Another medical witchhunt


One of the greatest and most far-reaching scandals of modern medicine has to do with the appalling ignorance of doctors about the workings of the glands and hormones that regulate how much energy we have.

One of the greatest and most far-reaching scandals of modern medicine has to do with the appalling ignorance of doctors about the workings of the glands and hormones that regulate how much energy we have.

The thyroid, a bow-tie-shaped gland at the base of the neck, is our body’s central metabolic regulator, and when it goes awry (as it can in today’s highly toxic environment), it can cause untold mayhem.

Hundreds of thousands of people—including one-sixth of the over-55s, according to one survey—are walking around with undiagnosed underactive thyroid. Half of all women and a quarter of all men will die with an inflamed thyroid.

In fact, undiagnosed thyroid problems may be one of the major elements contributing to such puzzling diseases of the 21st century as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia, all now appearing in epidemic numbers.

This becomes all the more serious when you consider that a thyroid gland out of control can sometimes even kill you.

Bad testing
The main reason that doctors have so much trouble diagnosing an underactive thyroid is that they rely on blood tests that don’t tell them about the full state of a person’s thyroid, but only about the levels of thyroid hormone circulating in the blood. These tests also can’t tell them how much thyroid hormone the body is able to use or how much is necessary to ensure an individual’s health.

To make matters even more complicated, a host of conditions and drugs can throw off a thyroxine (thyroid hormone) reading. Just taking the Pill can give a false picture of the state of your thyroid.

Holistic testing
Barry Durrant-Peatfield, formerly a Surrey-based general practitioner in the UK, spent 40 years successfully treating thousands of patients with thyroid problems by ignoring the standard blood tests, taking a careful history of the patient and examining such things as diet, micronutrient status, and allergies and other environmental influences.

He also relied on a simple, non-invasive test developed by Dr Broda Barnes, a thyroid expert, 30 years ago. Dr Barnes, who believed that many people have subtle thyroid disorders that don’t show up on any blood test, publicized a simple, accurate test for both hypo- and hyperthyroid conditions that can be done at home.

Barnes’ test involves recording your basal body temperature (BBT), the body’s lowest temperature during its waking day. This is invariably when you wake up, and before you get out of bed in the morning.

The test entails simply placing a thermometer under your armpit for 10 minutes first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, for several days and recording the results.

A normal reading ranges from 97.8º to 98.2º F (36.6º to 36.8º C). Anything markedly below this could mean an underactive thyroid; anything markedly higher suggests an overactive one.

Of course, a good doctor will also consider and exclude other causes of a low BBT, as the armpit test is no substitute for a careful and complete history-taking.

According to Dr Durrant-Peatfield, this test has been ignored or derided by many practitioners and authorities. Doctors accustomed to diagnosing from complex quantified measurements like laboratory results tend to suspect anything as simple as a thermometer reading.

Peatfield’s other innovation was to recognize that the thyroid works in tandem with the adrenal glands and to treat them both with natural glandular extract, rather than the synthetic thyroxine generally prescribed by medicine.

Medical witch-hunt
The tragedy is that this reliance on gadgetry blinded medicine to the simple wisdom of Peatfield’s approach. After the millennium, a witch-hunt was instigated to round up all those doctors like Peatfield who refused to diagnose thyroid disorders on the basis of blood tests.

Fourteen years ago, Dr Durrant-Peatfield had his license suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC), the chief medical licensing body in the UK. Although hundreds of his patients sent letters of support to the GMC, these were totally ignored at his hearing. The decision to suspend him had been taken before the final hearing, which declared him a "danger to patients".

Dr Durrant-Peatfield retired but decided to take his case directly to the public. He compiled all his knowledge on fatigue and how to counter it into a book, called Your Thyroid and How to Keep it Healthy: The Great Thyroid Scandal and How to Survive it, featuring many of his breakthrough ideas about why adrenal gland problems are behind many cases of fatigue and thyroid problems that go unresolved.
As with most areas of medicine, space-age equipment and high-tech lab results are no substitute for taking a good look at patients and listening carefully to their stories. To figure out how to treat some of the most puzzling new illnesses plaguing us nowadays, doctors may have to recover some of the lost art of traditional medicine as was practised by Durrant-Peatfield: learning again how to read the state of a patient’s tongue

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