Well, I’ve been taking Armour for a few months now, and it’s been a mixed bag. I’m trying to sort out the positives and the negatives before I see the doctor this week for new tests.
After the first five or so weeks at 120 mg, the Armour was obviously not working, because my TSH was 13. I know the TSH is not the most important number, but 13? (For non-thyroid patients, the range is .3-3.0, or .5-5.0 if the doctor is old school.) The endocrinologist upped the dose to 150 mg.
At my next appointment, my TSH was 5.83 and my Free T3 and Free T4 were beginning to slowly creep up, so he upped the dose again to 180 mg.
I thought he was raising the dose too infrequently, but then I read this interesting site, ThyroPhoenix, posted by my blog buddy Jenny from The Lyme Road. The site suggests raising doses no more than every four to six weeks to properly gauge the effects, which is what he had been doing.
My endocrinologist is a conventional Western doctor, but he seems to be on all the patients’ preferred thyroid doctor lists, possibly because he is progressive for an endocrinologist. He doesn’t overemphasize the TSH test and he LOVES LOVES Armour. The catch? He does not love the other types of natural dessicated thyroid, such as WP Thyroid and Nature-throid. And I’m wondering if one of those might be better for me. Many patients like them better than Armour. I especially like that WP Thyroid has only two fillers.
I might have to switch doctors to try either of these if I can’t talk him into switching. I’m not good with change. I’ve stayed with practitioners way too long just to avoid starting over with someone new and having to tell my whole sordid illness story yet again.
My LLMD, who is an integrative doctor, suggested a compounded T3/T4 formulation with a probiotic or Vitamin C as the filler. He is also on several preferred doctor lists, but he doesn’t use Nature-throid or WP Thyroid either. I wasn’t sure about taking compounded thyroid, because I had taken compounded T3 with Synthroid in the past and still inexplicably had low T3. Might have been the wrong dose or a problem with the pharmacy, but still … weird. And I’m still not sure what to do. (Hey, after all, confusion is a hypothyroidism symptom.)
So this has been my Armour experience:
Cold Intolerance: Better. In fact, I think I’m starting to get HEAT intolerance, which is usually my first sign that I need to lower the dose. Except I don’t know whether it’s heat intolerance or if it’s that it’s just been really fucking hot this week and I’m responding normally by producing actual sweat. I spent the last few years wearing a jacket when everyone else was wearing a sundress, so my body is … confused.
Weight: I gained four pounds. Bad. But oddly, my face is MUCH less swollen. Seriously, I didn’t realize how swollen it was before. (I was on Synthroid for years.) I just thought my jawline was disappearing. Nope. I even have a slightly pointy chin now.
Hair Loss (and Hair Gain): My hair has definitely gotten thicker, and less is falling out. Oh, and I have actual outer eyebrows again! Yay, because drawing them in with pencil looked really stupid (although, for fellow green beauty product enthusiasts, this great brow pencil by Gabriel Cosmetics has a pretty clean ingredient profile.)
Brain fog: Slightly improved. My brain fog is an odd hypothyroidism/Lyme disease hybrid, but at least now I can finish a whole sentence without losing my train of thought.
Weird Not-Quite-a-Palpitation Feeling: At the beginning of each dosage increase, I would notice a feeling of tightness in my chest soon after I took the pills. I knew that this could be a sign of being overmedicated. I also read it could be a symptom of adrenal issues. After a few weeks at each new dose, the feeling would go away. I decided to ask for the 24-hour saliva cortisol test for my adrenals. And unfortunately, it is still sitting in the box. I had a lot of stressful events in June, including finding out that my stove had been leaking a small amount of natural gas for YEARS, and I couldn’t deal with doing the adrenal test OR my heavy metals test. Is procrastination a hypothyroidism symptom too?
The Saliva Cortisol Test: Not Helpful for Diagnosis if You Don’t Take It Out of the Bag
Depression: A little better.
Random Craziness Factor: This is the big problem. During the last few months, I have had more arguments than I have had in the last few YEARS. I mean, I am pissed off. Well, nowadays, first I have a major hissy fit, and then I get this weepy, maudlin, why-can’t-everyone-just-love-one-another feeling. These mood swings also seem to peak at the beginning of each dosage change and then level off. Could it be too much T3, or could it be my adrenals? Right now, things are manageable, but I worry that if he raises the dose again, I might become a sterotypical obnoxious New Yorker, starting fights with people in the grocery store.
Seriously, I have a friend who almost was run over by a shopping cart in our local food coop … the culprit was a woman making a mad dash for the last box of quinoa elbow macaroni.
When I first started Armour and had that scary TSH of 13, I read that fillers, specifically cellulose in Armour, can interfere with absorption. I read that even though Armour is not meant to be taken sublingually, some patients reported feeling better doing so … one woman on a forum said she put the pill under her tongue an hour before she fully woke up and then let it dissolve. So I decided to see if that would work.
Oops. Chewing it and using a pill crusher didn’t help either.
On the plus side, during this process, I learned some useful techniques for dealing with doctors. Specifically, my few remaining Western doctors, such as the endo. The first is from my blog buddy Chronic Rants. You start by asking for the least controversial test first and then ask for the most alternative-ish test last. It definitely helps.
The second is the symptoms-first approach, which I got from this Mary Shomon article. For example, instead of saying “I think I might have hypothyroidism,” you would say something like, “My hair is falling out, I’ve gained a bunch of weight, and my skin is dry—do YOU think it could be related to my thyroid?” This way, you look like the patient who defers to the doctor’s godlike medical expertise rather than the Patient Who Googles Every Single Damned Thing. Even if you are the latter, which I am, which we all probably are, I think it helps to pretend to be the former. Even some alternative docs seem to be threatened by patients who are frequent medical Googlers.
I actually took the symptoms-first approach one step further and did the whole thing on the computer. I handed the endo a typed sheet with the questions listed after the symptom lists (as in “I have a, b, and c … is it possible it could be d”?). I barely said anything—just handed him the piece of paper like it was a high-school book report. I figured that in medical school he must have learned by memorizing lists of symptoms, so why not? It worked! He bent over his desk and started madly circling tests to run.
Now I type out all my questions before all my appointments. (Well, I can’t type because of the RSI, but I use dictation software.) Doctors seem to take typed lists of questions more seriously than written lists. (Possibly the high-school book report idea again? )
I used to be that thyroid patient who took Synthroid and believed it was working because the blood tests were in range, even though I had carpal tunnel, depression, dry skin, and inattentive-type ADD, plus it took me forever to lose weight and I was always freezing.
Anyway, now I am making up for lost time, because I have more than 30 new thyroid-related videos, five thyroid books, three Lyme books, one anatomy book, one cell biology book, a basic chemistry book, and several books about the Paleo diet to read. Well, except for the brain fog, memory problems, and that procrastination issue. I should be done with all the viewing/reading by … 2016?
More thyroidic updates to come (and perhaps a book review). If anyone has experience switching from Armour to Nature-throid or WP Thyroid or from Armour to compounded thyroid, please share!