Iodine Use With Hashimoto’s

July 31, 2019

Iodine is a building block of thyroid hormone.  Without iodine, your thyroid can’t produce hormone. Sufficient iodine is necessary for optimal thyroid function. In fact, the reason we all eat ‘iodized’ salt is because of the importance of iodine in preventing thyroid dysfunction. There is controversy over whether Hashimoto’s patients should take supplemental iodine. Conventional physicians argue against Hashimoto’s patients taking iodine because they believe that in Hashimoto’s, the system has too much iodine & adding more will make your condition worse. However, in modern times with our current dietary habits, we aren’t getting as much iodine as we think we are. 

Your body is efficient at absorbing & storing iodine. Unfortunately, the thyroid isn’t good at telling the difference between iodine & other substances with similar chemical structures. Iodine is part of a family, which also includes fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. They all have very similar properties. Fluorine, chlorine & bromine are similar enough to iodine that your thyroid will suck them up and store them in place of iodine. If fluorine, chlorine & bromine displace iodine, your thyroid won’t have enough iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, these three chemicals are frequently added to our water, foods & household products. This is one of the main reasons thyroid disease is now at an epidemic level.

Fluorine, in the form of fluoride, is added to public water systems in the U.S.  Fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that affects thyroid function & other hormone-producing glands. In fact, fluoride was previously used as treatment for overactive thyroid because of its ability to reduce thyroid hormone production. 

Chlorine, like fluoride, is added to our water supply for as a disinfectant. Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant because it works as an oxidizing agent to kill organic molecules. It is the primary ingredient in bleach, and it is used in industrial processes to create plastics, dyes, insecticides, paper products & other goods.

Bromine is not as well known as chlorine and fluoride, but it is also highly prevalent as an additive in our foods and household products. Bromine is commonly used in pesticides, plastics, baked goods and flour (commonly labeled as ‘enriched flour’), citrus-flavored soft drinks, as a sanitizer in hot tubs (where high temperatures make chlorine ineffective), and as a flame retardant in furniture and upholstery.

Avoid Excess Iodine Levels:

While a deficiency of iodine creates hypothyroidism due to a lack of building materials for thyroid hormone, an excess of it also created hypothyroidism, but through a different mechanism. Today, iodine excess is recognized as a risk factor for developing autoimmune thyroid disease. This has to do with the way that iodine is processed in the body. Iodine from foods and supplements is processed by the thyroid gland so that the body can properly use it. During this process, hydrogen peroxide, a free radical, is released. In cases when the body has adequate levels of selenium and it is used properly, the selenium neutralizes the hydrogen peroxide. However, in cases of iodine excess, excess hydrogen peroxide can cause oxidative damage to the thyroid gland. Excess iodine causes thyroid injury by generating reactive oxygen species, which lead to premature damage and programmed cell death in thyroid tissues. These iodine-overloaded cells turn on the autoimmune process in a person with the right genetic predisposition and intestinal permeability. When we think about this from an evolutionary, adaptive, or even innate body wisdom stance, this makes sense that the body would want to stop the production of excess thyroid hormones that would result from too much iodine.

Anxiety Disorder

May 31, 2019

Anxiety can have a profound negative impact on those who experience it. It can also have a negative impact on friends, co-workers and loved-ones. 

 

Anxiety can affect people physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many find their lives dramatically impacted. Anxiety can be fraught with distressing and debilitating sensations and symptoms, as well as cause severe lifestyle restriction. These challenges often cause people to feel frightened, confused, and frustrated. Those struggling with anxiety can experience many distressing sensations, symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Anxiety often impacts many systems in the body, including the nervous system, endocrine system, respiratory system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system. In addition to these biological symptoms, most sufferers also experience distressing thoughts and emotions.

 

People who experience anxiety can easily become inwardly-focused, frightened, short-tempered, confused, discouraged, distant, uncaring, child-like, and hypochondriac once an anxiety disorder occurs. People struggling with anxiety may look fine on the outside, but they often experience a raging battle on the inside – a battle that only someone who personally experiences anxiety could fully understand. 

 

The severity of a person’s condition generally determines the degree and frequency of symptoms. Because of the nature of anxiety, people often battle with confusion, fear, and despair – and they often feel that there is no way out. Most people who suffer from anxiety would like to feel normal again. But overcoming anxiety disorder is a process that takes time, and often much more time than most people expect.

 

Ways To Help Someone With Anxiety:

Anxiety doesn’t mean the person is mentally inferior or deficient.

Try not to view the person as inferior or deficient. Anxiety is caused by overly apprehensive behavior – which have been learned as ways of coping with life. Behaviors are learned during our formative years (birth to age 8). Most people with anxiety learned those behaviors from a parent(s) or those who raised them and/or greatly influenced them. Those that struggle with anxiety do not deliberately choose to adopt overly apprehensive behavior, but that they have come to feel that this behavior is normal. In order to overcome anxiety, a person needs to learn healthy ways of coping with life. To that end, overcoming anxiety disorder requires getting the right information, help, and support. While the road to recovery isn’t easy or quick, success can be attained through effort and perseverance. There is no reason to feel sorry for the person who struggles with anxiety disorder. Offer empathy and support rather than sympathy.

Anxiety isn’t something a person can ‘just snap out of it’.

There are NO shortcuts or ‘quick fixes’. While self-help information can be beneficial, often full and lasting recovery requires the assistance and support of an experienced counselor or therapist.  With this understanding, you can be more supportive and help the person get the help he needs. And then, support him as he works through to lasting success.

Reassure the person that they are going to be okay.

Anxiety can create one of the strongest responses the body can experience. It can create intense emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms. This is why in the midst of high anxiety, a person can feel like he/she is going to lose her mind, have a complete breakdown, or die. Fortunately, even though anxiety is a powerful force, it alone is not dangerous and doesn’t lead to a mental collapse, breakdown, or death. Once the person calms down, all of these strong emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms diminish and eventually disappear. So when a person is having an episode of high anxiety, reassuring that its going to be okay can help calm them down, which will lead to the cessation of the strong feelings of anxiety.

Stay calm, and help the person to calm down.

Anxiety is predicated on fear – fear that is rational or irrational. Fear activates the stress response, which can cause a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes. These changes can produce anxiety sensations and symptoms. Often it is these sensations and symptoms that cause people to react with more fear. Regardless of whether the fear is rational or irrational, we can always find ways of calming ourselves so that the body shuts off the stress response, which leads to feeling better. Encourage the person to calm down and settle themselves. As they calm, they will feel better. It can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from an activated stress response. Remaining calm yourself can provide an example for the person undergoing an episode of anxiety. 

Encourage the person to do something about their anxiety.

Being empathetic and supportive is helpful. However, if the person isn’t working at overcoming anxiety disorder, your empathy and support won’t be enough. Anxiety is only resolves when a person works at it. Anxiety seldom resolves on its own. So be an encourager, not an enabler. Encourage the person to seek the necessary help. Encourage and support her as he/she works at making healthy behavioral change.

Encourage him/her to seek professional help.

