Avatar universal

Raw thyroid: Any drawbacks?

What are the drawbacks to taking reasonable amounts of dessicated thyroid, such as from Natural Sources?

I'm a male, 60. My TSH is 5.5 and I have some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. I have tried taking one or less capsules per day of Natural Sources raw thyroid and it seems to help. But I would like to know if I might be harming myself in the long run.

Is there an increasing tolerance level? Is there a harmful effect on what little natural thyroid production I presently have? Once I start will I have to use it for life? Are there better OTC products?

Can I rely on what "feels" like the right dosage?

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798555 tn?1292787551
Your guessing what your hormone levels are. To get healthy, you need get your thyroid lab levels correct, which means going to the doctor. And I,ve never herd of a doc that will order labs for someone on an OTC product. You might find a holistic doc that will do that. Better to get real medical treatment.
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Avatar universal
My best to the folks in Frostbite Falls!

I have real lab tests, ordered by a real doctor, who says my 5.5 TSH is outside the normal range. And you are right, he will not recommend any OTC product for hypothyroid. In fact, he will not prescribe desiccated thyroid under any circumstances: "It's too third-world".

We did have a talk about the consequences of following such a course, and it appears that the dangers of non-sanctioned thyroid remedies are far more hazardous for HIM than they are for me.

So here I am,  outside the usual channels, to get the answers my doctor is unable to give me. Uninfluenced, I hope, by trade restrictions, and "business realities".

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798555 tn?1292787551
TSH is a pituitary hormone, a messenger. Free T3 and Free T4 is what you need to look at. Most start on synthetic T4 meds - it works for most people. I suspect you are against synthetic hormone replacement for some reason, otherwise you would not be here....? Have you tried it in the past at all?

I take dessicated because I have too (a very small percentage really need it), for me its not a choice. If synthroid worked for me, thats what I'd take.

By the way Armour and Nature Throid brands of US dessicated are not the same after they reformulated them. Read my MCC post.
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798555 tn?1292787551
Oh, yea Frostbite Falls, ha! Its supposudly thought of after International Falls, Minnesota, on the North boarder. Nice place, goggle it, a little chilly sometimes, but after -30F, it all feels the same, its called numbness.
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649848 tn?1534633700
Have you had anything tested except TSH?  Your TSH does indicate hypothyroidism, but you also need your FT3 and FT4 results as well, in order to know exactly how much med you need.  

Self medicating is never a good idea because you have no way of knowing exactly what you are taking or what the exact dosage is, since OTC products are not regulated the same as those that require a script.  

If your doctor won't prescribe dessicated hormone, and that's all you will take, I'd strongly suggest that you find a different doctor.  When/if you do that, make sure you get your FT3 and FT4 tested straight away; and it would also be a good idea to get tested for thyroid antibodies as well, in order to confirm/rule out Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which is the # 1 cause of hypothyroidism in the US.  
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Avatar universal
Yes, I understand and agree.

But there are still some questions that I have that weren't answered by my doctor, and I haven't been able to find on the 'net.

The only (US) OTC desiccated thyroid I have been able to find so far is from Natural Sources. Are there better OTC products?

Is there an increasing tolerance level? Is there a harmful effect on what natural thyroid production I presently have? Once I start will I have to use it for life?

Can I rely on what "feels" like the right dosage? What are the drawbacks?

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Avatar universal
You have to realize that thyroid hormone replacement is not a "drug", per se.  It's a hormone that is replacing what your thyroid would produce if it could.  It's not a case of your tolerance increasing.  However, you may require more and more of the hormone as times goes on.  This is because whatever (perhaps Hashi's...we don't know) is causing your hypo keeps compromising your thyroid function, so your thyroid is able to produce less and less on its own.  In the case of Hashi's, this will continue until thyroid function is zip, and you are on 100% replacement.

BTW, I agree with everyone here...with just TSH, you know little, get FT3 and FT4 tested.

Since we don't know the cause of your hypo, it's hard to comment on the possible harmful effect.  In the case of Hashi's, any potential harmful effect on thyroid function is kind of a moot point as the antibodies are going to destroy your thyroid anyway.  The most information I can give you on this question is that, yes, taking unnecessary or unnecessarily high doses of thyroid hormone over a long enough period of time can damage your own thyroid function, not to mention endanger other vital systems, like your heart.

Once again, most of us have to use it for life, but there are a couple of forms of "temporary" thyroiditis that do spontaneously resolve.  This is why it's important to know the cause.

