Independent Education For All

Over years of delivering independent education in integrative health I have spoken to some diverse audiences. This has included health professionals from very different backgrounds: from hospital-based psychiatrists & mental health nurses, to whom I presented on site in hospitals both in Australia & NZ, to a national sparkle-arkle speaking tour, in front of large groups of aesthetic practitioners. They’re the doctors & nurses for whom botox and fillers are their tools of trade, and yes I got to see actual demonstrations of their work performed live!!!😶 More recently, I’ve had several opportunities to deliver evidence-based independent education on nutrition to pharmacists en masse – which I always enjoy because they ask some of the best questions!

Underpinning each decision to accept an invitation from a 3rd party, be that a company an organisation or an institution, to speak, is:
1.The realisation of an opportunity for nutritional medicine to reach more people, a wider audience, & ultimately expand the circle of influence amongst health professionals, who interact with & advise the public at all different levels
2. An agreement and/or contract that ensures my independence, the correct use of my materials, image, brand and IP & removes any expectation to promote their products/services etc

And my ‘door’ is open to any invitation which meets these 2 criteria. So you might have seen my name, previously associated with some brands or organisations, in the last few years disappear off their speaker announcements, or no longer connected, and in turn you might see my name pop up in new places! Like….Metagenics Congress on Autoimmune Disease!!  After many invitations from this company, that I wasn’t able to previously accept, I am pleased to be speaking at this face to face event on the Gold Coast in August. What a novelty, hey? Face to face?! My talk is about the 4 Mistakes not to Make in Hashimoto’s and as always, I’ve completed a full mini-literature review in order to speak to the very latest on diagnostics and nutritional management, in this condition.  Yes, to quote a Costanza,  “We’re back baby, we’re back!”  And to see my full current smorgasbord of speaking commitments & all the people I am ‘spreading the (nutritional) word’ to – just click here.

Thyroid Pathology Nutritional, Environmental and Dietary Strategies

This previous training will take your understanding of the interplay between food, nutrition, environment and the thyroid several steps further.  With more supportive research and a greater focus on the mechanisms behind the relationships between these macro- & micro nutrient & environmental factors, this presentation is for the true thyroid die-hard.

Where Is That??!!!

Ever been guilty of having a ‘man’s look’ for something?  I have. Particularly when it comes to the online omniverse! I can be a bit flaky at finding things right there on the page…allegedly! So for those of you who have a similar experience with my website & endless educational offerings, I FEEL YOU! We do have a tonne of training options and a whole lot of (love 😉 couldn’t resist the Led Zepplin reference)… lab & diagnostics resources!  This has come up in conversation a lot recently, following the release of our RAN Student Pathology Hub, for example: “I’ve done your MasterCourse in Diagnostics, does this cover something different?” or “LOVED😍 this new hub its *$@# incredible resources & extra training vids but I also wished it included your take on… [insert your pick from infinite list: thyroid, cortisol, zinc etc etc etc]

So here’s a Dummies Guide:
How to Find the Help you Need in Diagnostics

  1. If you are just starting out on your path to pathology & true lab literacy & want an accelerated way to ensure you are starting this journey on solid ground and you have the most called-upon skills you’ll need in clinic today, then the RAN Student Pathology Hub is your perfect match. NOTE: this is not limited to actual students but anyone who considers themselves, like us, a life-long learner! This 12 part module includes some small core components of our MasterCourse, a few expanded episodes from our Update in Under 30, plus unique short training videos, covering tests and topics including: Iron studies, B12 assessment methods, Coeliac screening & much more
  2. If you’re seeking the immersive experience – you want to maximise your competence and confidence & forge your path as a true Diagnostic Diva or Divo then look no further than our ‘mothership’, the MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics  which now has a part payment option.  This really is the most seminal training we offer, taking the time to dig deep into the science behind all the ‘signposts’ our patients’ results are pointing to. A big commitment for a big reward. It comprehensively covers all the routine labs you will see everyday:  LFTs, Renal markers, Glucose and Lipids, FBE & WCCs & is loaded up with case illustrations for each key pathology pattern – that many practitioners say was an absolute highlight
  3. Just have a specific question or need for upskilling in Cortisol assessment?  Zinc or Zonulin? It’s probably in our vast Update in Under 30 library!  Yes, with more than 100 episodes in there and my penchant for pathology…you’ll find something, if not in the UU30 episodes, then somewhere else on my website.  You know how in pdfs ‘Control + F’ is a god! Ok on my site it is this fella 🔎  You can use this to search my whole site to find free information on the topic (blogs) or manifest the same magnifier🔎 magic once you have clicked ‘Catalogue’ on the top right of the tool bar on any page, to locate any specific educational offerings. Remember with the UU30, you can purchase single episodes or subscribe and get access to the whole shebang.

