a bottle of Armour thyroid pills, better than T4, natural thyroid treatment

Thyroid problems are far more common than you might guess. Pharmacists dispense approximately 120 million prescriptions each year for levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint, Unithroid). People whose thyroid glands do not work well need to take this hormone to provide what their own bodies do not. However, not everyone thrives on a synthetic hormone. Some people find that a natural thyroid treatment is better for them.

Are You Looking for a Natural Thyroid Treatment?

Q. I have been taking Synthroid since my thyroid was removed two decades ago. I’m not happy with it and have been hoping to lower the dose. But my last test showed an elevated TSH so my doctor wants to increase the dose. I would prefer a natural treatment. Is that possible?

A. With no thyroid gland of your own to produce thyroid hormone, you have to take it in pill form. Doctors usually prescribe synthetic levothyroxine (T4). However, some are willing to prescribe desiccated pig thyroid (Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid). This dried gland provides T3 as well as T4.

The Story on a Natural Thyroid Treatment:

Many people prefer desiccated thyroid gland (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, May 2013).  However, your doctor may not be familiar with its use. Investigators reviewed records for 100 patients of a Pennsylvania endocrinology clinic for more than two years. They found that people do equally well on synthetic and natural therapies (Southern Medical Journal, June 2018). Some people do appear to have fewer symptoms when they are taking a combination T3 and T4 treatment, whether it is synthetic or natural.

On the other hand, a recent review (International Journal of Clinical Practice, Feb. 2018) of several studies concluded that

“Current clinical evidence is not sufficiently strong to support LT4/LT3 combination therapy in patients with hypothyroidism.”

What Readers Say About Natural Thyroid Treatment:

As you might expect, some people do extremely well on this treatment, while others experience side effects. Here are a few comments we have received:

Cindy reported:

“There are a huge number of us that benefit from natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) like Armour, NP Thyroid,etc. I was on T4 only medications for over a decade and kept telling my doctor I still had the symptoms of hypothyroidism despite their testing results that read out normal. Many doctors don’t listen and treat your lab results and not you! Finally I found a doctor who would listen–ran the right lab tests and prescribed NDT. I am feeling so much better now. I also had to educate myself so I could speak fluently about this topic and insist on what is good for me and not the stockholders of levothyroxine!”

Jen had a similar experience:

“I have been on Armour for most of twenty years prescribed by my family doctor. Several years ago went endocrinologist, and she put me on Synthroid immediately. It was horrible. All kinds of symptoms. Most endo doctors are Synthroid only. I found a new family doctor (DO), as my old one had moved. Back to Armour. Endo doctors like whatever Big Pharma likes. Big Pharma can’t make $$ off of NDT as it’s all natural.”

Aya cautioned:

“Armour Thyroid does not work for everyone, however. It made my heart race. There might be other options such as adding some low-dose T3 to the Synthroid treatment.”

Learn More:

You can learn more about Armour or other desiccated thyroid in our online Guide to Thyroid Hormones. Endocrinologists may be more willing to prescribe desiccated thyroid as they become aware that people taking this natural thyroid treatment are, in general, more satisfied with their medication and their physician than those on levothyroxine alone (Thyroid, June 2018). You may also want to consult Mary Shomon’s blog, www.mary-shomon.com. She is an extremely well-informed patient who offers information from the patient perspective.

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  1. Dennis
    home
    Reply

    Correction: Armour Thyroid was originally produced by Armour Pharmaceuticals and now supplied by Forest Pharmaceuticals (not”Big Pharma).

  2. Lynne
    MO
    Reply

    I am allergic to synthroid. I take armour, but it is not covered by insurance because medicare does not cover it. Does anyone know how to change this?

  3. Lupe
    San Antonio
    Reply

    Before deciding if/which natural thyroid med to take (Levothyroxine is not working well) I need to know how the glands are removed from the pigs and how the animals are treated. Can anyone help me?

    Thank you.

  4. Patricia
    Youngsville
    Reply

    2 years ago I read your glowing report on Armour thyroid and persuaded my doctor to prescribe it in place of the Synthroid I had been taking. Within 2 weeks I was experiencing violent a-fib. My doctor said he didn’t think it was the med but I stopped taking it anyway. The a-fib stopped also.

    After a hospitalization and rehab, I was told that my mitral valve was now destroyed. I now have a valve replacement and a pacemaker. My quality of life has been greatly reduced.

    I think you need to take this into consideration when you recommend natural thyroid.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      We are so sorry to learn of your dreadful experience.
      Definitely, everyone on thyroid hormone therapy, whether natural or synthetic, needs the correct dose. Too high a dose, resulting in an extremely low TSH value, can put a person at risk of atrial fibrillation. Here is the link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11786691. It also explains why doctors generally prefer synthetic levothyroxine.

