5 Reasons Your Desiccated Thyroid Is Not Working

By |2018-04-17T14:54:10-07:00December 16th, 2015|Hypothyroidism|30 Comments
  • How to make your desiccated thyroid work for you...

Ever wonder if your desiccated thyroid medication is actually working?

Maybe you’ve felt no difference at all after using it.

Maybe you’ve felt worse (there’s a reason for this which we’ll discuss here in a bit).

The truth is, there are many reasons why your desiccated thyroid may or may not be helping.

And we’ll be covering some of the more common reasons right here.

Now, for those who aren’t sure what desiccated thyroid is…

…we’re referring to a form of natural thyroid medication derived from the thyroid glands of pigs or cows which contains both forms of thyroid hormone, the active T3 and the inactive T4.

And this T3 and T4 is typically in a proper balance that better matches what your thyroid gland would naturally produce on its own.

In other words, it’s designed to help mimic what your thyroid gland should be producing, whether it’s able to or not.

It’s often described as the better alternative to the rather unnatural T4 only medications such as Synthroid or the generic levothyroxine.

But as I always say… it doesn’t matter how much thyroid hormone you use, if you can’t get that thyroid hormone to your cells, you’ll always be hypothyroid.

And that’s true for desiccated thyroid as well.

Simply taking desiccated thyroid doesn’t ensure that it’s actually working for you.

And for many people it’s not.

So, let’s explore some of the more common reasons that could be preventing you from getting the help you need from your desiccated thyroid.

1. Elevated Reverse T3 (rT3)

This one is extremely common.

I talk a lot about how when you become hypothyroid, your body is forced to compensate by over-activating your stress response.

This results in the over-production of stress hormones.

And one way in which these stress hormones block your Thyroid Hormone Pathway, is by their effects on your liver.

(Note: I discuss in detail how you can overcome your hypothyroidism by unblocking your Thyroid Hormone Pathway here in this article.)

Stress increases the formation of reverse T3 (rT3) from your inactive T4, while decreasing the formation of active T3.

So, while you may be taking desiccated thyroid thinking that it should be solving your problems, you may not be converting the T4 it contains into useable thyroid hormone.

In other words, even though you’re taking the full dosage of desiccated thyroid, this increased formation of reverse T3 can mean that you’re only able to make use of one fourth of it.

And therefore it would only have one fourth of the therapeutic effect.

The rest would be going to waste.

And research shows that carbohydrate restriction is one of the primary mechanisms for causing this drop in T3 and rise in reverse T3.

Hormonal and metabolic changes induced by an isocaloric isoproteinic ketogenic diet in healthy subjects.


“A significant fall in triiodothyronine and rise in reverse triiodothyronine were observed, while thyroxine levels remained unchanged.”

While many believe this problem to be caused by adrenal insufficiency, it’s actually due to the poor blood sugar handling resulting from your thyroid condition… along with a lack of dietary carbohydrates that’s driving your adrenal problems.

In the 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol, I show you one of the most important foods we use to help balance your blood sugar and prevent this rise in reverse T3.

3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol

You can download this daily protocol here.

2. Digestive Dysfunction

Most brands of desiccated thyroid come in tablet form with a number of additional fillers and inactive ingredients.

One that many people struggle with is the fiber or cellulose component used as a bulk material for the tablet itself.

This can be a problem for people with weak digestion or digestive dysfunction.

Unfortunately, they can’t break down the fiber completely, which means that the thyroid hormone contained in the tablet doesn’t get released or absorbed.

Simply put, if your digestive tract can’t break down the tablet, then you won’t get the benefit of the medication.

Some of our clients have run into this problem particularly with Armour Thyroid, most likely because it’s the most commonly used form of desiccated thyroid and contains this fiber.

In general, the Canadian version of desiccated thyroid, ERFA is oftentimes found to work better. One reason being is that it does not contain this fiber component.

If you’ve switched from a different thyroid medication to desiccated thyroid or switched brands of desiccated thyroid and have felt worse (using the same dosage), this can be a common reason why.

Because of this, many people find benefit from chewing their desiccated thyroid and taking it with food to help break down the fiber component while slowing the rate of absorption.

3. You’re Not Multi-Dosing Your Desiccated Thyroid

Like any source of thyroid hormone that contains T3, desiccated thyroid is best used by multi-dosing.

In other words, it’s best to split the necessary daily dosage up over multiple times a day.

