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6 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Hypothyroidism Medication
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Treatment for hypothyroidism aims to replace the thyroid hormone that your body isn’t producing naturally, according to the National Library of Medicine. But to get the most out of treatment, it’s important to take your medication as directed. Missing doses or taking medications in ways that limit how much your body is able to absorb could result in inadequate treatment.
“It’s a very big deal if a dose of thyroid medication is missed,” says Cathy Doria-Medina, MD, senior endocrinologist with HealthCare Partners in Torrance, California. A key component of treatment is finding the optimal dose for each individual. “It’s difficult to find the right dose for you if you’re not consistently taking your current dosage,” she says. “It’s important to let your doctor know if you’ve missed any doses when he or she evaluating your test results and reported symptoms.”
Start with these six tips to help you stay on top of your hypothyroidism medication regimen and make the most of your treatment:
1. Take medication on an empty stomach.It’s essential to plan the timing of your hypothyroidism medication in relation to food, supplements, and other medications, Doria-Medina says. “Thyroid medication should always be taken on an empty stomach for maximal absorption,” she says. “You should wait at least 30 minutes before a meal, and longer if your meal is high in fiber and calcium-fortified foods.”
2. Don’t take supplements or other medications right away.Make sure your doctor knows about all supplements and other medications you take so you can work together to create a dosing schedule that won’t interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication. Supplements (such as calcium, iron, multivitamins, and fiber), certain antacids, and some prescription medications can significantly decrease the amount of thyroid medication your body absorbs.
The National Institutes of Health recommends waiting at least four hours after taking thyroid hormones before taking supplements, and at least one hour before taking other prescription medications.
3. Stick to a schedule.When you take your medication at a consistent time each day, it becomes part of your routine, making it less likely that you will forget a dose or get into a situation that will lessen absorption, Doria-Medina says. For example, if you take your thyroid medication first thing in the morning and then go about your regular routine — like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed — by the time you’re finished, enough time has probably passed that you can eat breakfast without interfering with the medication, she says.
Some people may prefer to take their medication in the evening. That's not an issue as long as it’s been at least four hours since your last meal, according to a report published in the journal Medical Clinics of North America in 2012.
4. Use a pillbox.Ever wonder if you took your daily dose or not? Sometimes life gets hectic and it’s easy to second-guess yourself. Doria-Medina says a seven-day pillbox can be a big help. “Fill it up each week and place it somewhere safe, but also where you can readily see it," she says. "If you’re not sure you took your pill, you can just check to see if it’s still in the box or not." There's another benefit to pill boxes — they help with the opposite problem of accidentally taking your daily dose twice, she adds.
5. Set up auto-refill for your prescriptions.You don’t want to run out of a prescription you need to take every day. Using a pharmacy that offers automatic prescription refills will lessen the chance of missing a dose because you’re out of medication. If auto-refill isn’t an option for you, make sure you allow plenty of time for your prescription to be processed. For example, a call to your pharmacy on Friday afternoon may not get processed until Monday, Doria-Medina says. If there’s ever a time when you aren’t able to get a prescription filled, check with your doctor about a sample to hold you over until your medication refill is ready.
6. See your doctor as scheduled.When you’re first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you can expect to see your doctor about every six to 12 weeks to track hormone levels and determine the exact dosage you need. It’s important to attend appointments as scheduled so your doctor can make an accurate assessment of how your body is responding to the treatment. “If no changes in dosage are needed after a few visits, the frequency of your doctor visits can often be decreased,” Doria-Medina says. However, your dose may need to be adjusted over time, so be sure to schedule and keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.
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