Anxiety is caused by unhealthy behavior. While self-help information can be beneficial, a professional anxiety disorder counselor/therapist is almost always required to overcome problematic anxiety because many of these behaviors are invisible, and therefore, unknown to the sufferer. Unless the person is professionally trained, it’s unrealistic to think he/she would be able to identify, successfully address, and help themselves back to lasting anxiety disorder-free health.

Support the person in their decision to seek counseling/therapy.

Traditionally, society has had a dim view of counseling/therapy. Fortunately, this view is changing. More people today are seeking professional help for psychological and emotional challenges than ever before. Professional counseling/therapy skill-sets are improving as independent research on their effectiveness improves. Because of recent strides in research and resulting techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is now recognized as the ‘gold standard’ for anxiety disorder resolution.

If someone you know wants to pursue counseling/therapy for her anxiety disorder, encourage her to proceed and support her as she continues. Overcoming anxiety disorder takes time and effort, and as a result, can be discouraging. Encouraging the person to continue can help them work through times of discouragement.

Be available.

Let the person know they can talk with you anytime and without fear of judgment. Also let them know that you aren’t going to change the way you think of them because they are dealing with anxiety. You are there to support in any way needed. Letting the person know they can count on you can make a positive difference in recovery.

Be patient.

People with anxiety disorders can sound like a broken record – rehashing the same topics and fears over and over again. While you might understand the nature of their struggle and see it clearly, the sufferer doesn’t. Rehashing the same issues is usually due to an established a fear. Rehashing is a way of trying to come to terms with fears. During times like these, listen and reassure patiently. Over time, the ongoing reinforcement can be helpful in extinguishing long-held fears.

Learn everything you can about anxiety disorder, then help her by providing ongoing information, support, and reassurance.

Knowledge is power. This is particularly true with anxiety disorder. If you want to help someone with anxiety, become an expert on the condition. The more you know about anxiety, the better help you can be. A knowledgeable support person can help someone struggling with anxiety find their way and reassure them that everything is going to be okay. Ongoing guidance and reassurance can play a pivotal role in recovery.

Empathize, don’t patronize. Try to be as supportive, loving, and empathetic as you can.

People with anxiety typically feel bad enough about what is going on in their life. They don’t want your sympathy, but do appreciate your understanding, compassion, and the necessary time to get their condition under control.

Celebrate the small victories along the way to lasting success.

Overcoming anxiety takes a lot of work. To help with success, celebrate the little steps and victories along the way Make a big deal about them. Doing so can be very encouraging. Overcoming anxiety is a process that unfolds in many little steps. Progress is often slow and can be discouraging along the way. Celebrating and making a big deal about each victory can help the person remain encouraged, which can also keep the person working the process.

Provide affirmation.

Encourage and help the person to feel better about themselves. Low self-esteem is often associated with a struggle with anxiety.

If depression is involved, take suicidal comments seriously.

Call for emergency help if you believe the person is serious about taking his or her own life. It’s best to err on the side of safety.

Continually offer hope

Anyone can overcome anxiety with the right information, help, and support. Freedom from anxiety is attainable, even though it can be a lot of work. Your continued reassurance can help a person get through the drudge of recovery.  As above, there aren’t any ‘miracle’ or ‘quick-fix’ cures for anxiety. Overcoming it requires getting the right information, help, and support, and then doing the work required. But, success is attainable for anyone willing to do the work. Helping a person through this process can make a significant difference, especially when you know how to help.

Is Taking DIM Right For You?

April 28, 2019

Do you struggle with unexplained weight gain, PMS symptoms, fatigue, or acne? Have you ever thought it may be related to estrogen dominance? Estrogen dominance happens when the levels of estrogen in your body exceed the level of progesterone. Taking a DIM supplement can help regulate estrogen dominance.

What Is DIM?

DIM is a natural plant-based chemical found in many cruciferous vegetables. The effects of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, are being studied as a treatment for cancer.

DIM works to create a healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone in your body and is available in capsules or tablets.

DIM Supplement Benefits:

  • Anti-cancer properties. DIM may help control or stop cancer cells from forming and spreading, according to research. DIM may be effective specifically in preventing breast or prostate cancer.
  • Viral infection. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes multiple disorders, such as cervical cancer or lung cancer. DIM can help reduce the symptoms of HPV and possibly stop the growth of the virus.
  • Estrogen. DIM helps to restore a better ratio of “good” estrogens and “bad” estrogens. It also helps to encourage production of gentler estrogen and leads to a better balance of natural estrogen in your body.

Is Eating Cruciferoius Veggies Better Than Taking DIM Supplements?

It’s important to consume a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, but keep in mind that cooking your veggies can negatively alter DIM compounds. DIM supplements are also a better source of diindolylmethane because they come in a higher dosage than what you’ll typically get in a meal containing cruciferous vegetables.

  • Weight loss. DIM increases the amount of lipolysis, which is responsible for fat burning and weight maintenance. When your hormones are balanced, your metabolism will be higher, which results in less fat stored in your body.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects. It helps to activate an enzyme called activated protein kinase, or AMPK. AMPK promotes the breakdown of glucose for energy, it assists in the delivery of oxygen and acts as an antioxidant.
  • Acne. Many adult women suffer from hormonal acne. An excess of estrogen in the body can lead to other hormones, like androgen, rising to balance it out, thus, leading to to acne. If you reduce the level of estrogen, you can reduce androgen and help lower the risk of acne outbreaks.
  • Menopause symptoms. Estrogen deficiency is a common symptom of menopause. DIM supplements will not increase the level of estrogen, but they can help metabolize estrogen. Healthy level of estrogen can help with hot flashes or night sweats.

DIM Supplement Warnings:

DIM is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, for children, or for cancer patients. DIM can possibly worsen hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer). It also isn’t recommended for those with kidney disease. If you have a hormone-related condition, make sure to discuss DIM with your doctor, because it can sometimes block estrogen activity. Taking larger doses can be unsafe; possible side effects of using DIM supplements include headaches and nausea.

 

The following symptoms may be clues that you have estrogen dominance symptoms and could benefit from DIM supplements:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular periods
  • PMS (Premenstrual syndrome)
  • Thyroid issues
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Low libido
  • Cramps

10+ Reasons to Consider Food Sensitivity Testing

March 24, 2019

Sometimes certain foods can make you feel unwell, regardless if they are healthy or not. They may trigger any number of food sensitivity symptoms, such as headaches, digestive issues, joint pain or skin problems. It can be tricky to figure out which foods are the culprits, as food sensitivity reactions are often delayed by a few hours or longer after eating the foods.

 

1. Depression and Anxiety

Research confirms that intolerance to various foods is linked to depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Once gluten is removed from the diet in the gluten sensitive, depression and anxiety can actually be resolved.

2. ADHD

Alternative approaches to ADHD address food sensitivities and intolerance as a root cause of behavioral disorders. Neurotransmitters are produced directly by what’s broken down in the digestive system. Leaky gut can facilitate a number of mental health issues because gluten and other food proteins are essentially sneaking into the body where they don’t belong.