It's very difficult to manage this disease by "feel" alone.  Many symptoms "cross over" and can be symptoms of both hypo and hyper.  For example, people who have a (genetic?) tendency to gain weight can start putting on pounds both hypo and hyper.  Many of us with years of experience with thyroid meds can pretty much tell our doctors whether we're hypo or hyper, but even some of us occasionally get ourselves into trouble this way.  Lab support helps you to distinguish.  The downside is that hyper is even less pleasant than hypo (in my opinion), and swinging back and forth while you "guess" at which way to go will probably get old very quickly.

I have to agree with everyone else here...get FT3 and FT4 tested, test TPOab and TGab to see if you have Hashi's.  I also agree with Moose...if you don't absolutely have to take dessicated, the synthetics are arguably easier to manage and not subject to the supply problems that dessicated is.  A shortage last year wrought havoc for many of our members.  Many people interpret dessicated as more "natural" than synthetics, but I have to ask what's so natural about ingesting the thyroid of another animal?  However, if that's your preference, then I think you should find a doctor who will work with you and get proper treatment.  What's the saying?  A physician who treats himself has a fool for a doctor.  I'll let you draw the analogy to the patient who treats himself.

I can't comment on OTC brands.  I doubt we have many members on OTC thyroid meds, if any.
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Avatar universal
Good information, goolarra. Thank you, I do have further tests including T4 that my doctor would like me to take.

If I read your response correctly, properly prescribed FT3 and FT4 replacements do not cause feedback or regulatory complications to the system in general.

Do any of the posters here have experience with desiccated thyroid, or should this be addressed to some other group? So far, I hear no downside to the labeled use of one capsule per day.
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Avatar universal
Lots of our members have experience with prescription dessicated, but I'm fairly certain that very few have experience with OTC remedies.  If you search the archives, you will find many threads arguing the superiority of dessicated versus synthetic and vice versa.  It's really a matter of personal choice, but it takes a fair amount of research as both can have their drawbacks.  It really comes down to what works best for you personally.  

I'm unsure if you're still talking about OTC meds or prescription dessicated in your last question???

Yes, properly prescribed doses is the key...and it's a tough one...it's often a trial-and-error procedure of finding what's too much, what's too little, and settling somewhere in the middle.  Prescribing thyroid meds is a bit of an art form and ultimately has to be very symptom based.
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Avatar universal
I'd like to nail this down a little tighter. I understand you to say:

1) Conventionally-prescribed FDA-approved FT3 and FT4 replacements do NOT cause feedback or regulatory complications to the system, in general.

2) Pharmaceutical FT3 and FT4 are not the same as desiccated thyroid. Got it!

3) There is a practical difference between FDA-approved (Armour), and OTC (Natural Sources) desiccated thyroid. I understand that one is porcine, and the other is bovine; that one is of approved quantity/quality, while the other is not. But is there any other practical difference?

4) (Reasonable, as directed) desiccated thyroid use has drawbacks. This is my primary question and it has not been answered. What are they? Are they better or worse in magnitude than, say, eating a bag of potato chips every week, or ??

Thanks for your help! I'm not sure where else I can get this sort of information.

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Avatar universal
1 - Correct - whatever thyroid function you have available (left) at any given time can coexist with meds.  Meds just add the amount that your body can no longer produce, when prescribed in proper doses.  However, if someone with good thyroid function were to take thyroid meds (like to lose weight or for body building) and the natural production were in effect "shut down" due to excess thyroid hormones, then function can be permanently compromised.  But no tolerance is built in the body to the meds...we often find ourselves increasing, but that's due to further thyroid damage, not to tolerance.

2 - Pharmaceutically, here's what we've got:  synthetic T4, synthetic T3, a couple of T3/T4 synthetic combos and prescription dessicated porcine thyroid.  They're all legit, regulated, consistent, etc.  In addition, there are dessicated porcine products that are sold OTC.  These are not controlled substances and vary in quality and content.  Thyroid hormones are tricky, so I would not want to mess with something that might vary from batch to batch...consistency in thyroid meds is all-important.

3 - I think all the differences you've listed are VERY practical differences.  Thyroid meds have to be fine-tuned into very precise doses (which vary person to person).  Any inconsistency in the product is a recipe for disaster.  You just don't know what you're getting from on time to the next.  Those of us on synthetics even have a tendency to stick to the same brand as variations from one to the next, use of different fillers or binders, etc. can all cause imbalances.