And for those of you primed praccies, patiently waiting for our MasterCourse II to land?  Well about that…did we mention we got hit with a flood? Twice? And then got covid?  Two of us? And have our beloved Nina about to depart to become a mumma!!! Yeah, so our plans to have this up and ready for May changed to Mayhem, real fast 🙄🤪 We will definitely keep you posted on any developments and new timeframes but for now we can only apologise for the delay and will do our best to get back on track with this, at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime maybe a little review of some of MasterCourse I is in order?  I refer back and re-listen all the time, myself!!😂

RAN Student Pathology Hub

Being a practitioner who is able to read labs will set you apart in practice. For your patients this flows from your ability to form a more sophisticated understanding of what’s happening for them, enabling you to better individualise treatment and deliver superior outcomes.  Amongst other health professionals, it will attract positive regard and an increased willingness and enthusiasm for sharing the care of patients with you. Learning to be lab literate could take a lifetime…or you can enter the expressway from the very outset! We have curated the content to reflect the most essential elements, to help you hit the ground running in the shortest period of time. Spread across 12 modules which can be consumed as monthly instalments or, as an all-in-one experience for those wishing to waste no time. The teaching points, tips and tools make the complex simple, engaging, even fun!

Developed, designed and delivered with students of any health discipline in mind.

Last Words for 2021

I’m ready to zip my lips 🤐 and ride off into the sunset of silly season. But first I wanted to tell you about the BIG PLANS we have ON THE BOIL!  Noticed a bit of a thyroid theme of late?  Last month I presented training in thyroid assessment for the 4th time for ACNEM but not a slide, possibly barely a dot-point remained from the original one I wrote back in 2009.  That’s how much my ideas & understanding have changed.

Some of the assay techniques & technologies are new, there’s a river of research  & a mountain of meta-analyses published in the time between & I have had the privilege of yet more clinical encounters in this space, to really nut out how all this translates into the real world.

There’s a lot I need to catch you up on.  And as I start creating our new MasterCourse II in Comprehensive Diagnostics…which will include 🥁…you guessed it…the humongously hardworking HPT, I’m just about bursting at the seams! And will those four little friends of every good practitioner, that sit superficially atop the ‘butterfly’, make it into our MCII?? I hope so because a) they should be our besties – being the director of Ca Mg D & P regulation and b) research tells us that where we find, ‘thyroid’ dx we should have another good hard look for ‘parathyroid’ dx and vide versa and c) over the last few years it has become increasingly apparent to me that this is one incredibly common source of ‘medical mysteries’  in our patients – remember the ‘Bones, Stones, Abdominal Groans & Psychic Moans’ catch-cry?  Yep, that’s the patient who typically finds their way to us, with pervasive but hard to pinpoint gut issues (often misdiagnosed as SIBO, FGD, IBS -D or C), some significant stress perhaps even depression and insomnia and, if someone bothered to look, premature bone demineralisation.  What other pathology panels and parameters will we be able to squeeze into our MasterCourse II?

Our current plans are to deliver the MCII live from May but just a reminder, because this next instalment assumes you have the exquisite foundational knowledge we laid down in the MCI – this is a pre-requisite for attending the MCII.
So if you’ve been putting off your pathology apprenticeship now you have a hard deadline to work to!

