Log in
Thyroid UK
93,473 members107,528 posts

Reluctant vegan patient

Thinking not a good idea to get started on thyroxine at all after reading some of the posts. I went to my GP to get my SOBOE (shortness of breath on exertion) investigated - told ECG normal (despite experiencing occasional ectopics) and chest x-ray clear but my bloodwork said borderline hypothyroid. My GP prescribed a low dose 25mgs thyroxine and check bloods in 2 months time but told me should be feeling 'full of beans' after starting on it. I'm not so sure! Firstly the thyroxine was given by Boots chemist clearly said contains lactose when had told my GP am vegan and will not take any drugs with animal products. Took them back and pharmacist said has now got TEVA for me to collect tomorrow. Am going to visit daughter in London for weekend so don't want to start the meds until I get back and to be honest am thinking of delaying starting further until have had a couple of acupuncture sessions at local Chinese medicine clinic. I am a retired nurse and well aware that all drugs have some kind of side effects and after searching on this site I feel double reluctant to go down the meds route at all and see if I can correct the minor imbalance and symptoms with alternative non-pharma methods. Lots of stuff on You Tube that says borderline hypo readings may not be accurate and there is a correlation between low thyroxine and high cortisol/adrenaline due to stress of which have had quite a bit the last 3 months. I'm a great believer in following my hunches and my inclination at present is not to start taking thyroxine when other methods might prove less invasive. Comments please...

13 Replies

Hi robydani

Unfortunately if you need levo, you need it. Post your thyroid test results here and people can then advise on how borderline you are. Most docs with one test coming back borderline, will normally retest a couple of months later before medicating as can be temporary if you were ill at the time of the test or have had a bad virus etc.

You might also want to get your Thryoid antibodies tested too - Thyroglobulin and Thyroid peroxidase - if these come back positive, then unfortunately you don't have much choice and need the levo as will have autoimmune thyroid disease in which your own body is attacking your thyroid. A Gluten free diet can help to lower antibodies and taking selenium can help in this regard.

If you do end up having to take them, then these meds are only replacing hormones that you're body is no longer able to make so are not the same as many other drugs. However, some people can react to some of the fillers in certain brands of Levo - TEVA is known to be cause the most side effects with people here who regularly yellow card it. I do understand your reluctance, I am the same and hate the way they hand out Anti-depressants/statins etc etc etc like they are giving candy - all with horrible side effects. Most of us on here are pretty against all of this unless a clinical need for it that can't be resolved through other means or working out what the actual cause is.

However, another thing to check is nutritional status as low nutrition can cause low thyroid hormones and effect your bodies ability to process them. You need to get your VIT D, Iron, Ferritin, B12 and Folate tested with full blood count and also post the results here as docs tend to be a bit pants in this area and regularly leave people deficient and you need optimal levels for good thyroid function. This is especially important for you as a vegan in regards to iron and B12. There is no vegan friendly way of getting B12 from your diet as only comes from animal products so you are likely to be very low unless you've been supplementing adequately - Low B12 is probably the worst to be deficient in as can cause permanent brain and nerve damage so it's important to get this checked out. This is required for good thyroid function. Things like iron deficiency can also cause breathlessness and heart palpitations (as can low B12) etc and vegans tend to be low in iron too.

If your doc won't do these tests, you can pay to get them done yourself cheap enough, Just ask on here and they will tell you where to get all the above for £79-£99

Low nutrition can also cause cortisol issues and blood sugar level issues. You can do a cortisol saliva test if you really want to check your levels more thoroughly. Low thyroid levels will also cause high cortisol and adrenal issues.

Hope you have a good outcome :-)


I am vegan, but on T3 only (I'm afraid I'm not totally concerned about lactose, as I'd rather that than gelatine) I use Jarrow Formulas sublingual methylcobalamin for B12, as otherwise I'd be very low - I get eye tics and loss of blance whne the levels drop too low. I also take ferrous fumarate for iron - when I am too low in iron my breathing goes. You might find that liquid thyroxine doesn't contain any animal prodcuts


Thank you for your full and most helpful info and advice. I am a 69-year-old lady who was a nurse for 25 years (though not medicine but surgery and occupational health) before retiring 9 years ago so am au fait with most of what you mention. I am taking responsibility for my health and body and want to navigate this personal health issue with as little harm as possible.

