The stress showed on Mary's face as she described how weary and depressed she felt. Her husband and children demanded too much of her, and she drank to escape the pressures and responsibilities. Mary had been in our program for two weeks. She was now alcohol-free and making lifestyle changes. Still, she had very little energy and didn't seem to be recovering very fast.
As we talked, she inadvertently offered several clues to the source of her problem. She complained that even on her restricted diet she simply couldn't lose weight. Exercise was out of the question. She was just too tired, even though she slept up to ten hours a night. She was wearing a heavy sweater even though it was a warm spring day. She said she had a hard time keeping warm and was very susceptible to catching colds. By the end of our session, I had heard enough to refer her to our physician for a thyroid test.
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland is not producing enough of certain hormones. It is more common in women over the age of sixty and causes an upset in the body’s chemistry. Because of this upset it is attributed many health problems such as obesity, infertility, and heart disease.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) include
- Mental sluggishness
- Poor memory
- Low sex drive
- Brittle hair
- Dry skin
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Cold hands and feet
- Sleeping more than eight hours a night
- Susceptibility to colds and infections
Hypothyroidism And Depression
Researchers speculate that hypothyroidism causes depression because there is an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain, since people with low thyroid function do not use oxygen efficiently. Linus Pauling, the father of Orthomolecular Medicine, contends that all depression could be eliminated if brain cells received sufficient oxygen.
Testing For Hypothyroidism
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you can test yourself for hypothyroidism with a procedure first described in the Journal of the American Medical Association by thyroid expert Broda Barnes, M.D. The test could not be simpler; People with low thyroid function have lower than normal body temperatures because they are not burning up as much food as they should. All you have to do for this test is determine whether your body temperature is lower than normal.
Use a digital or basal thermometer, not a fever thermometer. The basal type is commonly used by women trying to get pregnant -or trying to avoid pregnancy- to determine when ovulation occurs on the basis of an increase in body temperature. Basal thermometers are available in most drugstores.
Upon waking, place the thermometer snugly under your armpit for ten minutes. if it registers below 97.8 degrees and if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, you probably need thyroid hormone.
This home test can give you a fix on your thyroid status. If you haven't yet been tested, you can ask your doctor to check further. The usual laboratory tests for thyroid (T3, T4, and TSH) do no always tell the whole story. But a new test, the fluorescence activated microsphere assay (available from ImmunoDiagnostic Laboratories in San Leandro, California) will often reveal abnormalities less sophisticated tests miss.
In Mary's case, standard lab tests indicated low-normal thyroid function, but her morning temperature never rose above 96.9 degrees. We treated her with Armour Thyroid, bio-identical hormone. It relieved her depression and eliminated her mental sluggishness and fatigue. She also lost weight.
If your home thyroid test shows that your temperature is consistently below 97.8 degrees, see your physician to discuss treatment. If the doctor wants more information on your testing method, refer him or her to Dr. Barnes's book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. Another useful book is Solving the Puzzle of Illness by Steven Langer, M.D.
Dr. Barnes has published more than a hundred papers and several books on the role of the thyroid gland in human health. He treats thyroid disorders with natural desiccated thyroid (bovine or pork) rather than synthetic thyroid preparations. The advantage of natural thyroid over synthetic is that all thyroid hormones are replaced with the natural product, whereas synthetics have not yet been able to duplicate nature completely and do not affect two troublesome symptoms of hypothyroidism, dry skin and water retention.