3. Brain Fog

When you feel disconnected or ‘out of it’, it might not be all in your head. Food intolerance or sensitivity can lead to ‘foggy brain’ in sensitive individuals. Research suggests there may be significant cross-reactivity of IgG antibodies that could result in mental fogginess. These antibodies can also cause inflammation which can further exacerbate the condition.

4. Autoimmune Disease

Gluten consumption and other food sensitivities have been linked to numerous autoimmune diseases.

5. Low Immunity

If you are prone to frequently getting sick, you should consider gluten to potentially be an issue. IgA’s are your first line of defense when a cold comes knocking at your door. When you’re sensitive to certain foods, IgA levels become depressed, meaning that you don’t have the proper defenses in place to keep you well. It is seen in many autoimmune diseases.

6. Dental Issues

Cavities, canker sores (mouth ulcers), broken teeth and tooth decay can plague those with undiagnosed food sensitivity. Calcium levels in individuals with food sensitivities san be staggeringly low due to malabsorption, which can lead to weak bones and teeth.

7. Unexplained Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Can’t keep your weight in check? A sudden or even gradual change in weight while eating habits remain more or less unchanged can be an indicator of a bigger health problem. For some with malabsorption and gut permeability due to intolerance or sensitivity to various foods, unwanted, unwanted weight loss despite regular calorie intake can have dangerous effects. On the other hand, gluten can trigger systemic inflammation in the body that mimics stubborn weight gain. Removing certain foods for good and healing the gut with a healthy diet can restore weight to healthy normal levels.

8. Migraine Headaches

Anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows how seriously painful they can be. While not all cases of migraines are related to food sensitivities, they have been linked as a significant cause for some.

9. Skin problems

From eczema and acne to psoriasis and other dermatitis, food sensitivities can cause some extremely uncomfortable (and unsightly) skin issues. Inflammation under the top layers of skin can occur and cause eruptions of rashes, itchiness, burning, redness, and even painful blisters. Ingestion of various foods in people with sensitivities triggers an immune system response that deposits a substance called lgA (Immunoglobulin A) under the top layer of skin leading to a variety of skin disorders

10. Hormonal Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue

Hormone imbalance can manifest itself as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain or loss, hot flashes, low energy levels, erratic sleep patterns and more.  A strong relationship has been established in medical literature between certain food sensitivities and various hormones imbalances. Significant problems often begin to reveal themselves when women with food sensitivities reach their menopausal transition. As ovarian output of sex hormones drops, the resulting hormone imbalance is worsened by over consumption of certain foods. The adrenal glands respond to the stress of unstable blood sugar and gastrointestinal tract inflammation caused by food sensitivities by increasing cortisol. This causes increased body fat, fatigue and unstable moods.

11. Joint and Muscle Aches

Got joint and muscle aches? Damaging inflammation caused by food sensitivities in susceptible individuals can cause flares and pain. Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of food sensitivity. There is a significant link between sensitivity to certain foods, joint pain, and arthritis conditions.

 

Three different terms are commonly used for adverse reactions to foods: food allergy, food sensitivity and food intolerance.

The term food allergy is best reserved for potentially life-threatening food reactions that involve immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies of your immune system. These are ‘true’ food allergies.

In contrast, food sensitivities and food intolerances generally are not life-threatening but may make you feel bad.

Here’s a quick comparison of food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances:

 

 Food allergy  Food sensitivity  Food intolerance
 Immune system involved?  Yes (IgE antibodies)  Yes (IgG and other antibodies, white blood cells and other immune system molecules) No (Digestive enzyme deficiency, poor absorption of certain carbs)
Examples of foods involved  Top 8 most common: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. Varies from person to person and may include foods you eat often. Fermentable carbs (FODMAPS): milk (lactose), legumes and certain vegetables, fruits, grains and sweeteners.
 Onset of symptoms after eating the food Rapid, often within minutes. Within a few hours but may be delayed up to a few days. Within 30 minutes to 48 hours after eating.
 Examples of symptoms  Trouble swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, hives. Can result in anaphylaxis.  Headaches, joint pain, digestive issues, skin issues, an overall feeling of being unwell. Most common are digestive issues: bloating, excess gas, gut pain, diarrhea, constipation.
 Amount of food needed to cause symptoms Tiny  Varies depending on your degree of sensitivity. Generally worse with larger amounts of problem foods.
 How it’s tested  Skin prick tests or blood tests of IgE levels to specific foods.  Many tests are available, but their validity is uncertain. Breath tests may identify fermentable carb intolerances (lactose, fructose).
 Age of diagnosis  Commonly in infants and young children, but adults can also develop them. Can appear at any age. Varies, but lactose intolerance is most likely in adults.
 Prevalence  1–3% of adults; 5–10% of children.  Uncertain but suspected to be common.  15–20% of the population.
 Can you get rid of it?  Kids may outgrow milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to continue into adulthood. May be able to consume a food again without symptoms after you avoid it for several months and address any underlying issues. Can minimize symptoms by limiting or avoiding problem foods in the long term. Antibiotic treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may also help.

Struggling with Thinning Scalp Hair?

December 23, 2018

Hair loss can affect just your scalp or your entire body. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or medications. Anyone can experience hair loss.

Baldness is excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Some people prefer to let their hair loss run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. Others choose one of the treatments available to prevent further hair loss and to restore growth.

Before pursuing any hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.

 

Types of Hair Loss

 

  • Male-pattern baldness

  • Female-pattern baldness

 

  • Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)

 

  • Traction alopecia

 

Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on what’s causing it.  It can come on suddenly or gradually.  It can affect just your scalp or your whole body.  Some types of hair loss are temporary, and others are permanent.

 

Signs and symptoms of hair loss may include:

 

  • Gradual thinning on top of head.

    The most common type of hair loss, affecting both men and women as they age.  In men, hair begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M. Women typically retain the hairline on the forehead but have a broadening of the part in their hair.

 

  • Circular or patchy bald spots.

    Generally smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually affects just the scalp, but it also can occur in beards or eyebrows. In some cases, your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.

 

  • Sudden loosening of hair.

    Physical or emotional shock can cause hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing – or even after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning and not bald patches.

 

  • Full-body hair loss.

    Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in the loss of hair all over your body. The hair usually grows back.

 

  • Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp.

    Often a sign of ringworm. It may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing.

 

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if  you are distressed by hair loss and want to pursue treatment. Also talk to your doctor if you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

 

Causes

People typically lose about 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair grows in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

 

Hair loss is typically related to one or more of the following factors:

 

  • Family history (heredity).

    The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary – referred to as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. It usually occurs gradually with aging and in predictable patterns — a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair in women.

 

  • Hormonal changes and medical conditions.

    A variety of conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Medical conditions include alopecia areata, which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania.

 

  • Medications and supplements.

    Hair loss can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout and high blood pressure.

 

  • Radiation therapy to the head.

    The hair may not grow back the same as it was before.

 

  • A very stressful event.

    Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after physical or emotional stress. This type of hair loss is temporary.

 

  • Certain hairstyles and treatments.

    Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that pull your hair tight, such as pigtails or cornrows, can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments and permanents can cause inflammation of hair follicles that leads to hair loss. If scarring occurs, hair loss could be permanent.

