Want to know exactly what you are taking when you take Armour Thyroid?
If so, you’re in the right place.
As a thyroid patient, you need to be aware that while you may need thyroid hormone to survive and thrive, you don’t always want all of the extra baggage that comes along with these medications.
For this reason, it’s always preferred to use what I refer to as clean thyroid medications.
These are medications that contain the fewest inactive fillers, binders, and dyes, which means they provide you with the real ingredients that you want and need: thyroid hormones.
Let’s talk about the ingredients found in Armour Thyroid and see how it compares to other thyroid medications.
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Inactive and Active Ingredients In Armour Thyroid
All thyroid medications contain a combination of active ingredients and inactive ingredients.
Active ingredients are those ingredients that actually provide the benefit of the medication.
In the case of thyroid medications, they are the active thyroid hormones.
The inactive ingredients are really there to stabilize the active ingredients, assist with absorption, and assist in the manufacturing process.
Unfortunately, as a thyroid patient, you can react to a combination of the active ingredients, the inactive ingredients, or both.
For this reason, it’s actually quite important to be aware of the ingredient profile of whatever thyroid medication you are taking.
If you understand the ingredient profile then you can make educated guesses about why a certain thyroid medication does or doesn’t work for you.
And you can opt to avoid ingredients that crossover between different thyroid medications.
With this information in mind, let’s talk about the active ingredients in Armour thyroid:
Active Ingredients in Armour Thyroid
There are multiple active ingredients found in Armour thyroid but only two are standardized.
I’ll explain more about what that means in just a second but, for now, here are the active ingredients (1):
Each grain of Armour thyroid contains 38 mcg of T4 (levothyroxine) and 9 mcg of T3 (liothyronine).
These two compounds are thyroid hormones and are standardized to be the same in each lot of thyroid hormone.
Standardized just means that tweaks are made to the final product to ensure that the dosing remains the same from dose to dose and lot to lot.
This is important because you have to remember where Armour Thyroid comes from:
The thyroid gland of pigs.
You can easily imagine that not all pigs are the same. Some are larger, some are smaller, some are more metabolically active than others, some are older, some are younger, etc.
Each of these factors will influence how much thyroid hormone is found in the thyroid gland of the pig it was extracted from.
To ensure that this doesn’t cause fluctuations in Armour Thyroid dosing, the T4 and T3 thyroid hormone doses are standardized in every lot.
This ensures that no matter which pharmacy you get your Armour Thyroid from, you’re getting the dose that’s on the bottle.
As I mentioned, there are other active ingredients found in Armour thyroid that are not standardized.
These non-standardized ingredients include:
We can safely assume that each dose of Armour Thyroid contains some of these additional hormones because these hormones are naturally occurring in the thyroid gland.
The difference between these hormones and T4 and T3 is that they are non-standardized.
This means while they are likely in each dose of Armour Thyroid, we don’t actually know how much each grain contains.
This is one major downfall of Armour Thyroid and one reason that I believe this medication is inconsistent in terms of how it’s tolerated by thyroid patients.
We know, for instance, that T2 is a powerful thyroid hormone and definitely exerts an effect on the body.
And it’s very possible that these additional hormones are part of the reason why Armour Thyroid can be so effective for some thyroid patients.
But because these ingredients are non-standardized, it’s possible (and likely) that certain lots contain more of these ingredients than others.
For this reason, you may see variability in terms of how different lots of Armour Thyroid impact your overall health.
This limitation can be solved by just adding an additional T2 thyroid hormone to your dose of Armour Thyroid by using a supplement such as this.
Additional T2 in supplement form allows for you to standardize the dose outside of Armour Thyroid and obtain the benefits mentioned previously.
Inactive Ingredients Found In Armour
In addition to the standardized and non-standardized ingredients found in Armour, you’ll also be getting several inactive ingredients.
Here’s a list of these ingredients and why each one is included:
- Calcium stearate: Calcium stearate acts as a lubricant or a flow agent (4). This ingredient is included more for manufacturing than for your benefit. Flow agents help prevent the ingredients in medications from sticking together or for caking. Another common lubricant used in the manufacturing of supplements is magnesium stearate. There are substitutes for these flow agents that are more natural, but, it’s not always the case that they can be removed from the manufacturing process. As far as supplements go, I’ve switched my supplements over to using a rice concentrate known as Nu-Flow instead of magnesium stearate. I’m not sure if this is on the radar of these pharmaceutical companies, but this is one place where the formula for Armour could be improved.
