COVID – Understanding Recommendation for Face Masks

June 28, 2020

There is a tremendous amount of misinformation regarding use of face masks to decrease transmission of COVID. As with many aspects of this pandemic, mask use has become politicized. It is essential to understand that all science, including public health science, is evolving – which means information changes as data is accumulated. This means that recommendations change as new information becomes available. A new virus with limited to no prior information about it adds to the uncertainty. Understandably, all this uncertainty has caused many Americans to question the validity of recommendations to help decrease transmission of COVID – even the seriousness of this virus has been called into question. For example, initially there was a significant shortage of masks for frontline workers, which was why authorities were reluctant to recommend masks to the general public. It is understandable that people may look back at this old advice and not know what to believe now. I think we should trust the public health scientists and realize their recommendations may change as better data becomes available.

 

What We Know

COVID is primarily transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. Washing your hands, staying away from people (social distancing) and decreasing germ transmission will all help to decrease spread. While high quality research regarding mask use is limited, all of the data to date supports that wearing masks while in public is a key public health measure to decrease viral spread.

 

Mask Effectiveness

The gold standard N95 mask is 95% effective at preventing inhalation of viral particles.  These masks are still best for frontline workers in high risk settings where aerosolization of viral particles occurs at a higher rate than among the general population. Surgical masks are less effective and cloth face coverings even less effective when compared to these N95 masks. However it is essential to understand that even a 50% reduction in viral transmission is statistically important.  For the general public, the reason to wear a face mask is to help protect others from you when you cough, sneeze or even talk and spray viral droplets into the air.  Many people who become infected can unknowingly spread COVID because they have few or no symptoms.  Wearing a mask is showing respect for others and is your way of helping lessen the spread of the virus. If we can slow down transmission then hospitals and medical care facilities will not get overwhelmed and will have a fighting chance to treat people.

 

Masks and Low Oxygen Levels

Masks absolutely do NOT decrease oxygen levels. As healthcare workers, we often wear masks all day in the hospital. The masks are designed to be breathed through and there is no evidence that low oxygen levels occur. There is also no evidence that cloth masks increase build-up of carbon dioxide – although there is some evidence that prolonged use of N95 masks in people with preexisting lung disease could cause some build-up of carbon dioxide. People with preexisting lung problems should discuss mask wearing concerns with their health care providers. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.

 

What Should You Do?

Decreasing the severity of the pandemic is about statistics. To avoid this infection 100% you must isolate yourself completely, which is unrealistic for most people. In fact, doing this is not practical or mentally helpful for the vast majority of people. The next steps are to do things which limit the likelihood of spread from person-to-person. These things include hand-washing, social distancing and mask wearing. The further away you are from an infected person, the less likely you are to get the virus. Six feet is better than two feet (and 12 feet is probably better than six feet). At some point the distance away becomes statistically meaningless. Unfortunately, there is no absolute correct number. Airflow (indoor, outdoor, ventilation, wind, etc), temperature, humidity, viral load being produced by the infected person and the susceptibility of the uninfected person all play a role in how far apart you need to be. Masks are not 100% effective, but wearing a mask does decrease the risk of viral spread. Public health professionals believe that hand-washing, wearing a mask and social distancing are the keys to controlling the first wave and diminishing or avoiding subsequent waves of the virus. Mask wearing allows us to open the economy up faster. Not wearing a mask around others only worsens the pandemic, leads to more disease, and worsens the economic effects.

 

PLEASE wear a mask in public.

Coronavirus Protection: Thymosin Alpha-1 Peptide Therapy to Enhance Immunity

May 30, 2020

Thymosin alpha-1 (TA1) is a peptide originally isolated from thymus gland and identified as the compound responsible for restoring immune function. TA1 can help prevent healthy cells from being infected by viruses as well as make viral infections more visible to the body’s immune system so infected cells can be destroyed. The main mechanism of action of TA1 is to augment T-cell function.  T-cells come in two forms: natural killer cells and helper cells.

