I’m switching back to levothyroxine

After two years of taking natural desiccated thyroids (NDTs), I’m switching back to the standard medication for hypothyroidism: levothyroxine. Read on to find out why. (If you want the TL;DR version, then here it is: I’m switching because I think my NDT is giving me tinnitus.)

2014-15: Levothyroxine

In 2013 and 2014, I had this colourful collection of symptoms:

  • Always tired, despite sleeping well
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating – like being in a mind fog
  • Bags under my eyes
  • Low-level depression
  • I was 27 but I looked 37
  • Always thinking about my health
  • Low libido

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in June 2014. The doctor prescribed me with levothyroxine, which is the standard treatment for hypothyroid patients. I was fairly happy with this medication even though the doctor seemed slow to increase the dosage.

I began to see some of my health problems disappear. My elbows were no longer dry, red or raw. The dry skin on my toes cleared up. At a daily dosage of 150 mcg I was able to grow a magnificent beard for the first time in my life:

2015-17: NDTs

During this time I was reading stopthethyroidmadness.com. The gist of this website is that levothyroxine is crap. The website urges patients to take NDTs instead. Apparently NDTs are like ground-up angel wings mixed with fairy dust.

Unsurprisingly, the website made me want to try NDTs. In 2015, I discovered I could buy them on the internet. First I tried Armour, then Thyro-Gold, then Thiroyd, then Thiroyd-S. I was like a kid in a candy shop.

I could raise my dosage at will since a doctor wasn’t controlling me. So I steadily increased my dosage. I did this because I was tired of being hypothyroid. I had been hypothyroid for years and I wanted desperately for it to stop.

I was also swayed by statements such as “[don’t be] afraid to go higher!” (stopthethyroidmadness.com) as well as this sentence from www.naturalthyroidsolutions.com: “customers were satisfied with their use of the product when they took either 6, 7, or 8 capsules each day”.

The highest dosage I reached was ten grains of Thiroyd per day plus 100 mcg of levothyroxine, which is the equivalent of 770 mcg of T4. (That’s over four times the amount of T4 that doctors usually prescribe). Unsurprisingly, I started getting symptoms of overmedication. The first thing I noticed was my heart beating hard and fast. My heart rate was sometimes over 100 beats per minute. My girlfriend said she could even see my heart pounding through my shirt while I was asleep. But I thought my body just needed to adapt to the high dosage. I thought my heart rate would return to normal after a few weeks.

I also started getting dry skin on my face and scalp, and especially on my forehead. I’d had dandruff before, but nothing like this. Whenever I rubbed my moustache, beard or scalp, an excited flurry of dandruff would fall off my head like snow in a snowglobe. Here’s a photo of my t-shirt after I had been rubbing my beard for several minutes:

And here’s a photo of dry skin under my moustache:

What’s more, the dry skin of my big toes (a problem that levothyroxine had cleared up) returned:

But worst of all was the tinnitus. I first noticed it in November 2016. I could hear a ringing in my ears most of the time – even when I was outside on the street. This was a low point in my life. I heard a high-pitched ringing all the time. All the time.

I realised that a high dosage of NDT could be causing the tinnitus, so I reduced my dosage to 2-3 grains per day. But after a month on this lowered dosage, the tinnitus was still there, strong as ever.

The current situation

I still have dry skin and the dreaded tinnitus. The tinnitus hasn’t gotten better but it hasn’t gotten worse either. At the moment it sounds like a high-pitched ringing plus the random screeches of dial-up internet.

And that’s why I’m switching back to levothyroxine: I want the ringing and screeching to stop. And I really hope I haven’t caused permanent damage to my ears because I don’t want tinnitus for the rest of my life.

There’s also the fact that the medical community and most doctors condemn NDTs. So I’ve been going against scientific and medical advice to follow the advice of a website instead. Jesus Christ.

Finally, here’s a cool and terrifying chart showing my dosage over time:

15 thoughts on “I’m switching back to levothyroxine

  • October 17, 2017 at 6:51 pm
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    I hope you’re doing well! I am one of the rare people who took NDT before ever taking a T4 med. My hypothyroidism is more subclinical and I don’t test positive for antibodies. Anyway, I couldn’t tolerate NDT…. I guess I’m just too sensitive to the T3. It makes me feel manic and weird in the heart and all of that. I’ve tried the tiniest doses. So I just went to an endocrinologist and he said stop immediately and he put me on levothyroxine 25mcg. I feel like death now. I’m wondering what your experience has been and if it just takes a while to build up and get used to it. Maybe stopping the T3 containing med so fast made me crash? Trying to be patient!

    Reply
    • October 17, 2017 at 11:46 pm
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      Hi Lauren,
      25 mcg is a tiny dose so perhaps you’d benefit from more.
      Also, I’ve read that levothyroxine has a half-life of a week, which apparently means it takes a month for patients to feel the full effect of a new dose. So in theory, you should feel a gradual increase in your wellbeing over the next month while the levothyroxine builds up in your blood.
      Paul

      Reply
  • October 17, 2017 at 4:55 am
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    Hi paul i am a hypothyroid patient in Korea. I am just curious as to why you increased the NDT dosage so high initially. Was it because you didnt feel good on somewhat lower dosage? I have just started taking thailand thiroyd and it does feel somewhat weaker than the synthroid and cytomel combo i was on before even tho i am taking the same dosage.

