Family and Lifestyle Endocrinology/Popular Medicine
‘Your Thyroid’, subtitled ‘and how to keep it healthy’, is the second edition of ‘The Great Thyroid Scandal and How to Survive it.’
I expect readers may be curious about why I read and reviewed this book. It’s a short story, but you can skip it if you want to go straight to the review.
A writing friend posted a plea for signatures on a petition to the NHS to have certain blood tests made both free and available for certain conditions. Her short blurb accompanying the request said she’d been diagnosed with a thyroid condition and she mentioned this book as a source of information she described as vital to all such sufferers. By pure coincidence, I’d been diagnosed with sub-clinical hypothyroidism only a few months earlier, so, trusting my friend’s judgment, I investigated. As a result, I bought the book.
Here’s my review.
First, this isn’t an easy book: it details the causes, nature and possible outcomes of thyroid-based conditions in enough detail to cause some sufferers anxiety. It also provides scientific evidence, using chemical equations and fairly esoteric information, to explain exactly how problems with this vital glandular system may occur, present, and perhaps be overlooked by most NHS GPs.
It also, however, gives a good deal of practical advice on how best to deal with the symptoms and consequences of the conditions. There are two basic issues with the thyroid: over-active, often accompanied by weight loss, and under-active, often resulting in weight gain. But there are clinical reasons why those two outcomes are not always present and may, in fact, sometimes produce their direct opposites!
I was diagnosed with a version of the condition that’s common (more common than many GPs accept), in that my thyroid is under-active. I have Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, which is a progressive attack on the thyroid. It’s more common in women of a certain age, but can affect men and children. It’s an autoimmune condition; the third I’ve been diagnosed with. I had Sarcoidosis when I was 28 (very little was known about it at the time. I was treated for 18 months with prednisolone, a steroid involved in reducing inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders). When I was 54, I was diagnosed with ME/CFS, another autoimmune condition (though many practitioners treat this sometimes fatal condition as a form of depression. Simple analysis confirms that ME/CFS sufferers are likely to become depressed as a result of the condition, rather than depression causing the disorder. But self-interest among psychiatrists plays a role in ensuring many patients fail to receive the treatment they really need). I recovered from ME/CFS after a period of 10 years.
Understanding I’m likely to deteriorate without proper treatment, I read this book and am now taking steps toward self-help, since the NHS is unfortunately quite blind about the reality.
I was sceptical about the author’s analysis of the situation; fearing he might have some connection with those dreadful profit-driven medics who rule in the USA, as he runs a private clinic. However, research has shown what he says about the poor understanding displayed by the NHS is exactly that. Also, his reference sources are multitude and pretty convincing.
I found the descriptions of the chemical processes involved in the gland’s failure a little difficult, but was able to grasp the essentials. I fear readers with little scientific experience may find these parts incomprehensible, but they can be skipped, providing you’re willing to accept the conclusions of an acknowledged expert.
There is a good deal of sound advice as to how patients can best help themselves in the absence of medical assistance. The standard treatment is confined to an artificial form of what the thyroid naturally produces; a drug called Levothyroxine. But, on its own, this is insufficient to properly control the condition and may do little to improve life for the patient. Other aspects, such as nutrition and supplements, play important parts in not only dealing with the paucity of necessary hormones but in actively improving the situation for patients.
In the 20 chapters and 5 appendices reside a great deal of substantial information, help, guidance and some warnings. This is not only a book explaining the condition, it’s a manual intended to help you help yourself.
The author believes, from his clinical experience, reading, and long association with other experts in the field, that as many as 30% of the UK population may be subject to some degree of thyroid disfunction (the NHS puts it at around 2%).
So, if you have a constant battle with weight, have high cholesterol, feel cold and tired all the time, have unexplained hair loss, often feel low or even depressed, and have either low sex drive or fertility problems, (not necessarily all of these) you’re well advised to see your doctor for the necessary blood test and, importantly, a proper clinical diagnosis. Don’t expect the blood test to be the end of the process (thyroid tests are still notoriously unreliable). Read this book and then see what you can do for yourself, unless you’re blessed with a medical practitioner who understands the problem thoroughly and is willing to provide the necessary support, of course.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]