So we already know that thyroid problems can start in utero, right…but a recent Medscape review (the fountain of thyroid information that I frequently drinketh from 😉 ) on Hypothyroidism in childhood taught me a couple of big things I hadn’t known before!
The diagnostic criteria for subclinical hypothyroidism are raised TSH levels in combination with a normal concentration of free serum thyroxine (FT4) but because there are some differences between accepted ranges in TSH assays, high-risk groups should be screened, especially babies with malformations, whose mum received steroid treatment during pregnancy or in the neonatal period, or who had existing thyroid dysfunction, TFTs (or at the least TSH as part of what’s called the Neonatal Screening test) should be repeated 2 weeks later. But now comes the couple of big light-bulb moments: the incidence of eutopic thyroid in twin births is nearly double compared with singletons! As you know, I’m a mother of twins and I’m guessing at 18yrs old now (and multiple peachy TFTs 😉 ) the horse has well and truly bolted for my two but geez…I had no idea of the dramatic increase in risk. And it keeps going…monozygotic twins very commonly show a delayed TSH rise and those numbers are even more prominent in multiple births. The other not-so-fun-fact is the discovery that subclinical hypothyroidism in IVF babies is approx. 10% which is noteworthy considering none were observed in the control group.
This obviously left me thinking “W.H.Y?” And of course…the first place my head goes with the latter…is iodine.
Could this phenomenon in IVF babies be due ultimately to undiagnosed or poorly managed SCH in mum or even simpler still, just basic iodine deficiency, presenting as infertility?!
The reasons behind our increasing rates of thyroid dysfunction across the life-stages are multifactorial (and don’t get me started on the very real contribution of EDCs!) and how, in spite of iodine adequacy being the first thing on the checklist for thyroid health, so many health professionals ignore this, at their patients’ peril… But now at least we know that patients with IVF babies, twins, and preterm bub, who are currently not included in the prioritised screening groups should be…and of course we should keep asking the questions, “what are the mechanisms behind this, why is it so?”
So if this has made you even more curious about the incredible butterflied-shaped gland and you’d like to go for a stroll on the vast plains of “thyroidisms” you can click on this link Thyroid Assessment in Kids and Teenagers and get completely “thyroided” up. There is always more research to come our way so keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Too many times we see thyroxine treated patients on the ‘set and forget’ setting. Often, they’re taking the same dose they started on a decade or so ago, in spite of weight changes, ageing of course and new comorbidities. They’ve undergone limited monitoring, with just an annual in-range TSH viewed as confirmation of efficacy. But is it? Many patients’ re-emerging hypothyroid signs and symptoms would suggest not.
A recent Medscape review article of a large study by Gullo et al 2017, identifies another shortcoming in the rudimentary way we ‘replace thyroid hormone’, in all patients but especially in those who’ve had their thyroid removed. (more…)
They’ve just come from the immunologist, having presented with extensive vitiligo in dad and early stage vitiligo now in their primary school aged son. The immunologist, without running a single blood test, told them, ‘Bad news, you both have autoimmune issues and watch this space because the vitiligo is just the first presentation, there will be more to come’. Slightly unsatisfied with this dead-end conclusion and non-existent management plan, the family then presents at a long established naturopathic clinic to see Anna Sangster, a fabulously sleuth-like detective, who takes her patients’ health very seriously and has the knowledge and skills that make her one of the best at what she does. I can say that because I’ve been mentoring Anna for a long time & she is one of the clueiest practitioners I know.
For example, she knows about the substantial research demonstrating the overlap between thyroid autoimmunity and vitiligo and, in addition to comprehensive case taking, decides some blood tests may provide valuable insight that would help to understand the degree of self-attack from their immune systems, identify if there are in fact already concurrent autoimmune targets and perhaps even provide a clue as to underpinning drivers. Well, look what she found! (more…)
That’s me…always questioning the ‘status quo’ and Iodine is the perfect example! The interview I did on this important subject with Andrew Whitfield-Cook from FxMedicine, covers a lot of key areas of confusion & underscores why it’s so critical all health practitioners get clarity on this topic. ‘It’s just a matter of geography’.