 

TA1 helps regulate the immune response by enhancing the Natural Killer (NK) cell system.  The NK cell system is the part of our immune system that destroys stressed cells in our body (such as tumor cells and virus-infected cells). NK cells are constantly on patrol, looking for harmful cells that diminish our health, like cancer cells and virus-infected cells. When NK-cells find these ‘invaders’, they activate other parts of the immune system. Unfortunately, NK-cell function, power, and activity fluctuate throughout our lifetime. As NK-cell function wears down, our response to foreign-invaders (like cancer, bacteria and viruses) response declines — our immune system does not attack and kill the ‘bad guys’ as vigorously as it should, leaving us more vulnerable to illness. 

 

TA1 also enhances the immune response by stimulating stem cells and augmenting the production of new immune cells. With these enhancements, the immune system becomes better able to kill bacterial, fungal, or viral infections and tumor cells. TA1 also improves the response to vaccines by stimulating antibody production. 

 

In 2009, the influenza H1N1 virus was first identified in the United States. It caused outbreaks of disease in several countries, triggering the first pandemic of the 21st century. TA1 was tested during that time as an immune enhancing peptide that potentiated the efficacy of viral vaccines especially in patients who had a weakened immune system. It has since been used in the treatment of several cancer and viral infections because of its direct influence of killing virally infected cells and cancerous cells. TA1 has proven to be useful in a wide range of clinical indications. Over 4400 subjects have been enrolled in clinical trials investigating the use of TA1, including primary treatment for subjects with acute infections, such as seen in severe sepsis, and for chronic infections including chronic hepatitis B (CHB), chronic hepatitis C (CHC), and HIV; as an adjunct treatment for cancers, including melanoma, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and NSCLC; and as an enhancement to both hepatitis B and influenza vaccines in immune-depressed individuals.

 

As we age, our bodies produce less TA1. This is one of the reasons why our immune systems become compromised with advancing age. Studies have also shown that individuals who are fighting infection have lower levels of thymosin alpha 1 than healthy individuals.

 

Pandemic or no pandemic, TA1 is a great addition to your self-care routine. But with COVID-19 in full force, TA1 can be a power protector against the virus. TA1 helps to improve cellular functions of innate and adaptive immunity.  It has been shown to exhibit:

  • antibacterial properties
  • antiviral properties
  • antifungal properties
  • Increase vaccine effectiveness
  • Enhance function of certain immune cells
  • Strengthen your immune system

Understanding Antibody Testing for COVID-19

April 18, 2020

Over the past week, patients, friends & staff have asked me to explain the serum (blood) antibody tests that have been advertised recently to detect evidence of COVID-19 infection. As a medical provider, the immune system has always been a challenging subject to understand, much less communicate to a non-medical person. I will do my best to explain in layman terms what I know about the immune system.

 

Mounting an antibody response is crucial for everyone to overcome an infectious pathogen. The immunity that can result is crucial not only for that individual but also for entire communities and populations. Determining who has immunity to COVID-19 is going to be crucial as we come out from under this pandemic. The main question people want to answer is that if someone is truly immune to re-infection (and if the infectious agent isn’t mutating excessively) then should that person be able to leave their home, go to work, and live life ‘normally’.

 

Here’s some immunology background. The first thing to understand is the main subsets of the immune system: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The first one is evolutionarily older, and is the ‘general-purpose’, ‘always-on’ component of our immunity. Adaptive immunity is evolutionarily newer and is key in this current COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The innate immune system relies on general signals that tell the body something foreign is in its midst – such as a viral invader like COVID-19. Over the years, viruses have evolved to disrupt these recognition signals and their downstream events. A major player in the innate immune system is the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which helps the body recognize ‘self’ versus ‘non-self”’ and is the basis for things like transplant rejection. The innate immune system also has NK (natural killer) cells, which are immune mediators that patrol for cells that differ in composition from our ‘self’ and destroy these invaders. These are both valuable immune components, but there are many situations where they aren’t enough. The main reason is that because the innate immune pathways have been around for a long time, pathogens have had more time to undergo selection for strains that have found ways to evade or interfere with these mechanisms.

