Friday, 16 March 2007

Low thyroid and obesity

So many struggling dieters I've got talking to recently have said 'it's not my thyroid, I've been tested' or 'it's not my thyroid - I'm on thyroxine' that I could scream.

That's not to say that everyone who has trouble losing weight has undiagnosed or undertreated hypothyroidism (underactive or low thyroid). But when experts such as Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield say that up to 30 per cent of people may develop low thyroid function at some point in their lives and that weight gain is a feature of hypothyroid illness that applies to many more people than the medical profession realises', it makes you think, doesn't it? Any when Dr Durrant-Peatfield and other specialists who think the way he does explain that the TSH (the test currently used to diagnose low thyroid and to dictate the dosage of thyroxine if you have already been diagnosed) is hopelessly inaccurate, it gets more worrying.

And when these same struggling dieters say they're tired all the time, constipated, have dry skin, feel like they are in a 'mental fog' etc etc, all standard symptoms of hypothyroidism, doesn't it set alarm bells ringing that they may be amongst the great undiagnosed and undertreated?

Isn't it time that family doctors recognized that hypothyroidism is not uncommon, and looked for it more readily when patients complain of weight loss difficulties on a standard calorie restricted diet? And time that they recognized the limitations of the TSH test and instead relied upon good old methods such as clinical observation and trial of medication?

Hypothyroidism causes many problems which affect a sufferer's quality of life as well as their long term health. Experts such as Dr Durrant-Peatfield say undertreatment can in some cases make sufferers feel worse than no treatment at all. They also say that hypothyroids should expect to feel one hundred per cent well and free of symptoms with the correct treatment, and shouldn't be fobbed off with 'Well what do you expect, you're hypothyroid'.

You only have to look at the information and support sites created by sufferers of low thyroid which are springing up everywhere to see that word is spreading about the inadequacies of the TSH test and the need for better diagnosis and treatment for hypothyroidism. The cat is now out of the bag. Hypothyroid people want a better deal. They want treatment when it eases symptoms such as inability to lose weight, fatigue, depression and the rest, not just when the TSH test says they should be treated. They want better medication choices such as natural thyroid extract which contains all the missing hormones, not the inadequate treatment they usually get just because a couple of large drug companies have managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the medical profession with their synthetic single-hormone pills. Above all, they want to be believed when they say that their overweight is not their fault.

And bearing in mind that the powers-that-be are apparently so concerned with the burgeoning rates of obesity, wouldn't undiagnosed and undertreated hypothyroidism be a worthy avenue of investigation?

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