Eugene Hertoghe was a Belgian physician became vice-president of the Belgian Medical Society and one the world’s foremost thyroid experts. In 1914 he was invited to speak before the International Surgical Congress at what is now Columbia/NY Presbyterian Hospital to share his knowledge with American doctors. Hertoghe taught of the importance of diagnosing and treating the milder forms of low thyroid. He gave remarkably detailed descriptions of the many problems that could be caused by low thyroid function. Before any thyroid tests became available, Hertoghe taught doctors how to diagnose and treat all forms of this condition. He explained what to look for and what listen for in order to identify this illness.
Eugene Hertoghe also offered remarkable examples of how patients could improve with treatment. He reported that problems as diverse as hair loss, mental illness, dry skin, and digestive problems could all be caused by hypothyroidism and could be reversed with proper treatment. Hertoghe also noted that low temperature was the most consistent finding of hypothyroidism (see Barnes). Eugene Hertoghe taught that hypothyroidism could be effectively treated simply by giving enough natural thyroid extract to reverse the patient’s hypothyroid symptoms. This speech was considered so important at the time that it has been credited with inspiring the founding of the specialty of endocrinology in the United States as well as the start of the first endocrinology journals in the US.
Eugene Hertoghe’s advice for physicians: “The slighter forms of thyroid inadequacy are almost invariably missed; yet, owing to there extreme prevalence, the recognition of these is particularly important”.
Third-generation physician and thyroid specialist, the grandson of Eugene Hertoghe.
Jacques Hertoghe was a third-generation Belgian physician and thyroid specialist. He was the grandson of Eugene Hertoghe. In the 1970s, this Hertoghe was so disappointed by the ineffectiveness of Europe’s synthetic thyroid treatments that he traveled to Colorado (without a drug company sponsor) to study Dr. Barnes’ use of Armour Thyroid. He was originally intrigued by the reports in Barnes’ book and soon Jacques Hertoghe recognized that natural desiccated (natural) thyroid was the most effective medication available for treating hypothyroidism. Hertoghe used the Armour brand of desiccated thyroid as his primary treatment for hypothyroidism for the rest of his career. To this day, Belgium is the only country in Europe where Armour Thyroid is legally imported.
Beyond insisting on effective treatment of hypothyroidism, Jacques Hertoghe pioneered the use of combined treatments for patients with multiple hormonal deficiencies. He taught that health depended on a healthy balance of multiple hormones and not just a single hormone.
In addition, Jacques Hertoghe emphasized the importance of bio-identical (“natural”) female hormones to restore a healthy balance in menopausal and even premenopausal women. In the 1980’s, this Hertoghe noted that the synthetic estrogens and progestins that were in wide use actually had many dangerous side effects. He also noted that “natural” hormones were also available that worked very well and did not pose the same risk.
I was reminded of the genius of Jacques Hertoghe when I read of European study that showed that women given synthetic progesterone had a 50% greater risk of breast cancer than women who were given natural progesterone. In fact, the women given real human estrogen and real progesterone actually had a lower rate of breast cancer than women who took no hormones at all.
Unfortunately, Jacque Hertoghe’s vast knowledge and research have never been published in a book. Luckily, we do have some of his lectures still available on tape through the Broda Barnes Research Foundation. And we have two of his children who are physicians in Belgium and are still practicing what their father preached.
Jacques Hertoghe’s advice to all physicians: “Whenever possible, use the natural molecule.”
J. H. (Director) Clinical Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism. Lecture conducted from Broda Barnes Foundation, Trumbull, CT .
Dr. Jacques Hertoghe, M.D. Treatment of Hypothyroidism. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDpgy56HuNA
Broda O. Barnes, MD
Dr. Barnes was one of the great 20th century thyroid experts. He earned earn a PhD in thyroid physiology from the University of Chicago, where he then taught at the medical school. He later studied to become a physician. He then joined the faculty of the University of Illinois and then became Health Commissioner for the state of Colorado. Early in his career, Barnes noted that many of his patients were suffering symptoms similar to experimental animals that had had their thyroid glands removed. He also noted that many of these patients improved when they were given thyroid hormone. He quickly realized that many of his observations had been previously described by Eugene Hertoghe, MD and dubbed himself the “Johnny-come-lately” of thyroid studies.
But Barnes made many contributions of his own. One contribution was the development of standardized temperature testing as a means of diagnosing and monitoring hypothyroidism. His approach was based on the observation going back to Eugene Hertoghe that hypothyroid patients consistently had low body temperatures. His technique was based on studies of thousands of military recruits and college students, as well as decades of patient care. The Basal Body Temperature technique was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1942. In my experience, Barnes’ method is superior to many of the newer testing methods.
Many of Barnes’ contributions are described in his book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. This book describes the many faces of low thyroid. Barnes includes discussions of the link between hypothyroidism and high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, as well as cancer. He also describes the limitations of all of the testing techniques that have been developed over the years. He also points out the health and weight loss benefits of high fat, low carbohydrate diets–long before the “Atkins Revolution”. Barnes was also about 30 years ahead of his time in addressing the dangers of pre-diabetes. He believed that the dangers of this condition could be effectively limited with careful treatment of any underlying thyroid dysfunction.