And finally the last, last words. On topic because they came from someone who specialises in thyroid, did the original thyroid training with me, way back when, and last month was my fellow presenter & panellist on all things thyroid for ACNEM:

I’m sure I’m the 1 billionth person to reflect this back to you but I’ll do it anyway because I think we all need reminders sometimes – you have a truly special gift in critical thinking, discernment, and most importantly passing on complex knowledge in a very digestible way without making anyone feel silly for asking questions or not getting something the first (or fifth time…no, just me?). The endless analogies are a teaching tool you’ve well and truly nailed and boy am I grateful because it speaks to my way of learning very well.
So, a big thank you! Endless gratitude for your brain, passion and generosity with your time/knowledge/resources.
Natalie Douglas
Here’s to another great year of learning, teaching, sharing & mentoring in 2022 – 1 billion and counting I hope 🌟🌈😂

Urinary Iodine Curveball Corrected!

Example 1:

Example  2:

We love hearing from our fellow fearless friends on the frontline – working with lab results & pathology providers – everyday.  We recently received an SOS! from the Francesca Naish over yet another iodine assessment issue that you may need to also be alert to:

“Ever since you first drew our attention to the need to correct urinary iodine results, I have used your formula for all my patients’ results. Thank you for this.  As most GPs don’t seem to be aware of the need to do this, I find it essential to warn my patients to wait for my interpretation before acting on their doctor’s advice! For a while now, Laverty have started giving the corrected result, which complies with the calculation you recommended. However, very recently Douglass Hanly Moir have started to give a corrected result on their  result sheets, but it does not tally with the calculation I have been using (the one you recommended) and generally gives a lower figure.”

Well, as always, cluey people ask cluey questions…and this did take some back & forth with DHM to solve.  Increasingly, all the major pathology companies are coming around to the essentiality of urinary iodine correction, something I’ve been banging the drum 🥁 about now for….yikes…7 years..no wonder I’m going grey! This is a mathematical formula applied to any raw score for urinary iodine to account for the dilution/concentration of the given sample, because, as we all know, hydration status varies widely between individuals and even within an individual at different times – and this is something that can wildly lead you astray in your thoughts about their iodine status, if not accounted for. Some companies are now employing the formula we use: Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine in mcg/gCr which is wonderful to see.  But DHM have taken a different path, strangely enough, using this formula BUT rather than using the patient’s own reported urinary creatinine they instead use a ‘median creatinine’ 

Which…I am going to say it… MAKES NO SENSE!^%@* aka we WILL correct this iodine for hydration status – but we’ll correct it for someone else’s no yours! – Ms/Mr average…ok?
Ahhhh no.
Just look at the difference this makes in a patient with very dilute urine, in example number 2 above!!

So Francesca & all of you on the frontline, can be assured, if you’re using the formula above – it is correct – keep up the great work and know that it is often better to do something yourself than blindly trust a 3rd party when it comes to pathology…unless that 3rd party is our RAN Patient Pathology Manager template which calculates this perfectly of course!

RAN Patient Pathology Manager

Increasingly our patients are coming armed with lab results and this cumulative data helps us to clearly see their ‘norms’ (as opposed to textbook ones) and therefore be alert to any changes. However, results from different labs at different times, and even the same lab, are unlikely to be presented side by side for easy comparison.  They certainly don’t come with all the important information about what was happening for that patient at each time point – important details pertaining to the blood collection itself (fasting, inflamed etc) which can profoundly alter results or the broader context: menstruating, breastfeeding, losing weight, on meds and supplements.

The Patient Pathology Manager retains all the results for you, including the critical contextual elements, helping you to keep more accurate records to make the most correct interpretation. It also assists you to monitor changes related to various interventions.

Previously, the RAN Patient Pathology Manager has only ever been available to clinicians who participate in Group Mentoring but due to frequent requests for access, we thought it was time to share this great tool for those wanting a foot up with some better systems in their practice. 
This provides you with a template that can be used an infinite number of times plus a short training tutorial.

Functional Medicine Falsehoods ⛔️

Functional Medicine Falsehood

An ideal T4 is 15
An ‘anti-aging’ DHEAs must be >7
A ferritin of 100 is optimal for women…

I’ve heard it all, probably you have too, and far too often & too recently from practitioners who should have rationalised & researched their way beyond these functional falsehoods, by now.  I bought into these ‘optimal wellness truths’ hook line & sinker early in my career and proceeded to even propagate a few but with (not much) more experience in clinic, I had to seriously question this pursuit of ‘perfection’ & ‘perfect pathology’…in favour of reality & scientific evidence!  They didn’t add up.  Not with my patients – even the healthiest ones, in fact some of the really unwell ones occasionally had these kind of high-normal results and they were part of the problem!. ‘But that’s because no one is truly healthy outside of those seeing a functional medicine practitioner & supercharged on supplements & hormone replacements!!’ came the counter-argument.  Ahhh, really?