 

The adaptive immune system (AIS) is a newer immune system. The AIS builds on the innate immune system and adds some extraordinary power and specificity. Understanding the AIS helps us answer the big questions when it comes to our immunity: (1) how does the body recognize such a wide variety of pathogens; (2) how is the body able to mount a response; and (3) how does our body maintain memory of such infections. The key to the success of our immune system is that everyone carries, at all times, a gigantic library of specialized proteins whose function is to hang around until something foreign shows up – so that one or more of them can bind to and attack that foreign invader. These proteins are called antibodies. They are carried around on the surface of cells, called B cells, and every human being has a different collection of them. A foreign substance that binds to one of those antibodies is called an antigen. An antigen can be viewed, for all practical purposes, as a foreign invader. Only a few B cells respond at first to a new antigen (foreign invader). But this initial response sets off another part of the immune process. When an antigen binds to the antibody on the surface of a B cell, the antibody-antigen complex gets taken up into the B cell. The antigen is chopped up within the B cell and sent back to the surface of the B cell — now called a ‘primed B cell’. This primed B cell with its ’chopped up’ antigen divides rapidly, which produces large numbers of copies of the antibody, which are then released into the bloodstream. Some of these cells hang are around and become memory cells.

 

So, here we have the answers to the questions above. The body is able to recognize so many antigens because we constantly carry around a ridiculously huge variety of antibodies on our B-cells. And we ‘ramp up’ this response when those primed B cells multiply and produce huge numbers of antibodies. And finally, some of those cells are specifically designated to stay behind, surviving for decades, as a repository just in case that particular pathogen should show up again.

 

I am leaving out ridiculous amounts of immunology. But these are the basics you need to know with regard to understanding the antibody-based blood tests that many companies are working on and presenting to the FDA for approval.

 

Serum antibody tests can be pictures as being similar in concept to an over-the-counter urine pregnancy test — an antibody recognizes a component of the pregnancy hormone and lights up as a colored line (or plus sign or whatever lights up on the particular test you purchased) on the test strip. For determining whether or not a person has developed antibodies against COVID-19, a typical test does the following. First, drops of blood from a patient’s blood sample are absorbed onto a sample pad. Once the blood absorbs, it encounters a zone that contains known COVID-19 antigens (these are proteins found specifically on COVID-19 virus). If the blood sample has antibodies to the COVID-19 proteins, the antibodies will bind to the COVID test antigens and the bound-complex gets carried along the strip. The sample then runs into three zones on the sample pad. Each zone is impregnated with different antibodies to those original antibodies. These are essentially two antibody subclasses, IgG and IgM. The IgM antibodies are the first to get produced in an immune response. They are relatively short-lived, with a half-life of five or six days. These are the body’s immediate response antibodies. So detection of IgM against COVID-19 antigens indicates a recent (or still active) infection. The IgG antibodies are more numerous in number but take time to build up in our body. For many infections (measles, chickenpox, mumps, hepatitis B and more) these IgG antibodies indicate that a person is now immune to re-infection. So on that test strip, the antigen-antibody complex will encounter a band of anti-IgM antibodies, bound to the paper, and then a band of anti-IgG antibodies, and finally a band of control antibodies that react with human antibodies in general. When the patient’s blood hits one of those antibody-to-antibodies zones, the blood will come to a halt and light up the test strip (just like that over-the counter urine pregnancy test). Ultimately, the test strip should always show a colored line for the control. It can also show colored lines for either IgG or IgM, both, or neither. Of note, if there is no colored line on the control strip then something has gone wrong and the test needs to be discarded and run again with a fresh kit.

 

This method of testing is able to tell us that if a person is positive for IgM only then they are likely actively infected. If they show only IgG, they may well have gone through an infection and could be immune. Showing both suggests you are likely on the back end of an infection. And showing neither (with a valid control line) means that you haven’t been exposed to the virus at all.

