The Great Thyroid Scandal

It isn’t easy to stick your neck out in mainstream medicine, but that is what thyroid expert Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield did, based on good logic and science, when he advocated a nutrition-based strategy for treating thyroid problems and a different approach to diagnosis.

PH: What do you think are the best tests?

BDP: I have found urine and saliva tests that measure T3, T4, TSH, and the T3/T4 ratio to be more useful. Saliva is especially useful because it is a better reflection of what’s happening in the cell itself, rather than the blood. www.thyroiduk.org does a thyroid screen based on saliva, which includes testing for antithyroid antibodies. This can indicate if someone has an autoimmune thyroid problem.

PH: Can you tell me a bit more about autoimmune thyroiditis?

BDP: About 50% of people with thyroid problems have this disorder. Basically, this means their immune system over-stimulates and then attacks the thyroid tissue, leading to hypothyroidism. Ironically, a person with autoimmune thyroiditis may start out being ‘hyperthyroid’, the symptoms of which include wide-eyed staring, shakiness, tremors, feeling warm to the touch, frequent bowel movements, nervousness and irritability. If a person is anti-thyroid antibody positive, it’s very important to check for and eliminate allergies. There is a strong possibility they are gluten sensitive. I’ve found that simply eliminating wheat often stops the symptoms. In most cases, hyperthyroidism will self-correct in a year or two. That’s why I’m not in favour of immediate surgical removal of thyroid tissue or another procedure known as thyroid ablation, which involves swallowing radioactive iodine that ‘nukes’ the thyroid gland. Both procedures are very hit and miss. Too much thyroid tissue can be removed, or too little, requiring more intervention. I prefer the use of one of two drugs that shut down thyroid function – neomercazole or propylthiouracil. If a patient takes these for a year or two, the condition often corrects itself, avoiding the need for irreversible surgery or ablation.

PH: How do you treat an underactive thyroid?

BDP: I usually start with diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. All the usual suspects make thyroid function worse – sugar, refined foods, alcohol and smoking. There is some dispute about the effects of caffeine. In my opinion, if you’re not hooked, it may not be a problem. Fluoride in water is a problem, as fluoride competes with iodine, thus effectively contributing to an underactive thyroid. I think environmental pollutants and hormone-like chemicals in non-organic produce are also contributing to thyroid problems. Exercise promotes thyroid function, so much so that some people are pseudo-overactive because it’s the only way they feel slightly normal. As far as supplements go, I give 500-2000mg of tyrosine, as well as iodine (in kelp) 1-2 tablets a day, 200mcg of selenium, 15mg of zinc and 200mg of magnesium. These minerals help the manufacture and conversion of T4 to T3. Many people are iodine deficient, but you have to be a bit careful not to give too much. I also give glandular extract of bovine thyroid, and sometimes adrenal glandular extract. Very often, this combination of diet, supplements, glandulars and a few lifestyle changes solves the problem. However, if this strategy doesn’t relieve symptoms, I will recommend thyroid medication.

PH: In terms of diet, do you think that the soy and the Brassica...

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