DALLAS – At least 20 million Americans, 80% of them women, suffer from low levels of thyroid hormones, which can have major consequences.
The thyroid gland regulates metabolism, heart, muscle, and brain functions.
Now an old but rarely-used therapy may be making a comeback among patients looking for a natural solution.
That includes 61-year old Cheryl Williams. She has a lot of energy these days for walking the dog and practicing yoga, but for years she had none and doctors had no idea why.
"They'll say 'Oh, everything looks great. All your levels are just great.' And I'm going 'Well how come I need a wheelchair to get out of here?'" says Cheryl.
Doctor Jane Sadler did tests which showed that Cheryl has a thyroid deficiency, hypothyroidism.
"Their body is going to run into problems with heart failure, osteoporosis, low heart rate," said Dr. Sadler, family physician with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Dallas.
Hypothyroidism is often treated with synthetic human thyroid hormone, but that didn't improve Cheryl`s energy level.
So Dr. Sadler tried a seldom used remedy: pig thyroid extract. Doctors rarely prescribe the pig hormone because unlike the synthetic hormone, the concentration can vary. But it worked for Cheryl.
"It's rewarding," said Dr. Sadler, "but I will emphasize that I have to monitor Cheryl's levels of thyroid much more closely than I would somebody on a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement."
"So when I think back now, it's like 'Wow, I can do these things without it being such a challenge and struggle'," said Cheryl.
The American Thyroid Association says the number of Americans with thyroid deficiency could be as high as 60 million, with 60% undiagnosed.
A simple blood test to measure TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, will provide the answer.
CONTROVERSY: Most doctors prefer synthetic thyroid hormones because animal thyroid pills are not purified, which means that they contain substances that aren't naturally found in humans. While desiccated thyroid contains both T4 and T3, the balance of T4 and T3 in animals is not the same as in humans, so the hormones in animal thyroid pills aren`t necessarily 'natural' for the human body. Some believe that doctors only choose to prescribe synthetic hormones because it gives more money to the large pharmaceutical companies. There are very strong opinions for either side of the argument, but at the end of the day it is wise to choose whichever option shows the best results. Source: (https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/armour.html)
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