Well Women Guide to Armour Thyroid
Armour Thyroid - a much sought after thyroid hormone medication. Easy to get? No. Most doctors won't prescribe it, yet it is the answer for so many who are hypothyroid, thyroid hormone resistant or low in thyroid hormone (including those who are borderline)
Many of us on l-thyroxine do not do well on it and still have symptoms despite the dose being raised many times. We can end up toxic due to too much T4 because we are simply not converting to T3. We can also have receptor resistance or deficiency or adrenal fatigue and these things can cause a poor response to thyroid medication.
I felt it necessary to make this page. I have been trying to get Armour prescribed to me for 2 years. My last GP would not entertain it. My recent GP won't prescribe it herself, but has put herself out to look into it and also is referring me to someone who he feels can help - an endo doctor!! I have more chance of winning the lottery, I feel. So I am off to see Doctor Peatfield in the new year.
We can get Armour if we are willing to buy it. It can be purchased from the U.S International Pharmacy.Com and this is what I have had to do. Allow about 10 to 14 days for delivery from the time you order it if you are not resident in the U.S but check their site shipping details. I am in the UK and it took 10 days. It is important to keep a good supply. Each container of Armour has 100 tablets and you can order up to 3 at a time, so ordering 3 at a time and repeating the order when you are nearing the end of bottle 2 or first start bottle 3 would ensure you have a continual supply. The higher dose grains are more economical and also come in 100's so they will actually last longer than the smaller ones like the 1/4's and 1/2's. (I feel it is a good idea to order the smaller doses to start off with but you could use a pill splitter to divide larger one's throughout the day.
In my own experience we ideally need the supervision of a doctor when we are on thyroid meds. Also, how do we know how much to take? What is safe? What about Hyper symptoms? What about our Adrenals? With Armour or other natural thyroid supplement, we go on how we feel ourselves and not by the labs results.
A doctor may try to get us to come off Armour when he looks at our TSH which can be suppressed when taking it, thinking we are hyperthyroid. He needs to go on the free T3 and free T4 when we are on Armour, NOT the TSH. (although because doctors use TSH and rate it so highly, he/she may find it hard to disregard it.
Remember also, most of us with a thyroid condition will have some degree of adrenal fatigue. Hyper symptoms when on Armour can be our oversensitive and depleted adrenals. (Adrenals must always be treated first before we commence thyroid medication) Thyroid hormone should never be administered to a patient with untreated adrenal cortical insufficiency or untreated thyrotoxicosis. It should also not be taken by anyone who is hypersensitive to thyroid hormone.
We can also buy Nutri Adrenal and Nutri Adrenal Extra which need to be taken for a couple of months prior to thyroid meds for best results in order to build up the adrenals so that they can cope with the onslaught of thyroid hormone. In some cases, corticosteroid treatment may be required if the degree of adrenal insufficiency warrants it.
Many have bought Armour from International Pharmacy and have self treated. They start slowly (a quarter or a half of a grain) and build up every couple of weeks until a 100 per cent response is achieved.
Treatment with Armour is very individual so if you know someone who is taking it, the dose they take may not be suitable for you. If you have been ill for sometime and/or have heart problems then a starting dose of a quarter of a grain would be best but extreme caution must be exercised.
The aim is to reduce TSH to 0.4 and then use Free T3 and Free T4 tests to monitor. With FT3 and FT4 ranges the aim is to be roughly in the middle of the lab range.
A good doctor like Doctor P would ask us to self monitor by taking our temperature. Ideally we should have been doing this for a week or so and recording it prior to starting thyroid hormone so that we have an idea of how low we are. In hypo-metabolic states the temperature will be low. Treatment will cause a slow rise. A sharp rise can indicate too much thyroid hormone.
We should also take our pulse at the same time as our temperature and note this too. A resting pulse above 80 beats may indicate an overdose of thyroid hormone.
We should also record how we "feel" on a sliding scale of 1-10.
It is a good idea to have a consultation with a doctor who deals with Armour Thyroid, but these are generally private. In this case, my particular doctor of choice is Doctor Barry Durrant-Peatfield Please contact me for his details and also for a list of private doctors who prescribe Armour.
Doctor Peatfield is of the opinion that if Armour or another natural thyroid replacement is not used, then at the very least, T3 should be added to our L-thyroxine medication. (Cytomel is called Tertroxin in the UK)
For those of us who are on the synthetic L-thyroxine medcation and want to change to Armour, please click on this link to see how to go about it and save it to your computer "favourites"
So what is Armour Thyroid?