 

But unfortunately its not that simple — there can be complications and exceptions. It should be mentioned that if a person was infected with SARS a few years ago (or some other virus that has similar protein structure to COVID-19) they COULD show positive IgG in this type of test. Also, another complicating factor is that a negative result really doesn’t mean much, because there’s always the chance that a person generated antibodies that don’t recognize the antigens that the test kit has built into it for detection. You can’t rule it out. It is also quite possible that a person has been infected but hasn’t had time to generate enough antibodies for the test to detect yet. All such kits will include a warning that negative result can’t be used to say that a person isn’t/hasn’t been infected. And they’ll also include a warning that such a kit can’t be used as the last word even if they come out positive, although to be sure it is a pretty strong indicator.

 

A big question is whether this COVID-19 infection will provide lasting immunity: is a person who shows IgG against COVID-19 antigens safe to go out without fear of re-infection? We don’t quite know the answer to that question yet. The record with past coronavirus pathogens is mixed. We are going to know eventually but we need more data at this time. We also don’t know how long such immunity will last, obviously. Months? Years? An example is that many vaccinated people my age are still immune to rubella but not to measles.

 

So that’s antibody testing in a nutshell. There are several companies that have developed point-of-care tests as described above and have FDA allowances (not full approval yet). They can definitely be useful — but much is still not known about the serology and the long-term immune response with regard to COVID-19.

Is Your Body Giving You Clues About Vitamin & Nutrient Deficiency?

December 30, 2019

Any good medical provider will tell you to stay in tune with your body.  If you notice something unusual, don’t ignore it.  Some medical conditions that can be quite serious can manifest initially in subtle ways. The sooner you address whatever is going on, the more easily the problem can be remedied.  Sometimes problems can be corrected through simple changes to diet or a dietary supplement. Here are few common things to look out for.

 

Do Your Joints Feel Stiff? 

Everyone know that with age we see an increase in aches & pains.  But did you know that a possible cause of joint stiffness could be low Vitamin D.  Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, helps our body absorb calcium, the main building block of bone.  If you don’t get enough Vitamin D, you can have bone density loss & soreness. How do we get more Vitamin D? There are very few foods that are rich in Vitamin D.  Salmon and egg yolks are two examples – and milk is fortified with Vitamin D.  It is difficulty to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D through diet alone. The easiest way to boost Vitamin D level is by spending time in the sun. Vitamin D produced in the skin through sunlight may last at least twice as long in the body compared to ingesting it in food or supplements.  Unfortunately, sun exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer. Using sunscreen can limit the amount of Vitamin D you produce. It is not recommended that you forgo sunscreen to increase production of Vitamin D.  Be cautious about your Vitamin D intake through supplements — too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity.  Check with your doctor before staring any Vitamin D.  If using supplementation, check levels a minimum of every 4-6 months.

 

Are Your Nails Peeling?

Brittle nails are typically due to external factors — like picking at polish, frequent use of hand sanitizer or wearing acrylic nails. But if you don’t do any of those things or if both your toenails & fingernails are prone to breakage, you might have a low iron level. Iron deficiency results in limited oxygen to organs, muscles & tissue. One potential side effect of reduced oxygen flow is peeling and brittle nails. This dilemma can easily be fixed by incorporating plenty of high-iron foods into your diet.  The most obvious source is red meat, but if you follow a plant-based diet, leafy greens, baked potatoes with the skin on and broccoli are also great sources. For pescatarians try: shrimp, scallops, clams & sardines. Adding Vitamin C to your meal can boost the absorption of iron. Also, cooking with cast iron can increase iron content in food being cooked in it.  Once you start these dietary changes, you should starting your nails change in a few weeks.  If you don’t, then check with a doctor to test iron levels. In cases of severe deficiency, you may need an iron supplement.   If you get prescribed an iron supplement, drink it with orange juice for optimal absorption.

 

Are Your Eyes Twitching? 

The term for this is myopenia.  There are a variety of causes including fatigue, stress, consuming too much caffeine and alcohol. But your lids might also spasm if you are low on magnesium. If low magnesium is the cause, it is relatively easy to increase your intake. Nuts and seeds — particularly pumpkin seeds — are high in magnesium. Also, look for breakfast cereal fortified with magnesium, and stick to either whole grains or white rice and bread that says “enriched” on the package.

