Thyroid Cancer / Nodules & Hyperthyroidism Expert Forum
Opinion on Armour vs. Synthroid
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Questions in the Thyroid forum are answered by Mark Lupo, MD. Topics covered include Goiter, Graves Disease, Hyperthyroid, Parathyroid/Calcium Problems, Thyroid Cancer, Thyroid Nodules/Cysts, Thyroiditis, Thyroid & Pregnancy, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Thyroid Tests, and Thyroid Surgery.

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Opinion on Armour vs. Synthroid

I have been having okay results with Synthroid, but have done a lot of reading this week (Mary Shomon and Dr. Mark Starr), whose books advocate natural dessicated thyroid as more beneficial than synthetic thyroid. Before I ask my doctor to switch me, I'd like some opinions/experiences.
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97953_tn?1193367871
There is no medical research to support the claim that armour is better than synthetic levothyroxine.  Often patients who advocate for armour are on doses that over-suppress the TSH to the point that they are at risk of heart rhythm problems and bone loss (ie TSH <0.2).  This may 'feel' better initially, but I use the analogy of amphetamines -- some people feel better, but most of us know that this is not good for anyone in the long-run.  I believe the same is true for over-treatment with any type of thyroid hormone.

That being said, I do have patients on appropriate doses of armour or other T4/T3 combination strategies (I prefer synthroid type meds and adding cytomel which is synthetic T3 -- this gives more ability to adjust the T4 and T3 independently).  These patients often report feeling better and as long as the levels can be consistently controlled (esp important with thyroid cancer and pregnant patients) and they have no palpitations or other T3-excess symptoms, then we leave them on the combination.

Fine-tuning dessicated thyroid is often more difficult than using the synthetic products as the number of various dose-strengths is limited.
13 Comments
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222507_tn?1255635649
First off - in the pool of hypothyroids the majority gets Synthrod (or alike meds) because the majority of doctors only prescribe synthetics. It is hard to find a doctor in your area who prescribles Armour (they are out there - search armourthyroid.com for the nearest you) because most drs beleive that nothing is better than synthetics. How do they know? Are they hypothyroid? Did they take both meds? How can they compare? From text book? Does not sound good enough reason to me! Their preference to synthetics is due to their education and industry pressure. Having said that, it is also a personal choice - and if one wants to take Armour they should be allowed to. I know drs who falt out told patients that they DO NOT PRESCRIBE Armour due to potency issues. Synthroid had way many more potency recalls - do the research on that! Often we have to travel a great deal to get to a doctor who believes in Armour. Most Armour prescribers do not bother with synthetics at all because they saw the result what Armour can do and listened to their patients. As you can see - gathering opinion on this issue will be lopsided on the Syntrhroid side as MOST patients take synthroid and such meds. Armour thyroid saved my life. I took synthetic and had OK results - blood work normalized but not my overall well being. I was still tired, lethargic with hair falling out. I learned of Armour and tried it - my hair started to grow back, I gained tremendous energy, my antibodies dropped (I have Hashimotos) and I do not feel lethargic or depressed anymore. I lost 20 Lb (had my work cut out for me too but sticked to the plan and I had to work for it!). I am healthier, more energetic and feel like I have no disease. Now, I can also tell you that the majority of the people that I know who were on synthetics and switched to Armour are doing WAY MUCH better now. Of course there are always some exceptions who notice no difference... Or that they are allergic to Armour (or something in the pill). But the vast majority of people report improvement with symptoms. I wish you good luck in finding the best medicine that works the best for you. Although we can tell you our opinions, you are the ultimate decision maker in which medicine you decide on! Good luck!
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Avatar_n_tn
Are you doing regular 6-8 week lab testing with the Armour or just going by symptoms?  

And here's a question...perhaps you can help me out here.  As you know, the percentage of T3 in Armour is something like 20%.  That's very high for humans (although normal for pigs).  So the high T3 replacement might account for your feeling so much better immediately.  But what happens over the long term if the overly high T3 percentage isn't corrected?  I'm a little unclear about this aspect of things.