This is because of the shorter half-life of T3.

The shorter the half-life, the shorter the beneficial effects will be.

Taking T3 once per day is kind of like trying to keep your house warm all day by only turning on the heat for a couple of hours in the morning.

It might stay warm for a short period, but it only lasts so long while the rest of your day is spent in the freezing cold.

Dividing your dosage up and using it three to four times per day can help keep your T3 levels more stable, which is essential to thyroid health.

Otherwise, your T3 levels will still remain low through much of the day while minimizing the therapeutic effects.

4. Not All Desiccated Thyroid Is Created Equal

You might think that all desiccated thyroid is essentially the same.

Or, that you should be able to change brands, sources, etc. and still experience the same therapeutic effect.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

Long ago there was a study that looked at various brands of desiccated thyroid that were being sold in pharmacies.

Out of the ten products analyzed, only two contained the amount of thyroid hormone they claimed to have, while many contained little to no thyroid hormone at all.

One of the problem faced is that desiccated thyroid is not a pure chemical substance.

This makes it much more difficult to achieve the same amount of T3 and T4 from batch to batch.

While today, there is more of an effort to standardize desiccated thyroid and improve the consistency, it’s still difficult to achieve.

Some manufacturers of desiccated thyroid today use only a single source and single process to help minimize the differences from batch to batch.

While for many other manufacturers, there can still be quite a lot of variation and oftentimes their products still provide little to no usable thyroid hormone at all.

This is a common problem among compounding pharmacies, which is one reason that compounded thyroid is not ideal.

5. It Is Working (You Just Don’t Know It)

Let’s take a look at this from a bit of a different angle.

Oftentimes I get questions from people asking why their desiccated thyroid doesn’t seem to be working.

In fact, they oftentimes claim that once they started using it, they actually felt worse with less energy.

While any of the factors above could still be part of the problem, it’s important to understand that sometimes people do feel worse when starting desiccated thyroid… and for good reason.

Oftentimes in these cases, we see body temperature drop after introducing the desiccated thyroid, which is the opposite of what one would expect.

Toward the beginning of this article, I mentioned that you compensate for your hypothyroidism by over-activating your stress response and over-producing stress hormones.

These stress hormones tend to have excitatory or stimulatory effects on the body, which for some results in them feeling better.

It’s like being in severe chronic pain and using morphine as a pain reliever.

As long as you have morphine in your system, you tend to feel a heck of a lot better.

But remove the morphine and you’re back in severe pain very quickly.

These stress hormones tend to have the same effect of masking how bad you truly feel through their excitatory effects.

Using desiccated thyroid tends to help lower these stress hormones, which much like removing the morphine, can make you feel worse again.

So, how do we address this?

As mentioned, we oftentimes see a drop in body temperature in these cases.

When we do, this can be a sign that we need to use more thyroid hormone to help stimulate energy production further to bring body temperature back up and fully compensate for the drop in stress hormones.

So there you have it.

As you can see, just taking desiccated thyroid doesn’t ensure you that it’s actually working for you.

There are many reasons that can prevent you from getting the full therapeutic benefits.

In fact, many people are using a reputable source and using it properly, yet they still aren’t seeing the results they want or expect.

And that’s where diet becomes even more important.

The wrong diet is enough to increase stress (and reverse T3) while preventing your body from being able to make use of your medication.

And the right diet can suppress your reverse T3 and make all the difference in helping you to make full use of your desiccated thyroid while getting the complete benefits you want and expect out of it.

(Want a diet that will maximize the therapeutic effects of your thyroid medication? Our Ultimate Thyroid-Boosting Meal Plan is a great way to get started. And you can get it now for 85% off.)

Ultimate Thyroid Boosting Meal Plan Flash Sale

About the Author:

Tom Brimeyer is the founder of Forefront Health and the creator of the popular Hypothyroidism Revolution program series. Specializing in thyroid and metabolism disorders, Tom's work has impacted over 50,000 people spanning more than 60 countries. Tom is also a highly sought after practitioner who runs a successful health consulting practice where he continues to help clients across the globe to take back control of their lives from their devastating health conditions.


  1. Debra December 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I don’t understand why am I so hot all the time. My temp. Is 97.2.
    I am so hot. My whole body is like it it on fite. Even to the touch. Thank you very much. DEBRA MAFFEI

    • Tom Brimeyer December 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      Hi Debra, It sounds what you’re experiencing are actually vasomotor symptoms like hot flushing. This can make you feel very warm when your internal temperature is quite low. This is typically most common in peri-menopause/menopause due to the influences of estrogen and progesterone, blood sugar, stress hormones, etc. However, it can occur in women who are still cycling as well.