  5. Florence
    NY
    Reply

    Armour changed its formulation some years ago. I didn’t realize it at the time but in hindsight I didn’t feel as well as I did before the change. If I remember correctly, it became unavailable for a time….at least in my dosage. I switched to Nature-throid and discovered I felt better and tolerated Nature-throid better than Armour. A year or so ago my low dose became unavailable from Nature-throid so I switched to compounded thyroid medication. Suddenly, I had more energy and my nails started growing like weeds! My doctor thought perhaps I absorbed the compounded formulation better. Word on the street is that recently Armour bought up a huge share of desiccated pig’s thyroid causing Nature-throid and compounding pharmacies to have difficulty obtaining product. As a result, prices of Nature-throid and compounded formulations have risen considerably. Generic synthroid made me tired and depressed so I will always choose natural over synthetic.

  6. Sandy
    Newport News, VA
    Reply

    I have successfully taken levothyroxin for about 35 years, but……I have had osteopenia and it has now become osteoporosis. I am unlcear about whether that is attributable to any thyroid problem or to levothyroxin or Synthroid specifically. Would changing to a natural thyroid medication help with osteoporosis?

  7. Donna
    Jupiter, Florida
    Reply

    Jupiter, Florida
    I feel so much better on Armour Thyroid
    I use to have so much fatigue in the afternoon. That is gone. I have had my dose raised several times. The first couple of days after it is raised I feel a little jittery but that goes away.

  8. Lupe
    San Antonio TX
    Reply

    I’m concerned about the source of the dessicatd gland (natural) meds. My doctor prescribed one of these but I haven’t been able to find the information I need in order to make a decision. How are the glands obtained from pigs? Are the animals treated humanely? Has their treatment been verified by an animal rights organization? Does anybody know the answers to these questions, and/or can you tell me how to get those answers?

    Thank you.

  9. Helen blyshak
    NC
    Reply

    I think Dr’s need to prescribe for the patient and so many just go with the flow. Wrong thing to do we are not alike, and deserve what is the best thyroid solution for our bodies not Dr’s preference.
    Patients should not have to put up with using wrong thyroid because of Dr choice, we know our bodies after all we live in them not the Dr’s. Time for listening to your patients. We would all be better off with some up front discussion from Dr’s. Numbers are not always correct!!! Time for Dr’s to be more diligent with thyroid issues because they cause a lot of bad side effects.

  10. Joseph B
    SC
    Reply

    i was on Levoxyl for about 10 years and it almost killed me. Side effects are: muscle wasting and loss of strength. Pharma drugs have side effects! I am still fighting these four years after switching to Armourthroid.

  11. ariel
    USA
    Reply

    Cindy, I applaud you!! I am going through exactly the same thing will many doctors. I have to keep searching for the right doctor. Glad you did not give up!
    I encourage everyone to educate themselves and keep searching for the right doctor that will listen and hear. My thyroid dr at this time looks at labs and not the person, not good. I was getting many blue spots and hair falling out. She says labs are fine. NOOOO. I added back 1 tablet of T3 (which had been reduced 3 months before) and no more bruises and hair falling out. She commented she thought it was reading good (in the low side of the normal scale). She retested and the results were normal but in a higher than last time but still in the normal scale. I am considering Armour but when I ask the dr seems uninterested in this for me. I may still ask for it in the future as I know someone who takes it and it works better than the Synthroid.

  12. Nancy
    Florida
    Reply

    I took Synthroid for many years. In 1999, it wasnt working for me anymore. I had moved to another state, and my new endo put me on Armour. I did ok the first 24 months, then started getting depressed, gaining lots of weight, fatigued, and sluggish heart rate. I could barely hike anymore. Due to family issues, I moved back to FL in 2004 and went to a university medical center for f/u. They found that I couldn’t metabolize the Armour T3, and my adrenals were stressed out. I was taken off Armour and placed on Levoxyl. I have been stable ever since, except for a 2-year period when Levoxyl was taken off market, and I had to go back on Synthroid temporarily. I couldn’t wait for Levoxyl to be reinstated fast enough. I am much better now back on Levoxyl. Each person responds to Thyroid differently. Pay close attention to your body when on the medication. You may have to change it.

  13. Sheree
    Texas
    Reply

    A new doctor switched me to Synthroid from Armour. I immediately started gaining weight. I repeatedly asked to be put back on Armour but the doctor didn’t like Armour. About 25 pounds later I found a doctor who prescribed Armour. The weight stabilized. A few years later I started gaining weight again. My doctor said my lab tests were fine, and I must be overeating. I went to a lab and paid out of pocket for more intensive tests as doctors only test the basics for insurance purposes. My tests showed I was actually hypothyroid. When I took the results to my doctor, the first thing he said was “did you use a reputable lab? Oh, I see you used the same lab I use.” Only then did he slightly increase my Armour, and I’ve stayed the same weight for 4 years with no change in eating habits. I can’t lose weight but at least I’m no longer gaining.

  14. Mary
    Puerta Vallarta Mexico
    Reply

    I live in Mexico. I was told by a doctor that natural thyroid is no longer available here. Too bad Synthroid is the go-to.

