Reverse T3

What is Reverse T3 and Why is it So Important?

Did you know?

If you diet frequently, you may be causing a hormone called Reverse T3 (or reverse triiodothyronine) to be released that basically shuts down your metabolism – read as your ability to burn calories and lose weight!

This little known hormone has been dubbed the hibernation and/or starvation hormone.  It is produced by the thyroid gland, but it is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.  It’s purpose is to compete with Free T3, the hormone that actually does burn calories.  Why would we want a hormone that prevents us from burning calories?

It’s complicated.

In a nutshell, it is a protective mechanism that kicks in to slow our ability to burn calories when the brain detects hibernation or starvation.  Dieting looks like hibernation and starvation to the brain.  Uh oh.  As with all protective mechanisms, once it gets activated, it can take on a life of it’s own.  It is not well understood by the medical profession, let alone the lay population.  So it can have a dramatic impact – like no matter what you do, you just cannot lose weight –  and you never even know that it is there.

I have had so many people tell me “I used to be able to diet and lose weight easily. But not anymore.  No matter what I do, I just keep gaining weight.” 

Could be it is because you are dieting that you are gaining the weight if you have triggered reverse T3.  Now that is a kick in the dieting butt!

Definition: Reverse T3 is the twin sister of T3, which is the thyroid hormone responsible for burning calories.  It is an inactive thyroid hormone that is only there to put on the brakes if something is going wrong.  It also kicks in if the body is too stressed, diseased, drugged, or poisoned by putting on the brakes and blocking T3.  At this point we stop burning calories.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing epidemic levels of inflammation resulting from GMOs, viruses like Lyme disease and Epstein bar, and allergens in our foods, making it more likely than ever before that reverse T3 is being activated, shutting down metabolism in the process. This may help to explain the obesity epidemic in the U.S. where we have the highest rate of obesity in the world.  We also have the most polluted food in the world, which drives obesity.

Because reverse T3 is the mirror image of T3 and goes to the same receptors, it can block T3 from docking at the receptor sites. In other words, it defeats the purpose of the thyroid gland, which is to burn calories.

Wouldn’t you think we’d know more about this?

It is almost always missed because most people will have normal thyroid lab tests, even if they are experiencing Reverse T3 dominance.  When this happens it is like having hypothyroidism, which is not fun.  The symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, problems sleeping, foggy brain and the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.

Causes of Elevated rT3:

  • The hypothalamus is very sensitive to “dieting” or situations that resemble starving or hibernating.  So if you are fasting for long periods or trying to decrease your calorie intake to lose weight, you can trigger the rT3.  This is why some people can’t lose weight even though they are eating next to nothing, because the body compensates by increasing rT3, which lowers metabolism, “protecting” it from death. Or so the body thinks.  The more you diet or restrict calories, the more likely this is to happen.  Sound familiar?
  • Certain medications can increase rT3, the most important being those that are used for heartburn or GERD because they stop the production of stomach acid. (Has to be the dumbest remedy in the world and has been shown to have caused the very problem it was designed to cure.[1])  The upshot is that the body needs stomach acid to adequately absorb minerals, amino acids, proteins and B Vitamins and without it the brain thinks we are starving or hibernating so it makes more rT3 
  • Graves’ Disease and hyperthyroidism will have an elevated rT3 because of the high T4 levels. Your body is trying to compensate or equalize the high levels of T4 and T3.
  • Physical or emotional STRESS will cause an increase in rT3.
  • Adrenal fatigue can trigger low stomach acid production and elevate rT3.I
  • Low ferritin (a protein that is produced by nearly every cell in your body that stores and transports iron, which is why it is better to test for ferritin and not just iron)
  • Any acute illness, injury or chronic diseaseOld age- as stomach acid production decreases as we age making it more difficult to digest nutrients
  • Being on too high a dose of the T4 a prescription like Synthroid as the body starts converting it to rT3 to protect you from becoming hyperthyroid. 

Why It Is Hard to Diagnose

First it is hard to diagnose because doctors/labs will not test for it. Getting it tested is like pulling teeth. Secondly, the other thyroid labs can look normal, but the reverse T3 can still be a problem.

Finally interpreting the test results can also be a problem. To determine whether or not reverse T3 is at issue, we look at the ratio of free T3/ to reverse T3. It is the ratio of the two and not the absolute values that matter.

If you would like to know if you are suffering from Reverse T3, contact Dr. Renae Norton and she can take your lab results and determine whether or not they are in the range that indicates reverse T3 dominance. She can also assist you in getting the correct lab tests done. Call 513-212-8799 today to schedule an appointment.

How Do We Lower Reverse T3 – First consult with your physician. Then know that:

The most important issue is to identify the cause of the problem. In other words, finding out why the body is feeling attacked is key. Dr. Norton can help with that. Once the cause is identified and steps taken to eliminate it, the work can begin on addressing the Reverse T3. Contact her at 513-212-8799 for more information on addressing this very difficult problem.
Some other things to consider are:Supplements that increase HCL in your stomach can aid in the absorption of minerals, amino acids, and B Vitamins. Improved absorption means your brain does not think you are hibernating or starving and rT3 will decrease.Increase your T3 prescription and/or decrease your T4 prescription (working with your physician)Get enough Sleep. At least eight hours.Increase your metabolism through exercise – HIIT or PULSE is best.Look into ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting (after consulting your physician.) Dr. Norton is an expert on both and can help you maximize the effectiveness of such programs. [1] //

Some other things to consider are:

  • Supplements that increase HCL in your stomach can aid in the absorption of minerals, amino acids, and B Vitamins. Improved absorption means your brain does not think you are hibernating or starving and rT3 will decrease.
  • Increase your T3 prescription and/or decrease your T4 prescription (working with your physician)
  • Get enough Sleep. At least eight hours.
  • Increase your metabolism through exercise – HIIT or PULSE is best.
  • Look into ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting (after consulting your physician.)  Dr. Norton is an expert on both and can help you maximize the effectiveness of such programs. 

[1] Chris Kesser, June 12, 2019, What Everybody Ought to Know (But Doesn’t) about Heartburn & Gerd

The Norton Center can give you the support to get your thyroid thoroughly tested as well as help interpreting the results and creating a plan for healing. Contact Dr. Renae directly at 513-205-6543.


Dr. Renae Norton

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Betaine HCl boosts absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and iron. The low pH of the stomach’s hydrochloric acid can destroy bacteria and microorganisms. This is great for anyone seeking enhanced digestive function.

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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances. Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider. You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.