The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do You Feel Better on Armour Thyroid Than Synthroid?

Some people with hypothyroidism find they feel better on Armour Thyroid rather than synthetic levothyroxine. There may be a genetic basis for this.

An underactive thyroid gland is a very common condition. In fact, levothyroxine, the hormone generally used to treat hypothyroidism, is the most commonly prescribed drug in the US. After a period of dose adjustment, many people do quite well on this medication. But others do not feel good despite rigorous treatment. Natural desiccated thyroid such as Armour Thyroid from pigs contains more than one kind of thyroid hormone. Would you feel better on Armour Thyroid than on levothyroxine?

Would You Feel Better on Armour?

Q. About two decades ago, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I took levothyroxine (Synthroid) for a few years and then was switched to Armour Thyroid. My wife was also taking Armour and we both thought we felt better on it.

Then we couldn’t get Armour for many months and had to go back to Synthroid. When Armour once again became available, we happily went back to it.

I told my endocrinologist about this back-and-forth switch, with both my wife and I preferring Armour to Synthroid. He said that most of his patients tell him they feel better on Armour. What’s the difference?

What Is the Difference Between Synthroid and Armour?

A. Levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid) is a synthetic hormone that only contains T4 thyroid hormone. The body has to change T4 to the active form, T3. To do that, an enzyme knocks one iodine atom off the molecule. Some people have a harder time with this conversion, presumably because their genes encode a less active enzyme.

Armour thyroid is a natural product derived from dried animal glands. (Other brands include Nature-throid and Westhroid). Desiccated thyroid gland contains both T3 and T4, which may explain why some people prefer this formulation. The ratio of T3 to T4 in Armour is not the same as the ratio produced by a healthy human thyroid gland, however. Consequently, doctors are sometimes reluctant to prescribe it.

You are not the only one to report you feel better on Armour. To learn more about the differences between various thyroid formulations and why they matter, you may wish to read our 25-page eGuide to Thyroid Hormones.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I had Graves’disease and thyroid cancer. I had a total removal of my thyroid in 2016 and was started on Synthroid. I never felt quite right on it. I saw a naturopath who prescribed desiccated thyroid in 2019, which I had to get through a “compounding pharmacy”. It has made a world of difference. My Endo is opposed to it but has allowed me to make the decision.

I recently changed from synthroid to armour with great results. After being on armour for a month it was as if a switch went on, and I realised that I actually felt better. My hair was no longer falling out, and the high anxiety I was experiencing on synthroid was dramatically reduced. I realize it may not work like this for everyone but my endocrinologist was supportive in my request to change, and I will never go back.

Was on synthroid for 15 years. Lost lots of hair, had constant yeast infections, hives, pounding heart and horrible anxiety. Switched to Armour a year ago, feel great, and all side effects are gone

Natural thyroid has T4, T3, T2, and T1. Synthetic levothyroxine or Synthroid has only T4. Splitting the dose may eliminate heart palpitations if you feel them. working with a knowledgeable physician can help. also making sure you have iodine is helpful. I am guessing synthetic is promoted because it is easier to manufacture as opposed to using animal thyroid. But since the chemicals in our drinking water is likely a factor in thyroid issues, replacing thyroid hormones properly is necessary.
By the way, my mother lived to age 87 on natural thyroid.

Like several others here, I was forced to use a synthetic hormone by my initial prescribing MD. It didn’t work for me, making my body feel totally off. After looking at alternatives, the doctor reluctantly prescribed Armour Thyroid. Immediately, the results were positive, and things were great until Armour was taken off the market due to manufacturing problems. So, it was back to Synthroid, and my body did not like it at all. Once the Armour was again being produced, I switched back and have felt great ever since. Of course, insurance does not cover it, and the price keeps escalating. It’s more expensive than a generic synthetic, but for me, it is totally worth the price just to feel normal and energetic.