4 - Once again, are you talking about prescription or OTC?  If prescription, are you referring to drawbacks from dessicated as opposed to synthetic?  I'll be happy to try to answer your question, but not sure I completely understand what you want to know yet.
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Avatar universal
Good information, thanks!

4) I wouldn't actually do this, but let's say I took ten times as much of the OTC desiccated thyroid as the label recommended, and I did it over an extended period. What consequences could I likely expect?

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Avatar universal
Most probably THYROID STORM (atrial fibbrillation) at a guess.Which could cause massive heart attack or stroke.
Sorry...but I say it as I see it :(

Because of your age...most Docs wont prescribe Natural Thyroid Hormone for you if you have any heart issues, vascular diseases etc.
These would have to be ruled out first by a Cardiologist.
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Avatar universal
I agree with Deb.  IF (the big fat IF) the OTC meds are effective at all (and I don't know that they are) in controlling a thyroid condition, then taking too much of them would be equivalent to taking too much of your prescription thyroid meds.  Twice would probably do you in...ten times, no way.

In addition, dessicated thyroid products have a high T3 content compared to the T3 that our thyroids would produce if they were working properly.  T3, unlike T4, is very fast-acting, so it could get you into trouble almost immediately.  Deb's also right about the heart issues...T3 meds do not mix with heart issues.

There is just no way with thyroid meds to say "take one capsule per day".  It totally ignores the fact that we are all comfortable at different levels and all react to the meds differently.  You might have the exact same numbers (lab results) as someone else, but might respond to half as much medication as that other person.  This is like being diabetic...you take your meds...you monitor your blood levels...you adjust your meds until you feel good.

My best advice to you would be to forget OTC remedies.  If you're convinced that you want to go with a non-synthetic product, then it would behoove you to find a competent doctor to manage prescription dessicated for you after a cardiac workup to rule out any contraindications.  I don't think you want to mess with this, and Deb's also right that it gets even trickier for oldies like you (I'll be sixty on my next birthday)!

Gee, Deb, somehow you just made me feel like a relic!  LOL

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Avatar universal

Ouch! A massive heart attack would be a serious side effect, wouldn't it?

It appears that T3 and T4 levels are so critical, that desiccated thyroid use would be self-limiting; if it's effective at all, you will know when you've had enough.

It also sounds like desiccated thyroid is fairly benign, if used intelligently.

I take your points about using professional medical care. I don't intend to use this information irresponsibly.

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Avatar universal
No, none of it is "fairly benign"...hormones are powerful stuff.  Synthetic or "natural", you have to adjust, adjust, adjust to get it right.  It's all very potent, and dessicated (prescription) even more so than synthetic since the high T3 content makes it that much more volatile.  You really have to know what you're doing.

Thyroid hormones affect every cell in your body, so the repercussions can be quite ubiquitous.

The problem is that T3 is very fast-acting.  The effects are apparent almost immediately.  T4, on the other hand, has to build in your system to a stable level, which takes 4-6 weeks between each meds adjustment.  However, these two (T3 and 4) interact to create your whole thyroid profile, so you can see where it can get complicated.  It can be a bit of a juggling act until you find the right dose with any of the (few) options we have available.  

You've probably never been hyper, but take my word for it, hypo is better any day.

BTW, you have to make the distinction between OTC animal products and prescription dessicated thyroid hormone.  They are two very different things..one an accepted treatment, the other questionable.  So, I really don't know what you're referring to when you say "dessicated thyroid is fairly benign".
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Avatar universal

"BTW, you have to make the distinction between OTC animal products and prescription dessicated thyroid hormone.  They are two very different things..one an accepted treatment, the other questionable."

How can you say this? I consistently made a distinction:

In my first post I referred to "dessicated thyroid, such as from Natural Sources".

In my second post I referred to "any OTC product for hypothyroid" and "non-sanctioned thyroid remedies". We both know that Armour dessicated thyroid, and T3 thyroxine and T4 triiodothyronine do not fit either description.

In my third post I referred to "properly prescribed FT3 and FT4 replacements". We are both aware that OTC desiccated thyroid does not fit this description.

In my fourth post I referred to "Conventionally-prescribed FDA-approved FT3 and FT4 replacements" ditto above, and specifically differentiated "FDA-approved (Armour)" from "OTC (Natural Sources) desiccated thyroid". I asked if you knew of any practical difference. You responded by saying there "are VERY practical differences".

You must have understood at this point that this thread discussed two classes of substances, or there wouldn't have been any differences to comment on.

In my fifth post I concluded that "desiccated thyroid use would be self-limiting; if it's effective at all" further establishing my understanding that the (admittedly unstated) OTC product is not in the same class as regulated pharmaceuticals.