You know, I say to people, we can make vitamins ourselves, we can get all sorts of other organisms including animals, bacteria and plants to make vitamins for us, and then eat those…but minerals…our source of minerals…well it all comes down to the rocks and the soil our food itself is grown or fed on. And iodine is profoundly influenced by these factors. (more…)
“Researchers followed more than 500 women trying to conceive over about five years and found that, overall, those with moderate to severe iodine deficiency had 46% lower odds, per cycle, of becoming pregnant.”
All researchers dream of generating the kind of results that are ground-breaking but sometimes you read about the latest study’s findings and you think, ‘Really, you spent all your time & cleverness for years on this and that’s all you have to show for it!’ Like the study that finally confirmed dog’s can feel empathy (at last thank goodness …phew…cos I had my doubts until they crunched the numbers!)
So too a study published this month on the possibility that iodine deficiency is common in women trying to conceive in developed countries and may be connected to increasing fertility issues.
Stop press! I know…that made you spill your coffee! (more…)
Just because most of us have been on holidays doesn’t mean the thyroid knowledge wagon has stopped or even slowed! Always amazed at what we continue to discover about the complex working of this amazing gland and how its health impacts so much of the rest of the body and of course our babies’ bodies! So I thought I’d give you a quick recap of an important study published while you were at the beach/in the bush/in bed ;)…
- A Finnish prospective cohort study of over 3000 pregnancies by Heikkinnen et al has revealed that at 16yo, offspring from these pregnancies, had a 1.56 increased rate of unhealthy weight and a 2.5 greater likelihood of meeting criteria for metabolic syndrome, if their mothers were thyroperoxidase antibody (TPO) positive during their first trimester
- TPO antibodies affect up to 20% of pregnancies but in this study they defined ‘TPO positive’ as those women with levels ≥ 167.7 IU/mL (the 95th centile in this sample)
- What adds to the noteworthiness of this news is that:
- More than half (55%) of the TPO positive mothers were classified as euthyroid during their pregnancy, suggesting that the effect was not driven by maternal hormone concentrations
- The offspring of mothers with actual thyroid dysfunction did not show any statistically significantly greater risk of cardiometabolic issues
- The offspring of hyperthyroid mothers in fact demonstrated significantly better insulin sensitivity at 16yo than children of euthyroid mothers
- Thyroglobulin Abs over the 95th centile (≥ 47.7 IU/mL) did not correlate with any increase in cardiometabolic risks for their children
When we consider the substantial evidence of poorer maternal cardiometabolic outcomes for women who are hypothyroid during pregnancy – it would seem that the abnormal thyroid hormones are most impacting for mum but in fact the TPO Abs the most detrimental for bub! (more…)
Another young female presents in my clinic with a newly diagnosed thyroid cancer and has been recommended urgent thyroidectomy. Her story is increasingly common. If you’re not seeing it in your clinic, you will, because thyroid cancer, and almost exclusively papillary thyroid carcinoma (the form my patient and most young patients have), is dramatically increasing. Since the 1970s there has been a 67% increase in the incidence in women and a 48% increase in men documented in 5 continents (Peterson et al 2012). Australia, though less up to date with its data collection, found a similar increase between 1982-1997 (Burgess 2002). The question begging to be answered is why.
Increased screening and more effective detection of smaller tumours was the going theory for years. New research rejects this absolutely and concludes instead this is a ‘true increase in occurrence’. Increased radiation exposure? Mutation studies say no. Many researchers are pointing to is a ‘new environmental chemical and/or dietary factor’ and EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) that target the thyroid such as perchlorates, phthalates, parabens and phenols are the likely suspects. And, more than likely, with iodine deficiency to explain the increased susceptibility to these EDCs.
But wait there’s more. These ‘new goitrogens’ aren’t only implicated in thyroid cancer, a large number of human studies confirm the higher your urinary metabolites of these, the lower your thyroid function. More worryingly is that they might be doing this ‘without a trace’. With myriad impacts at the receptor level, altered hormone excretion rates, impaired peripheral conversion etc. the data to date suggest these patients TFT results might only look ‘slightly low’ or even ‘normal’ but the reality is they are suffering hypothyroidism. Sound familiar?
