Scientists Play Catch Up Trying to Understand Thyroid Problems
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist Byron J. Richards,
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Usually, we think of science as being on the cutting edge. In the case of understanding a person with thyroid symptoms and what they mean, scientists and the medical profession have been living in some sort of tunnel-vision Stone Age. Finally, a new study documents that people with a myriad of thyroid symptoms1 may have normal thyroid gland scores – yet their thyroid glands are under considerable inflammatory stress. This study is wedging a crowbar under the lid of ignorance that governs the daily faulty decision making of endocrinologists and general medical practitioners when it comes to understanding thyroid.
Researchers evaluated the number of symptoms in women who had elevated thyroid auto-antibodies that are reflective of existing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition wherein the immune system is infiltrating and inflaming the thyroid gland. They found that women with the higher levels of antibodies had much higher levels of hypothyroid symptoms, even though their actual thyroid hormone scores did not differ from women with lower levels of antibodies. The women with higher levels of auto-antibodies suffered from greater amounts of fatigue, dry hair, chronic irritability, chronic nervousness, a history of breast cancer, early miscarriage, and lower quality-of-life levels.
While this study is quietly circulating in the scientific literature it is actually a paradigm shocker. Millions of women have been told they don’t have a thyroid problem because their hormone levels are “normal.” They are told their symptoms are all in their head and they are just depressed and need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills. WRONG. Ironically, the women in this study were all coming in to have their thyroid glands removed due to benign growths and goiter. This means their doctors had ignored them for so long, that their thyroids—while still somehow managing to make hormone—had progressively deteriorated as a gland structure to the point of serious disease.
These types of patients are considered “problematic” by endocrinologists and general practitioners because they are not the round ball bearing that you just give thyroid medication to and all is better. Indeed, thyroid medication is often given to these patients and it makes them worse. This is all about reducing inflammation and restoring the antioxidant defense system within the thyroid gland. It is about playing detective to find out why the thyroid gland is being punched in the nose – is it stress, is it digestive problems? The sad reality is that even if doctors had enough brains to figure out what was going on they would have little idea what to do about it. Most doctors reading this study would get the idea they should use anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone to reduce the inflammation, which takes a shotgun to a problem that requires a laser beam. This is the sad state of Western medicine dealing with millions of patients, mostly women, who have thyroid inflammation.
The new gene science has opened up an entirely new understanding of thyroid hormone. It is now understood that the typical lab tests that measure TSH, T3, and T4 are crude approximations of what is going on with the thyroid and thyroid-related functions everywhere in the body. Importantly, the hormones being measured reflect a PRESERVED SYSTEM OF SURVIVAL, meaning they are the last system to go in terms of the thyroid giving out. Thus, measuring them is not measuring any of the initial or chronic problems that are clearly involved with poor thyroid function and impaired metabolism.
While I have written many articles that explain how to improve thyroid function, it looks like I need to write a book to help tie everything together, and put it in the context of the new emerging gene science. In the mean time, don’t count on Western medicine to help you with the obvious symptoms of poor thyroid function. They are content to wait around until you need the gland removed while insulting your intelligence and referring you to a shrink and brain pills, to cover for their own ineptitude.
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