 

Risk factors

A number of factors can increase your risk of hair loss, including:

  • Family history of balding, in either of your parent’s families
  • Age
  • Significant weight loss
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes and lupus
  • Stress

Prevention

Most baldness is caused by genetics (male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness). This type of hair loss is not preventable.

 

A variety of tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:

 

  • Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
  • Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
  • Treat your hair gently when washing and brushing. A wide-toothed comb may help prevent pulling out hair.
  • Avoid harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments and permanents.
  • Avoid medications and supplements that could cause hair loss.
  • Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.
  • Stop smoking. Some studies show an association between smoking and baldness in men.
  • If you are being treated with chemotherapy, ask your doctor about a cooling cap. This cap can reduce your risk of losing hair during chemotherapy.

 

Diagnosis

Before a diagnosis can be made, you will often need a physical exam.  You may also be asked about your medical history and family history. Additional tests may also be needed:

 

  • Blood test. This may help uncover medical conditions related to hair loss.
  • Pull test. Your provider will gently puls several dozen hairs to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process.
  • Scalp biopsy. Taking samples from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots. This can help determine whether an infection is causing hair loss.
  • Light microscopy. A special instrument  may be used to examine hairs trimmed at their bases. Microscopy helps uncover possible disorders of the hair shaft.

Treatment

Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. You might be able to reverse hair loss, or at least slow further thinning. With some conditions, such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), hair may regrow without treatment.

Treatments for hair loss include medications, surgery to promote hair growth and slow hair loss.

 

Medications

If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease will be necessary. This may include drugs to reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system, such as prednisone.

If a certain medication is causing the hair loss, your doctor may advise you to stop using it for at least three months.

Medications are available to treat pattern (hereditary) baldness. Options include:

 

  • Minoxidil (Rogaine).

    This is an over-the-counter medication approved for men and women. It comes as a liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp daily.  At first it may cause you to shed hair as hair follicles. New hair may be shorter and thinner than previous hair. At least six months of treatment is required to prevent further hair loss and to start hair regrowth. Possible side effects include scalp irritation, unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

 

  • Finasteride (Propecia).

    This is a prescription drug. Many patients using finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show some new hair growth. Rare side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

 

  • Other medications.

    For men, the oral medication dutasteride is an option. For women, treatment may include oral contraceptives and spironolactone.  There are also a variety of over-the-counter supplements that both men and women can try.

 

Hair Transplant Surgery

In the most common type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. Hair transplant, or restoration surgery, can make the most of the hair you have left.

During a hair transplant procedure, a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon removes tiny patches of skin, each containing one to several hairs, from the back or side of your scalp. Sometimes a larger strip of skin containing multiple hair groupings is taken. He or she then implants the hair follicle by follicle into the bald sections. You may need more than one surgery to get the effect you want. Hereditary hair loss will eventually progress despite surgery.

Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include bleeding and scarring.

 

Laser Therapy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a low-level laser device as a treatment for hereditary hair loss in men and women. A few small studies have shown that it improves hair density. The long-term benefits are not yet known.

 

Lifestyle and home remedies

You may want to try shaving, other styling techniques and products, scarves, a wig, or a hairpiece. Talk with a hair stylist for ideas. These nonmedical solutions can be used to cover permanent or temporary hair loss.

If your hair loss is due to a medical condition, the cost of a wig may be covered by insurance.

 

Schedule an Appointment Today to Learn More About Your Options

Boost Your Mood With Vitamin D

October 2, 2018

Do you get enough vitamin D?

 

There could be many warning signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in your life or of someone you know.

 

It is essential to understand the importance of getting enough of this crucial vitamin.

 

 

Vitamin D Basics

Vitamin D is best known for building bones. However, this highly-potent vitamin is essential for overall brain and body health. Optimal vitamin D levels can help improve your mood, boost your overall brain function, and generally improve your wellbeing. Vitamin D may be involved in the healthy regulation of as many as 900 human genes.

 

Vitamin D is converted by the liver and kidney into a hormone that is so important to brain function its receptors can be found throughout the brain. Vitamin D plays a critical role in the brain’s early development, its ongoing maintenance, and in its functions to maintain healthy mood and many of the most basic cognitive functions including learning and making memories. 

 

Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common, in part because we are spending more time indoors and using more sunscreen when having fun outdoors. Research suggests that 70% of all adults and 67% of children, aged 1-11, do not have adequate levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with low mood, behavioral difficulties in children, and psychological difficulties in adults. Vitamin D supplementation is consistently linked to higher quality of life and better wellbeing with the passing of the years.

 

Recommended Daily Vitamin D

In the United States, the current recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 IU. However, most experts agree that this is well below the physiological needs of most individuals. Instead, it is suggested that all adults take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D daily – unless directed to take a higher dose by their healthcare provider. We all should get our blood vitamin D levels tested every 4-6 months and if necessary increase our daily intake to as much as 5000-10000 IU per day to ensure we achieve blood levels of at least 60 ng/mL.

Avoid taking vitamin D2 supplements since D2 can interfere with the actions of vitamin D3 which is the body’s natural vitamin D.

 

The Vitamin D Challenge

Getting necessary amounts of vitamin D can be challenging during the winter season in some parts of the country —typically from November to March—when there are fewer hours of sunlight and when the sun itself is less intense. This is particularly true if you live in the northern half of the United States. Due to colder temperatures and inclement weather, the tendency for many people is to stay inside where it is warm and hunker down for the winter. However, failure to get enough vitamin D, as well as exercise, can lead to health problems and other mental and physical difficulties. For individuals who struggle with low mood during the winter, the colder months can produce feelings of melancholy and desperation.

 

5 Tips for How to Get More Vitamin D In Your Life

1.  Alternate Light Source

Daily exposure to appropriate levels (even just 10-30 minutes per day) of direct sunlight can boost vitamin D3 levels which can help improve your mood. If you have a hard time getting enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a vitamin D lamp for your home or work desk. Though many artificial light boxes claim to do the job, make sure to purchase one that is as close as possible to the natural sunlight spectrum and proven to increase vitamin D levels.

2.  Go Somewhere Sunny

If getting sufficient levels of UVA (ultraviolet A) rays from the sun proves difficult during the winter months, especially if you live anywhere near the Great White North, consider saving up some money during the summer for a vacation to a sunny destination (the Caribbean, for instance) during the winter. This will make enduring the cold, dark months more bearable.

3.  Get Quality Sleep

Insufficient and inconsistent sleep can increase irritability, moodiness and poor judgment. To remain at the top of your game, it is recommended that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting appropriate levels of sunlight during the day, or adequate amounts of vitamin D from foods or supplements can also help maintain your body’s natural production of serotonin. In the evening, the brain naturally converts serotonin into melatonin, our main sleep hormone that improves our chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

4. Vitamin D-Rich Diet

Foods can be an important source of vitamin D. Examples of vitamin D-rich foods are fortified milk, eggs, mushrooms and fish (especially wild salmon, tuna, and mackerel). A 4-ounce portion of salmon can provide over 250% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D. Wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D per serving, while farmed salmon contains 250 IU, on average.