There is a HUGE body of scientific evidence we can pull from to understand the role of EDCs in thyroid problems in our patients, how to maximise prevention and minimise impact – even when your patient, like mine, is perhaps already in the full grip of the consequences. I’ve read all the papers and summarised them in this 30min recording: Hypothyroid without a trace – the role of EDCs.
Have you got patients with hypothyroid symptoms but normal results? Or results that suggest the HPT axis just seems to be broken? Could it be the result of a combination of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)? How do you assess for these ‘new goitrogens’, which act more potently and more insidiously, inducing hypothyroidism ‘without a trace’. How do you maximise prevention for all of your clients and the most at risk sub-populations or minimise impact for those already in the full grip of their consequences.
This latest Update in Under 30 audio comes with 3 key related scientific articles and a bonus larger powerpoint presentation that Rachel presented at the ASLM 2017 conference.
Let’s play a little word association game:
I say ‘Fibroids’ – you say, ‘Oestrogen’.
I say ‘Cyclic Breast Pain’ and you say, ‘Ouch!’ [because it just slipped out] but then you say, ‘Prolactin’, right? Me too.
Prolactin driven breast pain’s most characteristic form is the premenstrual ‘oh my goodness get these off me!!’ kind, with patients experiencing anything from burning, aching, bruised feelings and acute hypersensitivity to touch, which builds in intensity for days leading up to their bleed. Of course cyclic mastalgia can progress to being full-time mastalgia in women whose breasts start to exhibit structural tissue change in the form of cysts, fibrosis and ultimately fibrocystic breast disease. If you’ve ever experienced even a day of mastalgia it is truly hard to conceive there are so many women (about 50% of premenopausal women!!) living with it daily.
Adding to our concerns about this so-called ‘benign breast disease’ (BBD) is that researchers are now certain it’s a significant risk factor for breast cancer, with women with any form of BBD experiencing at least a doubling of risk of a subsequent breast cancer diagnosis, while those women with proliferative BBD exhibiting a risk of 3.5X that of women without BBD. Castells et al 2015 (more…)
Whenever I talk to practitioners about thyroid health, like I recently did at MINDD, I can guarantee I’m going to get 2 questions:
- Shouldn’t we aim for the high iodine intake of Japanese?
- Can we use the patch test for testing iodine levels in our patients?
I am so glad you asked. The answers are no and no.
I am a nutter for minerals and iodine just won’t go away right now. Too little = a problem, too much = often the same problems. To boot we are faced with radically contrasting views on assessment and dosage and just about everything iodine related. It’s not you – it’s iodine. Trust me it’s a complex little mineral that requires some extra thought and caution. If you imagine the Japanese have no thyroid problems – correct that big myth right now by reading this scientific paper that refers to health problems that result from too much dietary iodine. It also explains that the typical first step in treating hypothyroidism in Japan is to reduce their iodine intake! (more…)
Got any patients on Natural Thyroid Extracts (NTE)? Me too…and I am finding it’s on the increase. What’s the deal? What do we need to understand about this form of thyroid replacement therapy to best monitor and manage those patients already on it or contemplating taking it? Does it really offer advantages to all hypothyroid patients or just to a subset of those and how would we recognise these people who might benefit the most?
NTE are marketed as being superior to synthetic thyroxine primarily based on the fact that they provide the patient with some T3 as well as T4 and in addition to that, being extracts of pig thyroid glands, there are other thyroid and iodine based actives e.g. mono and diiodotyrosine, present in the extracts. So in essence this is giving us more iodine and more of the other ingredients we need to make our own thyroid hormones. Based on this, many proponents of NTE say this is a major advantage over synthetic thyroxine replacement because it is more ‘holistic’ and it supports the patient’s gland in its own hormonogenesis. (more…)
I just want to scream with joy…and then keep on screaming with utter frustration! Last week I presented the culmination of months of work looking into the extraordinary manifold relationships between thyroid health, fertility, pregnancy & post-partum health for mum and bub.
