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Thyroid Conditions


Thyroid
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(If you have come to this page for advice, you might be surprised to see a book review instead. My advice is to read this book. The review will summarize it, but cannot replace it. Note: I did not write this book, and I do not sell this book.)

 

THYROID POWER
by Richard L. Shames and Karilee H. Shames.

NY: Harper Collins (2001) ISBN: 0-688-17236-9 (296 pages, plus endnotes, bibliography, index, and glossary.)

 

Reviewed by Andrew W. Saul

If you are one of the “millions who struggle with subtle low-thyroid conditions,” this book is right up your street. Richard Shames, M.D., is a general practitioner with special interest and experience in treating thyroid problems. Compared to so many physicians who literally laugh patients out of the office when they ask about thyroid supplementation, Dr Shames and his wife (who is a registered nurse and PhD) offer a reasoned, compassionate alternative to just “learning to live with it.”

Thyroid Power clearly explains the important difference between T-3 and T-4 thyroid hormone. T-3 (triiodothyronine) would seem to be the one to watch.  Doctors characteristically over-emphasize your T-4 (l-thyroxine, or “storage” thyroxine) level and effectively ignore T-3 (fast-acting or “active” thyroxine) levels. Physician fixation on test results’ numbers, which are inadequate to detect borderline conditions, results in masses of people suffering the symptoms of low thyroid. These all-too-common symptoms include fatigue, depression, weight gain, insomnia, difficult menopause, endometriosis, and quite a variety of others including arthritis and rheumatic complaints, low sex drive, infertility, and skin problems. Many, many persons are therefore “uncomfortable but still normal.”

What to do? First of all, if you feel crummy, insist on thyroid testing, and get a copy of your test results. By law, your doctor must provide them to you if you ask. So ask! Interpretation of the tests is likely to be better if you are in on it, and easier if you have Thyroid Power in your hands. The book provides case histories and the numbers to look for. Since a “normal” or even somewhat high T-4 can coexist with the symptoms of low thyroid function, do not accept a test for T-4 alone. Insist on T-3 testing as well, and pay special attention to it. TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) testing will almost always be done. High TSH levels “means that the brain and pituitary (gland) are asking for more thyroid hormone.” (p 62) (By the way, “pituitary” was left out of the index, and should be added.) The authors consider any TSH number over 3.0 to be “suspicious, and anything over 4.0 merits treatment” if symptoms are present (p 75).

Second, use the self-assessments provided in the book on pages 20-21, 39-40 and 55-58. They will walk you through and assist you, and your doctor, in making a proper diagnosis. For example, one thing you can do is take your basal body temperature using a sensitive ovulation thermometer, or mercury basal thermometer. This you do before you even get out of bed in the morning.

Third, with tests in, be prepared to require your doctor to take action. The authors say you should “obtain a trial of thyroid medicine, regardless of blood test results.”  This statement will not endear them to the entire medical community, but who cares about that any more? Your health is not a popularity contest. Still, the authors wisely provide what amounts to a letter of introduction for you to show to your physician. It is tucked away at the back of the book on pages 261-266, but don’t leave home without it. It is very to the point and complete with many recent references from scientific journals. On page 80 you learn what to say to a doctor who wishes to deny you thyroid supplementation because your T-4 is high. These were brilliant inclusions. You will need them.

Fourth, learn the side effects of too much thyroid. These include: rapid heartbeat, unusual difficulty sleeping, sweating and otherwise feeling hot, hyperactivity, a racing mind, and twitching. Contrary to popular medical myth, thyroid medication does not cause osteoporosis; it helps prevent it.

The attitude of Thyroid Power essentially is this: If you have symptoms, here’s something you can do about it. “Each person is his or her own best physician,” the authors say (p 103). I like that. I also like their many natural healing recommendations, including stress reduction, avoiding chemicals in both food and environment, choosing organic foods, and taking vitamin supplements. I was disappointed that the text recommends only 1,000 mg of vitamin C, which is wholly inadequate to supply the adrenal support the authors call for in chapter 7. In the back of the book, the suggested supplement list (p 296) calls for as much as 2,500 mg of vitamin C, but this is slightly contradictory, and in any event, still too low to do the job. The B-complex recommendation is likewise overly conservative. The balance of the supplemental recommendations are generally quite good, notably the one calling for at least 400 IU of vitamin E, plus calcium, magnesium, zinc and chromium, and other nutrients as well.

Many practical hints are provided. Stop caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and aspartame (“Nutrasweet”) use. The authors say that excess iodine supplementation will not help low thyroid sufferers. Take thyroid medication on an empty stomach. If you still have low thyroid symptoms with a TSH of 2 or lower, order a TRH (Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone) test. All the different brands of thyroid medication are discussed. (p 87-106) How to tailor the dose is on pages 88-89. Why you will gain weight if you do not have enough T-3 is on page 168. 

The sections on herbal remedies are entirely too brief.  Readers are interested in herbs, their specific dosage, preparation and side effects. A two-page presentation (p 164-5) and scattered mentions here and there is just not what we expect from a work authored by a holistic physician.  Homeopathy is similarly praised, but sketchily treated (p 204-206). No specific, low-dose homeopathic remedies are recommended for thyroid conditions. That is a major omission.  At the very least, much more complete homeopathic and herbal bibliographies are needed in Thyroid Power.

An unexpectedly pleasant surprise was the authors’ uncompromising criticism of water fluoridation. It takes a bold medical author (and publisher, for that matter), to so solidly slam fluoride, which though “currently touted as harmless enough to be put into the water supply, has been used in the past as a powerful medication to slow down overactive thyroid activity.” A citation to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology backs up this most interesting statement. The authors clearly state that water fluoridation is a significant cause of low thyroid illness in millions of people. They also mention the curious origins of water fluoridation, first employed in Nazi concentration camps to allegedly “force inmates into submission.” (p 173) The authors’ unequivocal conclusion: “Do not allow your children to be treated with fluoride.” (p 175)

Thyroid Power is a very good work. I rarely say this about a book that recommends medication, but I have personally seen what thyroid can do.  In her early fifties, my mother suffered from arthritis, depression, skin problems, fatigue, unexplained weight gain and assorted other miserable symptoms. Nothing seemed to help, until she got a new, younger family physician.  He promptly put her on thyroid medication, and she was a new woman. Her singing voice came back, along with her get-up-and-go. Her weight came down, her joy of living came up, and her skin looked great. No more bags under the eyes; no more three-hour daily naps.  If this is you, then Thyroid Power is for you.
 

Reprinted with permission from the JOURNAL OF ORTHOMOLECULAR MEDICINE, and copyright 2003 and prior years by Andrew W. Saul.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )

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Andrew W. Saul

 


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