May 2006 Newsletter
OOPS! We Missed That!
Those are not words that you want to hear come out of any doctor’s mouth. But, according to a research study in 2000, an estimated 13 million people have an undiagnosed weak thyroid. Dr. Mercola thinks the real number is 5 times that high. Now the bad news is that this information has been known for decades. Dr. Broda Barnes, MD had been researching this problem since the 1930’s and he had found research dating back to the turn of the century that hypothyroidism was a bigger problem than doctors had thought. In his book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, he does a great job of explaining why this deficiency gets missed so often. He also has a simple test that you can do at home that will help you determine if your thyroid is weak, too. Reading his book is vital to your health!
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroid
Severe hypothyroid is easy to diagnose by your doctor and is called myxedema. One of the confusing things about mild hypothyroidism is that the symptoms can be so widely varied. Below is a list of symptoms found in hypothyroid patients and compiled by two researchers in 1963:
Weakness, dry skin, coarse skin, lethargy, slow speech, swelling of the eyelids, sensation of cold, decreased sweating, cold skin, thick tongue, edema of the face, coarseness of hair, heart enlargement, pallor of skin, impaired memory, constipation, weight gain, loss of hair, pallor of lips, labored or difficult breathing, swelling of the feet, hoarseness, loss of appetite, nervousness, excessive and/or painful menstruation, deafness, palpitations, poor heart sounds, pain over the heart, poor vision, changes in the back of the eye, loss of weight, emotional instability, choking sensation, fineness of hair, cyanosis (bluish skin), difficulty in swallowing, brittle nails, depression, muscle weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, burning or tingling sensations, heat intolerance, slowing of mental activity, slow movements.
There are other clinical signs found by Dr. Barnes in his research that are not listed like: high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks, digestive problems, emotional disturbances, allergies, asthma, recurring infections, anemia, all types of skin problems like eczema and psoriasis and even lung cancer. It makes me wonder if the recent rise in lung cancer in non-smoking women might be linked to their weak thyroids. Dr. Barnes’ research showed that his smoking patients, being treated for a weak thyroid, didn’t die of lung cancer or heart disease like the normal population did.
Not Just for Baby Boomers
When you think of people with weak thyroids you usually think of people on the dark side of forty. Dr. Barnes found people of all ages suffered from this problem. Newborns, children and teens can all suffer from the effects of a weak thyroid just as much as grandma and old Aunt Hattie. This is not just something new in the 21st century but this was documented even in the late 1800’s. Dr. Barnes estimated that 40 percent of all people suffer from hypothyroidism. He started the student health center at the University of Denver in 1941 and found that 20 percent of the college students under his care were hypothyroids. Imagine what that number is today! This could be part of the Starbuck’s craze that has people of all ages clamoring for their sugar and caffeine fix as an artificial boost to their tired thyroids.
The reason most people are not properly diagnosed is that the tests are not 100% accurate. According to Dr. Barnes, before the first lab test that supposedly proved a weak thyroid, doctors treated the patient with dessicated thyroid based on their history and physical findings. Once there were lab tests, they stopped looking at the patient and treated according to the test results. Today we use a blood test that measures the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) as the guideline for hypo or hyperthyroid. For most labs the normal range is .4-5.5 which is a massive range. Anything below .4 is hyperthyroid and above 5.5 is hypothyroid. Dr. Mercola has written that anything over 1.5 should be considered hypothyroid while others have agreed on 2.0 as the upper limit. Dr. Barnes has an easier test.
The Barnes Basal Temperature Test can help you determine if your thyroid is working properly or not. His thought was that since the thyroid is responsible for stimulating the activity of every cell in the body, it is responsible for the heat produced from that activity. By measuring the heat of the body first thing in the morning before any movement, he could get a basic measure of the thyroid’s energy production. To do this test like Dr. Barnes describes you need a mercury thermometer. They are hard to find but can be purchased on line at www.vitalitymedical.com. Before going to bed, make sure to shake down the thermometer and put it on the night stand. Upon awakening, put the thermometer in your armpit and don’t move for a timed 10 minutes. After ten minutes note your temperature and repeat this for at least 3 days. Your average temperature should be in the 97.8°-98.2° range. Women that are still having periods should test on day 2, 3 and 4 of their cycle. If it is below that range you have a weak thyroid. If it is above that range you may have a fever or hyperthyroid if the readings persist. There are digital basal thermometers available but I don’t know if they work as well.
Natural Vs Synthetic
Synthetic hormones were not developed until the middle of the 20th century. All the research done in the first fifty years of last century and the clinical improvements they documented came from using Armour Thyroid. It contains not only the hormones T3 and T4 but also T1 and T2, which are never tested for and have no synthetic equivalent. Today, most doctors prescribe the synthetic thyroid hormones like Synthroid, which is just T4, and have very little experience with the natural alternatives like Armour Thyroid. Cytomel is a synthetic T3 hormone that is sometimes used alone or with the Synthroid. These medications are prescribed for a lifetime and the dose for these hormones usually goes up over time. Dr. Barnes felt that the lack of the building blocks iodine and tyrosine helped contribute to a weak thyroid. If you flunk the test above or have a TSH above 2, we can help you with some natural remedies and can monitor your progress with the basal temperature test and blood tests.
The office will be closed for Memorial Day Monday May 29th. Hope you have a great holiday weekend! On June 1, 2001 we raised our fees to their current levels. In the past 5 years a few things have gone up in price a penny or two (like fuel costs, housing costs, staff costs, etc.) so it is time we got caught up with the times and raised our fees, too. Starting June 1, 2006 our basic office visit will increase by $5 and the other fees will be adjusted likewise. We will have a list of our fees at the front desk if you have any questions. Any packages purchased before June 1st will stay the same price.