If there was ever any doubt that publicly-available OTC remedies are not in the same class as government-sanctioned physician-prescribed FDA pharmaceuticals, let it be known now. Otherwise, let's get on with the purpose of this thread.

The title of this thread is "Raw thyroid: Any drawbacks?" And my question, repeatedly stated, is "What are the drawbacks to taking reasonable amounts of dessicated thyroid, such as from Natural Sources?"

Other than the extreme example of a massive heart attack, nothing was said to contraindicate responsible use of OTC desiccated thyroid. Opinions were given to show that possible strong effects make the use of this product self-regulating, if effective at all.

Based on this, and on information that I have gathered elsewhere, I conclude that this substance (OTC desiccated thyroid) is fairly benign if used responsibly. I am open to changing this impression, and would welcome any further information you might have on this subject.

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798555 tn?1292787551
Hey Dooright, are you just naturally rude, or just trying real hard to be?  People here offer their help to others for free. Do not boss them around.

"If there was ever any doubt that publicly-available OTC remedies are not in the same class as government-sanctioned physician-prescribed FDA pharmaceuticals, let it be known now. Otherwise, let's get on with the purpose of this thread."


-This is the 'dessicated' line in question- "It appears that T3 and T4 levels are so critical, that desiccated thyroid use would be self-limiting; if it's effective at all, you will know when you've had enough."

"The title of this thread is "Raw thyroid: Any drawbacks?" And my question, repeatedly stated, is "What are the drawbacks to taking reasonable amounts of dessicated thyroid, such as from Natural Sources?" "

-Drawbacks? read between the lines, its not regulated, so how do you know each dose is close to the other in strength? You dont. And that could cause cardiac issues. And how do you measure 'reasonable amounts' ?

"Other than the extreme example of a massive heart attack, nothing was said to contraindicate responsible use of OTC desiccated thyroid"

- responsible use would mean using this with proper lab tests and under the guidance of a doctor. And as I said, good luck finding a doctor that will work with a patient on OTC gladular thyroid.
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231441 tn?1333892766

is there any reason that you don't want to try prescription T4 meds?  While they don't work for everyone, they are a good starting point.

I presume that your doc would prescribe these for you.

THere are no side effects (except being well and reducing risks of other conditions - particularly cardiac) on appropriately and properly dosed thyroid meds.
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Avatar universal
In all honesty, I personally would be weary of OTC thyroid medications and I think the best thing would be to research on the exact ingredients in the OTC medications,
There tends to be a lot of 'fillers' which in actual fact can upset the thyroid.
This is something you have to look at  and decide on your own personal merit as to whether you would benefit or not benefit from.

In regards to 'large doses' of OTC meds, this can in turn 'fire up ' the thyroid too much and as I said cause atrial fibrillation (thyroid storm) where the FT3 and FT4 levels are too high.

Your TSH is not really that high and as there is no FT3, FT4 levels given...it is hard to speculate whether you are Hypothyroid or suffer from Hashimotos (an autoimmune disease).

You really do need a full blood panel done of the thyroid including antibody testing to see whether this is a lifetime condition or whether the it is the thyroid that  is malfunctioning.

The reason I say this is......you could take OTC thyroid meds and find that the TSH of over 5 is not actually the thyroid causing this level but the Pit. Gland is instead.

I had Hyperthyroidism, have Graves Disease, had RAI (radioactive iodine ) then Thyroidectomy(2008) when Thyca was found and got my levels with a T4 med to a perfect level for myself, enabling me to have a normal life again.
Then in January 2010, I felt strange and knew something was wrong..yet my FT3 and FT4 levels were perfect yet my TSH was over 7.
It was found I had a Pit. Tumour which was casuing the TSH to go into 'overdrive'.
It was telling my body that I needed more FT3/FT4 hormones when in actual fact  I didnt.
Needless to say..this tumour was removed surgically.

This is where the thyroid can be a very complex gland and it does regulate every organ in your body.
It can upset your liver enzymes, your heart, your kidneys...just a few to mention.
It has been proven that the prolapse of my mitral and tricuspids valves in the heart was caused by Hyperthyroidism not being 'picked up' and for many years, producing too much thyroid hormones.
This is where thyroid storm comes in.
I had 3 episodes of thyroid storm in 2 weeks, requiring on the 3rd episodes..paddles to be used to get back a regular rythmm of the heart as the thyroid hormones sent them into massive overdrive, damaging muscles and valves.

