I was diagnosed 4 yrs ago with hypothyroidism. I was put on Synthroid 25mcg then up to 50mcg. I didn't feel good and gained 30 lbs. A friend told me about Armour. I had my doc switch me 2 months ago. I feel much better but have not lost 1 lb. I am very active, I watch what and when I eat. Am I doing something wrong? On the wrong dose? Need to try something else? I'm getting frustrated and depressed because I see all the reports of people losing the weight put on by disease... but not me... why?
Is 30 mcg of Armour equal to 50mcg of Synthroid?
- 1 Jul 2018 by C-griffith
- 2 July 2018
Armour thyroid vs synthroid: Conversion, dosage and weight loss
ARMOUR THYROID VS SYNTHROID: CONVERSION, DOSAGE & WEIGHT LOSS
If you are taking a medication and it isn't working for you then you owe it to yourself to learn about ALL of the options available to you.
This post will take a deep dive into the difference between Armour Thyroid and Synthroid including how to determine which one you should use, which one is better for weight loss and more...
Is there a "Best" Thyroid Medication?
One question that thyroid patients often ask is is this:
Am I on the best thyroid medication or which is the best thyroid medication?
They ask because often times they aren't feeling well on their current medication and they believe that switching medications may be the answer.
They also tend to hear stories about others who have done well on other medications so naturally, they are curious.
But is there really a "best" thyroid medication?
Which thyroid medication is the best for my body?
The current standard of care is to use the medication Synthroid (or Levothyroxine) to treat all patients with low thyroid function.
The problem is that not all patients respond very well to this medication which creates a unique situation... One in which some patients have switched to taking other medications and report dramatic results.
So with this in mind let's talk about some of the other options that are available to thyroid medications such as Armour Thyroid and when you should consider switching to this medication.
Armour Thyroid Explained
Contains both T3 & T4 thyroid hormones
Has higher satisfaction rate among patients
Usually results in more weight loss compared to T4 only thyroid medications
Contains other thyroid hormones and precursors
Better for patients with high reverse T3
May exacerbate Hashimoto's due to reactivity with the immune system
May cause more symptoms when compared to Synthroid
May be more difficult to dose when compared to Synthroid
May not be tolerated as well as WP Thyroid and Nature-throid
First of all, what exactly is Armour Thyroid?
Armour Thyroid is a thyroid medication used to treat hypothyroidism.
It is unique among thyroid medications for two very distinct reasons:
#1. Is that it contains both the active thyroid hormone T3 and the inactive thyroid hormone T4.
and #2. Is that it is porcine-derived.
Armour Thyroid is purified desiccated thyroid gland from pigs.
The way that it is processed allows for the inclusion of more thyroid hormones and hormone metabolites than any other thyroid hormone available (except those also within the NDT class).
Armour Thyroid contains ALL of the thyroid hormones that are naturally produced in the thyroid gland of a pig.
The gland is then desiccated (mashed up) and purified before it is put into tablet form.
Patients then ingest this medication as thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
So why do so many people swear by Armour Thyroid and state that it is superior to other forms of thyroid medication?
Part of this reason likely has to do with the fact that Armour Thyroid contains the active thyroid hormone T3.
T3 conversion booster results
In each grain of Armour Thyroid, there is about 38mcg of T4 and about 9mcg of T3.
This small amount of T3 is often enough to improve thyroid function in the entire body.
Remember that T3 is much more biologically active when compared to T4 and therefore it is much stronger than T4 medications like Synthroid.
Armour Thyroid also contains other thyroid hormones such as T2 and probably other hormone precursors that we can't measure.
These other hormones and precursors likely help control hypothyroid symptoms in many patients who use this medication.
Are there any drawbacks to using Armour Thyroid?
Well, yes, like any medication there are always side effects to consider.
One is that not all patients respond well, or even need, T3 thyroid hormone.
The use of Armour Thyroid may lead to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as rapid heart rate, palpitations and so on when using this medication.
In addition, some patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis may actually respond with a flare-up in autoimmune symptoms when using Armour Thyroid.
This may have to do with the fact that Armour Thyroid is porcine-derived and porcine
Make no mistake though, the thyroid hormones in Armour Thyroid are bio-identical to your body.
What that means is that the hormones you are consuming when you take this medication are the exact same as the ones your body is supposed to naturally produce.
So if Armour Thyroid works so well why don't more physicians use this medication?
If you go back in time about 50 years you will find that Armour Thyroid used to be the preferred medication and the dosage used back then was much higher than currently.
The shift in preferred medications occurred as Synthroid and Levothyroxine were created.
These medications were thought to be equally effective when compared to Armour Thyroid and were also thought to be better tolerated with fewer side effects.
The problem is that as this shift in preferred thyroid medication was occurring there was also an ever-increasing amount of thyroid patients who were beginning to become unhappy and remain symptomatic.