The findings are breathtaking: whether it’s about being able to put thyroid Abs firmly on the ‘Must Screen’ list for preconception care, given their ability to double-quadruple the rate of early miscarriage or their propensity for triggering post-partum thyroiditis in 50% of women who possess them or being able to state emphatically that maternal low iodine (prior to conception as well as during pregnancy) remains the number one risk for the thyroid’s healthy transition to pregnancy. The evidence is overwhelming that we need to pay very close attention to the thyroid. (more…)
Have you still got some thyroid patients that don’t fit any sort of traditional thyroid disease model and are difficult to get results with? Oh yes me too… and watch out…I’ve been spending the last few weeks with my nose firmly embedded in hundreds of articles digging around for more answers. As I am presenting on thyroid conditions for ACNEM in Adelaide March 18-19th, I couldn’t resist going back to the literature to see if by delving a little deeper again I could come up with some more answers to these weird, wacky and hard to treat thyroid presentations that we’re increasingly seeing and guess what…I think I’ve found a few gems. (more…)
Back a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting at the Integria Symposium and the even greater pleasure of listening to some of the fabulous speakers …you see I’ve heard my stuff before! 😉 The ‘Mosaic of Autoimmunity’ was delivered by the very funny and knowledgeable Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld, who reiterated the sequence of events now well recognised to precede and precipitate autoimmunity: genetic susceptibility + endocrine context + environmental trigger –>autoimmunity.
Clinicians know that overwhelmingly women dominate when it comes to autoimmune disease epidemiology and most understand that this is a consequence of oestrogen’s immunostimulatory effects. Professor Shoenfeld, described the female, or E2 dominant, immune system as being ‘super charged’ and that increased rates of autoimmune diseases were a reflection of this. Sometimes practitioners do initially great work with a/immune clients – clearing up the diet & gut, ensuring vitamin D adequacy etc and then get ‘stuck’ or plateau with antibody levels that ‘won’t budge’. Going back and checking the hormonal contribution in the case is often indicated. If the patient has an unhealthy E2 dominance and /or impaired detoxification and clearance of this hormone then working on this aspect often kickstarts the next stage of improvement.
A new thing to me (I know I’m a bit slow sometimes 🙁 ) was his mention of the potential link also with high prolactin (PRL). The literature on this is extensive and hyperprolactinemia (HPRL), even just mild elevations, have been correlated with a very long list of both systemic and organ specific diseases including: (more…)
Cheesy I know! 😉 However, recently the issue of knowing when to use Withania somnifera & when not to, came up again in mentoring so I thought it’s probably a good one to share. Withania, aka Aswagandha or Indian Ginseng, has become a favourite adaptogenic prescription for many practitioners, myself included. I remember learning specifically (about a million years ago!!) that this herb is ‘warming’ & ‘nourishing’, thanks in part to its iron content. In a traditional medicine context, it’s used for those particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the pregnant, the elderly and the malnourished, boiled in milk as a tonic. These ideas always stayed with me, and lead me to only use Withania in similar patients and presentations with good results. (more…)
We kicked off mentoring this year with some great cases last week. One was a pregnant hyperthyroid client. During the session the wonderful practitioner mentions that the client is using Withania somnifera as required for anxiety.
Insert sound of brakes screeching to a dangerous squealing crash! Here’s a situation where I would give Withania a miss. (more…)
Howdy hard working praccies 🙂 well I received a very interesting email this week from someone asking me if I thought her urinary iodine result was accurate or if, as I have written about previously (https://rachelarthur.com.au/concentrating-concentration-getting-urinary-iodine-right/), it needed to be corrected for the creatinine content of her urine. Her raw iodine result was 24ug/L which suggests severe iodine deficiency. Her referring doctor however had also asked for creatinine and applied the creatinine correction formula I have previously described:
Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine – which changed her result to 265 mcg/gCR which suggests she is NOT iodine deficient at all
She then asked another doctor to review the result who had told her 24ug/L was correct in the first place as ‘pathology companies automatically correct for the concentration of the urine’. Naturally the individual found the difference in opinions and results absolutely striking and ultimately disconcerting so she thought she’d ask me.