William McK. Jefferies, MD
Dr. Jefferies was an award-winning endocrinology research fellow at Harvard University in the late 1940s when the adrenal hormone cortisol (hydrocortisone) was discovered. From the start, it was obvious that hydrocortisone was amazingly effective at reversing the symptoms of such illnesses as rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, the doctors soon found out that the huge doses that they used were highly toxic.
Dr. Jefferies distinguished himself by recognizing early on that the problem with cortisol was not its inherent toxicity, but the excessive doses used. He spent over a half a century trying to convince the American medical community about a few simple points:
- Cortisol is a natural hormone that is necessary for human life.
- Many illnesses are caused or aggravated by insufficient levels of cortisol in the body.
- These illnesses can be effectively treated and often reversed by giving the patient small amounts of cortisol.
- Low doses of cortisol that restore healthy levels of this natural hormone levels are generally very safe.
Dr. Jefferies has clearly been right all along. Over and over, we see the benefits of hydrocortisone and even various synthetic forms of cortisone. Unfortunately doctors still insist on using excessively high doses for while ignoring other hormones such as DHEA and thyroid hormones which act to limit the side effects of cortisol. Many recent studies have demonstrated the safety of low dose corticosteroids. Much of this research has been done using prednisone or prednisolone, but the doses that have been shown to be generally safe are comparable to or higher than the doses of hydrocortisone that Dr. Jefferies recommended. Studies showing the safety of doses of prednisone up 10 mg a day (equal to 40 mg per day of hydrocortisone) over long periods did not use DHEA to mitigate the side effects of corticosteroids or address any hypothyroidism which would make any patient more susceptible to cortisol’s potentially negative effects. It is worth noting that as excess of hydrocortisone can cause such problems as weight gain, fluid retention high blood pressure and high blood sugar, DHEA tends to reduce all of these problems. Low thyroid, on the other hand, has been found to promote fluid retention and weight gain on its own. Again, Jefferies overriding principle appeared to be that healthy metabolism depends largely on a healthy balance of key hormones.
Jefferies’ advice to physicians who are confronted with confusing test results: “When in doubt, treat the patient”
Weston A. Price, MD
Weston Price was a dentist from Cleveland who was one of the most important nutritional researchers in history. Dr. Price was president of the scientific division of the American Dental Association during the early 20th century. During his career, Price saw that his patients dental health was getting worse with each passing generation. Not only were their teeth rotting, but his younger patients had teeth and jaws that did not develop properly. Because the children’s facial structure and dental health was so different than their parents’, Price realized that the problems were most likely be due to an environmental factor and not genetics. His theory was that most of the new dental problems that he saw were due to poor nutrition. Specifically, he saw the highly processed “modern” diet of the early 20th century as the major cause of his patient’s dental problems.
To test this hypothesis Dr. Price spent the 1930’s circling the globe and studying primitive cultures, their diets, and their health. He traveled to remote corners of the world and compared the health of groups eating traditional “primitive” diets to the health of their genetic relations who were living in modern conditions and eating a modern diet. He found that the dental and overall health of the “primitives” was far superior to their more modern neighbors who were of the same genetic background. Their dental structure was better and their rate of cavities was far lower than those of people eating a modernized diet. He also noted that the “primitives” appeared healthier, in general, were much more resistant to disease.
Price also reported on the apparent health benefits of natural fats and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D. He noted that the healthiest “primitives” went out of their way to consume fatty foods and that foods high in fat-soluble vitamins were often highly sought after. Price then analyzed typical foods and reported that the traditional diets supplied dramatically higher levels of many measurable nutrients. In addition to previously known vitamins and minerals, Price identified a substance that he called “activator X” which appeared to have remarkable health benefits, especially on teeth and bones. Modern research indicates that “activator X” is probably a form of vitamin K, called vitamin K2. And it appears that Dr. Price was right. Studies now show that vitamin K2 does indeed have great effects on bones — and it also benefits the heart.
Sir William Osler, MD
Sir William Osler was a Canadian physician who came to the US in the 1890’s and helped establish the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Osler became one of the leading physicians of his day and wrote the medical textbook that became the standard medical text in the western world for nearly 40 years. Osler has been called “The Father of Modern Medicine” because of his great contributions to medicine and medical education. In particular, Osler revolutionized medical training with his emphasis on direct patient contact for medical students.
In particular, he taught his students of the importance of the medical history and physical examination. Osler is most famous for the saying, “If you listen carefully to the patient, they will tell you the diagnosis.” To this day, medical students across the US are still taught that 90% of a medical diagnosis is usually based on the medical history (what the patient tells them) and physical exam — and that the history is considered to be by far the most important. Unfortunately, this effective approach is often neglected. Instead of listening and examining, modern doctors often rely completely on unproven laboratory tests in order to make a diagnosis.
Osler also commented on the treatment of hypothyroidism available in the early 20th century by stating, “Our art has made no more brilliant advance than in the cure of these disorders due to disturbed function of the thyroid gland.” It is worth noting that this effective thyroid treatment occurred in an era when there were no thyroid tests and no synthetic thyroid medications.