  2. roselea laufenberg December 17, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I have been taking Armour thyroid meds for several months now and, at first, I felt much better, but now, the fatigue has come back with a vengeance and worse than before. I read an article by a doctor who says your thyroid needs two basic ingredients to operate correctly: iodine 30,000 mcg and L-Tyrosine. So I started taking this also. But should I be doing both or just one or the other? Lately, I have been feeling so tired I can hardly function, but one of my major symptoms is gone-my hair falling out in gobs.I am really worried about the fatigue and now also have a new symptom-nausea. What should I do? Do I need to up my dose of Armour? I am now taking the lowest dose. I NEED HELP!!

    • Tom Brimeyer December 18, 2015 at 8:12 am - Reply

      Careful with that iodine. That’s enough to shut down your thyroid gland. This is why we monitor temperature and pulse to assess thyroid function and determine why you responded the way you did. That would tell you if you need more or not.

    • Tracy December 20, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Rosalea, I am commented and recommending through my own experiences and research for many years…. i would start low and slow with that iodine, it is much needed by the thyroid, breasts and ovaries but as Tom said, be careful and check your temp and pulse as you go. 30,000 mcg is 30 miligrams…that’s quite a bit..even the lugol tabs are only 12.5 milligrams each which is more than enough every OTHER day to start. If you jump into high levels of iodine, you could actually get worse before you get better. The Tyrosine should help. Naseau could be from taking either of those supplements on an empty stomach. Also, Low iron from heavy menstration could be a cause for the fatigue. Hypo’s tend to have wacked out menses, that’s why i mention it…Take some spirulina daily either in tablet/capsule or powder form (also start low , as with anything new to your body). Spirulina will be good for energy/iron and your thyroid, amongst other wonderful benefits. Best of Luck, Keep going and trying different things. Listen to your body, go low and slow with all things.. You will be great !

  3. apelila December 17, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I get “hot” flushes between 3-5am only, it’s not estrogen related because I have an estrogen patch on my hip. And I only get them in this 2 hour window which makes me think they are adrenal related. It’s a shame men always try & shrug off a lot of problems that women have because of estrogen. I’m pretty sure ANY hormone imbalance or even an electrolyte imbalance can cause “hot” flushes.

    • Tom Brimeyer December 18, 2015 at 8:23 am - Reply

      It is related to estrogen/progesterone and oftentimes triggered by low blood sugar and elevated stress hormone. You have to be very careful with estrogen as it’s prescribed for hot flushing and tends to improve the symptoms but in a dangerous way. Estrogen directly blocks the thyroid gland, inhibits metabolism, activates the stress response, etc.

  4. Tricia December 18, 2015 at 6:55 am - Reply

    I am taking the Thyroid Glandular from your resource but mine is in capsule form so how am I to take a portion throughout the day? Can I take more than 1 per day?

    • Tom Brimeyer December 18, 2015 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Hi Tricia, yes, you can use more than one per day, which is oftentimes needed. They did recently change to a capsule form from tablet. There are pluses and minuses to both but you can still divide the dosage by opening the capsule.

  5. ROBERT MARIN December 18, 2015 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    As A member I have many clients taking thyroxine who want to improve their metabolism and I recognise the need to avoid iodine particularly if they have hashimotos.
    Nevertheless I have used a product which includes some sea vegetables which contain iodine in them.
    What is the safe quantity iodine to take if on thyroxine.
    Usuallytaken over a 6 week period.
    The level of iodine in this product is about 3 ug/ml
    I tell to take 1 to 2 mls per day

  6. Ginny December 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I’m a member of your Hypothyroid Revolution. Is this Thyroid boosting meal plan different than the one I currently have from years ago???

  7. Helen Latham December 22, 2015 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I enjoy learning all that I can about what is good to eat or take, to improve the Thyroid and energy and etc. So I really appreciate you! However, I am finally having more energy and my hair is looking so much better!! So I feel that the Levothyroxine is now working for me, after about two years of being diagnosed for being Hypothyroid. Also I was Anemic, but that is much improved now, also!

  8. Kristine December 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply


    When I take Erfa/Armour or even synthetic T3 I get chestpains, fatigue, weakness and I am unable to handle life/stress/function. It’s hell.

