At least 20 million Americans, 80 percent 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. An old, but rarely-used therapy may be a making a comeback among patients looking for a natural solution.
Cheryl Williams, 61, 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.
Williams said, “they’ll say ‘oh, everything looks great. All your levels are just great.’ I’m going, ‘well how come I need a wheelchair to get out of here?’”
Jane Sadler, M.D., a family physician at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Dallas, did tests which showed that Williams has a thyroid deficiency, hypothyroidism.
“Their body is going to run into problems with heart failure, osteoporosis, low heart rate,” said Dr. Sadler.
Hypothyroidism is often treated with synthetic human thyroid hormone, but that didn’t improve Williams’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 Williams.
“It’s rewarding, 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,” Dr. Sadler said.
“When I think back now, it’s like wow, I can do these things without it being such a challenge and struggle,” said Williams.
The American Thyroid Association said the number of Americans with thyroid deficiency could be as high as 60 million, with 60 percent undiagnosed. A simple blood test to measure TSH-thyroid stimulating hormone- will provide the answer.