By all means..research all you can on OTC meds if that is your choice but also be aware of the damage that" too little or too much " thyroid hormones can do to your body.

If it wasnt for my thyroid being ablated (killed off), I know I would not be here today to write this post.

My one request to you is that you have a thyroid panel done and then research all you can on all forms of thyroid treatment.
If your FT3 and FT4 is in the normal range ...usually Ft4 2/3rds of the reference range, and FT3 near top of the reference scale...then it may be the Pit, Gland causing the problems and not the thyroid.

Hopefully you will post back and let us know how you go.
All the best.

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Avatar universal
Thanks for the information, all! It will probably take some time to work this all out, including further tests. If I find anything unusual or helpful, I'll try to bring it back here.

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Avatar universal
Wow!  Didn't think I was unleashing such a flood of emotion!

You and I are not going to be the only ones reading this thread.  Threads are around for a long time, often read by newcomers searching the archives.  I, therefore, think it's very important to be very specific about what we're talking about.

Let me repeat that where hormones are concerned, nothing, OTC or script, is "fairly benign".  I have no idea what the nominal content of T3 and T4 is in the OTC products.  If you'd like to research that, I'd be very interested to see what you come up with.

There are two distinct possibilities.  1 - The OTC products are so "watered down" that you could not possibly get into a whole lot of trouble using them (except, of course, in the event of extreme abuse).  Obviously if this is the case, then they are more likely to relieve you of your cash than your symptoms.  2 - The OTC products contain what could possibly be a therapeutic dose of T3 and T4.  In this case, there is absolutely nothing benign about them.  If they can relieve your symptoms, then they also have the potential to make you hyper, a more dangerous state than hypo.

Yes, pooh-pooh a massive heart attack as extreme if you will, but those of us with heart issues are only too aware of how quickly slight overmedication can exacerbate those problems.  If you have any heart issues that you aren't aware of, you could be finding out about them the hard way.

So, please try to find out the T3 and T4 content of the OTC meds.  If you get that information, we can further qualify which of #1 or #2 above is the case.
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Avatar universal
I wholly support the notion that other people might read this too.

Thank you. :)

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Avatar universal
Natural Sources RAW THYROID

Whole Raw tissue concentrated from bovine sources specially processed (freeze-dried) at or below -5'C to preserve natural occurring vitamins,

enzymes, nucleotides, lipoproteins and all other cellular components. Raw tissue concentrates imported from New Zealand are made from

toxin-free lyophilized glands from animals grazed on rangeland free of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or chemical additives.

Thyroid tissue 50 mg, adrenal tissue 20 mg, pituitary tissue 10 mg, thymus tissue 5 mg, spleen tissue 5 mg, kelp 300 mg.

Free Of
Sugar, starch, preservatives, artificial colors or flavorings, corn, what, yeast, soy, milk derivatives.
Thyroid tissue contains T4, T3, T2, and T1.  

My husband was extremely hypo about 18 months after several hospitalizations for a severe case of Mono (Epstein-Barr). This was in 1956

and he has been on Thyroid meds ever since, first Cytomel (T3) until it could no longer be tolerated, Then on Synthroid (T4) which didn't help

very much and he was having problems with that also. He gradually changed over to Natural Sources RAW THYROID about ten years ago.

One capsule per day kept both symptoms & labs better than either script had until a few years ago, when his MD suggested 2 per day. Our MD

knows he has problems with most pharmaceuticals..

A drawback to OTC medicines, including herbs & vitamins & minerals, is that most doctors will not let you take them before surgery and while

you are in the hospital. That has happened twice for my husband with specialists. Each time his labs showed he needed more Thyroid even after

he went back on the same dose, so now he is one 3 per day. He is diabetic, so has labs every 3 months.

A plus to this OTC (and many other TIME tested natural formulas) are the associated factors which are usually included. In the case of

Hashimoto's this is very important for many who also have weak adrenals or pituitary problems, etc. Because the labs often do not tell the whole

story, especially with thyroid problems, symptoms (which are very individualistic as has been noted in previous posts) must also be used to

regulate meds whether scripts or OTC. Before the Thyroid panel was available, that was usually the only way, and before the pharm industry

developed synthetic meds, dried gland tissue was used for many decades...probably centuries whether fresh or dried.

Many OTC may have been effective for thousands of years. Are they dangerous? Anything has that potential...especially scrip meds! Due

diligence & body awareness are important and the best MDs encourage both.

Read many reviews here:

Peace,   ggma1000
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