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June 26, 2023 8 min read

Anyone can suffer from hypothyroidism, including infants. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your may need to get thyroid hormone replacement therapy for life. Therefore, it's very important to understand your medication options.

There are various types of thyroid hormone replacement medications available out there. The two most popular options are Synthroid (synthetic) and Armour Thyroid (natural). Both are prescription drugs that come in many different strengths that will help stabilize your thyroid hormones. But which one is better for you? Let's break down the differences between these two medications to help make your decision easier!

The basics of hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism makes you feel tired.

The thyroid gland is a small-sized organ located in the front of our neck. The main purpose of this gland is to produce and release two main hormones: T4 (thyroxine - inactive thyroid hormone) and T3 (triiodothyronine - active thyroid hormone). These hormones work throughout your body to regulate your metabolism, telling your cells how much energy you need to use, which is important for normal bodily function. Furthermore, they also control your heart rate and body temperature.

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where your thyroid gland can't create and release enough T4 and T3 hormones, causing your metabolism to slow down. Additionally, this type of thyroid disease also makes it hard for your body to tolerate cold temperatures, so you'll quickly shiver and even fall ill.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is commonly used to treat hypothyroidism. It involves taking medication that supplies your body with the hormones it isn't producing enough of on its own. This helps restore normal levels of thyroid hormones and keep your symptoms under control. The medication comes in a variety of forms, including synthetic and natural.

The goal of this therapy is to compensate for the lack of thyroid hormone secreted by your thyroid gland. As a result, it raises your abnormally low levels of natural thyroid hormones in the body and allows you to live a healthy and normal life.

What is Synthroid?

Synthroid is the brand-name version of levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the T4 hormone. It works the same way as your natural thyroxine hormone. Ideally, the correct dose of Synthroid mimics normal thyroid function.

Synthroid is a prescription drug, so you can't buy it over the counter. It usually comes in 12 strengths. Your doctor will determine your dose based on your weight, age, health conditions, and the main cause of your hypothyroidism.

It takes approximately 4 to 8 weeks for Synthroid to improve your symptoms. Your doctor will order a blood test to check your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels about six weeks after starting your Synthroid. TSH is a hormone released by your pituitary gland. It "stimulates" your thyroid gland to produce and release hormones. High levels of TSH indicate hypothyroidism.

Advantages of Synthroid

Taking Synthroid has its own advantages, such as:

  • It's safe for people of all ages, including infants, children, and elders.

  • You only have to take it once a day, which is very convenient.

  • It's an affordable medication with a low-cost generic version available, so it won't break the bank.

  • Provides a consistent amount of thyroid hormone per dose.

Disadvantages of Synthroid

Synthroid has its own disadvantages that are worth noting, such as.

  • It cannot be consumed together with other medications.

  • You'll need routine blood tests to make sure that you are on the right dose of levothyroxine.

  • It can take more than 6 weeks to see the full results and effectiveness.

  • Synthroid is made from various ingredients, so it might contain an allergen and trigger a bad allergic reaction.

Side effects of Synthroid

Side effects of Synthroid usually occur when your dose is too high, so it's similar to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. These include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Muscle spasms

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Decreasing your bone mineral density

  • Heart palpitations

What is Armour Thyroid?

Armour thyroid is another prescription medication used to treat hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, and enlarged thyroid glands or goiter. It's classified as a thyroid hormone replacement called Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) or Desiccated Thyroid Extract (DTE). It's a natural product made from animal thyroid glands that contain complete thyroid hormones, such as T4 and T3, as well as T2, T1, and Calcitonin. Thus, it closely resembles the human thyroid gland.

It's available in a wide range of strengths, from 1/4 grain (15 mg) to 5 grain (300 mg). Your dosage is determined based on your laboratory test results, your medical condition, and your response to treatment. For infants, the dosage is based on age and weight.

Advantages of Armour Thyroid

Consuming Armour thyroid has its own advantages, such as:

  • Natural thyroid hormones are derived from an animal source.

  • It's safe, and you can use it during pregnancy.

  • Suitable for people who have tried other thyroid hormone medications before but have not experienced any improvements.

  • You only need to take it once a day.

Disadvantages of Armour Thyroid

Here are some of the disadvantages of Armour Thyroid you should be aware of before consuming.

  • It may not be tolerated as well as purer NDTs like WP Thyroid and VitaliThy.

  • People who have serious heart problems may need careful dosing.

  • It may contain allergens.

  • Armour Thyroid is made using pig byproduct; not everyone can use and consume pig.

Side effects of Armour Thyroid

Like Synthroid, the side effects of Armour Thyroid usually occur when your dose is too high. When you take too much Armour thyroid than what your body needs and is able to tolerate, you'll start to experience the symptoms of overactive thyroid hormone. Here are some of the common symptoms you should aware of:

  • Chest pain

  • Extreme anxiety

  • Brittle hair and even hair loss

  • Muscle weakness

  • Thinning skin

  • Heart palpitations.

Is Armour Thyroid better than Synthroid?