It was originally used in 1900 to treat thyroid related disease. a doctor then gave a patient suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism chopped pigs thyroid and noted a very good recovery.
Armour thyroid was used until the 1970's when it was then phased out in favour of the cheaper synthetic version we know today.
The invention of synthetic Levothyroxine was indeed a sad day for hypothyroid patients. The reason being that it contains only T4. The thyroid gland produces T1, T2, T3, T4 and calcitonin. Armour thyroid contains all the thyroid hormones which is why patients usually do much better on it as opposed to T4 alone.
It is made from dessicated porcine (pigs) thyroid gland and should be taken in divided doses sublingually (under the tongue) throughout the day so as to mimic how our own thyroid gland works. For me, I take it under the tongue in the morning and then again in the afternoon, although you could also spread this dose out and take morning, midday and around 3pm
Please also click here to read Doctor Peatfield's approach to the management of hypothyroidism.
What is the best way to take Armour?
Sublingual is best. You pop the tablets in your mouth either between your gums and teeth or under your tongue and allow them to dissolve. Just forget about them. This way they travel into your bloodstream quickly without bypassing the stomach and its destructive acids or being processed by the liver. After all, if your thyroid was working properly, thyroid hormone would never arrive in your stomach!! Also stomach acid will destroy the much needed calcitonin present in Armour, so remember not to swallow Armour if you can help it although you will still benefit from it even if you do decide that you prefer to take it this way.
If you have never taken thyroid hormone before, it is wise to start very low either 1/4 or 1/2 a grain for the first 7 days. You can then see whether there are any adverse symptoms such as fast pulse, feeling jittery, palpitations, dizziness or feeling fast or spaced out.
This reaction will be because of the T3 present in Armour or other natural thyroid extract. It doesn't happen to everyone but being on the safe side is good. Once your body gets used to the T3, the symptoms should subside.
Having low adrenal reserve or low ferritin can also cause this effect when you first take Armour, so remember the rule - treat adrenals first with nutri adrenal extract a few months in advance and have ferritin levels checked and treated by your doctor.
Building up gradually is best, but it is important to raise your dose after about 2 to 3 weeks if there are no continual side effects to ensure hypo symptoms do not return.
You may start to wonder if it is working because you may feel awful. Janie Bowthorpe of Stop The Thyroid Madness states that the smallest amount of Armour can shut down the feedback loop between the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid quite severely at first making hypo symptoms appear much worse and causing tiredness.
I myself experienced this and emailed her asking her opinion which she very kindly gave. She advised me to go up by 1/2 a grain and after about 2 weeks, increase again by 1/2 until I reach 3 grains. (Not everyone may need 3 grains, but most find they need between 3 and 5 to erradicate all hypothyroid symptoms)
Best thing is to listen to your body.
For those taking Levothyroxine, you are able to stop it one day and start Armour the next. Some however find that due to adrenal insufficiency, they need to stop all thyroid hormones for a week to ten days and take Nutri Adrenal (4-6 tablets) or Nutri Adrenal Extra (2 tablets plus 4 Nutri Adrenal normal) to give themselves some adrenal support prior to starting the natural thyroid hormone. The adrenal support should continue indefinately although you can reduce the dose after about 6 to 8 weeks.
Another point to make is (as with levothyroxine) do not take iron or calcium supplements at the same time as thyroid hormone.
This also applies to any kind of oestrogen hormone such as the pill or HRT.
That is because they affect absorption by binding thyroid hormones.
With Armour, we very much go on how we feel rather than worrying about lab test results so it would be a good idea to keep a notebook writing down each day any benefits or symptoms. It is when we feel very good or totally fab that we know we are on the correct dose. So the rule is generally "Go on how you feel"
Everyone is different so what one person is taking may not be right for you.
The dose that seems to apply to most is between 2 and 5 grains although some need more.
It is also a good idea to multidose. By this I mean take 1/2 your thyroid hormone in the morning and then the other half in the afternoon. Once again, find out what works best for you. Some take it all in one go in the morning and some divide it up into 3. So this would actually mean that if you were on 3 grains you could take 1 1/2 in the morning and the rest around 2pm or 1 grain in the morning, 1 grain at around midday and another grain around 3 to 4pm.
T3 has a half life of 6-8 hours, unlike levthyroxine which containing T4 has a half life or around 8 days!! T3 peaks about 2 hours after you have taken it so by multidosing you avoid the afternoon crash when you usually start to feel tired again.(3 or 4pm usually) Think how your own thyroid would work if it could!! It would provide hormone when you need it so by multodosing you are replicating what your own thyroid would normally do.