Book review: Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic by Mark Starr (Mark Starr Trust, 2011 )
Why won’t my doctor talk about these things?
Is heart disease really a mystery? Why won’t your weight drop despite diet & exercise? Must one-third of Americans have chronic illnesses? Are mental illneses related to hypothyroidism? Is feeling tired, cold, and weak normal? Do blood tests detect most cases of hypothyroidism? Can patient’s symptoms be diagnosed more reliably? Is low energy normal for my age? Do thin hair and weak nails mean something? Is dry skin a symptom of an illness? Do environmental toxins affect our hormones?
Dr. Starr is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pain Medicine and is licensed by the Arizona State Board of Homeopathic and Integrated Medicine Examiners. He has studied with President Kennedy’s famous pain specialist Hans Kraus, M.D., and Lawrence S. Sonkin, M.D., renowned endocrinologist at the New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center.
Hypothyroidism Type 2 is based on a lot of research, even though it’s not mainstream. Some people just have a lot of symptoms of hypothyroidism, which doesn’t show up on blood tests, but that strangely goes away when treated with thyroid medication …
The idea of “type 1” and “type 2” is taken from diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. In type 2, it does, but the body can’t absorb it properly. Starr argues that it’s the same with the thyroid. If the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, it shows up on blood tests, and you can get treated. This is the widely recognised form of hypothyroidism. If the thyroid produces enough hormones, but the body can’t absorb it, it won’t show up as a hormone deficiency in a blood test, and 99% of doctors won’t recognise it as a problem, even if you as a patient have clear symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Maybe about 15 years ago, I read an article in a magazine about a woman who had a lot of symptoms I thought sounded oddly familiar. The woman had an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Showing the article to my mother, she agreed it sounded a lot like me, and we went to our local GP practice to see if they could suss out if I had the same thing. They took a blood test, it came back as “within normal range”. If the doctor says you haven’t got it, despite your symptoms, then you haven’t got it, right?
A few years later, in 2001, my mother and I went to see a practitioner of holistic medicine in Gothenburg. He didn’t get very far into his assessment of me before he said I had an underactive thyroid. “Nuh-uh, we had that checked by the doctors, they said it was normal,” I replied. His response was along the lines of “the range is acquired by measuring healthy, 20-year-old boys – it doesn’t mean that what’s normal for them is normal for you“. There is a difference between male and female bodies, so yeah, can’t really argue with that.
Anyway, when I registered with my local GP practice when we had moved to this side of Nottingham, they got me to take another blood test specifically to check my thyroid function, even though I hadn’t brought it up. It came back normal (again).
And then more recently, I came across an article in a Swedish newspaper mentioning a “type 2” – a hypothyroidism that you can’t find through blood tests, because you still have the symptoms, but the blood tests come back within the normal range. Wanting to learn more, I came across this book, and gobbled it up.
I’m left wondering why the hell this isn’t a field that gets researched more. It affects a whole lot of people, and if the claims this book make are all accurate, then it beggars belief why this isn’t recognised and subjected to lots of testing so that it can be recognised? It used to be common knowledge, but since blood tests were invented we’ve become overly reliant on them. This isn’t even a new problem, although it does get worse for every subsequent generation that goes untreated.
The problem for those who have type 2 hypothyroidism is that as long as it’s not a widely recognised diagnosis, it doesn’t get research funding, and a lot of people don’t know they have it (then again, perhaps they’re not that fussed if their symptoms aren’t that bad) … and those that do can’t get treatment for them, because so few doctors out there are willing to treat it, because they’ve not heard about it. And where does that leave us ordinary people as patients? Nowhere. We can’t get help, and the few doctors out there who know about it and are willing to listen are seen as little less than crackpot quacks.
Personally, I’d love to go to my GP with a list of symptoms and say “please fix these – here’s how”, I have no idea how to go about it. What do you say to a doctor who won’t listen? And that’s why everyone who suspects they have an underactive thyroid because their symptoms say so, even if their blood tests don’t, should not only read this book but read up about the subject as much as possible and try to turn the tide.
As a book, while the medical talk gets a bit heavy at times, it’s still perfectly readable and understandable to non-medical people. There’s a lot of research behind this, dating back about a century, and it’s very fascinating to read about. Very enlightening.
While I don’t like to take medication when it’s not needed, I do believe in getting medical treatment when you know something is wrong, especially when there is a fairly simple solution to what can be a very big problem. (UPDATE 2021: As it turns out, our GP disagreed.)
4 out of 5 brittle nails and cold feet. I could go on.
More information: Thyroid Patient Advocacy (UK), who also run a discussion forum.