5.  Take Sunshine Supplements

When it comes to mood, the scientific evidence is clear – the higher your vitamin D levels, the more likely you are to feel happy rather than blue. A 2014 study showed that the positive effect of vitamin D3 on mood was clinically very substantial as compared to other options. Since it promotes healthy mood, vitamin D3, which is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, can help you get through the doldrums of the winter season.

Low Dose Naltrexone & Its Role In Autoimmune Disorders

September 21, 2018

Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is being prescribed for autoimmune conditions by a greater number of providers.  

 

What exactly is LDN?   Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication, although it has only been approved to help with heroin and opioid addicts by blocking opioid receptors.  In the 1980’s, studies were done with lower doses of naltrexone, and realized that it can modulate the immune system.  Soon thereafter it was found that LDN can benefit many people with autoimmune conditions, although it can also help with certain types of cancers, as well as some other chronic health conditions.

 

The question of what controls the immune system has plagued the medical community for decades.  Clearly there are multiple factors that play a role.  However, a growing body of research over the past two decades has pointed repeatedly to one’s own endorphin secretions (our internal opioids) as playing the central role in the beneficial orchestration of the immune system. Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved. The relatively recent identification of opioid-related receptors on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on the immune system.

 

How Does LDN Work?

By taking LDN just before bed – ideally between the hours of 9 PM and 2 AM, there is a brief blockade of opioid receptors.  When LDN is taken before bedtime, the actual blockade would occur between the hours of 2 AM and 4 AM.  It is believed that this brief period of blockade, produces a prolonged up-regulation of vital elements of the immune system by causing an increase in endorphin and enkephalin production. In general, in people with diseases that are partially or largely triggered by a deficiency of endorphins (including cancer and autoimmune diseases), or are accelerated by a deficiency of endorphins (such as HIV/AIDS), restoration of the body’s normal production of endorphins is the major therapeutic action of LDN.

 

LDN and the Research

Unfortunately there is not a lot of research regarding the benefits of LDN.  Some studies showed that LDN might act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system, and can help with chronic pain disorders. Other studies show that LDN can benefit those dealing with the pain associated with fibromyalgia.  Other studies concluded that it can be helpful for some people with gastrointestinal disorders.  A small study suggests that LDN might help some people with active Crohn’s disease.

 

LDN And Thyroid Dysfunction

When someone is dealing with suboptimal thyroid function or Hashimoto’s, most medical providers (including myself) will recommend thyroid hormone medication and/or supplements to enhance thyroid function.  Similarly, it is common for medical providers to recommend antithyroid medication for those with overactive thyroid and Graves’ Disease.  In certain cases when we struggle to obtain thyroid normalization, it makes sense to try LDN.  

 

But why is this important?  Consider a condition such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which involves the immune system damaging the thyroid gland.  Thyroid medication will help replace or modulate hormone levels that are out of balance.  However, taking thyroid hormone medication is not going to do anything to stop or slow down the destruction of the thyroid gland.  LDN has the potential to prevent further damage of the thyroid gland from occurring.  This could potentially allow patients to decrease doses of thyroid medication, achiever better control of thyroid-related symptoms, and keep other immune factors (that are usually associated with Hashimoto’s) in check.  Now consider Grave’s Disease, a condition where the thyroid gland is activated and over-produces thyroid hormone.  Patients with Grave’s generally use medication like Methimazole to decrease production of thyroid hormone.  A lot of patients do not tolerate this medication due to side effects and changes in liver function enzymes.  By modulating the immune system, using LDN, we may be able to help patients who don’t tolerate medication avoid radioactive iodine and/or thyroid surgery.

 

Are There Risks Associated With Taking LDN?

Although side effects are rare with LDN, research indicates that some patients who use LDN report vivid dreams, and occasionally, during the first week of use, patients may complain of difficulty sleeping (less than 2% of users.)  Usually reducing the dose of medication will eliminate sleep disturbance.  

 

LDN Dosing Recommendations

The normal range for LDN is between 1.5 and 4.5 mg per day, taken about an hour before bedtime- NOT in the morning. There are a couple of reasons for this timing. First, since LDN blocks endorphins, doing it in the middle of the night prevents you from noticing that you feel lousy. Second, the endorphin response is greater at nighttime. I generally start with a 3 mg dose.  If there is a positive effect at 3 mg, stay on that dose. If there is still no effect, I raise the dose to 4.5 mg.  If there are negative effects on the 3 mg dose, I decrease the dose to 1.5 mg. That being said, the key to LDN is the low dose. So many times you may actually need to lower the dose if you don’t notice a beneficial effect.

 

  

Conditions That LDN Can Be Used To Treat

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS)
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Behcet’s Disease
  • Celiac Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • CREST syndrome
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Dystonia
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Myasthenia Gravis (MG)
  • Nephrotic Syndrome
  • Pemphigoid
  • Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS)
  • Systemic Lupus (SLE)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Wegener’s Granulomatosis

A Little More About MTHFR (C677T Mutation)

August 31, 2018

Over the past few months, a handful of patients have asked what they can do if they have the MTHFR C677T mutation. Recommendations can vary depending on whether an individual has a heterozygous (1 copy of C677T) or a homozygous (2 copies of C677T) mutation. While there is definitely conflicting information in the literature, the following is intended to provide a small amount of clarification and guidance. 

 

The biggest differences in recommendations between these two types of mutations are:

  • folic acid needs to be avoided more seriously by homozygous individuals
  • the amount of methylfolate required for homozygous mutations is greater
  • the blood thinning requirement is greater for homozygous individuals

 

Recommendations those with C677T MTHFR mutations:

  • Limit ingestion of folic acid in fortified foods as you cannot process folic acid well.
  • Limit or cease taking supplements or drugs with folic acid in them. Talk with your doctor before stopping.
  • Avoid folic acid blocking drugs such as birth control or Methotrexate.
  • Avoid drugs which increase homocysteine such as Nitrous Oxide (most used in dentistry).
  • Avoid antacids as they block absorption of vitamin B12 and other nutrients.
  • Begin understanding which of your symptoms may be related to the C677T MTHFR mutation.
  • Get your homocysteine levels measured.
  • Inform family members so they can also be tested for the MTHFR mutation.
  • Find a doctor who is knowledgeable about MTHFR or is willing to learn.
  • If you are pregnant, find an OB/GYN or midwife who is knowledgeable about MTHFR.
  • Eliminate gluten from your diet – especially wheat.
  • Eliminate or reduce dairy from your diet. If you must have dairy, use goat milk.
  • Sauna or sweat somehow (epsom salt baths, sports, yoga, etc.) at least once to three times a week.
  • Limit intake of processed foods.
  • Increase intake of whole foods and home-prepared meals.
  • Eat the ‘rainbow of colors’ from fruits and vegetables – daily
  • Limit intake of high methionine-containing foods, if homocysteine elevated
  • Coffee enemas for detoxification.
  • Filter chlorine from your drinking water, shower and baths.
  • Drink at least two liters of filtered water daily mixed with Vitamin D and electrolytes.
  • Eat smaller, but more frequent meals, throughout the day with some form of protein.
  • Limit protein intake to approximately 0.7 grams protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Avoid cooking, drinking, storing and heating in any type of plastic container.
  • Use an air purifier in your home and office.
  • Eliminate carpets from your home and install low VOC wood or tile flooring.
  • Eat grass-fed beef, free range, hormone free and antibiotic meats and eggs.
  • Cook with electric stove and oven and remove gas stove and oven.

