachycardia in hearts already overstimulated by hyperthyroidism.

But, as reported in my book, "Living Well With Hypothyroidism," there are also potential concerns for people with hypothyroidism. There are anecdotal reports of people with thyroid disease becoming extra-sensitive to stimulantsm, and in particular, to the norepinephrine that is released by exposure to ephedra. As quoted in the book: "...some people with hypothyroidism seem to develop sensitivities to caffeine, or to pseudoephedrine, and even natural ephedra, an herb used in many diet and energy supplements. In my case, for example, I used to be able to take a Sudafed without a problem. Now, I find I can only take half without developing some heart palpitations. And I really have to be careful not to take it with a caffeinated beverage, or I definitely have an hour of palpitations. I can take other cold products and antihistamines for example, without a problem, so I typically will choose cold medicines that don't include pseudoephedrine to avoid the problem I have with them. "


Some thyroid patients looking for weight loss could turn to over-the-counter products like Alli, a lower-dose version of the drug Orlist (brand name Xenical)  Although you may be frustrated with weight gain that often accompanies hypothyroidism, Orlistat could have serious side effects for those who suffer thyroid, diabetes, heart and other chronic conditions.

Taking thyroid medications at the same time as Orlistat could reduce the blood levels of your medication. Talk to your doctor about more frequent thyroid function monitoring if taking Orlistat.

What CAN You Take?

The reality is, most of the over-the-counter diet drugs are not suitable for thyroid patients, and now, according to the FDA, are a concern for those without thyroid conditions as well. If you are interested in a diet supplement, you'll need to talk to a trained herbalist or naturopath about other options for weight loss support that might be helpful, or consult your doctor about the prescription options available.

Also, make sure you're optimizing your own thyroid situation as relates to weight loss, by reading the Thyroid Diet & Weight Loss Guide, which looks at the surprising reasons why it's so difficult to lose weight with hypothyroidism - including metabolic set point, changes in brain chemistry, and insulin resistance.

Also, the article provides an in-depth look at insulin resistance and thyroid disease, how to lose weight and fight insulin resistance, and essential books to help you on your way to living well with thyroid disease.

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