Being diagnosed with hypothyroidism can come as a blow. The disease can affect every part of your body, from your metabolism to your mood. It probably comes as a relief to know that hypothyroidism is a manageable disease and you can still lead a normal and healthy life. In most cases, however, you need to regularly take hormone replacement medication to keep your thyroid function healthy for the rest of your life. Therefore, knowing your options should be your top priority.
In your search for the best hormone replacement medication, you'll likely be faced with two options: Levothyroxine (man-made) and Natural Desiccated Thyroid or NDT (comes from animals).
Levothyroxine is the more popular treatment since it's the most commonly prescribed hormone replacement medication. But surprisingly, many people who have tried both medications prefer NDT to Levothyroxine. This may get you wondering - why has NDT considered the better option? What is it anyway, and should you choose it?
To help answer your questions, here's what you need to know about Natural Desiccated Thyroid and why it's better than levothyroxine.
It's important to understand that your thyroid gland produces two main hormones: thyroxine (an inactive thyroid hormone - T4) and triiodothyronine (an active thyroid hormone - T3). T4 needs to be converted into T3 for your body to use it.
Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) is a type of hypothyroidism medication made from dried and powdered porcine (pig) thyroid glands. It contains natural forms of both T4 and T3.
However, since it's formulated by desiccating the thyroid glands of animals, it may also consist of other elements, such as less active but important thyroid hormones (T1 and T2), as well as calcitonin and thyroid cofactors. Some people also refer to NDT as desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), natural thyroid, porcine thyroid, pig thyroid, and thyroid extract.
NDT is available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms.
Introduced for the first time in the late 1800s, it's the oldest form of thyroid hormone replacement. At one point, it was the only hypothyroidism treatment available on the market.
Today, NDT remains one of the main options to treat hypothyroidism, even when synthetic types of treatments come on the scene.
The most well-known brand names for NDT are Armour Thyroid, NP Thyroid, and WP Thyroid. They're made from porcine thyroid glands, which are remarkably similar to human thyroid gland. Other brands of Natural Desiccated Thyroid available online include VitaliThy and Real Thyroid.
There are various reasons why NDT is often touted as the better option than levothyroxine even though both medications have the same role: to improve your thyroid function and increase your hormone production.
For starters, levothyroxine is the synthetic version of the T4 hormone, so it only contains one thyroid hormone. Remember that your body must convert the T4 hormone into the T3 hormone to use it. This conversion process is vital to ensure that you can benefit from your thyroid medication.
If there are issues with converting the hormones, you'll still experience hypothyroidism symptoms even if you take levothyroxine. This is why while some people do well on levothyroxine, others don't see any improvements.
NDT, on the other hand, consists of all thyroid hormones – T4, T3, T2, and T1. This means that it can more closely mimic the body's natural hormone levels and doesn't rely on the T4 to T3 conversion exclusively. Therefore, some people find it more effective in managing their symptoms.
In a study, researchers looked at 70 patients with primary hypothyroidism who were already taking levothyroxine. These patients were given either NDT or Levothyroxine for 16 weeks and then switched back to their previous medication over the same duration.
This research concluded that NDT causes more weight loss compared to levothyroxine. Moreover, almost 50% of the patients preferred NDT over Levothyroxine.
According to a different study, those who experienced the most symptoms while on levothyroxine preferred and responded well to NDT.
Lastly, synthetic forms of hormones can sometimes be hard for the body to process. They also may not be as effective as the natural form.
That said, it's hard to say that NDT is better than levothyroxine for everybody. The "better option" is highly personal since everyone reacts differently to thyroid medications. So always listen to your body.
The main benefits of NDT are, obviously, balancing your thyroid hormone levels and relieving symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, and constipation. Thus, you'll experience an increase in energy levels, better mood, and improved fertility.
An online survey of 12,146 hypothyroid patients also found that those who take NDT have fewer problems with memory than those who take levothyroxine and a combination of levothyroxine and liothyronine (the synthetic version of T3).
NDT is an excellent medication with many benefits. It's typically well tolerated as long as you take the proper dosage for your body. But like any other medication, it has some side effects you must watch out for.
You may experience hair loss during the first few months of using NDT. However, it's usually temporary since your body is adjusting to the medication. Tell your doctor immediately if your hair loss doesn't go away or gets worse.
Other side effects of NDT include:
Anxiety or nervousness
Cramps in your legs.
These side effects are rare and usually mean that you're taking the wrong dose. When the dose is too low, you'll experience side effects that resemble hypothyroid symptoms. When the dose is too high, the side effects will resemble the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Be sure to tell your doctor right away if you're experiencing these symptoms. They'll likely fix it with a dose adjustment.
More serious side effects include a severe rash, fast heartbeat, tightness or chest pain, limb swelling, extreme anxiety, and seizure. In this case, you should seek immediate medical attention.
