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Underactive thyroid requires diagnosis
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I'm curious about underactive thyroid. I came across a website that said an underactive thyroid can cause some of the problems that have plagued me for quite a few years. Some of the symptoms listed were hair loss, tiredness, inability to lose weight despite healthy diet and exercise, gravelly voice and many others. After checking off all the things that applied to me, it said I have a 65 percent chance of having an underactive thyroid. I don't believe my doctor has ever checked my thyroid. Is this something I should ask for?
They also recommended a supplement called "iodine plus 2." Do you think this supplement is safe? Would you recommend it? -- U.F.
ANSWER: You make a very good case for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). The thyroid regulates many metabolic pathways in the body and essentially affects every organ. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are very common conditions, though hypothyroid is more so. You absolutely should get checked.
However, I find that even in people who I am sure will have hypothyroidism, the thyroid tests (blood tests) come out normal. Doctors have to resist the urge to use thyroid replacement to treat people without proven hypothyroidism, since it doesn't help and can cause side effects; essentially, medication makes a normal person seem to have an overactive thyroid.
Speaking of dangerous, I would NOT recommend the supplement. You want to know what you are doing BEFORE doing it. Get the thyroid test done first. A borderline overactive thyroid paradoxically can have very similar symptoms to underactive thyroid. Iodine can turn it into a hyperactive thyroid emergency.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: Please settle an argument. My husband says vitamins and supplements do not expire. He has pills from 1996. He says it's the manufacturer's way of making you toss them and buy more. I say they lose their effect and are a placebo or possibly harmful. Some insight would be helpful. -- W.T.T.
ANSWER: You're right; he's wrong. While manufacturers ensure that their products are safe until expiration, certainly one year after expiration is too long. Sixteen years after expiration, I would think that "dangerous" would not be too strong a term.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: A while ago, I read an article you wrote on weightlifting intervals. It dealt with minutes between sets. However, I have this question: Is it OK to do the same set of exercises twice a day? For instance, morning and evening? Also, how much time should I allow between finishing my evening exercises and bedtime? -- D.R.
ANSWER: Because muscles need time to heal and grow after an intense workout, multiple sets of exercises of the same group at different times of the same day generally is not encouraged. However, many athletes will work one muscle group in the morning and another muscle group in the evening. That said, everybody is different, and it's OK to experiment to see what works best for you.
But consider why you are lifting weights. If it's to get big muscles, then very intense workouts with longer rest (even two days) tends to be more effective. If it's for your overall health, it doesn't really matter; all weightlifting is beneficial for your health. If it's to improve stamina, then more frequent sets might be of more benefit.
As far as exercise and bedtime, I'd recommend at least an hour between the two. Most people actually gain energy from their exercise regimen, so you might have a tough time getting to sleep right after evening exercise.
READERS: The booklet on hepatitis explains the three different kinds -- A, B and C. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 503, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
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Drs. Donohue and Roach regret that they are unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may write the doctors or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers also may order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.
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