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Thread: Armour Thyroid (natural thyroid, Naturethroid, dessicated thyroid)

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    Armour Thyroid (natural thyroid, Naturethroid, dessicated thyroid)

    I have not yet had a chance to try Armour Thyroid, so I can’t personally report on whether it’s the magic bullet for the few lingering complaints I feel might indicate my hypothyroidism is not being treated as well as it could be… but I have looked into it and done enough research to know that it is something I’m interested in trying at some point in the future. (Probably after I use my remaining levothyroxin refill, and can go into the clinic and say, “No, I’m definitely not depressed, but I’m still lacking energy. Could we please try Armour for 8 weeks or so?”)

    So, anyhow. Here’s what I’ve learned about Armour Thyroid (and, by association, other “natural thyroid” medications such as Bio-Throid, Naturethroid, and Westhroid) so far:

    All of these medications are made from dessicated pig thyroid glands. Pigs are widely considered to be more “human like” than other farm animals, for the purposes of medical research and potential transplantation… perhaps that extends to the thyroid gland? At any rate, it is made from PIG thyroid glands, not bovine (cow) thyroid, so there is NO risk of contracting mad cow disease from natural thyroid medication, despite rather strange rumors to the contrary.

    Synthetic thyroid hormones contain only one or two thyroid hormones, and synthetic versions of them at that. Whether you’re taking levothyroxin/Synthroid (T4), liothyronine/Cytomel (T3) or liotrix/Thyrolar (T4/T3 combo), you are taking synthetic hormones which some people’s bodies don’t seem to utilize very efficiently. Taking certain supplements may assist in the conversion of T4 to T3 (such as selenium, for instance), but anectdotal evidence remains strong that many patients simply feel better taking natural thyroid medications compared to synthetic versions.

    Some people believe this is due to greater ease in the body’s utilization of the natural hormones compared to the synthetic versions, while other people believe it is the “extra” hormones and compounds present in natural thyroid that make it more effective. Armour thyroid and its brethren contain not only T4 and T3, but the full range of thyroid hormones and other things, including T1 and T2.

    Although official medical information on the subject of thyroid function does not consider these hormones to be “necessary” for anything (hence their absence in synthetic hypothyroid products, and the lack of clinical tests for their levels in the blood), many Armour proponents argue that the thyroid would not produce these additional hormones if there were not some purpose for them, and it is therefore preferable to take a medication that provides some of everything the thyroid normally produces, rather than just one or two isolated hormones.

    Personally, I’m inclined to agree with that argument (although I feel compelled to disclaim myself here: I am not a doctor, and this is NOT “medical advice” given on this site, it is only my opinion and personal experience!).

    At one point not long ago (really, it wasn’t long ago… hehe), my mother, at the impressionable age of 19, gave birth to me and was told to feed me commercial infant formula, because it would be better for me than breast milk. After all, manufactured formula had precisely engineered “ideal” levels of all the nutrients a growing baby needed, right? That kind of quality-control could not be promised for a young mother’s natural breast milk! So my mom obediently fed me formula.

    And in the years between my birth and the birth of my nearest sibling, research began to conclusively show that natural breast milk had all sorts of benefits to a baby’s immune system and was just all around preferable to formula. Babies raised on breast milk had less instance of obesity and chronic illness. New mothers began to be given breastfeeding lessons in maternity wards. And the doctors of yore threw up their hands and said, “But we didn’t know what all that extra stuff in the breast milk was good for!”

    So. I’m thinking if there is a bunch of extra stuff that real thyroid glands produce, and medical science just doesn’t know what all that extra stuff is good for, it may be more the case that they haven’t figured it out yet, rather than all that extra stuff being there for no reason. I mean, evolution has had eons to work all this stuff out, no? And synthetic thyroid medication has only been around for a few decades?

    At any rate, many doctors still strongly prefer to prescribe synthetic medications. They say the levels of hormone in the synthetic pills is more consistent (although I’ve heard even the synthetic pills are better being purchased in large quantities, because there is still significant batch-to-batch variation). My doctor raised that one point, and made a squeamish face, and described natural thyroid as “messy”. And that was the reason I was given for prescribing levothyroxin instead. But she also said (referring to Armour), “Some people swear by it,” so I think there’s hope there.

    In Thyroid Power, the authors describe elderly hypothyroid patients coming to them begging for Armour Thyroid prescriptions, because conventional-minded doctors had switched them to levothyroxin years ago, and they swore they never felt the same since the switch. Anecdotal? Sure. But even clinical studies show that different patients report feeling better on different meds. Some patients say they feel fine on straight levothyroxine. Some say they feel best on synthetic T4/T3 combination therapy. Some say nothing beats natural thyroid medication. Some say they can’t tell the difference.

    In the odd logic of the medical profession, this is often taken to mean “if there is no clear, single preference, then the ‘default’ treatment (generally Synthroid) must be best.” It seems to me that the obvious conclusion to draw is, “different patients respond differently to different medications, and perhaps it’s best to try out all the available options, in a controlled manner, to determine which option is preferable for each individual case.” Because if nothing else, the studies do not show a consistently poor patient response to any of the available treatment options either.
    Anyhow. That’s my theory. I think it’s a good one.

    Now, there’s one little thing I haven’t researched very thoroughly, in the “natural” thyroid area: thyroid “glandular” pills, available from natural food stores. Thyroid glandular pills do NOT have active T4 or T3, and therefore should NEVER be taken as a substitute for prescription thyroid medication. However, I have not researched them in depth enough to know if they might not provide some of the “other stuff” that’s missing from synthetic medications. Perhaps that is a research and “try and see” project for another day.

    However, thyroid “glandulars” are made from dessicated cow thyroid, in many cases (perhaps contributing to the aforementioned confusion about Armour Thyroid). As far as I know, BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease) is not transmitted via endocrine glands. But, I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist… so take your own precautions and/or risks.

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