review by Gloria Shen
The Thyroid Alternative – Renew Your Thyroid Naturally
By Nikolas R. Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I.
Published by Renew Your Health, LLC
Paperback; ©2011, $19.95 US
I typically approach any book written on the treatment of a health-related condition with skepticism. I have to admit that after reading Dr. Nikolas Hedberg’s The Thyroid Alternative, I was pleasantly surprised and actually optimistic that I had in my hands a credible, research-based book that could address serious health concerns faced not only by me but by family members and friends as well. Perhaps the most important thing to realize with this book is that it gives you concrete answers to questions you may have had about your health. If you’ve wondered about prolonged symptoms of fatigue, malaise or a slow metabolism and were simply dismissed by your physician when your concerns were raised, this book is definitely for you.
I began the book by reading the ‘About the Author’ page. From whom would I be receiving the information shared in this book? I learned that Dr. Hedberg is one of those physicians who is undaunted by complex and chronic illnesses, taking on the most difficult-to-treat disorders including Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome. I liked the fact that he has experience treating diseases in which people are customarily resigned to a lifetime dependence on pharmaceuticals.
The book cover calls out to those suffering with “weight gain”, “fatigue” and “depression”. However, I think that it would also be essential reading for naturopaths, other practitioners in the alternative health field as well as physicians who practice conventional medicine. For this last group, I think that if an endocrinologist is truly intent on helping a patient, a thing or two can be learned from Dr. Hedberg’s book. He has shared in The Thyroid Alternative more information on the thyroid gland, its functions, and interrelationships with major organs and systems in the body than any other book I have ever read written by an endocrinologist. In fact, I’ve forgotten the titles of those other books but I shall be keeping a copy of Dr. Nikolas Hedberg’s book on my shelf for frequent referencing.
The Thyroid Alternative is introduced with statistics on the prevalence of thyroid disease in this country followed by a discussion that compares the conventional model of addressing illness with the functional model. The conventional model looks at a disease state from a localized and hence, extremely limited perspective, and then treats symptoms with its use of pharmaceuticals. The functional model, used in Dr. Hedberg’s practice, identifies the cause of a physical disorder or dysfunction and treats the basis of the illness thereby allowing a person to heal or to at least manage a condition without dependence on drugs with their myriad, harmful side effects.
The first chapter in the book provides the reader some solid information on the thyroid gland, what it does and what happens when its functioning goes awry. There is discussion on the several hormones for which the thyroid is responsible, and while it may seem a bit more on the technical side, it behooves the reader to be educated and to understand what exactly is measured in a thyroid panel and how hormone levels interrelate. A great deal of the time, a patient being treated by a conventional physician will not be told the role of all of the components of a thyroid lab test and how imbalance in one measurement will impact another. This book will explain all of that clearly for the reader. In this chapter, the author also examines the pros and cons of commonly-prescribed prescription medications used to ‘treat’ thyroid disorders. I appreciated the basic medical terminology in chapter 1 because it helped me comprehend the physiology of the thyroid gland and the interplay of the various secretions. It also improved my overall understanding of the material in subsequent chapters.
In chapter 2, Dr. Hedberg launches into autoimmunity of the thyroid gland which is the most common form of thyroid dysfunction. He even discusses what causes a system to go into autoimmunity as well as things that an individual can do from a dietary and environmental perspective to mitigate or prevent a body’s push into an autoimmune state.
Chapters 3 through 6 involve the digestive system, liver, adrenal glands and sex hormones respectively and how imbalance in of any of these can impact the thyroid.
In chapters 7 and 8, the role of environmental factors including chemical and heavy metal exposure in thyroid disease is explored.
Chapter 9 is truly fascinating with its look at iodine. Far too often, when one mentions a suspected sluggish thyroid, the supplement ‘iodine’ is thrown out in a well-intended manner. However, as Dr. Hedberg points out, there are very specific conditions that may allow the use of iodine in treatment but in other cases, it proves highly detrimental.
Chapter 10 provides the reader with a thorough plan of action using diet as a means to improve the functioning of one’s thyroid gland. I found the recommendations to be highly practical and easy to implement.
This is not a book written by a physician standing on a pedestal, trying to prove how much he knows about a particular subject, but one that has been addressed to laypersons providing just the right amount of background information to either rule out other disease states or to determine if the thyroid itself is causing symptoms that cause a person to feel unwell. However, its benefits go beyond the education that one wishes all doctors would provide a patient. This book offers the reader a very concrete action plan that can be applied without delay and without considerable expense.
One thing that has frustrated me about some books written by certain physicians is the veritable solution that is offered. Some authors have touted the use of their line of products to achieve results and perhaps for the average reader, the products are simply unaffordable. In the case of The Thyroid Alternative, it becomes clear to me that the author’s true agenda is not to sell anything but to educate. With conventional physicians, there is the disturbing but realistic notion that maybe there are other influences impacting the doctor’s choice of a treatment plan or drug for the patient. Has the doctor been swayed by Big Pharma or is the physician truly and only advocating on behalf of the patient’s best interest?
Dr. Hedberg advises readers to become a proactive part of their own health. If the blood tests aren’t definitive and you’re about to be prescribed a prescription drug for life, this book is definitely for you. You owe it to yourself to know why something has gone wrong with your thyroid or if it’s not the thyroid at all. If this is the scenario presented to a family member or close friend, then this is another reason why The Thyroid Alternative is imperative. I consider this extremely well-written book to be a highly worthwhile investment in one of the most important things in a person’s life: one’s health.
“Traditional medicine does not check for autoimmune thyroid routinely which leaves patients with true autoimmune thyroid in limbo for months and even years before their doctor finally decides to run tests for autoimmunity. Even in these cases it is sad because the treatment for autoimmune thyroid is medication. That’s right, the treatment is the same for you whether you have autoimmune thyroid or thyroid dysfunction that is not autoimmune.”