I have saved a copy of your post to remind me though as I try to work out what is causing my recent problem and how to remedy it.

I suspect I have had high cortisol/stress levels for years since had a bad motorbike accident 19 years ago and have grafting mid thigh to mid calf and lymphoedema in my right leg ever since. I have constant low level pain on knee and shin where the graft is stuck to bone but choose not to medicate other than when really bad and for the absolute minimum time since I hold my liver and kidneys in high regard. I don't have my actual results but will ask my GP for a copy next time I see her on repeat testing in 2 months time - she has marked the chit 'on T4' (which I doubt I will be as I want to try other things first since my symptoms are not too severe) - so it will be interesting to see what the next reading will be on alternative remedies. I think I am going to have to do a full private work-up as you suggest - can you please tell me where and how I get the tests you mentioned? - and I am going to find a good nutritional therapist locally who is vegan educated (fair chance as 3000 vegans in Swansea) - if not might do a course myself LOL. I have read and heard such a lot of 'tosh' from so many doctors on veganism and like to think I know my own body better than any GP who sees me for 10 minutes with a snapshot view of my health from a handful of tests/observations.

This is a great forum though so thanks again and will let you know how I get on. As I said I have been vegetarian for 65 years and vegan for 4. I have only noticed symptoms the past year or so. I am not about to drop my ethical stance on animal products just because I am getting old and my body is stressed - if I only have a year or so left, so be it. I have had a good life despite some really bad times, have my head and heart in alignment, have already almost died once and had a 'near-death' experience and am not afraid of dying for I know it is a pleasant experience. I have put all my affairs in order and if I can have a couple of good years more without big pharma in my life I shall be happy. Quality not quantity of life is what I choose. I've had a ball and lived my dream since retiring - 4 years in Turkey and 2 in France returning back to Wales 3 months ago due to worsening health and to put my affairs in order. I've lived a full life and am happy with where I am in my life journey right now. Thank you so much for all your kind words and help SaggyUK xx


Hiya Robydani, that's a good way to be and glad you've enjoyed your life :-)

You can ask your doctors receptionist for print outs of your results, they are not allowed to say no as it's your legal right to have these although doesn't stop many trying to make it difficult.

To be honest, I expect you'll find that B12 is a large part of the issue to be honest so hopefully you can amend this and you won't have to drop your ethical stance or deal with big pharma as I think they are able to make B12 in a vegan friendly way for supplements.

You can get the tests we recommend through medichecks which is reduced today for £79 because it's "thyroid Thursday" lol. It will be today only as normally £99 but it may come on offer again at some point on future thursdays.


This does the full thyroid panel and all the vits you need - TSH, FT3, FT4, Thyroid antibodies, Ferritin, Vit D, Vit B12 and Folate.

You can either try this as a finger prick test at home or if you don't fancy getting that much blood out of your finger you can pay an extra £25 for them to organise to get the blood draw from local hospital or phlebotomy unit (although you can often get it cheaper for £10 by paying the hospital directly).

If you really wanted to look at your stress/cortisol level, the test we recommend is the cortisol saliva test which is actually also on offer today for £59 - this may also be reduced on further thursdays if you miss the deals today. This is simply a saliva test which you do four times over one day and again, post back to lab.


This is very common as B12 can be stored for years in your body and you were probably keeping above the minimum required when not totally vegan. I think it can take up to 20 years in some people before feeling the effects - but normally five from the time you stop having any and sometimes immediately in some.

Just in case not aware, B12 deficiency can cause a very long slow and painful death in which deterioration of your brain and nervous system can get really bad so do please look into it properly and deal with it quickly.

Here's a video which can give you a little more info and the story of four people who unfortunately suffered more of the permanent damage:

And here's some info on it from a vegan site:


Please bear in mind that the advice there as to how much you need is only relevant to those not already B12 deficient and won't get your levels up. You need high dose initially like 5000mcg per day until your B12 levels are at least 500 and then you can maybe drop down to these amounts.

You must get the form of B12 called methylcobalamin which is the active form and ones like this would be a good one to get:


Either B12 or thyroid hormone can cause a long slow deteriation and not a quick death and I don't think you want to go out like that :-)


You might not have many comments until later but it's very probable that members would be able to comment more fully if you wouldn't mind sharing the results of your recent blood tests, along with their reference ranges: TSH, FT4, FT3, thyroid antibodies etc.