- Dextrose: Dextrose is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binder. Its purpose is to help bind together powders to create a tablet. Dextrose is commonly sourced from corn, wheat, or rice, which means it may not be ideal for people trying to avoid these parent ingredients. It’s been reported that some people with corn allergy may see issues if they take dextrose but the data is inconsistent. And even though dextrose may be derived from wheat, it is still considered gluten-free. Even though dextrose is a form of sugar, it’s very unlikely to cause issues with blood sugar if you have an existing condition like diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Microcrystalline cellulose: Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) is really just wood pulp and is primarily used as a filler or dry binder. Because the dosing of active thyroid ingredients exists in mcg doses, additional ingredients are needed to build up the dose to an amount that can fit into a tablet. When used in medications and supplements, MCC is non-absorbed and eliminated from the GI tract after processing (5).
- Sodium starch glycolate: This ingredient is used to promote the rapid absorption of the active ingredients by assisting in the dissolving process (6). Because of issues in the absorption of thyroid medication and the need to get the medication absorbed into your body as quickly as possible, theoretically, the addition of this ingredient does make a lot of sense. Having said that, we know that some medications are absorbed rapidly and they don’t include this particular ingredient (such as Tirosint). Another downside potential downside is that it’s sourced from rice, potato, wheat, or corn which means it has the potential to cause issues for certain individuals.
- Opadry white: Opadry white is a combination of ingredients used to coat tablets and provide them with a nice-looking finish. It’s difficult to find information on this ingredient and its contents so I can’t say very much here but what I can tell you is that it doesn’t appear that this ingredient serves a functional purpose but more of an aesthetic one.
Even though each dose of Armour contains a very small amount of these ingredients, don’t be fooled into thinking they won’t have an effect on your body.
Time and time again I’ve seen thyroid patients respond negatively to these ingredients, even in very small amounts.
The biggest offenders include dextrose, calcium stearate, sodium starch glycolate, and likely Opadry white.
If you are having trouble feeling well on Armour thyroid then here’s where you want to look:
Armour Thyroid Not Working? Here’s Why
Like any other thyroid medication, there will be some people who respond to Armour and some who do not.
If you are someone who is what I would consider a non-responder (meaning you’re taking the medication and not seeing any improvement), here are a few things to consider:
- Are you compliant with your medication? If you want your thyroid medication to work then you must be taking it correctly! Part of that is taking your medication at the same time each and every day. You can’t say your thyroid medication is working if you aren’t taking it consistently. This usually isn’t a big deal for most people but there are some who don’t realize how important it is to not miss a single dose if you can help it.
- Are you actually absorbing it? The next place to look is inside your GI tract. You could be taking your thyroid medication by mouth faithfully every day but it won’t do you much good if it doesn’t make it isn’t getting absorbed into your body through your intestinal lining. This is actually a fairly common issue for thyroid patients due to interactions with inactive ingredients or due to problems from damage to the gut lining from inflammation. Improving the overall health of your gut with the use of dietary changes and supplements like probiotics may help increase the effectiveness of your Armour Thyroid by improving its absorption.
- Is it being eliminated in your stool? Going back to the issue of absorption, it’s estimated that roughly 48 to 79% of your dose of thyroid medication may actually get absorbed based on many different factors. If your Armour isn’t getting absorbed it will be simply eliminated in your stool and it won’t have any impact on your body. This is why it’s so important to take your medication as intended, away from food, away from other supplements, away from other medications, and away from coffee, to ensure that you can limit how much is being eliminated in your stool.
- Are you using all of the active ingredients? After the ingredients in your thyroid medication get absorbed into your body, they still need to be converted in order to work on your cells. This process is known as T4 to T3 conversion and it’s the process that your body uses to activate T4. Problems in this conversion process can be due to genetics (or other issues) which may reduce the effectiveness of your medication. You can treat these problems naturally or by changing your thyroid medication.
- Are you resistant to thyroid hormone? You can be doing everything right including taking your thyroid medication faithfully, absorbing it fully, and even converting it adequately, but still experience issues due to thyroid hormone resistance. This resistance syndrome can prevent your cells from seeing thyroid hormone and from properly using it. This condition is more common than you might think and you can learn more about it here.
- Are other medications interfering with your medication? Finally, you should be aware that many additional prescription medications can interfere with the ingredients found in Armour Thyroid. Even if you take your thyroid medication away from these other medications, they can still cause problems by influencing thyroid-binding proteins. You can see a list of many other prescription medications and how they impact thyroid medications here.
Recap & Final Thoughts
Armour Thyroid is an overall solid thyroid medication that contains many additional active ingredients compared to other more popular thyroid medications like levothyroxine.
Problems that exist with the use of Armour Thyroid most often stem from its inactive ingredient profile or from complications relating to its absorption and activation in the GI tract.
While it’s not the cleanest thyroid medication on the market (that honor goes to Tirosint-Sol), it’s still a solid option for many thyroid patients.
Now I want to hear from you:
Did any of the ingredients listed here surprise you?
Are you currently taking Armour Thyroid? If so, how is it working for you?
If not, are you thinking about taking it after this?
If it’s not working, why do you think that’s the case?
Leave your questions or comments below!