The following is excerpted from my upcoming book, Armageddon Medicine.
Thyroid disease – Hypothyroidism (Low thyroid)
In Part 1 of this series we discussed different types of hypothyroidism and how the diagnosis is made. The current installment focuses on treatment considerations.
Current treatment of hypothyroidism centers on adjusting the dosage of hormone replacement to maintain a serum TSH in the normal range. This is finer-tuning than is probably necessary to keep a patient asymptomatic regarding hypo- or hyperthyroidism. However, whereas subclinical hypothyroidism may not effect health long-term, subclinical hyperthyroidism may deplete calcium from the bones and is associated with a higher likelihood of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate). Patients who claim they have no evidence of hyperthyroidism may simply be unaware of milder symptoms, such as the ability to eat a little more without gaining weight, or a bit higher energy level.
The mainstay of thyroid replacement therapy is levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levothroid, T4), one of the same hormones the human body makes. It is the form of treatment preferred by most physicians in the U.S. The dose is very consistent (at least in brand-name medication), which allows close monitoring of blood levels. Of course, many patients are on generic medication, which has a +/- 20% tolerance range (vesrsus +/- %5 for brand-name drugs). For some patients, this does not matter. Other patients require the exact dosing only available with name-brand medication, to maintain a normal TSH level. Generic medication costs as little as $4/month, but even brand-name Synthroid is available for $25/month or less.
All this is fine and dandy if medication and blood testing is available, and stockpiling thyroid medication is a good idea for those who really need it. But if civilization collapses, TSH measurements are as unlikely to be available as would be synthetic medication to treat the condition.
However, doctors my age and older have been in medicine long enough to remember thyroid treatment before the days of readily available thyroid stimulating hormone determination. In those days, the levels of T3 and T4 thyroid levels were assayed in the blood. Although this was useful, it did not allow close regulation of thyroid function, and many patients were placed on thyroid medication who probably did not need it.
Before blood tests for thyroid hormone levels were available, diagnosis and treatment were based on monitoring symptoms, a situation which is likely to recur after the end of the world as we know it. Once stockpiles of levothyroxine run out, and if the manufacturing process has not been re-established, animal sources must once again be used.
Of course, animal thyroid replacement therapy continues to be available (Armour thyroid), compounded from desiccated porcine thyroid tissue, and is still prescribed by some physicians. For most patients, 60-120 mg of Armour thyroid daily is an adequate dose. Thyroid hormone is absorbed better on an empty stomach, and so should be taken before eating, not only to maximize therapy when supplies are limited, but to obtain the most consistent treatment result.
Until I wrote this chapter I was unaware that nutraceutical-grade thyroid compounds are available without a prescription. These are desiccated (freeze-dried) whole thyroid tissue from cows or pigs. The onlne sources I found stated the cows were pasture fed, thus reducing the concern for contamination with Mad Cow disease from animals fed rendered cattle remains. I have never seen OTC dessicated thyroid preparations in local pharmacies, but I do see them online. I’m sure no one in the medical establishment would recommend these, but at TEOTWAWKI, they are a consideration. For those who have no other way of stocking up on medication, I suppose this might be an option.
Future installments of this topic will include:
- Figuring out what type of thyroid disease you have
- Stockpiling medication
- Alternative and complementary medicine