Tag Archives: Armour

If iron interferes with your thyroid function or thyroid meds, you might need zinc

After I started taking Armour thyroid to treat hypothyroid symptoms — including that lovely one where your hair feels like there’s an electric current going through it — I quickly realized that the 50 mg of iron I was taking every day for my abysmally low ferritin levels was making things worse. Even if I separated the doses by the requisite four hours or stopped taking the Armour altogether, I got more hypo-T symptoms — low mood, cold, fatigue, and insomnia.

Taking the Armour only fixed the symptoms to a certain point because of the low ferritin (which was at 6 for several years before any so-called health practitioner bothered to call my attention to it), but I couldn’t take iron to get rid of the rest of the symptoms or it would wipe out all the progress I’d made with the Armour. It was, I remember thinking every other day, like trying to get out of a parking spot in San Francisco on a Friday night — back an inch, hit the bumper, turn the wheel, forward an inch, hit the bumper.

Eventually I figured out that iron lowers zinc and a zinc deficiency can affect thyroid function. I took 50 mg of zinc for several months, then a little less for the rest of the year. After a few months, my mood no longer tanked when I ate dairy (oxalates in dairy will bind to zinc and hinder its absorption). It also solved the iron problem.

Sadly, I still couldn’t take as much Armour as I needed because my adrenals were trashed. Luckily, you can now find much better knowledge and guidance for these sorts of conundrums — see the Stop the Thyroid Madness website to start.

After 18 months on Armour I got sick of the whole thing and started calling acupuncturists all over the Eastern seaboard looking for someone with hardcore-enough training to do medical acupuncture on the thyroid. To my surprise I found someone 30 minutes away. After nine weeks and maybe 14 sessions with him, my test results came back within the newly revised, more accurate normal lab ranges. I stopped the Armour and haven’t felt any hypo-T symptoms since, knock on wood. My low zinc symptoms show up occasionally but they are unmistakably different from the lawdy!-my-thyroid symptoms — mostly low mood and $#@! irritability.

Rx, OTC, diet-, and needle-based ways to treat hypothyroidism

It took me two years from the time I first suspected I had thyroid problems to get treated for it. I was very tired, had a weird, periodic hum in my body as if the ship’s engine on “Star Trek” was running in the background, was unbelievably cold outside in the winter, and my hair felt like it had an electric current running through it. But my test results from my traditional doctors, who were only looking at TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), always came back normal. When I read that ideally other markers should be looked at as well (e.g. T3, T4, etc.) I asked for those tests, but they, too, came back normal.

In the meantime, after going gluten-free, I had decided I was going to REALLY get healthy. I started eating fish several times a week and every morning I would drink juiced greens, including Swiss chard, mustard greens, and two types of kale.

I was rewarded with a worsening of my thyroid-esque symptoms (and with elevated mercury levels, but that’s another story). During yet another bout of research, probably at about.thyroid.com, I discovered that cruciferous vegetables — such as greens, cauliflower and broccoli — when ingested raw are capable of tanking the thyroid, either by lowering iodine levels or by affecting hormone production directly.

I also learned at around the same time that a New England Journal of Medicine article had declared that another, wider set of lab ranges were more accurate for diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism.

So I stopped the goitrogens immediately and felt better soon after, but the issues remained. I had at this point already given up on traditional doctors so went straight to the two alternative medicine practices I had visited earlier. The doctor I saw at the first one told me that food had no effect on the thyroid and to “put those papers away” (the copies of the research papers on goitrogens) and that “you need to educate yourself,” in a tone reserved for the types of people who believe you can get pregnant by swimming in a public pool. Then he listened to a list of my symptoms and pronounced me hypothyroid.

The alterna-doc at the second group had also heard about the NEJM changes but had never heard of the effect of those vegetables on the thyroid. She started me on 1/4 grain of Armour thyroid, which is derived from pig thyroid and has been around since the 1920s (I think). After a month or so my mood, temperature, memory, fatigue, and skin were much improved.

However, I discovered that if I took iron, which I needed for fatigue, it brought back the hypothyroid symptoms, even if I took it at the requisite four-hour interval from the Armour. Without the iron, I was exhausted. Eventually I discovered that I could avoid this effect by taking 50 mg of zinc.

Wonderful as it was, that dose of Armour did not resolve everything. When I tried to increase the dose I got heart palpitations, a weird vibration in my thyroid, insomnia, and jitteriness. Most glorious of all, a hair would start to grow out of the middle of my forehead. This is when I discovered that you can whip your thyroid all you want, but if your adrenals are shot, you won’t get very far.

The alterna-doc gave me hydrocortisone (Cortef) for about six months in an attempt to boost the function of the adrenals, but I noticed no effect at all. My cravings-driven chocolate intake also probably thwarted anything positive we could do for them.

After 18 months I got tired of taking Armour every day and asked Needleman the acupuncturist to treat me with acupuncture. That involved nine weeks of about 15 treatments, 60% of which was covered by my insurance. (This has since dropped to almost no coverage.) At the end of the nine weeks, my test levels (by the new ranges) were normal, so I dropped the Rx and never felt those symptoms again.

My thyroid numbers are still obscenely robust, or so I’m told, and yet I still cannot eat goitrogens, such as pears, buckwheat, or broccoli, without feeling symptoms. That makes me think that my remaining complaints — stubbornly low iron, fatigue, insomnia, hair thinning, and brain fog — might still be associated with thyroid function. (They are also associated with adrenal function.)

Two doctors who’ve written books on iodine (Brownstein and Abrahams) believe that under some low-iodine circumstances, the thyroid can display my type of complaints without betraying anything in the usual lab tests. In other words, it might have been bludgeoned into submission with an Rx but isn’t necessarily healthy.