 

General Nutrient Recommendations for C677T MTHFR mutations:

  • Methylfolate
  • Methylcobalamin
  • Betaine in the form of TMG
  • NAC
  • Glutathione
  • Pyridoxal-5-phosphate
  • Riboflavin
  • Curcumin
  • Mixed tocopherals (vitamin E)
  • Silymarin (Milk Thistle)
  • EPA/DHA
  • Phosphatidylcholine
  • Nattokinase
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D3
  • Comprehensive multivitamin/multimineral
  • Probiotics

 

Prenatal Recommendations doe MTHFR C677T Mutation

A quality prenatal for those with this defect requires methylfolate, folinic acid and no folic acid. These prenatals are very hard to find.

 

General Supplements Recommended for MTHFR C677T Mutations

Begin by taking the most important supplement first (depending on your individual circumstances) in a small amount for at least a few days to see how you respond. If you respond well, continue taking it and add in another supplement. This way you can easily identify if a specific supplement or nutrient is giving you problems.  

NOTE: If you are not sensitive to supplements in general, then it is recommended to start with a comprehensive multivitamin and multimineral as this supports numerous biochemical functions within your body. It also provides a fast testing ground to see if you respond well to numerous nutrients.

If you do not tolerate a multivitamin well, this is a sign that you must proceed more slowly and work on healing your digestion and dietary intake and lifestyle habits first.

 

How much methylfolate to take?

Those with 1 copy of the C677T MTHFR mutation do not need as much methylfolate. The MTHFR enzyme is working at nearly 70% or so effectiveness in heterozygous individuals while in homozygous individuals, it is working at approximately 30% effectiveness. To determine how much methylfolate you need, it is best to start low and work up. This allows you to safely identify how much you tolerate without triggering very undesirable side effects.  It is highly encouraged that you proceed cautiously in order to prevent side effects from excessive methylfolate.

NOTE: If you begin supplementing with methylfolate and you have inflammation unchecked, your symptoms may worsen. This is why it is critical that you are tolerating and taking probiotics, krill oil, turmeric along with improving your diet and lifestyle first.

 

Methylfolate Side Effects

Common undesirable side effects of methylfolate include:

  • headache
  • migraine
  • rashes
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • insomnia
  • depression

If side effects occur, then the amount of methylfolate you are taking needs to be taken under consideration and likely reduced. Many times one is not yet ready to take methylfolate. There are other steps that must be taken prior to supplementing with methylfolate if these side effects occur. If side effects occur, taking Niacin helps bind the excessive methyl groups which are likely causing the issue. Consider taking approximately 100 mg of Niacin (not a whole tablet) if these symptoms occur. Flushing is common from taking niacin in the most active form, nicotinic acid. This is not harmful and will subside in about 20-30 minutes.

 

Cycling Supplements for Methylation Balance

Supplements and pharmaceuticals are designed to support methylation.  Methylation is severely disrupted in those with C677T MTHFR mutations – especially homozygous individuals. Methylation requires balance. If methylation becomes excessive, side effects will occur as noted above. This requires adjustment of your protocol. There may be a need for routine adjustment as our bodies are dynamic. Adjustments may range from:

  • stopping all methylation-supportive nutrients
  • taking these nutrients 4 days on and 3 days off
  • taking them every other day
  • taking them only in the morning
  • decreasing the amount taken every other week

 

General Side Effects

If you are feeling improvement consistently, then you are on the right track. If you begin to feel heavy, tired, dry mouth, irritable, ‘toxic’, or otherwise ‘not right’, then something in your protocol needs to change. These are all signs that you are potentially increasing the circulation of toxins and not eliminating them properly. These side effects can be eliminated quite quickly through a pure vegetable and fruit juice diet for at least one day. This means producing your own juices at home using a quality juicer.  Prepare mostly vegetable juices with some fruit juices to increase the taste. Taking niacin also helps offset many side effects.

Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders – Is TSH Adequate?

July 26, 2018

Thyroid deficiency is a common disorder where there is inadequate cellular thyroid levels to meet the needs of the tissues. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, depression, cold extremities, muscle aches, headaches, decreased libido, weakness, cold intolerance, water retention, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and dry skin. Low thyroid function can cause or contribute to the symptoms of many conditions.  Unfortunately, thyroid deficiency is often missed by standard thyroid testing. This is frequently the case with depression, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), menstrual irregularities, infertility, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, fibrocystic breasts, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hyperhomocysteinuria (high homocystine), atherosclerosis, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance.

TSH traditionally has been thought to be the most sensitive marker of tissue levels of thyroid hormone.  Despite this traditional thinking, newer information suggests that a normal TSH does not necessarily indicate that a person’s tissue thyroid levels are adequate. In fact, a more thorough understanding of thyroid hormone physiology demonstrates how TSH is NOT an accurate marker of the body’s overall thyroid status.

It is certain that TSH inversely correlates with pituitary T3 levels.  However, physiologic stress, depression, insulin resistance and diabetes, aging, calorie deprivation (dieting), inflammation, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, obesity and numerous other conditions, are often associated with diminished cellular and tissue T3 levels – and increased reverse T3 levels. Thus, with physiologic or emotional stress, depression or inflammation, pituitary T3 levels do not correlate with T3 levels in the rest of the body.  As a result, TSH is not a reliable or sensitive marker of an individual’s true thyroid status.

 

Serum levels of thyroid hormones

TSH is merely a marker of pituitary levels of thyroid function and not of thyroid hormone levels in any other part of the body.  Only under ideal conditions of total health do pituitary thyroid hormone levels correlate with thyroid hormone levels in the rest of the body, making the TSH a poor indicator of the body’s overall thyroid status.  With the above-mentioned conditions, most individuals with diminished tissue levels of thyroid hormone will have a normal TSH.  In other words, the relationship between TSH and tissue thyroid hormone is lost in the presence of physiologic or emotional stress, depression, insulin resistance and diabetes, aging, calorie deprivation (dieting), inflammation, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, obesity and numerous other conditions. In the presence of such conditions, a normal TSH cannot be used as a reliable indictor that a person is euthyroid (normal thyroid) in the overwhelming majority of patients.

 

Value of Serum T4

In the presence of such conditions, T4 levels also are not a reliable indicator of adequate thyroid function.  These conditions lead to a suppression of the tissue’s ability to convert T4 into T3.  Furthermore, there is an increased conversion of T4 to reverse T3 – an inactive form of T3 (a thyroid inhibitor for all practical purposes). AlthoughT4 levels are important, as with the TSH, the serum T4 level is often misleading and an unreliable marker of the body’s overall thyroid status.

