Published January 30 2017
While most people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who take thyroid hormone medication are prescribed synthetic thyroid hormone, many prefer to take natural thyroid hormone. Some people take Armour, while others will take Nature-Throid or WP Thyroid. But what are the differences between these natural forms of thyroid hormone? In this article I will compare these three types of natural thyroid hormone medication.
But before I discuss the differences between these three types of natural thyroid hormone medication, I want to briefly explain the main differences between synthetic and natural thyroid hormone. Synthetic thyroid hormone such as Synthroid and Tirosint only includes thyroxine, also known as T4. On the other hand, natural thyroid hormone includes both T3 and T4, along with small amounts of T1, T2, and calcitonin. But why is this important? Well, T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone, and if someone has problems converting T4 into T3 then they typically won’t do well when taking levothyroxine. While the doctor can also prescribe a synthetic form of T3 such as Cytomel, many people prefer a natural option.
What Is “Natural” Thyroid Hormone?
Natural thyroid hormone, also referred to as “desiccated thyroid”, involves porcine or bovine thyroid glandular tissue in the form of a purified, dried powder. The brands I will be discussing consist of desiccated porcine, which means that it is prepared from the thyroid glands of pigs. With these three brands the ratio of T4 to T3 is approximately 4 to 1.
Why Are Many Medical Doctors Opposed To Prescribing Natural Thyroid Hormone?
There are a few reasons why most medical doctors don’t recommend natural thyroid hormone to their patients:
Reason #1: They are concerned about the effects of T3. Many medical doctors are concerned about the effects of the patient taking T3. This admittedly is a concern in some people, as every now and then someone will experience hyperthyroid symptoms when taking natural thyroid hormone due to the T3. However, it’s much more common for people to feel significantly better when taking natural thyroid hormone because it includes both T4 and T3.
Reason #2: Many medical doctors believe that the amount of desiccated thyroid varies from batch to batch. If this were true then of course this would be problematic. And in the past it was true, as a number of years ago there was problems with the stability of Armour, and it was recalled by the FDA for inconsistent hormone content.
Reason #3: Some medical doctors are concerned that natural thyroid hormone can exacerbate the autoimmune response in those people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This does seem to happen with a very small percentage of people with Hashimoto’s, and over the years I’ve seen this with a few patients. However, this is rare, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to never prescribe natural thyroid hormone. With that being said, if someone does take desiccated thyroid and feels worse then they should stop taking it.
Comparing Armour, Nature-Throid, and WP Thyroid:
So let’s go ahead and take a look at these three brands of desiccated thyroid hormone:
Armour. One grain of Armour is 60mg, and it contains 38 mcg of T4 and 9 mcg of T3, along with very small amounts of T1, T2, and calcitonin (1).
Ingredients: calcium stearate, dextrose, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, and opadry white (1).
Breaking down the ingredients: Although Armour is gluten and dairy free, it is not corn free. Some people are concerned about titanium dioxide, and the coating of Armour contains titanium dioxide in the form of opadry white.
Final verdict: Although I probably would choose either Nature-Throid or WP-Thyroid if I needed to take thyroid hormone medication, over the years I have worked with numerous patients who have taken Armour and did well.
Nature-Throid. One grain of Nature-Throid is 65mg and contains 38 mcg of T4 and 9 mcg of T3, plus very small amounts of T1, T2, and calcitonin.
Ingredients: Colloidal silicon dioxide, dicalcium phosphate, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, croscarmellose sodium, stearic acid, and Opadry II 85F19316 Clear – tablet coating (2).
Breaking down the ingredients: According to the manufacturer, Nature-Thyroid doesn’t contain any artificial colors or flavors, corn, peanut, rice, gluten, soy, yeast, egg, fish, or shellfish. However, it does have a small amount of lactose, which can be problematic for some individuals with a lactose intolerance.
Final Verdict: I like Nature-Throid, and I think it can be a good option for many with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Yes, it does have lactose, and if someone has a severe lactose intolerance this can be an issue, although keep in mind that this isn’t problematic for someone who has a casein allergy or sensitivity.
WP Thyroid. This used to be called Westhroid, and is made by the same manufacturers of Nature-Throid (RLC Labs). One grain of WP Thyroid is 65mg and contains 38 mcg of T4 and 9 mcg of T3, plus very small amounts of T1, T2, and calcitonin.
