It continues to amaze me that many endocrinologists are quick to recommend radioactive iodine to their patients, essentially destroying the thyroid gland. The reason I decided to write about this is because after doing a little bit of cleaning in my office I came across some of the pamphlets I received during my visit to the endocrinologist when I was first diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.
To no surprise the pamphlets I received were all medically oriented, as the different options it gives to treat hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease include 1) Anti-thyroid medication, 2) Beta blockers, 3) Radioactive iodine, and 4) Surgery. The good news is that it does admit surgery is not preferred due to the risk of damaging the parathyroid glands and/or to the larynx, and is usually a last resort when anti-thyroid drugs and RAI has failed. For anyone considering having thyroid surgery, the risks of damaging other structures of the body are higher than you might think.
However, it still irritates me as to how lightly most endocrinologists think of radioactive iodine therapy. Here is the description of this harsh treatment method, according to this pamphlet: “Radioactive iodine will cure the thyroid problem, but usually leads to permanent destruction of the thyroid. You will very likely need to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life to have normal hormone levels.” It also mentions the following with regards to receiving RAI when having thyroid eye disease: “Radioactive iodine treatment may make the symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy worse but it’s often treatable with a steroid medication (prednisone).”
Radioactive Iodine IS NOT A Cure For Hyperthyroidism & Graves’ Disease
It just amuses me how these doctors consider radioactive iodine as being a “cure” to hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, even though it will “usually lead to permanent destruction of the thyroid”. Sure, this will stop the thyroid gland from producing synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, but this doesn’t mean it’s a cure. This is especially true with Graves’ Disease, as RAI does absolutely nothing to address the autoimmune component. But even with primary hyperthyroidism, the cause usually isn’t directly related to the malfunctioning thyroid gland, as other affected areas of the body are usually responsible for the development of a thyroid condition.
In addition, I mentioned how it states that “Radioactive iodine treatment may make the symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy worse, but it’s often treatable with a steroid medication”, and gives prednisone as an example. So in addition to making the person hypothyroid for the rest of their life, it can also worsen other symptoms, such an existing case of thyroid eye disease, and their solution is for the person to treat these symptoms with steroid medication. One of these days I’ll dedicate a separate post to the dangers and side effects of these steroid prescription drugs, as they have many different side effects that can wreak havoc on your body.
One of the big problems with taking steroid medication is that it further causes problems with the adrenals, which in many cases is the actual cause of the condition in the first place! Of course most endocrinologists don’t know that weak adrenal glands are frequently the cause of many thyroid conditions, which is why they will recommend steroid medication to their patients. It just makes me sick to my stomach that people are told to receive RAI to destroy their thyroid gland when many times it isn’t necessary.
I Repeat, RAI Should Be A Last Resort!
Now just to be clear, some people do need radioactive iodine therapy. But this, along with thyroid surgery, should be the very last resort, after everything else has been tried. The problem is that the only other medical treatment option is anti-thyroid drugs, which offer only a temporary solution. So it’s almost inevitable that those who are told to take prescription drugs and don’t go into a permanent state of remission will eventually have radioactive iodine recommended.
So how do you know if you really need radioactive iodine therapy? Part if it comes down to common sense, as while I personally can’t tell anyone not to receive RAI, what I can say is that when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, I didn’t even consider receiving radioactive iodine therapy until I tried natural treatment methods.
How Should You Handle Severe Symptoms?
But how about if your symptoms are severe? As I’ve mentioned in other posts and articles, sometimes it is necessary to use prescription drugs to temporarily manage the symptoms. So in the case where someone has severe symptoms which need to be managed quickly, they can always take the drugs, and at the same time begin a natural treatment protocol. To play it safe I would give the natural treatment methods at least 30 days to kick in, and then I would wean off the medication while continuing the natural treatment protocol.
Once again, I’m not telling anyone to take this approach, as I always advise people to consult with a healthcare expert. The primary reason for this is because everyone is different, and should therefore be treated on an individual basis. So hopefully this post has given you some insight as to why you need to keep an open mind, and why you can’t always take the word of your endocrinologist or medical doctor. While most doctors are truly interested in helping their patients, and most do a wonderful job of treating emergency situations, when it comes to treating chronic conditions, in my biased opinion it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a competent holistic doctor so you can try to get to the underlying cause of the disorder.
Cher Steele says
I treated myself in exactly the manner you described. I was attending school for my bachelors degree in alternative medicine and through my studies realized I had an alternative method to the destruction my endocrinologist was recommending. Nine years later I am still symptom free. I switched to a pescatarian diet and made sure to eat broccoli and cabbage on a regular basis. I am so happy I did not just listen to the dr.