12/03/2007

Solved! The Riddle of Illness (by Stephen E Langer & James F Scheer)

This book with dramatic title is by Stephen E Langer, MD, and James F Scheer. It takes as its premise that many illnesses (or, at least, their symptoms) are related to, or even caused by an underactive thyroid gland, not bad enough to show in blood tests but still sufficient to cause problems such as insomnia, weight gain, headaches, etc.

I thought it would be full of anecdotes about how people with different problems solved them, mainly by lifestyle and dietary changes. So I was a bit disappointed that although there are indeed anecdotes and success stories, in nearly every case the 'cure' was the same: take some dessicated natural thyroid. Something which is only prescribable by a doctor, not available over the counter. So someone who thinks they have symptoms of hypothyroidism (and the authors give a simple thermometer test to determine if it's likely) have to persuade a doctor to give them a prescription for something which they may believe is not a problem. An ethical dilemma for a doctor, who may not have the time to read such a book.

I also found the style a little irritating in places, but perhaps that's just me. It seemed to rush through the anecdotes and focus on the success, giving brand names over and over again. That wouldn't have worried me over-much if there had been practical advice for people who didn't want to bother their doctors, but since the 'answers' were almost exactly the same in every chapter, I found myself skimming a fair bit towards the end.

I don't doubt that the authors' conclusions and suggestions may be valid, but could probably have found out just as much by reading online.

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