Synthroid vs Armour Thyroid

Treatment for hypothyroidism is a very individualized thing. The "better one" for you really depends on your individual needs, so there isn't one clear-cut answer that works for everyone. However, more hypothyroid patients prefer using NDT like Armour Thyroid, and they don't feel well when they switch to Synthroid.

This has to do with the fact that Armour Thyroid contains both T3 and T4, which might be beneficial for many hypothyroid patients.

Taking synthetic levothyroxine like Synthroid has been considered the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. The main reason for this is that most T3 hormones in our bodies actually used to be T4. When T4 comes into contact with the other cells in our bloodstream, it gives up an iodine atom to interact with those cells and become T3.

When this T4 to T3 hormone conversion occurs, the T3 will conveys the metabolic information throughout your body. Unfortunately, not everyone can convert T4 to T3 properly. This means that taking levothyroxine alone may not be enough to adequately treat this problem. NDT, like Armour Thyroid, on the other hand, already contains both hormones. Therefore, it doesn't explicitly rely on the T4 to T3 conversion.

NDT is more effective for weight loss

If you suffer from weight gain that's caused by the lack of thyroid hormones in your body, the most important step to do is to treat your hypothyroidism.

NDT, like Armour Thyroid, is found to be more effective for weight loss; it will replace your missing thyroid hormones and boost your metabolism. Your body will be able to break down fat and turn calories into energy. As a result, you will feel more energetic and even lose weight quickly.

If Armour Thyroid is preferred, why don't doctors prescribe it?

If you trace back to the past, you'll find that Armour Thyroid used to be the preferred medication to cure hypothyroidism, and the dosage used was much higher than now.

The shift in preferred medications started when levothyroxine became available on the market, and marketing campaigns by the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture levothyroxine started. Part of the whisper campaign is to drive doctors to avoid prescribing NDT and to patients from taking it.

One of the most common warnings you might hear is that NDT is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this medication has been around long before the FDA was established. Thus, it has never been through the rigorous testing process required for an FDA-approved. However, it's strictly regulated by the FDA.

There's a lot of opposition to NDT and controversies around this natural product. The truth is that much of what you hear about NDT being dangerous or ineffective is just false information. In reality, NDT is perfectly safe and could be a great way to manage your hypothyroidism symptoms.

Who should take Synthroid?

Anyone suffering from hypothyroidism can take Synthroid. It's generally well tolerated. Plus, it's effective for many hypothyroid patients. It's also a good option if you're looking for a more affordable medication option.

Who should take Armour Thyroid?

Since thyroid hormone occurs naturally in the body, almost anyone that's suffers from low thyroid function can take desiccated thyroid extract. It can also be used by those suffering from myxedema coma (an extreme complication of hypothyroidism) and thyroid cancer.

But who would benefit most from Armour Thyroid?

Well, if you have been taking levothyroxine like Synthroid for a while, but haven't experienced any improvements, then Armour Thyroid could be just what you need. As explained before, not everyone can convert T4 to T3 properly, so taking T4-only medication could do more harm than good. Since Armour Thyroid already consists of T4 and T3 hormones, it'll work effectively even when your body's ability to convert T4 to T3 is impaired.

You can also consider buying natural desiccated thyroid like Armour if you want to lose weight due to hypothyroidism. This is because NDT is associated with more weight loss. Still, you shouldn't use this medication only for weight loss purposes if you have normal thyroid functions.

How to switch from Synthroid to Armour Thyroid

Thyroid medication is typically taken long-term, so it's very important for you to have a consistent way to obtain and consume your medication. However, if you still don't feel well on Synthroid, you can try to switch to Armour Thyroid. Keep in mind that each brand, especially different types of medication, may quantify their dosages differently; it's not easy to make 1 to 1 conversion.

Down below are the equivalent doses of Synthroid and Armour Thyroid:

  • 15 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 25 mcg of Synthroid

  • 30 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 50 mcg of Synthroid

  • 60 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 100 mcg of Synthroid

  • 90 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 150 mcg of Synthroid

  • 120 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 200 mcg of Synthroid

  • 180 mg of Armour Thyroid is equivalent to 300 mcg of Synthroid

Conclusion: Armour Thyroid vs. Synthroid

Armour Thyroid and Synthroid are both great thyroid hormone replacement medications. Since hypothyroidism treatment is highly individual, we can't say that one is better than the other. It depends on your specific condition. However, if you've been taking Synthroid and still haven't experienced any relief from your hypothyroid symptoms, it might be a good idea to try Armour Thyroid.

As a thyroid patient, you might be accustomed to stock issues when it comes to thyroid medication. In the last year alone, we've seen recalls of NDT that negatively impacted the availability of these medications. Moreover, we've seen many people who have issues when pharmaceutical companies change the formulations of their medication.

So what should you do if you're still unable to find Armor Thyroid or your doctor doesn't want to prescribe it? Well, the good news is that there are alternatives you can consider. One of the best options is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. It consists of Thyroid (USP), just like Armour Thyroid. Most importantly, VitaliThy is free of allergens, lactose, and gluten, so it's safe for anyone, especially those with drug allergies.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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