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.
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.