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Hilary Clinton is the former first lady of the USA and she was also the 67th United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Since then, Hilary has become the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
Conflicting opinions arrive with every election cycle, which echoes the conflicting opinions among healthcare professionals in regards to appropriate treatment of hypothyroidism, and this is where Hilary Clinton taking NDT for her hypothyroidism joins both politics and hypothyroidism together in an interesting discussion.
Most healthcare professionals will speak of unwavering support for T4-only medicine such as Levothyroxine and Synthroid, whereas a growing number of thyroid patients insist that they feel or would feel better on Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT), just as many Hilary Clinton does.
The use of NDT, which dates back to the early 1900’s, was long the only choice for hypothyroidism treatment before falling out of favour when pharmaceutical companies started mass-producing isolated T4-only medicine in the 1960’s, patenting them. NDT such as Armour, which is the brand Hilary Clinton uses, meets the stringent guidelines of the US Pharmacopeia and is available on prescription in most countries.
However, T4-only medicine does not alleviate hypothyroid symptoms for all thyroid patients and due to many mainstream doctors refusing to acknowledge NDT’s effectiveness, a growing number of thyroid patients are taking to going private to access NDT medication, or self-sourcing, which is obviously far from ideal.
I’m a key example of how a thyroid patient can feel incredibly unwell on T4-only medicine like Levothyroxine, yet make huge improvements on NDT.
Why is NDT Often Not Favoured?
NDT contains real thyroid gland from pigs, and unlike synthetic T4-only medicine such as Levothyroxine and Synthroid, NDT is natural and gives you all the hormones your own thyroid would be giving you; T1, T2, T3, T4 and Calcitonin. When you have hypothyroidism, you’re typically low in T3 and T4.
Unfortunately, many doctors fail to realise that T4-only medications inadequately treat a lot of patients’ thyroid conditions, when they need a medicine which contains all the hormones available in NDT, which then continues to leave them unwell.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Can Include:
- Sensitivity to cold/heat
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight
- Constipation and/or wind often
- Slow movements, speech and thoughts
- Itchy and/or sore scalp
- Muscle aches, pains and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Poor appetite
- Dry and tight feeling skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Numbness in limbs
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
- Brain fog/confusion/memory problems
- Hoarse voice
- A puffy-looking face
- Thinned or partly missing eyebrows
- A slow heart rate or one that increases more so than a healthy person’s, after physical activity (e.g. after walking up the stairs or emptying the washing machine)
- Hearing loss
- Poor stamina
- Feeling weak
- The need to nap more than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Arms feeling like dead weights after activity
- Inability to exercise, or withstand certain exercises
- Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Being overly emotional
- Poor circulation
- High or rising cholesterol
- Acid reflux
- Poor levels of iron
- Poor levels of B12
- Poor levels of Vitamin D
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen legs that impede walking
- Shin splints
- Difficulty standing on feet
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Fertility issues
But many thyroid patients carry on having these kinds of symptoms even when on thyroid medication. And this could be due to being inadequately treated on their current medication.
NDT is not commonly prescribed for hypothyroid patients, despite there being research available and many patients on it who show the positive impact of this medication.
Frustratingly, down to outdated information, misinformation and myths, NDT medication has a somewhat negative reputation these days, which stops many thyroid patients from receiving NDT when it could solve or improve so many of their symptoms and ‘other health conditions‘.
The National Academy of Hypothyroidism report that one of the false beliefs that continues to circulate is that NDT can transfer diseases from animals to humans (I’ve had an endocrinologist say this to me), as well as the ratio of T3 to T4 being too high and that it causes heart conditions and hyperthyroidism. 
All these statements have been found to be false (given that the NDT is used responsibly) yet they are still repeated by many doctors.
The AACE and ATA even stated in their 2014 Hypothyroidism Guidelines that:
“There is no evidence to support using natural desiccated thyroid hormone in preference to Levothyroxine in treating hypothyroidism…therefore desiccated thyroid hormone should not be used for the treatment of hypothyroidism.”
After making this bold claim, interestingly, they didn’t present any research proving Levothyroxine’s superiority over NDT either, nor did they present any research showing the risks of taking NDT.
They failed to mention that there is no evidence to support using Levothyroxine over NDT either. However, they didn’t say ‘therefore Levothyroxine should not be used for the treatment of hypothyroidism’, did they?
Interestingly, their survey results of over 12,000 people published in May 2018 has since contradicted this. It says:
The survey demonstrated a distinct subset of patients who are dissatisfied with their therapies and their physicians. On a scale from 1 to 10, overall degree of satisfaction with therapy was rated 5. How much hypothyroidism has affected their lives received a score of 10.
Second, patients taking natural preparations, rather than synthetic hormone replacement therapy or combination therapy, were more satisfied with their treatment. DTE (animal-derived natural thyroid preparations or desiccated thyroid extract) was the original form of treatment and received a satisfaction score of 7. DTE was widely replaced in the 1960s when L-T4 (levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone replacement therapy) could be mass-produced inexpensively; its patients gave it a score of 5. The combination therapy of L-T4 along with synthetic T3 (liothyronine or cytomel) received a satisfaction score of 6. Patients taking DTE were less likely to report problems with weight management, fatigue/energy levels, mood, and memory compared to those taking either the L-T4 monotherapy or the combination therapy. 
A study conducted by Thanh D. Hoand, DO, who presented his research at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting in June 2013, backs up the positive effects of treating hypothyroidism with NDT. 
Dr. Hoang’s research proved that NDT is a viable alternative to Levothyroxine. Almost half, 49%, of the seventy patients involved in the study preferred NDT treatment compared to just 19% of patients who preferred Levothyroxine.
It is worth noting that if you’re struggling to find a doctor who will prescribe alternatives to just T4-only medication, you could also try asking your pharmacist if they know any doctors who prescribe them.
Hopefully, people in the public eye using this medication, such as Hilary Clinton, will bring greater awareness to thyroid conditions and treatment options, including the ‘unconventional’ Natural Desiccated Thyroid. After all, if such a medicine is good enough for the someone who could have been the president of the United States, isn’t it good enough for the rest of us?
What do you think about this topic? Let me know in the comments section.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. She has two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received multiple awards and recognitions for her work and dedication.