I have Hashimotos thyroiditis. I tried Armour first but it caused heart palpitations. Good in a way since my insurance covers the synthetic. I’m now on Levothyroxine, but sometimes wonder if brand-name Synthroid would be better. Been playing around with the thyroid hormone for over a year. This is because tests are given after being on a stable dose for two months. It’s also because I’ve been trying LDN (low dose naltrexone), and it has lessened my need for the Levo somewhat. It’s also helped me feel better. I’ve been upping the LDN (start at 0.5 and move up to 4.5 eventually), and it’s a bit tricky. But the LDN is working well in various ways. It’s well worth all the fiddling around because, on both these medications, I feel so much better. Once we pin down a dose, I may try the Synthroid.

I have been on levothyroxin for about 20 years. No energy. Finally got to see an endocrinologist 2 years ago. Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s after my daughter was found to have it. Started on Armour last year after discussing with MD. I feel so much better. I also take Iodine since I get very little in my diet. Made even more difference. To finally get back to a more normal life, I also started taking sublingual B12 since I had bariatric surgery 8 years ago. That, too, has helped me with my energy level.

I took Synthroid for many years. Never really felt great, and my TSH levels never really got low enough. I switched to Armour Thyroid over a year ago, and I now feel better than I have for years and have much more energy, and my TSH levels are lower then ever before. I will never go back to a synthetic drug. I had tried the generic Synthroid at one time and thought I was going crazy from the side effects of it.

I’m definitely much better on Armour. Several doctors over the years have gotten me to try the other medications because they were so against Armour but they just did not work well, and the last time I was actually getting pain in my thyroid. That was it. I’m back on Armour and will not go off it again.

Naturethroid has not been available to me for over a month.

I had radioactive iodine for Graves’ disease as a teenager. I have to say I would never recommend it to anyone else. I wish I could have had the surgery. I have been on both Synthroid and on the animal-based product which in Canada is called Dessicated Thyroid. I felt so much better on it than on the Synthroid, but Dessicated Thyroid is hard to get. So many doctors believe it’s not stable and won’t prescribe it ever.

Now I am on a generic levothyroxine, Eltroxin. It has different fillers than Synthroid, and I feel better on it, but not as good as on Dessicated. I eat two Brazil nuts every day to help me convert T4 to T3, and that makes a difference, and I also take Zinc Citrate 30 mgs daily. Any suggestions of anything else which would help me I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

When I was diagnosed I did research and was concerned about synthetic thyroid reports of side effects. Eventually the doctor I decided to treat with told me he would not treat me if I decided to take synthetic thyroid because of morbidity with it. That decided me and I have done well with Armour for 14 years. Completely ended chronic depression in 2 weeks as well.

I have been on Armour thyroid for 50 years and never had to change the dose. One doctor wanted to put me on Synthroid but I refused. I asked him if my thyroid test was abnormal and he said no. I told him I would not switch as long as the Armour thyroid worked. He did not like what I said and I switched doctors not long after that.

About a year ago I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism following months of exhaustion, muscle weakness, palpitations and loss of appetite. My PCP put me on varying doses of levothyroxine over the course of a few months but symptoms kept returning. She added Armour Thyroid and that seemed to help for a while. Finally I saw an endocrinologist, who eliminated the Armour and tinkered with the dosage of levothyroxine. But when symptoms returned yet again he made the following observation: “Some people’s system is more sensitive to these medications. I think you’re one of those patients who will do much better of the actual brand name Synthroid, not the generics.” And wonder of wonders, that has done the trick! So I offer this as valuable information: some people must take the actual brand because generics are not identical across different labs.

What if you’ve had your thyroid removed? What is the better recommendation? I’ve been on levothyroxine-88mcg for over 25 yrs now. Thx for your response!

I also had to use Synthroid while Armour Thyroid was off the market. The change back to Armour was a real blessing, as I never felt ‘right’ using Synthroid.

I was on Armor Thyroid for about 3 years and experienced hair loss and thinning hair. I am now back on Synthroid. I am still having energy
Problems and the correct dosage,
But the hair loss has slowed.

I felt better on Armor but my doctor said it is hard on the heart at my age 81 and will not give it to me. Is it really bad for the heart?

I also have found I feel much better with armour thyroid than synthetics–when it was unavailable for a time I had to substitute and did not do well with it–it made me cranky! Even though my insurance doesn’t cover it, it is worth the cost to feel better.

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