 

Have You Been Feeling Out of it Lately? 

Even though you are getting plenty of rest and aren’t fighting a cold, you feel like you are dragging. Your muscles are weak and you have to force yourself out of bed in the morning. You have trouble staying on task and have been in a blah mood.Feeling depleted like this might be evidence of a Vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 is key in production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your system. Also, B vitamins are integral in neuronal function and deficiency of B vitamins can lead to depression.  If this sounds like you, infuse your diet with B12 power foods like whole grains, liver and seafood such as salmon, tuna, clams and trout. B12 deficiency is common in vegans and vegetarians, since it comes mostly from animal protein. If you don’t eat meat, ask your doctor to test your levels.

 

Do You Bruise Easily?

Have you bumped into your desk only to find a black-and-blue on your thigh the next morning. Or maybe you get nosebleeds for no apparent reason. Or maybe your periods have been heavier than usual. Or your gums have been bleeding when you floss.  If these things are happening, insufficient vitamin K could be the cause. Vitamin K is a coagulator that helps blood clot properly. If levels are low, it can lead to excessive bleeding and bruising. Vitamin K is found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and aged cheese, as well as greens. If eating more of those foods doesn’t do the trick, try a high-quality vitamin K2 supplement that’s natural.

 

Is Your Skin Super Dry?

Scales and flakes are common side effects of arid fall and winter air, but they can also be a clue that you are low on fatty acids. Omega-3s play a key role in moisture retention. Fatty acid consumption results in greater UV protection, fewer wrinkles, plumper skin and a more even complexion.  If you are low in omegas, whip up a breakfast rich in omega-3s by adding walnuts, chia seeds & flax into your cereal or oatmeal. Eat avocado toast or a can of sardines for lunch. Choose salmon instead of chicken. 

Emotional Abuse – What It Looks Like

October 14, 2019

“Did it ever get physical?”

 

This is often the first question we ask someone we know or suspect is in an unhealthy relationship. While starting a conversation about physical abuse is essential, an issue arises when it is the ONLY question we ask. Stopping short of inquiring about other forms of abuse implies that physical violence is the defining factor of an unhealthy relationship. Even worse, it conveys the message that whatever else might be going on is not that bad. This is a huge issue, because emotional abuse is as bad – and can often be worse. 

Why don’t we hear more about emotional abuse? Many people simply aren’t sure what emotional abuse actually entails. Understanding emotional abuse is complicated for many reasons. 

 

Emotional abuse is any abusive behavior that is not physical, which may include (but is not limited to) verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts/behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Breaking It Down:

1.“…any abusive behavior that isn’t physical…”

Emotional abuse is difficult to comprehend because it encompasses so much. This list delineates some, but certainly not all, behaviors that are potentially emotionally abusive:

  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Refusal to ever be pleased
  • Blaming
  • Shaming
  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Put-downs
  • Sarcasm
  • Infantilization
  • Silent treatment
  • Trivializing
  • Triangulation
  • Sabotage
  • Gaslighting
  • Scapegoating
  • Blame-shifting
  • Projection
  • Ranking and comparing
  • Arbitrary and unpredictable inconsistency
  • Threatening harm
  • Forced isolation

 

Some of the above can be part of a healthy relationship.  However, in the context of emotional abuse, the intent is malicious and these behaviors can be extremely cutting, especially when disguised as affection or an innocent remark.

 

2. “ …which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation”

The key word here is “may.” Not only is the list of emotional abuse tactics incredibly long and dependent on context, but also the particular combination of behaviors can vary greatly from relationship to relationship. As a result, we have another layer of complexity: emotional abuse doesn’t have one specific look. For example, an emotionally abusive relationship where overt aggressing behaviors like yelling, threatening and blaming are predominantly used will look very different from a relationship where only very subtle forms of abuse like gaslighting, passive-aggressive put-downs, and minimizing are used.