If you have the results of any vitamin and mineral level tests then that's all the better (complete with their reference ranges), e.g.: iron panel, folate, ferritin, vitamins B12 and D. Please mention any supplements you're taking and their dosages.

ETA: x-posted with SaggyUK :)


The 'drugs' you mention are replacement hormones not drugs. We cannot live without hormones if our body isn't producing them.

Levothyroxine (also called T4) is a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement so no problem for you.

There is always NDT, the original thyroid hormone replacement and contains all of the hormones our own gland would make and it is made from the thyroid gland of pigs usually but there's also one from grass-fed cows.

Follow your instinct but if you have a problem with breathlessness, it can be due to being hypothyroid and I will give you a link as breathless must be quite distressing and doctors knew few clinical symptoms or how to treat.

If we are deficient in thyroid hormones, our whole body suffers from head to toe. The heart and brain contain the most T3 receptor cells. You can look up myxedema coma if undiagnosed/untreated.



sorry if this is an obvious question but do you supplement B12 at all - as you won't get any from your diet if you are vegan ...

I'm in the process of ruling out other factors in explaining borderline hypothyroid - just waiting for results of a thyroid anti-body test - lot of me suspects that it will show that I am auto-immune rather than deficient in iodine and will have to bite the bullet on medication. I have low stomach acidity and the last 2 tests were done a day after bad migraines when I'd spent the previous 24 hours throwing up ... and I have found that using kelp improved the situation immensely after the first test.

Has your GP done antibody test or are they just going on hormone levels?


Hi there, my GP supported me in trying to stay off medication when I was first diagnosed. He kept a close eye on me and my results as I tried for a couple of years, I would therefore encourage you to give it a try if you have the same support and see if you can correct yourself.

I don't say this lightly I have been at TSH >95, but that was 20 years later when I stopped T4 because it was making me worse but had not yet been prescribed T3. I'd guess that so long as you are borderline you shouldn't do any long term harm, except that the lab ranges seem to have changed. I believe that whereas +4 or +5 was common for top of the range it is now +10 in some if not all labs, so the so-called borderline now is what was considered in need of treatment.

Whatever you do, take good care of yourself and very best of luck

1 like

Yes am going to try sorting myself out with the help of this group and some local alternative health practitioners for a few months. Thanks for your kind words of support and sharing your own story. Be well, be happy x


I have been trying the alternative route for a couple of years now and, although I feel better than I did before diagnosis since taking natural supplements, my TSH levels are still quite high. I have been gluten free for a couple of months now and plan to go back to have another blood test soon to see how I'm doing. My GP says he is fine with me trying alternative ways of managing at the moment as my T4 levels are ok. But, I just looked back at my last results, they were a year ago and so I definitely need to get them rechecked soon.


Nutrient deficiencies are no doubt your problem. It's what begin low thyroid function, as the thyroid needs ample supplies of nutrients vital to complete full thyroid and peripheral thyroid hormone conversion functions. Get your Iodine levels checked. The thyroid depends on Iodine. So does your health.

You probably don't need the Levothyroxine, as without ample nutrient levels it won't be able to convert to the active thyroid hormone T3.

Investigate your nutrients and look up functional medicine charts for "Optimal" levels. Conventional doctors know nothing about this if you're a point over zero, they'll say you're within the reference range. Ugh!

You can do this.

Hold your ground and get even more proactive and knowledgeable about your health via nutritional needs.


Healing Hugs!

1 like

Thank you.



I’d definitely do the saliva test for dhea and cortisol.

High cortisol can be helped with tulsi tea and adaptagens such as holy basil. Low dhea can be addressed with a supplement called pregnenelone. There is reasearch going on to see if pregnenelone will in the future replace the need for steroids if cortisol was low- see dr Sarah Myhill. Co. Uk and search under adrenal.

I agree with shaws and saggy . I’d address the full range of thyroid tests including vitamins together with saliva test through Geneva then take any appropriate action and see how you feel. Being vegan is important to you but it does come at a cost- lower levels of vitamins b12 iron ferretin usually.

Iodine deficiency usually comes with a dry mouth- from my training.

Good luck and if you can post any results.


You may also like...