It was good to get this email because it made me go and check my facts, get in touch with all the major mainstream pathology companies we deal with and ask their labs ‘Do you or do you not automatically correct for creatinine when you report urinary iodine results?’ I was worried I had given you guys some bad advice 🙁 …here’s what I found out: (more…)
So…a 40 something female walks into your clinic with depression & anxiety…sounds common enough right? But here’s the twist: she’s already seen another practitioner who ran a range of investigations revealing she has pyrroles, high copper levels & is homozygous for the C677T MTHFR mutation. Her medical history includes significant use of Ecstasy and a partial thyroidectomy due to nodules & she has persistently high TSH. But wait there’s more!…The first practitioner upon discovering all of this put the patient on 12 different products which included zinc, B6, evening primrose oil, vitamin D, thyroid support etc etc. And guess what…the patient feels worse!
Frequently our patients are just as complex as this case & sometimes our attempts to narrow the treatment focus through thorough investigation instead leaves us feeling we now have even more things we need to deal with than before! Feeling overwhelmed?? Often! At risk of completely overwhelming the client as well? Definitely! And a reflex to throw your whole dispensary at a client never ends well. (more…)
I’m only human & there are some questions that do make me silently groan & invisibly (I hope!) roll my eyes. One is the old chestnut: “but the Japanese consume on average 7mg of iodine a day!” which is typically offered up as a rationale for the need for mega dosing of iodine in everyone. This is of course only a partial truth & the missing bits make all the difference! The Japanese have some of the highest rates of thyroid disease in the world & this is in part, attributed to their high iodine exposure. Secondly, it’s simplistic & flawed to isolate one characteristic of a whole diet & not appreciate that its effect or impact is mitigated by the context of the entire diet & lifestyle of that population. In the case of the Japanese, for example, this includes relatively intake of isoflavones, key goitrogens which will reduce the bioavailability of the iodine both within the gut & at the thyroid. Harrumph! I love iodine & am frequently suspicious of a deficiency in my clients, however, like many nutrients feel that our ultimate objective is for optimal nutrition…not excessive.
Am I just a conservative scaredy cat perpetuating fear around this topic in the industry? Well…..no. There is accumulating international evidence of big spikes in autoimmune thyroid disease diagnoses following the introduction of iodine fortification programs in previously iodine deficient countries such as Greece, Turkey & Brazil. There is of course evidence as well that iodine supplementation in Grave’s & Hashimoto’s disease can lead to delayed recovery or worsening of the condition. (more…)
Like all thyroid disease, post-partum thyroid conditions seem to be on the rise – and often they rewrite the rule book when it comes to thyroid pathology & its management. Therefore for many of us it can add an extra element of uncertainty about how to help these clients.
One of our graduate practitioners has a great example of this, a 33yo female who developed late gestational diabetes and is now struggling with a new baby and an autoimmune thyroid disease! What would you do? Does post-partum thyroiditis have unique triggers/drivers that require specific treatment? What can you/should you be doing differently because she is still breastfeeding? What’s the likely progression/prognosis?
This is your invitation to come along and find out the answers to these questions and more. During our live graduate mentoring session on Monday 15th June at 3.30pm AEST we’ll work through all aspects of the case, from history to presentation and from looking for clues in her pathology results to where to start with treatment. (more…)
Thyroid function is critical to successful conception, healthy pregnancies, babies and mum’s post-partum wellbeing, so we need to take the time to ensure we’re monitoring it properly.
First of all you need the right tool for the right job & that means we need trimester specific reference ranges – which unfortunately many pathology companies don’t use in Australia. Due to the thyrotropic action of HCG (acting a bit like TSH), TSH should actually decrease in the 1st trimester and while TSH is less affected in 2nd and 3rd trimesters it should still actually sit lower than in non-pregnant females. (more…)