 

Current best method to diagnosis

With increasing knowledge of the complexities of thyroid function, it has become clear that TSH and T4 levels are not the reliable markers of tissue thyroid levels as once thought – especially with chronic physiologic or emotional stress, illness, inflammation, depression and aging. It is common for an individual with. normal TSH and T4 levels  to complain of symptoms consistent with reduced thyroid function.

While there are limitations to all testing and there is no perfect test, obtaining TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, and T3/reverse-T3 ratios can be helpful to obtain a more accurate evaluation of overall thyroid status – and these values may be useful to predict those individuals who may respond favorably to thyroid supplementation. Many symptomatic patients with normal TSH and T4 levels significantly benefit from thyroid replacement, often with significant improvement in fatigue, depression, diabetes, weight gain, PMS, fibromyalgia and numerous other chronic conditions.

With an understanding of thyroid physiology, it becomes clear why a large percentage of patients treated with T4 only preparations continue to be symptomatic. As discussed above, with any physiologic stress (emotional or physical), inflammation, depression, inflammation, aging or dieting, T4 to T3 conversion is reduced and T4 will be preferentially converted to reverse T3, which acts a competitive inhibitor of T3 (blocks T3 at the receptor), reduces metabolism, suppresses T4 to T3 conversion and blocks T4 and T3 uptake into the cell.

While a normal TSH cannot be used as a reliable indicator of global tissue thyroid effect, even a minimally elevated TSH (above 2) is a clear indication (except in unique situations) that the rest of the body is suffering from inadequate thyroid activity. Thus, treatment should likely be initiated in any symptomatic person with a TSH greater than 2. Additionally, many individuals will secrete a less bioactive TSH so for the same TSH level, a large percentage of individuals will have reduced stimulation of thyroid activity, further limiting the accuracy of TSH as a measure of overall thyroid status. Reduced bioactivity of TSH is not detected by current TSH assays used in clinical practice.

Due to the lack of correlation of TSH and tissue thyroid levels, a normal TSH should not be used as the sole reason to withhold treatment in a symptomatic patient. A symptomatic patient with an above average reverse T3 level and a below average free T3 (a general guideline being a free T3/reverse T3 ratio less than 2) should also be considered a candidate for thyroid supplementation. 

Iodine Deficiency on the Rise

June 25, 2018

Iodine is an essential mineral.  Your thyroid gland uses it to make thyroid hormones, which help control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism.  Unfortunately, up to a third of people worldwide are at risk of an iodine deficiency. Those at the highest risk include:

 

  • Pregnant women.
  • People who live in countries where there is very little iodine in the soil: South Asia, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and European countries.
  • People who don’t use iodized salt.
  • People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

 

Iodine deficiencies had been rare in the United States, where there are sufficient levels of iodine in the food supply.  However, changes in lifestyle have increased the prevalence across the United States in recent years.  Symptoms can include swelling in the neck, pregnancy-related issues, weight gain and learning difficulties.  Its symptoms are very similar to those of suboptimal thyroid function. Since iodine is used to make thyroid hormones, an iodine deficiency means your body cannot make enough of them, leading to hypothyroidism.

 

Signs that you may have an iodine deficiency:

 

Swelling in the Neck

Swelling in the neck is the most common symptom of an iodine deficiency. This is called a goiter and occurs when the thyroid gland grows too big. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. The thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. However, when your body is low in iodine, it cannot make enough of them. To compensate, the thyroid gland works harder to try to make more. This causes the cells to grow and multiply, leading to a goiter. Most cases can be treated by increasing iodine intake. However, if a goiter has not been treated for many years, it might cause permanent thyroid damage.

 

Unexpected Weight Gain

Unexpected weight gain may occur if the body does not have enough iodine to make thyroid hormones. This is because thyroid hormones help control the speed of your metabolism, which is the process by which your body converts food into energy and heat. When your thyroid hormone levels are low, your body burns fewer calories at rest. Unfortunately, this means more calories from the foods you eat are stored as fat. Adding more iodine to your diet may help reverse the effects of a slow metabolism, as it can help your body make more thyroid hormones.

 

Fatigue and Weakness

Fatigue and weakness are also common symptoms of an iodine deficiency. Studies have found that nearly 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels, which occur in cases of iodine deficiency, feel tired, sluggish and weak. These symptoms occur because thyroid hormones help the body make energy. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the body cannot make as much energy as it usually does. This may cause your energy levels to plummet and leave you feeling weak.

 

Hair loss

Thyroid hormones help control the growth of hair follicles. When thyroid hormone levels are low, your hair follicles may stop regenerating. Over time, this may result in hair loss. For this reason, people with an iodine deficiency may also suffer from hair loss.  Approximately 30% of those with low thyroid hormone levels experienced hair loss. If you experience hair loss because of an iodine deficiency, getting enough of this mineral may help correct your thyroid hormone levels and stop hair loss.

 

Dry, Flaky Skin

Dry, flaky skin may affect many people with an iodine deficiency. Studies show that up to 77% of people with low thyroid hormone levels may experience dry, flaky skin. Thyroid hormones, which contain iodine, help your skin cells regenerate. When thyroid hormone levels are low, this regeneration does not occur as often, possibly leading to dry, flaky skin. Additionally, thyroid hormones help the body regulate sweat. People with lower thyroid hormone levels, such as those with an iodine deficiency, tend to sweat less than people with normal thyroid hormone levels. Given that sweat helps keep your skin moist and hydrated, a lack of sweat may be another reason why dry, flaky skin is a common symptom of iodine deficiency.

 

Feeling Colder Than Usual

Feeling cold is a common symptom of an iodine deficiency. Over 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels may feel more sensitive to cold temperatures than usual. Since iodine is used to make thyroid hormones, an iodine deficiency can cause your thyroid hormone levels to plummet. Because thyroid hormones help control the speed of your metabolism, low thyroid hormone levels may cause it to slow down. A slower metabolism generates less heat, which may cause you to feel colder than usual. Also, thyroid hormones help boost the activity of brown fat, a type of fat that specializes in generating heat. This means that low thyroid hormone levels, which may be caused by an iodine deficiency, could prevent brown fat from doing its job.

 

Changes in Heart Rate

Your heart rate is a measure of how many times your heart beats per minute. It may be affected by your iodine levels. Too little of this mineral could cause your heart to beat slower than usual, while too much of it could cause your heart to beat faster than usual. A severe iodine deficiency may cause an abnormally slow heart rate making you feel weak, fatigued, dizzy and possibly cause you to faint.

 

Trouble Learning and Remembering

An iodine deficiency may affect your ability to learn and remember. Thyroid hormones help your brain grow and develop. An iodine deficiency, which is required to make thyroid hormones, can reduce brain development. Studies have found that the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls long-term memory, appears to be smaller in people with low thyroid hormone levels.

 

Problems During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at a high risk of iodine deficiency – they need to consume enough to meet their own daily needs, as well as the needs of their growing baby. The increased demand for iodine continues throughout lactation, as babies receive iodine through breast milk. Not consuming enough iodine throughout pregnancy and lactation may cause side effects for both the mother and baby. Mothers may experience symptoms of an under-active thyroid, such as a goiter, weakness, fatigue and feeling cold. Meanwhile, an iodine deficiency in infants may stunt physical growth and brain development. Furthermore, a severe iodine deficiency may increase the risk of stillbirth.

