Desiccated Thyroid Hormone
What is Desiccated Thyroid Hormone?
Desiccated thyroid hormone is used to treat hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. It is typically sourced from porcine (pig) thyroid glands. This is not the same as thyroid gland extracts seen in many commercial health products!
How is Desiccated Thyroid Hormone different from Synthroid (Levothyroxine)?
Synthroid is the medication most commonly prescribed to treat hypothyroidism. It is the synthetic form of T4 which is the hormone produced directly by the thyroid gland. In the body, T4 is converted to the active form of thyroid hormone, T3, at the cellular level. Using Synthroid assumes that this conversion is happening the right way and that your body is producing adequate T3 to be used effectively.
Desiccated thyroid hormone contains all of the thyroid hormones naturally found in the thyroid gland including T4, T3 and calcitonin. Desiccated thyroid is typically helpful in those patients who still feel the effects of low thyroid function despite medication use. These symptoms often include weight gain, fatigue, a feeling of puffiness or water retention, and poor hair, skin and nail quality.
Everyone is different in terms of their preferences. Some people feel great taking Synthroid and others prefer desiccated thyroid instead. It all depends on how your body responds. There is little research available on desiccated thyroid hormone however one study found that when comparing Synthroid to desiccated thyroid, 49% preferred desiccated thyroid, 19% preferred Synthroid and 23% found no difference at all (1). This just goes to show how important it is to listen to your body and talk to your practitioner about what feels best for you.
Who can prescribe Desiccated Thyroid Hormone?
In Ontario, MDs and Naturopathic Doctors can prescribe desiccated thyroid hormone. NDs must carry the Ontario Pharmaceutical Prescribing Standard to signify the required additional training in pharmaceuticals in order to prescribe this and other restricted substances.
Is Desiccated Thyroid Hormone safe?
In the past, there have been concerns about doses of desiccated thyroid hormone not being consistently standardized. This could have huge impacts on your thyroid function since your body is very sensitive to even tiny changes in hormone levels. Desiccated thyroid is produced by ERFA in Canada and is carefully standardized so that each tablet contains a very precise amount of hormone. Desiccated thyroid is also approved by Health Canada.
As with anything else, there are precautions to take before and while taking desiccated thyroid hormone. Proper testing of your thyroid function needs to be carried out before starting this therapy to ensure proper levels of dosing. Your thyroid levels also need to be monitored through routine testing afterwards to ensure they stay within range over time.
Your practitioner should also be monitoring your symptoms regularly to ensure positive changes. You should notify your practitioner of anything that seems out of the ordinary as this could signal your levels are not within the normal range.
Is Desiccated Thyroid Hormone the only way to improve my thyroid function naturally?
Absolutely not! There are many other options if you don’t feel like desiccated thyroid is right for you. Botanical medicine, diet modification and hydrotherapy (links to all) can all be helpful in regulating your thyroid function and improving the symptoms that accompany low thyroid function.
1. Hoang TD, Olsen CH, Mai VQ, Clyde PW, Shakir MK. (2013). Desiccated thyroid extract compared with levothyroxine in the treatment of hypothyroidism: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 98(5):1982-90.