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SOLVED THE RIDDLE OF ILLNESS
By Stephen E. Langer, James F. Scheer
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2006The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Nothing Organically Wrong"
"Dr. Langer, I hate sex!"
Tears glistened in the eyes of the attractive thirty-year-old woman seated across the desk from me.
"Maybe it's my fatigue," she continued. "Half awake, in a mental fog, I drag around the office. At home in the evening, I collapse, exhausted, when my husband wants me most. Yet how can I even think of having sex when my body cries out just for survival?"
Particularly upsetting to this patient, whom I'll call Connie, was the assessment of her condition by previous doctors: "There's nothing organically wrong."
Allison's problem was somewhat different. She enjoyed sex but usually turned off her mate with icy cold hands and feet. Tired, drowsy, anxious, often depressed, she caught every cold that came her way and had frequent sinus and upper respiratory infections and severe headaches.
"My doctor can't find a thing wrong," she told me. "He calls me the world's foremost hypochondriac."
Eloise had no complaints about her sex life, only her sex. Difficult menstruation, which had started prematurely at age ten, caused her to miss school and, now, time from her prosperous advertising agency. To cope with exhaustion and with being cold, she drank mug after mug of hot coffee. She often experienced acute anxiety and occasional feelings of doom.
"My former doctor—and I do mean former—made me furious during my last office visit," she explained. "He told me, 'I advise you to take a more wholesome view of your health, because there's nothing organically wrong.'"
Like these women, Phil, a brilliant twenty-nine-year-old computer designer, had a mixed bag of problems—sudden inability to perform sexually, increasing difficulty producing innovative ideas, and minimal energy and endurance.
"My sexual failure is humiliating," he admitted, "but mental sluggishness and lack of energy are threatening my income and career. Coffee and pep pills don't do a thing for me. It's as if somebody pulled the plug on my power source."
His previous physician had tried a series of testosterone injections, which had given him only a minor charge and no improvement in his sex life or performance in business. Too young to be old, Phil was naturally dejected.
The four patients had two things in common: frustration and the same basic ailment. During their individual consultations with me, I informed them:
"Your thyroid function needs checking."
Their reactions could be summed up in the words: "Not another test!" All of them had gone through exhaustive tests, including one for thyroid function, at a cost of hundreds of dollars.
"This won't cost you a cent," I assured them. "You can do the Barnes Basal Temperature Test yourself at home."
They were puzzled. Who had ever heard of a no-cost test? Then I explained how to do it.
"Before going to bed tonight, shake down a thermometer. Leave it on the bedside table. As soon as you wake up in the morning after a good night's sleep—no later—tuck the thermometer snugly under your arm for ten minutes as you lie there.
"If your thyroid function is normal, your temperature should be in the range from 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. If it's lower, you are probably hypothyroid—your thyroid gland is underfunctioning—and your physical problems and related ones have probably been caused or at least influenced by that. The test should be done on two consecutive days."
To the women, I said, "You get the most accurate readings if you're not menstruating (temperature fluctuates at that time) or on the second or third days of menstruation."
Reported results confirmed my suspicions: all were indeed hypothyroid. The treatment—Armour natural desiccated thyroid supplement—brought gratifying results: freedom from their ailments in less than two months. Eloise was ecstatic about painless menstruation and normal body temperature.
Appreciative husbands of Connie and Allison told me that thyroid supplement had saved their sex lives and marriages. Phil went even further. He said, "It saved my whole life."
Over thirty years as a medical doctor, I have been privileged to help many Connies, Allisons, Eloises, and Phils. In fact, I seem to specialize in patients whose symptoms are not readily diagnosed—persons who have been through the traditional system and possibly have been rejected as psychosomatic cases or as hypochondriacs. A graduate of the State University of New York College of Medicine at Buffalo, I spent some time studying psychiatry before realizing that I couldn't accept one of the basic assumptions of traditional Western allopathic medicine—the sharp cleavage between mind and body. I was troubled that patients should be branded as "psychiatric problems" or as having "psychogenic problems," as opposed to having "ailments of the body." It seemed that the twain would never meet.
In my frame of reference, mind and body are two expressions of the same thing. As I moved out of psychiatry, I realized another key fact about my professional stance. I couldn't build a shrine before the double-blind approach so highly revered in medical schools. It is certainly valid, but it is just one belief system among many. Belief systems should be used pragmatically, not be regarded as sacred. They should be continually transcended if something better comes along—even if that something doesn't fit into the tidy training mold of medical doctors.
Because of this position, I can draw upon the best of today's medicine and still think and act independently. Therefore, if patients have no clinical findings to back up a laundry list of complaints, I don't automatically conclude that they are hypochondriacs, neurotics, or psychotics. After an examination and the taking of a thorough history (which may not reveal reasons for their problems), I still do not paste a negative label on them.
After all, no medical system or doctor is infallible. Often there is a physical basis for many symptoms, a cause not always apparent within the framework of traditional clinical medicine.
One major basis frequently overlooked is hypothyroidism—underfunctioning of the thyroid gland. Even a seemingly slight deficiency in thyroid hormone can cause an incredible number and variety of sabotaging physical, emotional, and mental ailments.
For the benefit of my patients and the expansion of my professional horizons, I am thankful that I stumbled across the monumental research in this area of Broda O. Barnes, MD, PhD, one of the world's foremost authorities on the thyroid gland. This wealth of information revolutionized my practice of preventive health maintenance more than any other single factor.
Speaking from almost fifty years of clinical experimentation, Dr. Barnes stated that no less than 40 percent of the adult population of the United States suffers from an often hidden condition known as hypothyroidism. In medical school, we saw a few cases, but no one paid much attention to them. The 40 percent figure struck me as a gross exaggeration until I followed the Barnes method in my practice and found the percentage running slightly higher.
Lecturing to physicians and laypeople worldwide, Dr. Barnes warned that serious hypothyroidism was going virtually undetected, because of doctors' almost total reliance upon laboratory blood tests. Why should millions suffer needlessly from the insidious effects of hypothyroidism when a simple, accurate thyroid function test was available to everyone? After all, his underarm test had been painstakingly checked for accuracy against basal metabolism results in thousands of persons in the lat
Excerpted from SOLVED THE RIDDLE OF ILLNESS by Stephen E. Langer. Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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