Many people have a thyroid gland that doesn’t work properly. In some, the gland appears to spontaneously lose its ability to produce enough thyroid hormones. For others, surgery or radiation treatment for hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer interferes with the gland’s function. Doctors usually prescribe levothyroxine (T4), and that appears to work well for most people. Over the last several years, however, patients and some thyroid researchers have begun to wonder if there might be a treatment for hypothyroidism that is better than T4 alone.
Suffering from Hypothyroidism:
Q. For years I suffered with hypothyroidism. My doctors prescribed T4 drugs like Synthroid, Levothroid or generic levothyroxine, but I was still depressed. Also, I lost a lot of hair, including almost all my body hair.
T4 was not working well for me so I asked for Armour Thyroid. After I started on that, the improvement was almost instantaneous.
Unfortunately, endocrinologists don’t like it. One even told me it was an antiquated treatment. I think it is a shame that so few doctors seem to appreciate the value of treating with both T3 and T4. I feel much better when I am on Armour Thyroid.
Who Might Find Armour Thyroid Better Than T4?
A. Hypothyroidism, caused by an underactive thyroid gland, is quite common. If your thyroid gland were functioning normally, it would produce both T4 (levothyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These are thyroid hormones that affect how every part of the body works. The numbers indicate how many atoms of iodine each contains.
In most people, body tissues are able to convert T4, which is inactive, into active T3 hormone by removing one iodine atom. Some individuals don’t do that efficiently, however. We suspect that these are the ones who feel better on a product with both T3 and T4 hormones. However, researchers have not yet determined that people who don’t convert T3 to T4 efficiently are the same people who don’t feel well on T4 alone (Wiersinga, European Journal of Endocrinology, Dec. 2017).
What Is Armour Thyroid?
Armour Thyroid is desiccated thyroid gland from pigs. It does provide T3 as well as T4. The endocrinologists are right that it is old-fashioned. That doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful for patients like you.
There are definitely some people who find combination therapy better than T4 by itself. Perhaps a change in a particular gene explains some of this variability (Wartofsky, Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, Oct. 2013).
You can learn more about symptoms of hypothyroidism and its treatment, including desiccated thyroid, from our Guide to Thyroid Hormones. You may also want to read what we have written about how to interpret thyroid blood tests.