"Disease is the censor pointing out the humans, animals and plants who are imperfectly nourished." (Wrench, G. T. (1941) The Wheel of Health. London: Daniel, p 130.)
The DOCTOR YOURSELF (SM) NEWSLETTER Vol 1, No 18 July 10, 2001 "Free of charge, free of advertising, and free of the A.M.A." Written and copyright by Andrew Saul, PhD. of http://www.doctoryourself.com , a free online library of more than 200 natural healing articles with over 3,000 scientific references.
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.)
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. 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.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO STITCHES
I hate buying "band-aids." This is because as a parent, I know all too well for whom I am buying them. I especially grimace when buying butterfly bandages. The only good thing about them is that they work as well or better than the alternative: stitches. I have only rarely had to use butterfly bandages on each of my children. Once my daughter fell in primary school and cut her chin. She had a band-aid on when she got off the bus. When we removed it, we saw that the cut was deep enough to expose yellow-orange fat. That is a deep cut. I very carefully applied a butterfly bandage which held the skin tightly together. After a few days we started applying vitamin E to the site. Healing was so successful that you cannot find what otherwise surely would have been a scar should she have had the several stitches that the school nurse recommended. When I had a chin laceration of my own some years before, I had stitches. Aside from the interminable waiting room session, I have a scar to this day (which I hide nicely under my beard).
I have personally observed children getting stitched up in an emergency room. It is a scene to be avoided. In my daughter's case, it was. A laceration was effectively closed without needles, without the pain they necessarily cause, and without the stress of going to and waiting for assistance. I don't relish the task, but I'd prefer to be the one delivering care to my own kids. I think they greatly prefer it as well.
If it is a question of competence, then we must become competent, for even emergency room personnel might not be. "Many U.S. emergency rooms are staffed by doctors who were never taught how to treat a heart attack, resuscitate a child or treat bleeding," says an article in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle (1994, September 8). According to "Dr. L. Thompson Bowles, president of the National Board of Medical Examiners and chairmen of a group of 38 health care authorities who studied the issue... many (emergency room doctors) lack training and adequate experience in any aspect of primary health care."
Look, if you really need an ambulance, call one! Major traumatic injuries and some other situations absolutely demand medical technology. Even if the medical residents are not experienced, chances are the nurses and paramedics are. I submit, however, that we can increase our self-help territory, reclaiming a significantly larger part of medicine than most doctors would allow, and by simpler steps than most doctors would admit. I actually learned how to use the butterfly bandage from a friend over the phone, and by reading the directions on the package. It was time well spent to save my little girl from pain and a facial scar.
Fear of doing something wrong vanishes when we are knowledgeable about what we are doing. There is no fence around health information to keep us from learning it. Likewise, there is no law preventing us from applying our acquired knowledge in practice to benefit ourselves and our immediate family. The key is to gain the knowledge by wanting to learn, by wanting the responsibility for our own health, and doing something about it. Let no implied uniqueness of the doctor's profession keep you from wellness self-reliance.
THIS WEEK'S REASON TO BECOME (MORE OF) A VEGETARIAN There is something "alien" about eating another species, as even TV admits:
"It's red, dead, and corn-fed." (John Lithgow, as "The High Commander" in Third Rock from the Sun.)
Perhaps you have also seen The Simpsons episode in which Lisa becomes a vegetarian. The program is extremely well done, and I have often showed it to my classes during lecture. Catch it with your trusty VCR when rebroadcast in syndication, and watch it with the family.
MYTHS ABOUT VITAMINS and a Reader's Question:
"I just found a negative article concerning Vitamin C which states that apparently C causes arteriosclerosis to form at a faster rate. I am a recent C 'convert' and take between 2,000 - 3,000 mg daily, but this article scares me. Could you shed some insight into these finding? I am confused, as this seems to be contradictory to Dr. Linus Pauling's findings on C and heart disease."
My opinion is that you should never believe a vitamin scare story until you see and read the actual, original study for yourself. This particular study cited was faulty to say the least. I have never seen any scientific evidence that demonstrates that vitamin C narrows, harms, or "clogs arteries." It does not. Vitamin C in fact benefits the arteries considerably. I take 10,000 mg of vitamin C daily.
Abram Hoffer, MD, writes:
"Another potential factoid was trumped up by the press and received wide attention in all the media. The press reported that Dr. James Dwyer, University of San Diego Medical School, had found that the carotid arterial walls had been thickened by 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily. The press report cautioned against the use of vitamin C because this showed that the arteries were depositing plaque. But Professor Dwyer told Owen R. Fonorow (of The Vitamin C Foundation http://www.vitamincfoundation.org ) they had used only one measure and had not used two other measures which would have shown the degree of focal plaque called the plaque index, nor the velocity ratio to determine whether or not plaque interfered with blood flow. He did not say that plaque had developed.
"Dr. Robert Cathcart with experience on over 25,000 patients since 1969 has seen no cases of heart disease developing in patients who did not have any when first seen. He added that the thickening of the vessel walls, if true, indicates that the thinning that occurs with age is reversed. I have used vitamin C in megadoses since 1952 and have not seen any cases of heart disease develop even after decades of use.
"Recently Gokce, Keaney, Frei et al gave patients either a single dose of 2000 milligrams of vitamin C and 500 milligrams daily for thirty days and measured blood flow through the arteries. Blood flow increased nearly fifty percent after the single dose and this was sustained after the monthly treatment. They concluded that ascorbic acid treatment may benefit patients with coronary artery disease. This certainly effectively does not support the conclusion of Dwyer who did not measure blood flow." http://doctoryourself.com/hoffer_factoids.html
Scott Roberts' article on vitamin C absorption http://doctoryourself.com/c_roberts.html is also worth your reading. I would also recommend both an internet search (you can start with the vitamin C links on my LINKS page).
To submit a question or suggest a topic for the newsletter, email me at doctoryourself.com/contact.html
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: This newsletter is not in any way offered as prescription, diagnosis nor treatment for any disease, illness, infirmity or physical condition. Any form of self-treatment or alternative health program necessarily must involve an individual's acceptance of some risk, and no one should assume otherwise. Persons needing medical care should obtain it from a physician. Consult your doctor before making any health decision.
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