 

3. “a pattern of behavior over time”

Emotional abuse is rarely a single event. Instead, it occurs over time as a pattern of behavior that’s sustained & repetitive.This is one of the reasons it is so complicated and so dangerous. Even if you’re the most observant person in the world, emotional abuse can be so gradual that you don’t realize what’s happening until you’re deeply entangled in its web. As a result, the abuse can go unchecked as the relationship progresses, building for months, years, even decades, especially if the abuse is more covert. In such instances, the target’s self-esteem is steadily eroded and their self-doubt becomes so paralyzing that they often have only a vague sense that something (though unsure what) is wrong.

 

4. “aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth”

Regardless of how emotional abuse unfolds, the effects can be devastating. Unfortunately, these effects as well as each harmful act of abuse are largely invisible. This makes it difficult for most people to comprehend the very real risks and damage of emotional abuse. Try to picture a scene of emotional abuse, specifically someone whose self-identity has been annihilated. Can you see it? Generally, one’s mind does not know where to begin. While describing physical wounds is pretty straightforward, it is much harder to articulate emotional trauma. The parts of a person that sustained emotional abuse destroys—identity, dignity, and self-worth—are abstract and virtually impossible to picture or measure.

 

5. “results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”

Emotional abuse is essentially invisible, singling out the abuse as the culprit of its destructive effects is another kind of challenge and frustration. Even in cases of extreme emotional abuse, there are no bruises or gashes where the victim can point to as proof or validation.  Instead, what emotional abuse ends up looking like is a person suffering from painful yet not uncommon afflictions like anxiety or depression. It can therefore be heartbreakingly easy for anyone—whether the person inflicting the emotional abuse, a third-party observer, or even the target of the abuse—to misattribute its damage to some other cause or even blame the target who has escaped from a relationship.  In fact the abuser, tends to reach out to friends/acquaintances and even family of the victim, and devalue that person or make them appear ridiculous, insane or off-base.

 

The Emotional Abuser’s Typical Behavior:

Many women and men who are emotionally abused have no choice but to rescue themselves or continue to live with the abuse. Because others cannot see signs of abuse, these victims often have little or no social support.  In fact, their abuser is often quite charismatic and charming, especially to mutual friends, which is a technique often used by the abuser to further disparage their target.

 

Why would someone emotionally abusing you and think it’s okay? It may be a part of their behavior to control others by any means necessary to get what they want.  Certain personality disorders are common among those who emotionally abuse others. They may have an authoritarian personality – these people admit to no faults because they see themselves as right and others as wrong. If you are being emotionally abused by someone with an anti-social personality (a sociopath), you should seek immediate safety and remove yourself from the relationship, since those with an anti-social personality can become violent when they don’t get what they want. Another personality disorder in which emotional abuse may be evident is narcissism. The abuser makes everything about their own needs and desires. Narcissists may frame their actions as being helpful to their victim, but they all revolve around building their ego.

 

Often, abusive behavior is a direct means for the abuser to get what they want without taking responsibility for their actions. They may feel intense anxiety about losing you, so they close off your avenue of escape. Whether your abuser understands what they are doing or not, they know that they do not want you to think your own thoughts, make your own decisions, or live your own life without putting them ahead of yourself. In some way, your thoughts and behaviors are a problem for them. They do not think of you as an independent adult who can think for yourself and is entitled to your perspective. And they do not want you to think of yourself that way either. 

 

Techniques Used By An Emotional Abuser:

•Countering: telling you that you remember something incorrectly

•Trivializing: making you feel like your thoughts and feelings don’t matter

•Withholding: pretending they don’t understand what you’re saying

•Stonewalling: refusing to listen or engage with you in conversation

•Blocking: changing the subject

•Diverting: questioning the validity of your thoughts

•Forgetting: pretending to forget things that happened

•Denying: telling you something never happened

•Faking compassion: telling you they’re doing something harmful for your good

•Discrediting: convincing others, you’re insane or unstable

•Reframing: twisting your thoughts, behaviors, and experiences to favor their perspective

 

Typical Phrases Used By A Emotional Abuser:

Certain phrases come up often in relationships where someone is being emotionally abused. These phrases and others like them can convince you that your mind isn’t trustworthy. If you hear these often when you know deep inside that they’re unfair statements, it may be time to seek help:

•”I don’t want to hear that.”

