Desiccated thyroid extract (DTE): a natural alternative to levothyroxine?

Written by: Professor Parag Singhal
Published:
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Desiccated thyroid extract (DTE) was widely used as a thyroid medication for centuries until the introduction of levothyroxine in the 90s, which has grown to become one of the world’s most commonly prescribed medicines. Recently, however, there’s been growing interest in natural thyroid extracts like DTE among patients with minor thyroid problems who aren’t benefiting from levothyroxine.

 

We asked Professor Parag Singhal, a leading endocrinologist with a specialist interest in thyroid diseases, to explain more about this medication and who is best suited to taking it.

 

 

What is desiccated thyroid extract (DTE)?

Desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), also known as natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), is a medication made from dried thyroid glands of animals, specifically pigs, and manufactured by different companies. It is a natural medication and not manufactured synthetically; instead, the thyroid of the animal has been dried and powdered into tablet form for medical use.

 

Who is best suited to taking DTE?

DTE is best suited to patients who continue to be symptomatic despite having normal TFTs (thyroid function tests) whilst taking levothyroxine. Out of all the patients taking levothyroxine, 5-10% continue to have persistent hypothyroidism symptoms despite normal thyroid functions. These patients typically benefit from changing from levothyroxine to this natural treatment. DTE contains the full spectrum of thyroid hormones, including T4, T3, and T2. T3 is especially important as it is responsible for bodily functions.

 

How do results compare to taking levothyroxine for hypothyroidism?

Most of the patients who are symptomatic despite taking levothyroxine that switch to DTE report feeling much better with a significant improvement to their symptoms.

 

It is important to note that there have been many trials carried out researching into the benefits of adding T3 to T4 with not very encouraging results, but there are certain patients who do benefit, especially those with deiodinase (D2) deficiency which impairs the ability to convert T4 to T3. T3 is, however, not available across most of the CCG’s and is very expensive in the UK on a private prescription, which makes natural thyroid a much cheaper option. I have over 150 patients who are currently on DTE and from my personal observation, 95% of those have noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.

 

Are there any disadvantages?

No. As long as your thyroid functions are within the normal limits and your functions are closely monitored and kept within the normal range, there shouldn’t experience any adverse side-effects.

 

What lifestyle changes can someone with hypothyroidism make?

While taking the right medication is essential to treat hypothyroidism, a sedentary lifestyle won’t help you to manage your symptoms. Ensure you are a healthy weight, eating a clean and healthy range of food with enough fruits and vegetables and regularly exercising.

 

Is DTE available on the NHS?

No, DTE is a personally licensed medication in the UK, so it is only prescribed privately.

 

If you are interested in this medication, visit Professor Parag Singhal’s Top Doctors profile and book an appointment to see him.

By Professor Parag Singhal
Endocrinology, diabetes & metabolism

Professor Parag Singhal is a consultant physician and endocrinologist. In the field of endocrinology and metabolic medicine, his special interests lie in all aspects of diabetes, including diabetic foot, thyroid disease and reproductive medicine. He is available for consultations and treatment at the private practices of Nuffield Health Taunton Hospital, The Waterside Suite, Weston General Hospital and The Chesterfield Clinic, Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital.

Professor Singhal received his initial medical training in India at Jiwaji University before moving to the UK where he became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1995. Following this, he gained further training in the US, after which he received his higher specialist training in Newcastle. He received his postgraduate MPhil at the University of Newcastle in 2002 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 2004. Since 2000 he has worked as a consultant at Weston Hospital, which is part of the Bristol Teaching Hospital.

Professor Singhal was heavily involved in a project to offer remote assistance to junior doctors in India, to help manage the COVID-19 crisis in the country. Using a telemedicine tool, Professor Singhal, as secretary of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) offered virtual consultation to doctors in India to help fight the second wave of the coronavirus, and to assist the doctors on their ward rounds. 

Professor Singhal has published many research papers. His past research involves insulin resistance and retinopathy. 

His main areas of focus are the thyroid and thyroid conditions, especially hypothyroidism. He has a large cohort of patients he has successfully treated using a combination of therapies, and as such he has patients who travel to see him from all over the country for help with their thyroid condition. Professor Singhal has high patient satisfaction scores and has received many awards that reflect his attention to improving patient care.
 

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