The Everything Guide to Thyroid Disease Book Review

Authored by Dr. Theodore Friedman

This review refers to the edition of The Everything Guide to Thyroid Disease published in 2012 

When publishers put together overview books on thyroid disease – covering the range of conditions like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, cancer, and nodules – they usually turn to a very traditional endocrinologist. So when I heard back in 2007 from Dr. Ted Friedman that he was co-authoring a thyroid overview book, The Everything Guide to Thyroid Disease, along with health writer Winnie Yu Scherer, I was surprised – but pleased.

And in early 2012, an updated edition of the book was published, featuring new information.

The book differs from other endocrinologist-authored books on thyroid disease because, despite Dr. Friedman's position as one of the nation's most respected endocrinologists, he is unusually open-minded and patient-oriented in his approach to diagnosis and treatment of thyroid conditions.

Dr. Friedman's Unique Perspective

Dr. Friedman's philosophy likely comes, in part, from his first-hand experience as a thyroid patient. Dr. Friedman is himself hypothyroid, and he brings this distinct and very personal perspective to his work as a physician and endocrinologist.

Readers may already be familiar with Dr. Friedman, who is the author of a very comprehensive article about hypothyroidism here at the site, and a look at the optimal treatment for hypothyroidism.

Dr. Friedman is not dogmatic. He has often risen to the challenge and publicly advocated for patient perspectives on thyroid issues.

He's not afraid to depart from the standard endocrinology position when he feels it serves his patients.

Dr. Friedman has applied his patient-oriented approach in the book, The Everything Guide to Thyroid Disease written with Winnie Yu Scherer. This 2012 edition is an update of the book, originally published in 2007 by Adams Media.

I have to applaud Dr. Friedman and Ms. Scherer for creating a patient-friendly book. It's easy to read, and easy to understand. You don't need a medical degree; the book is written in plain English – no medical jargon or complicated terminology. And, it keeps an informative, friendly – and never condescending – tone. (This can be a challenge for some endocrinologists, but not for Dr. Friedman!) Throughout the book, Dr. Friedman's open-minded and empathetic approach to thyroid treatment comes through, and it's a refreshing and welcome alternative to some other physician-written thyroid overview books.

Strengths of the Book

One particularly strong point is Dr. Friedman's willingness to say that "just because your test results fall into the reference range of what's considered healthy or 'normal' doesn't mean that you do not have hypothyroidism. no group test can ever acount for all individual differences in these lab tests..." While this is something I frequently advocate, it's not commonly heard from endocrinologists, and so it's encouraging to see Dr. Friedman take such a position. The book outlines the usefulness of the Free T4, Free T3, antibodies, and Reverse T3 tests in diagnosing and managing thyroid conditions.

Hopefully, this more comprehensive diagnostic approach he outlines will help shift endocrinology toward a more patient-oriented style.

Another important point is Dr. Friedman's willingness to include a discussion of natural desiccated thyroid drugs – i.e., Armour Thyroid and Naturethroid – as treatment options. Many mainstream books either overlook this controversy entirely, or parrot outdated concerns about this treatment. Dr. Friedman talks about desiccated thyroid as a realistic option, and mentions that some of his patients seem to do best on this treatment.

I found it encouraging that Dr. Friedman includes a realistic discussion of using antithyroid drugs for hyperthyroidism.

He admits that while 20 percent of patients discontinue to the medication due to side effects, ..."for others, the antithyroid drugs can offer complete relief. After two years, approximately 50 percent of patients will be effectively cured, can stop the antithyroid drugs, and have normal thyroid tests." Many endocrinologists "rush to RAI (radioactive iodine)" and so Dr. Friedman's willingness to give equal weight to RAI as an option, while sensible, is in reality a departure from the conventional dogma.

Useful Sections

Individual chapters focus on thyroid disease in children, thyroid disease in seniors, and environmental toxins that affect the thyroid. These offer helpful overviews of these topics that are not typically found in other physician-authored books.

Another helpful section of the book is Chapter 21, "Healthy Living With Thyroid Disease." In this chapter, Dr. Friedman sums up some key points to remember, and they serve as a useful primer for anyone new to thyroid disease.

Some Thoughts

I think that Dr. Friedman may overestimate the willingness of his colleagues in endocrinology to, like him, maintain an open-mind and think outside the box when it comes to diagnosing and treating thyroid disease. Dr. Friedman suggests that most endocrinologists understand the controversy regarding thyroid reference ranges, or are willing to test for Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, or TPO antibodies, and the reports I get from hundreds of thyroid patients each week seem to suggest otherwise. Dr. Friedman also suggests that "thyroid disease is a condition that is best treated by an endocrinologist, or, in less severe cases, a primary care doctor" and says that the idea that holistic doctors can treat hypothyroidism is a myth. I disagree. While I have always felt that thyroid cancer, nodules, goiter, and Graves' disease/hyperthyroidism warrant an endocrinologist, the subtle, borderline, and mild hypothyroidism that plagues so many people is often dismissed by endocrinologists, but taken far more seriously by other physicians, including integrative and holistic doctors. In my opinion, it's also problematic to recommend that everyone with a thyroid condition see an endocrinologist, given the severe and enduring shortage of clinical endocrinologists in the United States and around the world.

I would have liked to see more on the role of iron, vitamin D, and other nutritional issues covered in greater depth delving more into some of the pros and cons of vitamins, herbs and supplements to help with thyroid disease.

On the whole, however, for someone new to thyroid disease, or who wants an overview of key information, The Everything Guide to Thyroid Disease is an easy-to-understand guide to a broad range of thyroid-related issues. Among the various overview books on thyroid disease, this is by far the first one that should be on your bookshelf.

The Everything Health Guide to Thyroid Disease
by Theodore C. Driedman, MD, PhD, and Winnie Yu Scherer
Published 2012, Adams Media

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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