    My heart has been checked and it’s fine.

    Noone can help me, and taking levothyroxine is bad too. No memory, flat mood, freezing and all other symptoms.

    My gland is completely destroyed from all the antibodies.

    Do you have any thoughts? It’s impossible to function like this.

    Merry Christmas anyway!

  9. John Bolsterle December 23, 2015 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Hi Tom, I’m wondering about radishes ( daikon and red ). They are a root crops so I thought they would be OK.
    Lately I’ve read radishes are not OK if you are hypothyroid. They’re one of my favorite foods so I hope
    They are on the safe list. Thanks for everything John B

  10. Debbie Stevens December 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    I recently have had problems similar to Kristine’s: upper left side chest discomfort, fatigue, weakness, difficulty tolerating stress at work. But not feeling cold; feeling less hot though. My new doctor, who is progressive in thyroid treatment, had my Armour thyroid up to 180 mg (I was kept at 60 mg for many years by another doctor). Had the chest pain in his office and EKG was normal. CRP was normal. Lab indicated my thyroid was too high so was decreased to 120 mg yesterday. Had subtotal thyroidectomy many years ago for hyperthyroidism at age 24 and I’m 60 now with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Reading all I can on line on how to get better, but it’s hard as I’m still tired alot and sleep a lot. I also have narcolepsy and celiac disease, discovered this year. I work full time as a nurse and have a large family (married with 5 grown daughters and 5 grandkids). I desperately want to retire and be healthy in my remaining years. I have not been well since about age 16 or younger. Trying to finish up paying off house and some bills. Sorry to ramble, but I’m getting impatient to be well and I don’t have time to read so many things and keep trying different doctors and treatments and sometimes the information is conflicting. Sometimes I feel better, but most times it’s a struggle. Not sure if i should pursue disability so I will have more time to read, rest, and do all my treatments appropriately. I skip meals, supplements, etc as there is just not enough time or energy to fit it all in.

  11. Sandy December 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    I am taking levothyrozine 100 alternating with 200. I do not have a thyroid gland. Endocrinologist suspects I was born with a damaged one and it wasted away. I can remember taking pills since I was to tiny. Tried compounded whole CA but was talked out of it by my doctor who said amount varies. Will diet affect me? Sandy

    • Tom Brimeyer December 28, 2015 at 10:09 am - Reply

      The short answer is yes, everything we teach still applies 100%. The only difference is that you will need to supplement thyroid hormone to the degree that you cannot produce it. However, it’s important to understand that just because you take thyroid hormone doesn’t mean that the hormone is getting to your cells. Thyroid hormone can get blocked many places along this pathway. For example, most hypothyroid people can’t convert inactive T4 thyroid hormone to active T3 thyroid hormone that your cells need. Thyroid hormone can also get blocked in the bloodstream, at the cell receptor, etc. You can supplement all of the thyroid hormone you want but if you can’t get the hormone to your cells then you will still be hypothyroid. We focus on all facets of the thyroid. You can learn a little more about this here:


  12. Cindy hoye December 30, 2015 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    I just want to say thank you Tom for doing all you can to educate us !!! I read everything I can from you and get your supplies . It’s been two long years to naturally get this under control., mostly getting off all the foods I’m intolerant to and getting the liver cleansed but all you’ve discussed has WORKED for me So thankful for you and your family. Happy new year. Cindy

  13. Barb February 11, 2016 at 2:05 am - Reply

    If you read up on Zinc it does help the Thyroid (TSH) boost it some! As does Colostrum.

  14. Diane March 14, 2016 at 12:27 am - Reply

    in regard to hot flushes, i have had hashis for 10 years, been on both thyroxine and ndt, one of the symptoms i suffer is hot flushes. i have recently been consulting with a very experienced accupuncturist who has helped tremendously, he explained that this heat is a symptom of poor liver energy… seeings how the liver is the crucial organ responsible for converting t4 to t3 this makes sense, without going into the whole chinese medicine explaination of how and why this works, lets me tell you IT WORKS, please consider accupuncture it has helped me with so many symptoms, fatigue, hot flushes, brain fog, i leave a session feeling well and strong, this approach to treatment is very grounded, the initiial commintment of a treatment every 2 weeks or weekly if you like will show fast results, i usually go every 3 – 4 weeks now…

    • Tom Brimeyer March 14, 2016 at 6:24 am - Reply

      Hi Diane, hot flushes are fairy easily addressed by correcting progesterone levels.