Hope I'm not coming off anti-Armour here.  In fact,  I'm considering Armour for myself, and am trying to gather as much info as possible before taking the plunge.  
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222507_tn?1255635649
Hi! I am not sure what you mean.... You mean is the extra T3 dose should make us feel not so well? What are the symptoms? I did not get better right away but more so over time as my body got used to it. What are the symptoms of too much T3? I dont think I have it - I feel great... But I would like to know what they are...
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222507_tn?1255635649
also I check my lab once every 4 months.
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Avatar_n_tn
Nice...every 4 months means you're fairly stable at this point, I'd think.  And you're checking other values in addition to TSH or just the TSH?

I don't have an answer in mind to my question, honest!  The percentage issue intrigues me, that's all.  And just starting a regime of additional Cytomel, myself, I can only imagine that too much T3 could make one jittery or speedy.  What other physiologic effects over time, I don't know.  Maybe the good doc could chime in here...
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219522_tn?1251764229
I just finished reading Dr. Mark Starr's book on "Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic". Very informative and totally validated everything (symptoms) I have had since being a teen!! (Now 48). He really seems to think natural dessicated thyroid is the way to go. It's hard to know who to believe because I'm sure he has his agenda, and at the same time, the drug companies are pervasive and "innocently" fund foundations and research, thereby creating an allegiance among healthcare professionals. I guess our only option is to try different things and see what works for us individually.

If you gain any further insight, please let me know as I am considering the switch to Armour as well.
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Avatar_n_tn
I think it depends on the person. I started off taking synthroid for almost two years and I lost tons of hair and my nails were brittle and had tons of ridges. I also had very little to no energy. I am now on Armour and my doctor checks my levels every 6 to 9 weeks. I now have a head of thick curly hair that I have never had before and my nails are hard as rocks and I have tons more energy. I don't have any palpitations or anything like that. I haven't gained or lost any weight here lately. I think it is different for each person. I am also pretty convinced that doctors are owned by pharmaceutical companies and synthroid is a big player. It costs twice as much as armour.
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Avatar_n_tn
Too often we assume what works for some should work for all.  As individuals we are all unique, with unique medical histories.  Armour works for some, not for others.  Same goes for Synthroid.  I was diagnosed with Hashi
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Avatar_n_tn
You've indicated elsewhere that a TSH of 1.0 is ideal, and here that the TSH shouldn't drop any lower than .2.   This strikes me as quite reasonable and I wonder why so many of your colleagues find it difficult to accomplish this level of  precise regulation, preferring to let TSH levels soar rather than risk over-medication.   Do you rely on 25 mcg adjustments of T4, or do you use other approaches as well to achieve fine tuning?   Thanks for your response!
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222507_tn?1255635649
please ask your question again - as a new question. the doctor here only answers a question once....
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222507_tn?1255635649
We are fully aware that Armour is made of pork thyroid hromone and not thin air. We are also aware of that Armour is made by Forest a drug company. Check out how many times Syntrhoid was recalled for potency issues... many times - and Armour - maybe once? Bottom line - what works for me is the best medicine for me. What works for you or anyone else the best is the best medicine for you or the rest. We all respond to medicines differently. If there was no Armour on the market we would all take the synthetic drug and with T3 combo I am sure many of us would feel pretty good. I just happen to take synthetics for over a year and it was not doing it for me - Armour on the other hand would make me feel much better. Why do doctors prescribe synthetics more? See the doctor comment above - there is truth to it what he says. TSH should not be dangerously low. I would like my TSH to be around 1 but it is lower now - I consider adjusting my Armour. I think people should have the liberty to pick, choose and try what ever they want and doctors should not force things on them or deny them a prescription (which does happen.). Synthetic thyroid medicine is great for many people and if there was no Armour it would be great for me too one way or another. I am grateful for having Armour on the market which gives us the ability to try other things. Doctors are trained to believe that synthetics are better than anything else and yes the pharma companies do have influence over them. Armour has been around for a LONG time and marketed very differently than blockbuster drugs. Doctors often fail to give their patients the chance to try different things, or even listen to them many times. It is obvious whose fault that is...
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks--will do.
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A related discussion, Armour vs synthroid was started.
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