This probably has to do with the fact that each thyroid patient is unique and the conversion status, amount of thyroid hormone required and preferred medication should be determined at the individual level and not through a standardized approach.
Now a large proportion of thyroid patients are unhappy with their current treatment and seeking alternative medications and therapies.
Some patients will do much better than others on Armour Thyroid when compared to Synthroid but this doesn't mean that Armour Thyroid is a "better" medication.
Some people may still need, and do better, on Synthroid!
Allows for sustained dosing and more even thyroid serum levels
Well tolerated when compared to other thyroid medications
Easy to dose
May not work well for all patients
Does not contain active thyroid hormone (T3)
May contain inactive fillers and dyes
May not be ideal for those interested in weight loss
So let's discuss Synthroid as well...
Synthroid is considered a T4 thyroid medication because it ONLY contains T4 thyroid hormone.
The benefit to using T4 thyroid hormone is that it is considered to be more stable than T3 in the body.
T4 has a longer half-life when compared to T3 and because it is less biologically active, it may be better tolerated as well.
Another benefit to providing T4 to the body is that you allow your body to "control" the amount of thyroid conversion that it needs.
The problem with using T4 only thyroid medications comes when the person taking this medication suffers from conditions such as systemic inflammation, gut dysfunction or liver dysfunction.
All of these conditions may reduce the effectiveness of Synthroid because they may limit your body's natural ability to convert T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3.
So some people may be able to take T4 thyroid hormone but may have difficulty in activating the hormone once it is absorbed into the body.
Another potential issue with Synthroid is that it often contains many inactive fillers and dyes.
thyroid hormone production and physiology
These fillers and dyes are not usually an issue, but for some people, they may alter the absorption of the medication in the gastrointestinal tract and they may also cause negative symptoms.
Symptoms such as rashes, abdominal pain, swelling, and headaches may be a sign that you are reacting to one of the inactive ingredients in the medication and not the hormone itself.
So while Synthroid would be considered a very stable and well-tolerated thyroid hormone medication it may not be "strong" enough for certain people.
Especially those people who have other medications conditions or those who have a lot of extra weight to lose.
Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Is one of these medications superior to the other when it comes to weight loss?
Take for instance this study:
This study compared patients on Desiccated thyroid extract (remember this is the same class of medications that Armour Thyroid falls into) to those taking Levothyroxine in a randomized, double-blind crossover study.
In this study, patients were given one medication for 16 weeks and then switched over to the other medication for another 16 weeks.
They were then questioned at the end and asked which medication they preferred.
In addition, their weight was also tested at the end of the study.
The results found that patients not only lost more weight while taking the desiccated thyroid extract but nearly half of those patients who took it expressed that they preferred the thyroid extract over Levothyroxine.
Levothyroxine vs armour thyroid crossover study
Patients who took the thyroid extract lost around 4 pounds (without changing their diet or exercise routine) and also reported a reduction in their subjective symptoms (such as higher energy levels) in a questionnaire.
This change in weight may not sound significant, but it is important because it highlights the importance of T3 as it relates to metabolic function and weight management.
Often times patients who are on the wrong thyroid medication have a very difficult time losing weight, but once they find their ideal medication they find that they are quickly and easily able to lose weight.
Despite these results (the sample size was only about 70 patients), the researchers concluded that thyroid extract should be considered in some patients.
Other studies, such as this one, highlight the importance of both free T3 and free T4 levels as it relates to the ability of patients to lose weight.
Patients lose more weight with higher serum T3 levels
Those patients who have higher levels of free thyroid hormones lose more weight than those with lower levels.
This information is important because it stands against the conventional therapy of treating based solely on the TSH.
Between the two medications, Armour Thyroid will likely result in more weight loss when compared to Synthroid.
Dosage for Synthroid & Armour Thyroid
So what do you do if you are interested in switching thyroid medications?
The reason we can't just convert from Synthroid to Armour Thyroid has to do with the fact that Armour Thyroid contains both T4 and T3.
T3 is considered a much more potent thyroid medication when compared to T4.
In fact, from the perspective of pituitary function, T3 is about 3-4x more potent than T4 at suppressing the TSH.
Thyroid adrenal reset complex 400 x 350
So when you convert from T4 only thyroid medication like Synthroid to a combination thyroid medication like Armour Thyroid you have to consider this fact.
This makes conversion difficult, but not impossible.
Perhaps the best way to adjust dosing is to follow these guidelines:
Consider that each mcg of T3 is equal to about 3 mcg of T4.
So 1 grain of Armour Thyroid which contains 38mcg of T4 and 9mcg of T3 may be equal to around 65mcg of T4.
Here is the math for those interested:
38 mcg of T4 = 38 mcg of T4
9 mcg of T3 x 3 (the difference in potency between T4 & T3) = 27 mcg of T4 equivalents
38 mcg of T4 + 27 mcg of T4 equivalents = around 65mcg of T4.
So each grain of Armour Thyroid (which is 60mg) is probably equal to around 65mcg of T4.
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