The big dividing line in healing philosophy between staid conventional colleagues and doctors like myself, is that we believe the patient more than they believe laboratory tests. This is particularly relevant to the treatment and investigation of a patient with thyroid dysfunction!
If there is a conflict, I assume the patient is a more accurate monitor of disease than blood tests. If someone feels terrible, it’s insane to say, “We’ve done all the tests and there’s nothing wrong.”
Doctors who don’t think for themselves (relying solely on the blood tests) will ignore striking symptoms such as fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, dry skin, or hair loss if the thyroid markers are “normal.”
Good holistic doctors will follow the symptoms and treat the clinical condition, which clearly exists.
The fact is that up to 20% of the population is probably suffering from some degree of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), though in some territories it could be much higher. The opposite – hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the gland) – is relatively rare.
The older you get, the more prone you are to thyroid dysfunction. It’s seems to manifest as a part of natural aging – but is still pathological and should be treated!
Part of the problem is that the tests remain crude and disease must become serious before it shows up as altered blood levels. Also the usually quoted range is so wide it is relatively meaningless and you could be 50% down on “average” and still said to be within normal limits.
In other words, the lab tests can show normal thyroid function while there are still abnormal symptoms and signs of disease. It’s a test of a doctor’s skill to recognize and treat the disease presented – that is right in front of them – whether or not the laboratory confirms the diagnosis.
Problems with the thyroid are not just a “quality of life” issue. Your risk of heart disease is significantly increased, confusion and lethargy may be misdiagnosed as dementia, and a wrongful diagnosis can end with the patient being placed on a completely inappropriate program.
The Link Between Your Thyroid and the Immune System
The thyroid gland is wrapped up in the process of immunity.[i] Several studies have shown that a patient with thyroid problems is more likely to develop cancer (cancer is best considered a disease of the immune system). This doesn’t mean only thyroid cancer – any cancer could be involved!
I first came across the connection between thyroid and immunity in my work as an allergy guru. Time and again patients would present the symptoms of thyroid disease, along with their allergy problems. This was especially true of women and there is a very good reason. Women have a high incidence of a clinical condition called Hashimoto’s disease (auto-immune thyroiditis), in which the body makes antibodies against the thyroid gland and hormones. It’s one of those allergy-against-yourself diseases (rheumatoid arthritis is another).
The late Dr. Broda O. Barnes believed that hypothyroidism underpinned a huge range of diseases in the West – including heart disease, allergies, cancer, parasitism, loss of sexual function, and visual acuity.[ii]
Notice that these read like a catalogue of aging problems!
For women, it’s more than pseudo-aging in the form of severe menstrual difficulties such as unusually heavy flow. It can also manifest as emotional and behavior problems in children.
Thyroid Dysfunction is Accelerating
Thyroid disorders are getting worse with every generation. One of the important reasons for such widespread hypothyroid problems in Western civilization is the fact that it is in large part due to the toxic overload that we all bear.
Nothing suffers quite so much as the thyroid gland from heavy exposure to pesticides, pollutants, and toxic heavy metals. These toxins accumulate steadily, much like chemicals accumulate moving up the food chain. Since we’re at the top of many food chains, bioaccumulation is happening faster.
Thyroid dysfunction multiples as well. Each parent generation starts their kids off with an already compromised organ, pass it on to their kids, who are even more disadvantaged still – and you’re left with a cascade effect that is also steadily accumulating toxins in their tissues throughout their own lives.
We would be facing thyroid misery of almost epidemic proportions. Mainstream medical professionals aren’t getting it because they rely entirely on tests that don’t work. The lab results “show nothing” so that means there “is nothing.”
The Broda Barnes Temperature Test
Blood tests for thyroid hormones are totally unreliable; a patient may have normal thyroid hormone levels but if their body isn’t responding to those hormones, a deficiency equivalent is the result.
A simple test for thyroid function which is very helpful is to take regular measurements of basal temperature (meaning while at rest). It’s called the Broda Barnes test, named after the doctor who first wrote about it.
A good time is first thing on waking, after your body has been lying still overnight. Temperature drops to its lowest at this point. To measure your own basal temperature, it must be done before you get out of bed or do anything whatsoever. Use a clinical thermometer, place it under your tongue, and leave it there for at least three minutes without opening your mouth. Record the results.
Generally, if it is running at 36.50 C (97.50 F) or less, that is presumptive evidence of low thyroid function. Allowance may need to be made for women who are ovulating, since the temperature naturally rises about 0.5 of a degree at this time.
Alternative Treatment of Thyroid Dysfunction
I use a several-fold approach. The simplest, if the signs are early enough and the patient is otherwise vigorous, is homeopathic thyroid stimulant. If a trial of this substance and related compounds appears ineffective, then supplementation with the hormone can be considered.
Conventional colleagues would not approach things this way, feeling that if the blood levels are adequate then supplementation is pointless. The stupidity of this attitude is that they then have nothing to offer the patient, beyond prescribing antidepressants for the lethargy and giving him or her a good ticking off about being overweight!
A better approach is to use what we call a “therapeutic trial.” The patient then becomes his or her own test subject. If taking the hormone results in a rapid return to normal, with renewed zest and loss of weight encumbrance, is that not adequate intellectual evidence that the thyroid was indeed, in some way, under-performing?
Synthetic vs. Natural Replacement
The usual thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) is synthetically produced. There are sometimes considerations that make the natural product better. This means supplementing dried thyroid extract from animal sources (pig instead of beef). If Hashimoto’s disease is the problem, synthetic products may be better because the body doesn’t react to them in the same way.
Desiccated (dried) thyroid is a thyroid hormone replacement drug prepared from the thyroid gland from pigs. It’s also known as “porcine thyroid.” It has been on the market and safely used for more than 100 years. It is always wise to start on a smaller dose of desiccated thyroid than they will ultimately need, such as 1 grain (60 mg). This will help the body get and there may be other issues which can reveal themselves, such as sluggish adrenals or low iron levels.
However, you’ll need to raise the dose rather quickly or hypothyroid symptoms can return due to the internal feedback loop in your body. Go to 2 grains in 2-3 weeks. Then 3 grains for a further 4 weeks, to give the T4 time to build (which can take 4-6 weeks). It’s unlikely indeed that anyone would need more than 5 grains.
You can just swallow the grains or take them sublingually. When taking desiccated thyroid extract, it is important to avoid iron, estrogen, and calcium supplements at the same time, since all bind the thyroid hormones to some degree.
You are looking for the removal of your hypothyroid symptoms, good heart rate and blood pressure, increased energy, lessening of severe menstrual symptoms, clearing of brain fog, etc.
A Word of Caution
Treatment of thyroid dysfunction is not really a go-it-alone area for self-help. You need your blood levels monitored. Thyroid hormone is potentially harmful, even dangerous, and you would be wise to seek out a qualified medical practitioner of the open-minded sort, who can help and steer you.
To your good health,
Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby
The Official Alternative Doctor
[i] Experimental Biology and Medicine: The immune system as a regulator of thyroid hormone activity.