  15. Maddy March 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Hi, My wife is 3 months pregnant and found that her TSH is 6 during 1st month. Since then she is taking levothyroxine 50mcg and now the TSH level is around 2. Please advise if this is fine and any precautions she needs to take . She is still continuing to take 50mcg levothyroxine .. Pls advise if it is safe for baby. Thanks a lot for your help.

    • Tom Brimeyer March 21, 2016 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Hi Maddy, based on research, treating hypothyroidism during pregnancy is important for the health of the baby. However, in many cases T4 only medications like levothyroxine are not sufficient. So I would recommend following a more accurate testing protocol such as what we teach here: https://www.forefronthealth.com/lp/ultimate-thyroid-testing-protocol/

  16. deb April 26, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    I currently take Armour. I was told to take thyroid meds on an empty stomach so I wake at 4 am to do so. So now I am wondering if I should be dividing my dose up and taking it multiple times a day? Is an empty stomach needed? Will taking it multiple times a day help with weight loss? Thanks

    • Tom Brimeyer April 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Deb, there can be issues with Armour as many can’t properly digest and absorb it. Anytime you use thyroid hormone (T3) is should be multi-dosed throughout the day because the half-life of T3 is relatively short. Some will argue that it’s best to take it on an empty stomach but in many cases it can be better to take with food.

  17. Kate July 15, 2016 at 2:04 am - Reply

    Very grateful for this article that was reposted today. I really needed to understand how thyroid supplement can work. I was feeling down but I feel more encouraged now. Thanks Tom 🙂

  18. Betty Morelli August 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Can you give a list of symptoms of Reverse T3 build up?

  19. Barbara L. November 2, 2016 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Hi Tom,

    I appreciate your informative articles! Especially this particular one which I Really Need Help With!
    In the last 3 years I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and have struggled with being Hypothyroid since I was teenager. However, not understanding the seriousness of it then, I refused all treatment until I was in my late 30’s. By then I was taking Armour thyroid at a dosage of 60-90, and never needed to adjust it past that point.

    Then, suddenly, I began fluctuating in needing higher or lower doses 120- 190 that my Dr. just couldn’t keep up with my ever changing levels, and I ended up being taken to the hospital for a possible overdose of my thyroid (which I don’t blame the Dr. for since they were insisted they could not keep up with my body’s monthly changes in thyroid function!) Really?! It goes without saying neither could I! 🙁

    At that point it was suggested strongly that I seek a Specialist which I did. But, even in his years of practice he has been continually baffled by my intolerance of higher doses of meds and has tried me on everything they make to no avail. My body will take it for a while such as Synthroid, and then I will develop unbearable side effects such as racing or palpations of heart at night, my body being hot all over then increased sweating for no apparent reason, hot flushes, weakness and terrible fatigue and of course insomnia along with it. But, the most distressing to me of all this has been my blood pressure and sugar once being normal has gone way off of normal to borderline high. Until recently that was my biggest problem, which I still am trying to control thru healthy diet and exercise such as walking or elliptical.

    I am now 48, back on Armour which my body accepts better than Synthroid or any other T4 only Med as confirmed by your articles and book which I am grateful for! But, since 2012, I have been struggling with keeping my sugar and cholesterol levels within normal range which I never had to do before, and have struggled also with a severe PMS disorder in the meantime but, weight has not been as much of issue.

    But, my question is after my most recent blood test revealed a rise in CREATINE levels which as you know predicts a possible kidney problem developing?! What should i do now to prevent this current problem so that I don’t have to worry about any kidney issues???? I should mention I have a tendency to get frequent Uti’s, so I try to keep away from chocolate, and excess salt or citrus and take a cranberry pill or no sugared cranberry juice whenever I feel symptoms coming on. I am dealing with that even as I’m writing this too. Please Help me with any advice you have as I’m almost at my wits end— trying stay on top of this!

    • Tom Brimeyer November 14, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Barbara, recurring UTI’s are caused by estrogen dominance, but what you describe sounds like cystitis. Interstitial cystitis is connected to low thyroid, excessive estrogen, and progesterone deficiency. It has to do with an abundance of mast cells in the bladder and an increased sensitivity to the mast cells. Thyroid, progesterone, and gelatin typically help.

  20. Lea Ann Cooper June 1, 2018 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    So when you say divide, yiu break it into approx 4 pieces?

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