    Reply
    • October 17, 2017 at 11:28 pm
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      I guess I had unrealistic expectations about hypothyroidism medication. I thought if I could reach the right dosage, then I’d become a new person, a confident extroverted person with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I thought all my life’s problems would be solved and I’d bound out of bed every day with boundless enthusiam. That’s why I kept increasing my dosage – I kept thinking that a new happy life was just one dosage increase away. Turns out that wasn’t true. I found out that hypothyroidism medication increases your overall happiness just a little, at least for me.

      Reply
  • September 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm
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    Been there, done that. Magnesium for tinnitus. Try various types of mag to find which works best for you. That is the key, because many mag’s cannot be absorbed. I learned this after finding many hypo are mag deficient. Mag Glycenate works pretty good for me. Tip: mag and calcium in balance.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2017 at 2:04 am
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    Hey man. i wanted to ask you, did your tinnitus get any better after going back to levo ? and why are you going to experiment with NDT´s again ? also i wanted to ask, did you have any brainfog before going on any of the meds, and if yes, did the medication help with it ?

    i have brainfog / concentration problems and loud tinnitus.

    thank you

    Reply
    • September 5, 2017 at 9:45 am
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      I’m still taking levothyroxine and I’m not going to return to NDTs, at least not in the near future. I need to do more research first. I also think there may be good reasons for why nearly every doctor recommends levothyroxine over NDTs.

      I still have tinnitus. It hasn’t worsened over the last few months and in fact, it may even have improved. Either that or my brain is getting better at ignoring it. By the way, I’m not sure if NDTs did cause my tinnitus. The cause could have easily been something else. In many cases, tinnitus doesn’t even have an obvious cause.

      Before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2014, I definitely had brain fog and difficulty concentrating. Then when I started taking levothyroxine, both symptoms began to go away. Then I started increasing my dosage, convinced that it would reduce my brain fog further. I reached a dose of 250 mcg of levothyroxine. After that I discovered I could buy NDTs online, so I switched to high doses of those. But I didn’t get many, if any, improvements from NDTs, nor from the higher dose of levothyroxine. Though saying that, it’s also hard to tell. Symptoms are subjective and all this happened over a year ago.

      I’m now taking 150 mcg of levothyroxine, which I think is the ideal dose. If I go lower, I get depressed, and if I go higher, it feels like my heart is beating too hard.

      Reply
  • September 2, 2017 at 5:39 am
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    Thanks so much Paul for documenting all of your Thyroid experiences in detail. I’ve been on Thyro-Gold for about 3 years. Before that, I was on Levothyroxine since 2000. I was also thinking of going back to Levothyroxine. I always felt good on Levothyroxine but figured the Thyro-Gold would be better form me since it was natural and contained T1, T2, T3 and T4 and have all the great stories about NDT. I also have had tinnitus in the last few years and what you said really made me think that the cause may be NDT. Plus, Levothyroxine is a LOT cheaper.

    So please, let us know your detailed experience on going back to Levothyroxine and if you felt better, how so. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  • July 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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    don’t start experimenting with NDTs again Paul!!. I’m switching to thyroxine too. Ended up in hospital with a pulse of 160 on only 2 1/2 grains of NDTs. I have reduced to 2 grains and am still getting an irregular pulse and thumping heart. I think it has built up in my body. ALL the doctors in the NHS can’t bewrong!!! you seem to be doing better on thyroxine so why roch=k the boat?. Good luck.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2017 at 5:16 am
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    Paul make sure your Selenium levels are good same as Vitamin D and the B Vitamins.
    I also get this often, have your iron levrks checked also.
    I loved Armour for some reason it did not me.
    I take T4 only. Since having low Adrenals fearful for taking a T3. Although a small amount might be ok.
    Take care
    Bunny

    Reply
    • June 14, 2017 at 5:20 am
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      Sorry meant to add the Selenuim helps to convert some of the T4 to T3.
      You appear to have Psoriasis or Exzema. Have you tried taking Zinc? Colostrum might help, Skin conditions sadly are part of Thyroid issues.

      Reply
    • June 15, 2017 at 11:36 pm
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      Thanks for the advice. When I get back to the UK I’ll do some blood tests through a private company called Medichecks. I’ll get them to check my Vitamin D, B, iron, zinc and selenium levels, etc. Easier than going to the doctor.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2017 at 7:48 pm
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    Really fun and interesting blog. Thanks Paul. I’m about to embark on NDT after being on T3/T4 combo for 7 years then denied T3 2 years ago due to stupid NHS/pharma cost issues… grrr. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve now got tinnitis on levo only… so not sure its NDT related! Its a standard hypo symptom, which I found T3 helped with. I’ll be following to see how yours goes. Good luck!

    Reply
  • April 22, 2017 at 8:15 pm
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    Hey, just stumbled upon your blog, it’s fucking hilarious.

    Interested to know how you’re getting on since returning to levothyroxine. Any improvements? Also, have you looked into mixing levothyroxine with liothyronine? Sucks that NDT didn’t work for you. Looking forward to most of your posts. All the best.

    Reply
    • April 23, 2017 at 8:47 pm
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      Thanks for the kind words, random stranger. I’ve been back on levothyroxine for a month now. I haven’t seen a return of any hypo symptoms; at least, none that I can tell. More good news is that the dry skin on my face has improved a lot. My tinnitus has improved a little too. I’m going to wait for the tinnitus to fuck off completely before I start experimenting with NDTs again.
       
      Unfortunately though, my sense of smell is terrible these days. I couldn’t smell a dog shit unless you smeared it into my nostrils. It might be unrelated to the levothyroxine though because my sense of smell has always been capricious. Hypothyroidism is a strange beast.

      Reply

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