Hypothyroidism: – The Underdiagnosed Epidemic
By Ward Dean, M.D.
One of the most common (but often undiagnosed) causes of a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, is that of under active thyroid function, or hypothyroidism. Dr. Broda Barnes, a brilliant, intuitive physician and scientist, estimated that 40% of the adult population suffers from this condition.
Hypothyroidism – A Clinical Picture
Some of the most common symptoms caused by hypothyroidism include poor concentration, mental confusion, memory disturbances, cold hands and feet, overweight, difficult weight loss, menstrual problems, dry skin, thin hair, and low energy levels. Other symptoms include migraine headaches, hypertension, depression, hypoglycemia, atherosclerosis, diabetes, infertility, and even acne. In his book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, Dr. Barnes described over 47 symptoms that may be related to poor thyroid function.
Although many people exhibit symptoms of hypothyroidism, they usually dont receive treatment for this condition if they have normal blood test readings. Their physicians often tell them that their symptoms are due to other causes or that their problem is all in their head. I have known many patients who were referred to psychiatrists to treat their so-called psychosomatic problems. However, when they were later given thyroid replacement therapy, they improved dramatically.
A Better Way
In the 1940s, Dr. Barnes realized that the blood tests were usually inaccurate. Consequently, he developed a simple test to confirm suspected low thyroid function using an ordinary thermometer. He found that normal underarm or oral temperatures imwww.ely upon awakening in the morning (while still in bed) are in the range of 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. He believed that a temperature below 97.8 indicated hypothyroidism; and one above 98.2, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Dr. Barnes recommended that the underarm temperature taken immediately upon awakening be used to diagnose hypothyroidism. However, a 10-minute underarm temperature is the same as a 2-minute oral temperature (in absence of oral infection). Therefore, I instruct my patients to take their temperature orally (as opposed to underarm) immediately upon awakening in the morning as a guide to diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism. At the same time, I have my patients check their resting pulse rate (which should be between 65-75).
If a patient exhibits hypothyroid symptoms and the temperature is below 97.8 Fahrenheit, I prescribe one grain (60 mg) of Armour Desiccated Thyroid daily. If no improvement is noted in two or three weeks, I increase the dose by another grain. At each step, we monitor morning temperature and heart rate. If the suspected hypothyroid symptoms are still present and the temperature is still sub-normal, it is safe to continue to increase the dosage provided that the patients heart rate goes no higher than the mid-70s, and no symptoms of hyperthyroidism are evident. (agitation, anxiety, poor sleep, hand tremors, or palpitations). Occasionally, it is necessary to go to 5 grains daily (which is full replacement therapy!) to obtain relief of symptoms. It is not really necessary to perform periodic blood tests. I believe it is more important to treat the patient rather than just the blood test. However, blood tests wise from a medical-legal perspective. Treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone is very safe. There is little risk of excessive thyroid dosage if: (1) the patient feels well; (2) the temperature remains below 98.2; (3) the pulse is less than 75 beats per minute; and (4) the thyroid function tests remain normal. (Note that most hypothyroid patients feel best with sub-normal TSH levels).
Why Armour Thyroid?
Synthroid, the most commonly-prescribed hormone for hypothyroidism, contains only one fraction of thyroid hormone – T4. T4 is normally converted by the body into T3, the active form. I believe that many hypothyroid patients are unable to efficiently perform this conversion. Armour thyroid, on the other hand, is a desiccated preparation of porcine thyroid, containing all thyroid hormone factors – T2, T3, and T4. I have found that it is very difficult to provide adequate thyroid supplementation with Synthroid without causing patients to become thyrotoxic. On the other hand, most patients who switch from Synthroid to Armour thyroid report that they feel much better with the Armour product.
The dramatic improvements that many of my patients have achieved on thyroid therapy often appear miraculous. It is very gratifying to hear a patient who has suffered for decades express how his or her life has been totally turned around by a few cents worth of thyroid. Unfortunately, most physicians have been bamboozled by the manufacturers of synthetic thyroid hormone (Synthroid) into thinking that the Armour thyroid product is an inferior, non-standardized drug. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, a recent study confirmed the efficacy of the Armour product compared to synthroid.
Physicians Risk of Thyroid Therapy
Unfortunately, many physicians are reluctant to prescribe thyroid for patients with normal blood tests because of the bias of the medical establishment against treating hypothyroidism using Dr. Barnes protocol. In fact, a number of physicians have been censured by their medical boards, and some have even lost their licenses.
For anyone who has any of the hypothyroid-related symptoms listed above, I strongly recommend the books by Dr. Barnes or Dr. Stephen Langer (listed below) for a more comprehensive discussion of this subject. If you find that you are reading about yourself, the chances are good that you may be hypothyroid, and would probably benefit by supplementation with Armour Desiccated Thyroid. Armour thyroid is available by prescription from any pharmacy.
Barnes, B., Galton, L. Hypothyroidism: the Unsuspected Illness. New York: Thorruss Y. Crowell Co., 1976.
Langer, S., Scheer, J. Solved: The Riddle of Illness. New Canaan, CT: Keats, 1984.
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