NDT is taken by mouth with water, usually once a day. It's best to take it 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating because your body can absorb more of the medication when your stomach is empty.
It's recommended to swallow the pill whole instead of chewing or crushing it. This makes it possible for the medication to enter your system gradually, lowering the risk of unpleasant side effects like nausea or heartburn.
Most doctors may suggest you take NDT at the same time every day. Doing this will maintain a constant level of thyroid hormone from day to day. However, some alternative practitioners and thyroid patient advocates suggest taking NDT several times a day since it supports more stable T3 levels throughout the day. You do this by splitting your total daily dose of the medication into several portions.
Since NDT may interfere with other medications, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you take other medications.
Natural desiccated thyroid products are traditionally available in "grains" — a basic unit of measurement used in the past. One grain is 60 mg (American "Nature-Throid" or "WP Throid" used to contain 65 mg of thyroid per grain.
The amount of NDT that you take depends on your individual needs, usually based on your overall health, response to treatment, and laboratory test results, such as thyroid blood tests.
Most people need about 1 - 3 grains (60 - 180mg) of NDT per day to achieve a normal thyroid hormone and alleviate symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Some people require higher doses, while others need less. It's generally recommended to begin with a low dose of 30-60 mg per day and gradually increase it as necessary until you achieve the best results.
You can adjust your dose as needed, 15 mg at a time, every 2 to 3 weeks. By doing this, you can reduce unwanted effects and make sure your body is correctly adjusting.
The best thing to do if you don't know where to start is to discuss it with your doctor. In most cases, your doctor will perform thyroid blood tests to check your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels every 4 to 6 weeks to make sure that the dosage is correct.
If you're thinking about using natural desiccated thyroid, you might be curious about how long you should take it. The answer depends on several factors, including the cause of your hypothyroidism and how your body responds to it.
Some people, especially those whose hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disease, will likely need to take it for life. Others, however, only need to take it for a few months or years.
It's generally recommended that you take NDT for a minimum of six months to see if it's effective. If you don't notice any improvement in your thyroid function and symptoms after six months, then NDT is probably not the right treatment for you.
There is no easy answer to this question. All options have their pros and cons.
For some people, NDT may be the only treatment necessary to manage their thyroid disorder since it contains all four major thyroid hormones.However, there are people who do better with a combination of NDT and levothyroxine.
There are also those who may need to switch back and forth between treatments depending on how their bodies respond.
Always remember that there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for optimizing your hormone levels and treating your thyroid disorder. It's all trial and error. So ultimately, it really depends on you and what your body responds best to.
If you're considering taking both NDT and levothyroxine together, be sure to talk to your doctor about all the potential risks and benefits. Working closely with your doctor is essential to ensure that your dosage is correct. Taking too much of either medication can cause problems instead of improving your condition.
There are a number of conditions that respond better to natural desiccated thyroid hormone as opposed to the synthetic form. NDT might be better for you if you have the following conditions:
If your body can't convert T4 into T3 as well as it should, you probably have low levels of free and total T3. In this case, the T3 in natural desiccated thyroid might help you balance your thyroid hormones and make you feel better.
Have you been taking levothyroxine and similar T4 medication for 6 to 8 weeks but don't experience any improvement? Then levothyroxine might not be the best treatment for you. In this case, you might want to try natural desiccated thyroid.
There are also some people who cannot tolerate synthetic hormones. In these cases, natural desiccated thyroid may be the only option.
When your thyroid is healthy, it generates about 80% T4 and 20% T3. It makes sense to take thyroid hormone medication or supplements that are around this ratio if you've undergone a thyroidectomy — the surgical removal of part or all of your thyroid gland.
The majority of people who have had thyroid surgery use levothyroxine. Since it doesn't contain T3, some people don't experience any positive effects. Therefore, taking natural desiccated thyroid may be a better option for you since it gives a similar T3 ratio that your body naturally creates.
Natural desiccated thyroid, also known as desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), is a natural supplement made from the dried thyroid glands of animals, typically pigs, and contains all of the hormones found in the thyroid gland, including T4 and T3. NDT is taken by mouth on an empty stomach.
Most people tolerate natural desiccated thyroid well and find that it effectively treats their hypothyroidism symptoms and improve their thyroid function. But like any other medication, there are some potential side effects you need to be aware of. These include weight gain, anxiety, irritability, and headaches.
NDT is often considered the most effective treatment for hypothyroidism, especially for those who don't have a thyroid gland, have poor T4 to T3 conversion, or can't tolerate levothyroxine. This is because NDT more closely resembles the hormone levels found in a healthy person. NDT is also thought to be better tolerated by the body than levothyroxine.
So, whether you don't see any improvements in symptoms after taking levothyroxine or you're looking for a better alternative, taking natural desiccated thyroid can be an option.
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