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Do you take thyroid medication? Coffee may be hijacking your absorption

Post Published: 01 April 2011
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Category: Do you take thyroid medication? Coffee may be hijacking your absorption, Guest Bloggers
This post currently has 3 responses. Leave a comment

If you are already on thyroid hormone, a new study from the journal Thyroid may affect your use of coffee in the morning. According to the recent article, in folks who consume coffee at the time of taking their thyroid medication, we see a 25-57% drop in T4, one of the thyroid hormones, compared to non-coffee drinkers. This adverse effect persists for up to one hour.

I tell my patients to take their thyroid hormone first thing in the morning with a small sip of filtered water, and nothing else to eat or drink for 20 to 60 minutes after. Most of my patients are able to do 20 minutes during the week, and 60 on the weekend. But many of them have a wicked caffeine habit, and that small sip just might be of coffee. Based on this study, I will ask my patients to wait an hour if they are having coffee. Time to go back to the filtered water, and to wait 60 minutes before you cup of Joe, or better yet, before your cup of hot water with 1/4 lemon and cayenne.

We’ve discussed before how cortisol affects your thyroid function, and I wonder if part of the problem is less gastrointestinal absorption with the decreased thyroid levels, and more an issue of high cortisol lowering T4. The study did not distinguish between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

In my mind, a larger question is: Why are you drinking coffee? Does tea (caffeinated or decaf) have a similar effect? Are you drinking coffee because you are exhausted, burned out or still have lingering fatigue from your thyroid condition? I’m a fan of finding true sources of increased energy, and I consider coffee and caffeine to be false sources. I’d rather a root cause analysis of your fatigue, and to adjust your thyroid hormones or your adrenal function or both so that you don’t need coffee as a crutch.

Note: I will be taking a mini-sabbatical from posting on Dear Thyroid while completing a book proposal. In the meantime, you’ll find me over at The Gottfried Center.

With thanks to Mary Shomon for bringing the study from Thyroid to my attention.

Written by Dr. Sara Gottfried

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3 Responses to “Do you take thyroid medication? Coffee may be hijacking your absorption”

  1. @Coffeecurls says:

    Thanks for this post. I drink quite a lot of coffee – I’ll trying skipping it for the first couple of hours and see if it makes any difference. Cheers x

  2. michellegutie says:

    My Dr. has me take my Synthroid with a lot of water and drink and eat nothing else for at least an hour. Her explanation is that it is a protein binding molecule that will bind to the foods and drinks we eat.

  3. Scott says:

    I notice that you mentioned more than once in your post to “Take a sip of filtered water”. In my mind, a “sip” is a small quantity and yet my MD instructed that I drink a large quantity of water with my Levothyroxine. Is he off on this instruction? In addition, will you please tell me the purpose behind filtered water? Is it just that filtered water may have impurities that in general may not be so great, or is it possible that tap water may affect my thyroid medication. Thank you in advance.

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