•”You need to stop trying to confuse me.”

•”You’re wrong.”

•”You remember it wrong.”

•”Where did you get that crazy idea?”

•”Your imagination is getting the best of you.”

•”It didn’t happen that way.”

•”You know I’m right.”

•”You’re too sensitive.”

•”I only do it because I love you.”

•”You get angry so easily.”

•”You’re too sensitive.”

•”I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

•”You’re making that up.”

•”Calm down!”

 

Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors Associated with Being Emotionally Abused:

When someone emotionally abuses you, your thoughts, feelings, and actions may change dramatically. Where once you felt self-assured, you may now feel like you cannot trust your mind. Take some time to examine how these parts of you have changed since being with the person or in the situation. The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes what to watch for. Here is a quick checklist to guide you:

•Do you second-guess yourself often?

•Do you find yourself wondering whether you’re too sensitive?

•Do you feel confused a lot of the time?

•Do you feel like you’re ‘going crazy?’

•Do you notice that you apologize to someone often?

•Do you wonder why you can’t seem to be happy when you have so much?

•Do you make excuses for the abuser?

•Do you have an overwhelming sense that something’s wrong, even if you don’t know what it is?

•Do you often lie to avoid your partner’s, boss’s, or co-worker’s criticisms?

•Is it hard for you to make simple decisions?

•Do you feel hopeless?

•Do you feel like a loser who can’t do anything right?

•Do you question whether you’re good enough for your partner or job?

 

How to Deal with Emotional Abuse:

People who have endured emotional abuse (no matter how long a person was exposed to it) always find it challenging to leave the relationship, have any self-confidence at all after leaving the relationship and can often struggle to have a healthy relationship with another person in the future. The real question is how to deal with emotional abuse before it reaches that point. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with emotional abuse in relationships:

  1. Study intuition and develop a strong belief in your intuition.
  2. Realize that the abuser’s manipulations have nothing to do with who you are.
  3. Understand that you can’t change someone who is abusive; you can only change yourself.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

September 29, 2019

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTS

 

Did you know . . . .

 

Domestic violence is the #1 cause of injury ages 14 – 55 — more than car accidents, muggings & rapes combined  

 

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors that one partner uses to get power over the other.  It includes: physical violence or threat of physical violence to get control, emotional or mental abuse and sexual abuse

 

Domestic violence occurs in all races, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations & educational backgrounds

 

 

Domestic violence is rarely an isolated event — tends to increase & become more violent over time

 

Someone is beaten by their spouse/partner every 9 seconds

 

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States

 

More than 12 million women and men are victims of domestic violence over the course of a year

 

3-4 million people are beaten in their homes each year by partners or ex-partners

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women

 

1 : 4 women and 1 : 7 men over the age of 18 will experience domestic violence in their lifetime

 

Women between the ages of 20 – 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence

 

25 – 45% of all women battered are battered during pregnancy

 

Half of all homeless women and children in the U.S. are fleeing from domestic violence

 

1 : 12 women and 1 : 45 men have been stalked in their lifetime

 

Witnessing violence is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violence from one generation to the next

 

Boys who witness domestic violence are 2 times as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults

 

In 60% to 80% of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder

 

The costs of domestic violence amount to more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies

 

Children who witness violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners & children as adults

 

30 – 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children

 

Children of violent homes display emotional and behavioral disturbances like withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame and aggression against peers, family, animals & property

 

 

Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse?

 

If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.

Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Offer support :

 

  • Acknowledge That They Are In A Very Difficulty and Scary Situation – Be Supportive and Listen
  • Be Non-Judgemental
  • If They End The Relationship, Continue To Be Supportive of Them
  • Encourage Them To Participate In Activities Outside of The Relationship with Friends & Family
  • Help Them Develop A Safety Plan
  • Encourage Them To Talk To People Who Can Provide Help & Guidance 
  • Offer To Go with Them If They Have to Go To Police, Court, Attorney, Etc.

 

If you need help, find a local domestic violence agency or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to get 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.

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.