Ingredients: It has an uncoated tablet that is formulated using only 2 natural inactive ingredients. Like Nature-Throid, WP Thyroid does have a small amount of lactose in the form of lactose monohydrate (3).
Breaking down the ingredients: According to the manufacturer, WP Thyroid does not contain any artificial colors or flavors, corn, peanut, rice, gluten, soy, yeast, egg, fish, or shellfish. If someone has a severe lactose intolerance then taking this can be problematic.
Final Verdict: Just as is the case with Nature-Throid, WP Thyroid is a very good option for many people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is the most hypoallargenic of the three brands discussed in this article.
Other Brands. In addition to the three brands I discussed above, there are a few other brands of desiccated thyroid, but I wanted to focus mainly on Armour, Nature-Throid, and WP Thyroid, as most people I have worked with over the years with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s who take desiccated thyroid have taken one of these. But if you want to read about other forms of desiccated thyroid hormone then I would read this excellent article from Stop The Thyroid Madness.
Which Brand of Natural Thyroid Hormone Should You Take?
Before talking about which brand of natural thyroid hormone you should take, I need to remind you that while I prefer natural thyroid hormone over synthetic thyroid hormone, this doesn’t mean that everyone who needs to take thyroid hormone medication should take desiccated thyroid. Some people do better on synthetic T4, although if this is the case then I usually recommend a more hypoallergenic form of synthetic thyroid hormone, such as Tirosint. Another option is to get thyroid hormone medication from a compound pharmacy. This can be especially helpful if someone wants to take both T4 and T3, but is unable to take natural thyroid hormone.
Many people have different preferences when it comes to natural thyroid hormone medication. I prefer Nature-Throid and WP Thyroid. However, as I mentioned earlier, I have some patients taking Armour, and if they are taking Armour and are doing well then I won’t try to convince them to switch to a different brand. If you have a corn allergy or sensitivity then it probably is best to go with Nature-Throid or WP Thyroid, whereas if you have a moderate or severe lactose intolerance and have no problem with corn then Armour might be a better option. So if you are thinking about taking natural thyroid hormone but you’re not sure what brand to choose, what I would recommend is to consider some of the points I made in this article, and in addition I would do your own research and pick a brand that feels right for you.
How To Find A Medical Doctor Who Is Willing To Prescribe Desiccated Thyroid
For many people, getting a prescription for natural thyroid hormone from a medical doctor can be challenging. And even if you are able to get a prescription, if you are working with a medical doctor who prefers Armour, then he or she might only be willing to write a prescription for Armour, even if you would prefer to take a different brand. On the other hand, some medical doctors are open to having you “experiment” with a different brand. If you are having problems finding a medical doctor who prescribes natural thyroid hormone, you might want to contact some of the local pharmacists and ask them if they can provide you with the names of a few medical doctors that prescribe desiccated thyroid hormone.
Why Am I Talking About Thyroid Hormone Medication?
Since most of my articles and blog posts focus on addressing the cause of the condition, you might be wonder why I’m talking about thyroid hormone medication. The obvious reason is because many people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis need to take thyroid hormone. While some people are able to stop taking thyroid hormone medication once the cause of their condition has been addressed, unfortunately this isn’t the case with everyone. And some people don’t understand the differences between the different types of desiccated thyroid, which is another reason why I wrote this article.
In summary, there are numerous brands of natural thyroid hormone (also known as desiccated thyroid), but three of the more common ones are Armour, Nature-Throid, and WP Thyroid. All three of these have both T4 and T3 in a 4:1 ratio, and while many medical doctors are opposed to prescribing natural thyroid hormone, many people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis do better when taking desiccated thyroid. Out of the three brands I discussed, WP Thyroid is the most hypoallergenic, although I like Nature-Throid a lot as well. With that being said, I’ve worked with many patients over the years who took Armour and did fine. Finding a medical doctor who is willing to prescribe desiccated thyroid can be a challenge, and so you might need to call some offices, or a better option might be to contact some of the local pharmacists for a referral. And while my goal is to address the cause of the condition with people who have hypothyroid conditions, many people do need to take thyroid hormone medication, which is why I wrote this article.