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Desiccated Thyroid vs. Levothyroxine

A doctors table showing a laptop, stethoscope and paper and pen.
Have you recently been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism? Learn more about common treatments here

“The results are in. It seems that your TSH levels are high, while your T4 levels have come back low. Based on the blood tests and your current symptoms, it seems you have hypothyroidism.”

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you are probably among the 1 in 8 women in America suffering from hypothyroidism. The weight gain, extreme fatigue, and depressive episodes have unfortunately become part of your new norm. Getting a diagnosis can have the confusing effect of providing relief while creating a bit of concern.

What’s next?

At this point, you wait anxiously for your doctor to talk about the treatment options available to you.


Amongst the medical jargon you hear in conversations between your doctor and nurse, you may pick out such words as synthetic, iodine supplements, hormone replacement therapy, or levothyroxine.

The goal of these treatments is to boost your levels of thyroid hormone, balancing them out and eliminating your symptoms as a result.

Let’s now discuss the most commonly prescribed medication patients receive from their endocrinologist when suffering from hypothyroidism: levothyroxine.

First, you may be wondering, what is it? Levothyroxine, or T4, is the primary thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and the synthetic form is the most common form of thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Common brand names for this medication are Levothroid, Levoxyl, and Synthroid.

Pros and Cons of Levothyroxine

When suffering from hypothyroidism, you are eager to find something that relieves your symptoms as soon as possible. Because levothyroxine is such a commonly used medication, there is a lot of research and patient feedback on how it works. It is currently the preferred medicine to treat hypothyroidism.

However, like any long-term treatment, you should not expect results overnight. Patience is key, as many people usually only begin to feel the full effect of thyroid hormone replacement therapy by around weeks 4-6.

It is also important to note that levothyroxine dosage needs to be well monitored, and adjusted according to each person’s individual needs. Taking too large a dose may create problems and cause toxic side effects. Too low of a dose, and you may not get the full benefits and see positive results.

Let’s now look into some of the pros and cons of this thyroid med. This may help you decide if levothyroxine is a good option for you.


  1. Affordability. The average price most people pay is around $15 for a one-month supply.

  2. Frequency. Only needs to be taken once a day.

  3. Side effects. Mostly has to do with dosage, which can be changed.

  4. Improved energy levels. Feeling of fatigue usually subsides.

  5. Safe to use during pregnancy.


  1. Side effects (with improper dosage). Heart palpitations, headaches, menstrual irregularities, decrease in bone density.

  2. Interactions. may interact with anticoagulants and certain foods such as soy, walnuts, and dietary fibre, which can decrease the absorption of this medication.

  3. It can take weeks to months to find the proper dosage.

  4. Regular monitoring through blood tests is necessary.

  5. Taking too much levothyroxine can lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

As with any medical treatment, it is essential to talk to your doctor. They can help you assess the pros and cons to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks in your case.

Don’t forget - always advocate for your health! You know your own body better than anyone else.

Maybe you have tried levothyroxine, and it simply hasn’t worked well for you. Perhaps the side effects have been hard to tolerate. That brings us to the next available option.

Desiccated thyroid extract (DTE)

What is DTE? A prescription medication made from the desiccated (dried) thyroid glands of animals.

One reason some people prefer DTE over levothyroxine is that their symptoms did not improve after using the former. Once they switched over to DTE, they began to see results.

In one clinical study, researchers reported that 49% of the patients preferred desiccated thyroid extract, 19% preferred levothyroxine, and 23% had no preference.

Another reason some may consider taking DTE is that their bodies cannot convert T4 to T3. Desiccated thyroid extract provides both, though there are some concerns that the different balance in hormones found in animal thyroid can make it difficult to keep blood levels stable..

Animal thyroid extracts have been used among people with thyroid issues since the late 1800s. Even in the United States, it wasn’t until the 1970s that doctors started using synthetic levothyroxine. Up until that point, hypothyroidism was primarily treated with natural extracts.

For those considering thyroid extracts for hypothyroidism, two popular brands available on the market are Armour Thyroid and Nature-Thyroid. Of course, before starting any new medications or supplements, you want to first discuss with your doctor the benefits as well as risks.

Let’s dive into some of these pros and cons, which may help you decide if this treatment is right for you.

Pros and Cons of Desiccated Thyroid Extract


  1. Supplies the body with a mixture of T4, T3, and other thyroid hormones. (Levothyroxine is just T4.)

  2. Desiccated thyroid extract is also associated with more weight loss.

  3. Can be helpful for patients whose bodies have a hard time converting T4 to T3.

  4. Contains thyroglobulin, which slows the distribution of T3 in the body so that a single dose lasts the whole day.

  5. Preferred by patients in clinical trials because of fewer harsh side effects. (In comparison to T4-only treatment.)


  1. The strength and ratio of T4 to T3 in this medication can vary, since the thyroid hormone ratio of pigs and other animals is different from the thyroid ratio of humans.

  2. Side effects. Insomnia, mood changes, hot flashes, or rapid weight loss.

  3. It may not be suited for those with pork allergies.

  4. A dose that is too high may cause heart problems.

  5. It is not suitable for pregnant women.

  6. Not as readily available to purchase or get a prescription for from doctors. (Compared to readily available T4 medications.)

Resources Available to You from Our Team

So now that we have taken a more in-depth look at the differences between these two popular treatments for hypothyroidism, we hope that you have a better idea of what you can discuss with your doctor.

When it comes to your thyroid health, we know that a well-balanced diet combined with exercise can be just as important as prescription medication!

That's why we've made it our mission to help our friends living with hypothyroidism. Our goal is to provide services uniquely tailored to fit you and your goals.

But let’s take it a step further! Remember how we talked about feeling a sense of relief after getting a proper diagnosis? Team Arod offers valuable tools that can help you in this regard as well. Access to functional thyroid lab tests is just one of the many resources we offer our 1:1 clients!


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