  15. Bird
    Reply

    Armour hands down! My feet are warm for the first time in years,, and I can go to bed even when the temps are in the low 40s without a rice sock which I had to have to warm my feet or I wouldn’t sleep. My TSH has been in the 0.8 range since the late 80s (that’s well over 30 years), and there is no indicator whatsoever of a problem with my thyroid hormones. I go to an osteopath who practices what he was taught and listens to me!

  16. Deni
    Tampa, FL
    Reply

    In response to “made my heart race”, don’t give up on it. The dosing is not easy to equate to Synthroid, and even just a little too much can cause that. I’ve had racing heart on both drugs due to improper dosage. So work with your Dr to make changes very slowly. Too little can be slowly increased; too much too soon causes all sorts of problems. I get very frustrated at the guessing game involved in so many meds.

  17. Seattleteacher
    Seattle
    Reply

    I have been taking Armour Thyroid for 48 years, and it has made such a happy difference in my life.

  18. DS
    tX
    Reply

    I would love to try Armour but there are no doctors in my city who prescribe it. I do not trust studies. Somebody is paying for them. Please address how studies are run. I once saw an ad for a study in Dallas. You stayed at their building and were paid. Apparently many people took part in one study and then another.

  19. Sandi v
    N C
    Reply

    I have been told by my doctor that the Armour was not consistent in the amount of active ingredient, whereas Synthroid is consistent.

    I did have extreme side effects w generic synthroid from various manufacturers not being consistent and now only take Synthroid. No generic.

  20. Sandy
    Tampa, FL
    Reply

    I was on synthroid (levothyroxine) for 30 years. Felt okay but never that great. Six years ago my T3 levels were finally tested. The results showed I had a deficiency. An ARNP decided to try me on Naturethroid. What a wonderful difference!!! I feel sooo much better than I’ve felt in decades. I don’t understand why my internist will absolutely not prescribe it. I finally found a new endocrinologist who does prescribe Naturethroid. My symptoms have significantly improved. The only hitch is that last year there was a shortage, and tracking it down via pharmacies has become very difficult. They also stopped making my 1 3/4 grain dosage, so I have to use several pills to reach my dose. Love Naturethroid!

  21. Susan M.
    North Carolina
    Reply

    My mom has been on Armour since 1967 with no problems, EXCEPT in the early 1970s when her doctor tried to switch her to synthetic. She was hospitalized for several weeks until they changed her back to Armour brand.

  22. Jane
    Missouri
    Reply

    On Naturethroid, no problems. Levo made me gain weight and lose hair.

  23. Elizabeth
    Southern CA
    Reply

    The first hurdle was finding a Dr who did not treat my labwork as normal or treat me like I was a hypochondriac!
    I was suffering from severe hypothyroid symptoms after my current doctor kept treating me like my many severe symptoms were all in my head. My hair falling out of my head by handfuls was one of my many severe symptoms.

    I searched for a new MD, and when they saw my labs and heard my symptoms they told me I was hypothyroid! I was tried at first on synthroid but suffered horrible side effects, including severe abdominal distress. This Doctor was against natural thyroid like Armour, thanks to big pharma, so I looked for a naturopathic doctor. That Dr agreed I am hypothyroid, and I cannot tolerate synthetic thyroid.

    She also told me that she found many patients did better with the natural desiccated thyroid because it had both the T3 and T4 and prescribed me Armour. It was like a miracle! All my symptoms ended, and I lost the 50+ lbs I gained while fighting to be diagnosed. My only problem was when the manufacturers of Armour stopped making it due to supply issues.
    No pharmacy could get any Armour. I finally found out that compounding pharmacies could make natural thyroid capsules.
    I found a great compounding pharmacy and took that for years. Then same trouble with supply issues again.

    Once Forrest Laboratoriss began making Armour I took it again and suffered side effects. Concerned, I called them like I did to find out why? They confirmed that they did change the formula, and some of the new ingredients were causing my side effects. Now am back to compounded thyroid until two months ago when the pharmacy became unable to get a main ingredient. Luckily, they recommended Naturthroid knowing of my inability to tolerate synthetic thyroid.
    I pray they never change their formula or ever have supply issues!

  24. Pat W
    NY
    Reply

    My doctor doesn’t like Armour due to its history, and she doesn’t think it is consistent or made properly. Has the preparation of Armour improved and are there any sources I can show her to make her see it is not the Armour of the old days? Thank you.
    Pat W.

    • Sheree
      Texas
      Reply

      What history does Armour Thyroid have? I wasn’t aware of anything, and I was on it many years ago for a long time until a new doctor insisted I switch to Synthroid. This was a huge mistake, as I immediately started gaining weight. I finally found a doctor who would prescribe Armour. I stopped gaining weight, and my hypo symptoms subsided. I just don’t understand the many doctors who don’t like Armour.

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