 

Heavy or Irregular Periods

Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding may occur as a result of an iodine deficiency. Like most symptoms of iodine deficiency, this is also related to low levels of thyroid hormones. In one study, 68% of women with low thyroid hormone levels experienced irregular menstrual cycles, compared to only 12% of healthy women. Research also shows that women with low thyroid hormone levels experience more frequent menstrual cycles with heavy bleeding. This is because low thyroid hormone levels disrupt the signals of hormones that are involved in the menstrual cycle.

 

Role of Iodine in Breast Health

Iodine deficiency is rapidly emerging as a major risk factor for breast cancer. Human breast tissue and breast milk contain higher concentrations of iodine than the thyroid gland itself, which contains just 30% of the body’s iodine stores. Breast tissue is rich in the same iodine-transporting proteins used by the thyroid gland to take up iodine from the blood. Iodine plays an important role in the health of women’s breast tissue. Iodine has been shown to exert a powerful antioxidant effect equivalent to vitamin C. Iodine-deficient breast tissue exhibits chemical markers of elevated lipid peroxidation, one of the earliest factors in cancer development. Iodine-deficient breast tissue also shows alterations in DNA and increases in estrogen receptor proteins. Coupled with iodine deficiency-induced increases in circulating estrogen levels, these changes can substantially increase the risk of breast cancer in women with low iodine levels.

 

Iodine also helps regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol and contributes to normal immune function. Abnormal cortisol levels and deficient immune function are significant contributors to the risks of breast cancer; women with fibrocystic breast disease may also suffer from elevated cortisol levels. Taken together, these biological factors explain the well-known link between iodine deficiency and thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer, all of which predominate in postmenopausal women. The link between iodine consumption and breast cancer is most evident when you compare the Japanese and Western diets against cancer incidence. Japanese women consume a diet high in iodine-rich seaweed, which provides them with an iodine intake 25 times higher than the average American woman’s. Japanese women also have breast cancer rates roughly one-third of those found in American women, a difference that disappears in Japanese women who immigrate to the US, where they consume considerably less seaweed.

 

Studies of iodine therapy for breast cancer prevention are encouraging. Breast cancer cells avidly absorb iodine, which in turn suppresses tumor growth and causes cancer cell death. Added dietary iodine reduces the size of both benign and malignant breast tumors. Further benefits may be obtained by supplementing with selenium in addition to iodine; selenium is an essential cofactor in the enzymes used in thyroid and breast tissue to make optimal use of dietary iodine. In addition to its obvious role in preventing breast cancer, increased iodine intake may be important in mitigating another common, if less lethal, breast disorder—fibrocystic breast disease. Fibrocystic breast disease is extremely common – found in at least 9% of all women who undergo biopsies, though the actual rate is probably much higher. Fibrocystic breast changes can be reversed and women with fibrocystic breast disease can obtain substantial relief.

 

It is becoming increasingly clear that iodine deficiency interferes with optimum breast health, and intake of levels far higher than the recommended dietary allowance of 150-290 mcg is required to achieve benefits. Daily amounts of 3,000-6,000 mcg may help relieve the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease.

 

The Role of Iodine in Cardiovascular Health

Iodine and iodine-rich foods enjoy a long history as natural therapies for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Even when no overt symptoms are evident, hypothyroidism can contribute to heart disease and stroke, and it increases the risk of death from these conditions. Thyroid dysfunction creates unfavorable disturbances in lipid profiles, elevating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels and raising the risk of atherosclerosis. Hypothyroidism also weakens the heart muscle, causing it to ‘squeeze’ less firmly with each contraction; it can cause cardiac arrhythmias as well. These effects may not be evident at rest, but become important during moderate exercise. Low thyroid function is also associated with higher waist-to-hip ratios, an obesity-related risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Restoring normal thyroid function helps reverse multiple cardiovascular risk factors, most notably adverse lipid profiles. Iodine therapy shows promise in safely and effectively modulating these health concerns.

 

Sources of Iodine

As with many diseases, it is better to prevent the problem rather than have to treat it. Over the last 80 years, worldwide efforts have been made to eliminate iodine deficiency. Elimination of iodine deficiency has been a major goal of the World Health Organization. Iodized salt has been the mainstay of treatment for iodine deficiency worldwide, including in the United States. Injections of iodized oil are occasionally used in regions of the world where widespread iodized salt use is not possible. Iodination of water supplies also has been effective in some places.

 

There are very few good sources of iodine in the diet. This is one reason why iodine deficiency is common worldwide. The recommended daily intake (RDI) is 150 mcg per day. This amount should meet the needs of 97–98% of all healthy adults. One teaspoon of iodized salt contains approximately 400 μg iodine. Most iodine-containing multivitamins have at least 150 μg iodine, but only about half of the types of multivitamins in the United States contain iodine.  Pregnant or breastfeeding women need more iron. Pregnant women need 220 mcg daily, while lactating women need 290 mcg daily. Because the effects of iodine deficiency are most severe in pregnant women and their babies, the American Thyroid Association has recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women in the United States and Canada take a prenatal multivitamin containing 150 μg iodine per day. 

 

The foods below are excellent sources of iodine:

  • Seaweed, one whole sheet dried: 11–1,989% of the RDI
  • Cod, 3 ounces (85 grams): 66% of the RDI
  • Yogurt, plain, 1 cup: 50% of the RDI
  • Iodized salt, 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams): 47% of the RDI
  • Shrimp, 3 ounces (85 grams): 23% of the RDI
  • Egg, 1 large: 16% of the RDI
  • Tuna, canned, 3 ounces (85 grams): 11% of the RDI
  • Dried prunes, 5 prunes: 9% of the RDI

 

 

Seaweed is usually a great source of iodine, but this depends on where it came from. Seaweed from some countries, such as Japan, are rich in iodine. Smaller amounts of iodine are also found in a variety of foods like fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, lima and pinto beans, milk and other dairy products. The best way to get enough iodine is to add iodized salt to your meals. Half a teaspoon (3 grams) over the course of the day is enough to avoid a deficiency.

 

If you think you have an iodine deficiency, it’s best to consult your doctor. They will check for signs of swelling (a goiter) or take a urine sample to check your iodine levels.

 

Too Much Iodine

Taking too much iodine can also cause problems. This is especially true in individuals that already have thyroid problems, such as nodules, hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease. Administration of large amounts of iodine through medications (i.e.: Amiodarone), radiology procedures (iodinated intravenous dye) and dietary excess (Dulce, kelp) can cause or worsen hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. In addition, individuals who move from an iodine-deficient region (for example, parts of Europe) to a region with adequate iodine intake (for example, the United States) may also develop thyroid problems since their thyroids have become very good at taking up and using small amounts of iodine. In particular, these patients may develop iodine-induced hyperthyroidism.

 

Talk to your heal care provider before starting an iodine regimen.