What Is Desiccated Thyroid?
Desiccated thyroid extract (DTE) is a bioidentical thyroid medication created from dried animal thyroid glands and is primarily used to help patients with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or enlarged thyroid gland (goiter).
Created in the late 1800s, DTE was one of the first natural thyroid treatments for hypothyroidism. For the first half of the twentieth century, it remained the only medication available to help patients manage their hypothyroidism symptoms until the 1970s.
In the early stages of natural thyroid production, most, if not all, companies used the bovine (cow) thyroid gland to manufacture their natural thyroid medications. Then in the 1900s, the Armour meat company entered the thyroid medication industry and began using dried porcine (pig) thyroid from their grower farms to create their unique brand of desiccated thyroid extract, Armor Thyroid. Most manufacturers began to use the formula soon after, and since then, all DTE thyroid products sold commercially have continued to use the porcine thyroid as the main ingredient in their production. Due to that transition, you can now find several other desiccated thyroid brands aside from Armor Thyroid, such as Nature-Throid, WP Thyroid, and NP Thyroid.
Why is Desiccated Thyroid A Better Choice Than Other Thyroid Medications?
Many researchers believe raw desiccated thyroid created from pigs is the best choice for natural thyroid medication. In terms of compatibility, pigs are one of the few animals to produce all four thyroid hormones found in humans: T1, T2, T3 (triiodothyronine), and T4 (thyroxine). Due to its similarities with the human thyroid, DTE made with porcine thyroid was considered the most effective bioidentical thyroid medicine for treating hypothyroidism.
In the 1950s, manufacturers began marketing a synthetic version of the T4 thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. Initially, physicians remained hesitant to prescribe levothyroxine to patients using natural thyroid hormone due to its lack of T3. However, after many tests concluded that the T4 hormone alone could facilitate the necessary processes to manage thyroid function, more physicians began prescribing the synthetic treatment. Despite the evidence, many patients prefer DTE over levothyroxine, reporting that they achieve better results. Since then, researchers have rigorously debated whether Levothyroxine or NDT is more effective in treating hypothyroidism.
In What Cases Should I Take Natural Thyroid Medications?
Thyroid medications work by increasing the thyroid glands’ T4 and T3 levels, the two primary thyroid hormones needed for thyroid function. However, studies show that T4 naturally converts into T3, the primary thyroid hormone that controls the body’s metabolism. Due to this discovery, some researchers believed levothyroxine could be a much simpler and more effective version of DTE.
Unfortunately, some patients who use levothyroxine medications found that their bodies had difficulty converting T4 into T3, making it more difficult to treat their symptoms of hypothyroidism. Because desiccated thyroid extract is a more natural medication that contains both T3 and T4, some patients prefer NDT over levothyroxine to help them effectively convert T4 into T3 and raise and maintain their thyroid levels.
What Are The Benefits of Thyroid Treatment With NDT?
A malfunctioning thyroid can greatly slow down your body’s metabolic processes. However, thyroid treatment such as NDT can help patients naturally produce the necessary T3 hormone to maintain normal thyroid function, thus, increasing metabolism. In addition, NDT can also ensure that the body is receiving the proper quantities of thyroid hormones, making it the perfect thyroid medication to help patients avoid absorption or conversion complications.
Patients have also reported experiencing several benefits from taking natural desiccated thyroid tablets, which include:
- Improved memory and concentration
- Increased energy levels
- Improved sleep
- Improved mood
- Slight weight loss
Risks and Considerations
Because thyroid hormone naturally occurs in the body, any healthy adult can take desiccated thyroid. However, there are some exceptions. For example, patients with adrenal gland problems and thyroid issues such as thyrotoxicosis should avoid using the porcine thyroid medication as part of treatment. Other health complications that can make desiccated thyroid use unsafe include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Angina (chest pain)
In addition, like most prescriptions, desiccated thyroid products may cause several potential side effects during treatment. They include:
- Hair loss
- Irregular or fast heartbeats
You will need to discuss your medical history and all the possible side effects of long-term DTE use with your physician to determine if desiccated thyroid medication will suit you as a thyroid treatment.
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How Should I Use This Medicine?
Patients who use natural thyroid hormones should follow their doctor’s recommended dosage to avoid experiencing complications. Depending on your medical history and your body’s response during treatment, your physician may adjust your dose periodically to ensure that your progress is unhindered and produces optimal results. For that reason, you must avoid taking large or insufficient quantities outside your doctor’s recommended parameters to ensure your treatment continues to proceed as planned. Even if you feel well, continue using the medication as directed by your physician. However, make sure you inform them of any chest pain, pounding heartbeats, feeling of nervousness, or extreme sweating, as these symptoms are signs of thyroid toxicity.
What Drugs May Interact With This Medicine?
Some medications can interfere with how your body absorbs desiccated thyroid hormone. If you’re taking prescription drugs, you should avoid taking these medications for at least 4 hours before or after taking bioidentical thyroid medicine. They include:
- Cholesterol drugs
- Iron supplements
- Calcium supplements
Taking these medications too close to your desiccated thyroid dosage can slow down your body’s absorption of the medicine and make it more difficult to treat your thyroid complications.
Does Desiccated Thyroid Cause Weight Gain or Weight Loss?
Hypothyroid patients typically have decreased metabolism, causing them to experience gradual weight gain. However, once a patient undergoes desiccated thyroid treatment, they can increase their metabolism and improve their energy levels, eventually causing weight loss. For example, in a 2013 clinical study, patients who used desiccated thyroid hormone reported an average weight loss of three pounds after 16 weeks of treatment.
Tips for When You Start Taking NDT
Before you begin taking natural desiccated thyroid as treatment, there are a few tips and guidelines you’ll need to follow:
- Make sure to take your desiccated thyroid medication in the morning at least 30 to 60 minutes before eating breakfast
- Avoid drinking coffee or milk an hour before taking NDT, as both drinks can adversely affect medicine’s absorption
- Antacids, multivitamins, and juices fortified with magnesium, calcium, or iron can also affect your NDT absorption. Make sure to take your desiccated thyroid prescription at least 4 hours before or after taking those medications, supplements, and drinks.
- Because NDT can peak rapidly in the bloodstream, patients may want to split or divide a single dosage to achieve the best results. Taking one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon or evening can help patients process the NDT more efficiently.
How Long Does It Take for Thyroid Medication To Work?
That depends on your body’s response to treatment. Most patients begin feeling better after a few days of thyroid medication. After that, it may require several weeks or months of consistent treatment for thyroid hormone levels to return to normal. However, if your thyroid hormone levels return to normal and you’re still experiencing weight gain and fatigue after taking thyroid medication, your physician may need to adjust your treatment.
At Renew Vitality, we specialize in hormone replacement therapy to help you optimize your overall health and restore your physical function. Our physicians can provide effective natural desiccated thyroid medication to help treat patients with hypothyroidism. Contact us at 1-800-785-3945 and schedule a consultation at any of our hormone replacement clinics in the United States.