How then do we reconcile this with the following:
Individual genetics & biochemistry
Our biological resilience
Healthy & appropriate senescence
Large datasets of mixed race populations from other comparable first world countries…where these figures denote the statistical outliers?

I mean, if the 50th centile value for ferritin for actual living, breathing, bleeding, women in the US, Canada, Australia etc etc is 30-40 ng/mL and the 95th centile is 126 ng/mL and the WHO says that in fact, anyone menstruating with a ferritin > 150 ng/mL should attract suspicion for iron overload….but functional medicine men (mostly…sorry but it has to be said!) say 100 IS OPTIMAL FOR EVERY WOMAN #@^*…please tell me in which women, consuming what kind of diet, where in the world, & based on what improved or better health outcomes?
And while you’re there can someone please support this bold claim with a scrap of high quality evidence??

[Rant over🎤💧]

The falsehoods of functional medicine include the blanket belief, ‘more is better’ (ahhhhh not when it comes to many things, including iron where women’s lower levels have been found to be an evolutionary advantage…guys). But you know what, we’re better than that! We see each individual, recognising all the factors at play that make for their uniqueness, help to define what ‘healthy’ looks like for each person and don’t fall for one-size-fits-all claims without any evidence nor common sense even, to support them. What do you think?

Mastering Micronutrients

Let’s make sense of the over-arching nutrition principles, that will profoundly change your understanding and application of this modality  Truly understanding the ‘big’ concepts, so often overlooked, or incorrectly taught, ensures you get the critical ‘small’ detail in your nutritional prescriptions right. In this 4 hour recording, together with key clinical tools, we talk about the tough stuff: dose-response curves, active versus passive stores and excretory pathways and ooh lah lah…the myth of taking ‘activated vitamins’.  Even those who feel satisfied with their original training – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!

 

Female Pattern Hair Loss ≠ A Female With Hair Loss

I’m intrigued by the silence.  Hair loss in women is frighteningly common, following pregnancy, menopause & with extreme stress (wait is that a tautology? 🙄) In fact it can strike at any age and for a multitude of reasons.  When it happened to me a few years back I also initially responded with silence, terrified that if I said it out loud it would make it real, but when my daughter suddenly asked, ‘Mum are you losing your hair?’ with her trademark attention to detail & exquisite empathy, she gave me the words & a good kick into gear, simultaneously.  Now I am fascinated by women’s silence around this generally, how little we share our stories & forewarn others, & as practitioners, the lack of adequate training we’ve had identifying the different types (hint: it involves donning gloves or if restricted to online consulting, knowing how to organise correctly positioned pics) & from there finding the right solutions. 

While Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is the dominant type in women – it only applies to the following pattern:

But alopecia due to stress, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, contact dermatitis etc will affect different regions of the scalp and with a different onset & progression.

And remember, by the time YOU, the practitioner, can spot a patient is losing hair when they simply walk into the room, they have ALREADY LOST 50% 😢 This is why I think we need to push back against the silence. The research is unflinching about the serious psychological impact this has on women – especially in cultures which place so much emphasis on looks generally, and hair, specifically as a commodity of very high value in women.  The diagram above comes from a 2019 update on the phenomenon of FHPL and it’s a good articulation of the knowns and unknowns (pssst spoiler alert…it ain’t about androgens!) but let’s never forget the other causes and cures.  So let’s make sure as the trusted practitioners women present to so often, we are sensitive enough to have this tricky conversation & skilled enough to help 💪

Stop Pulling Your Hair Out – The FPHL Answers You Need

Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is everywhere, perhaps you just haven’t been looking.  As the leading cause of alopecia in women globally and with 1 in 5 women affected at any age, we’ve all got clients who have FPHL to different degrees.   We need to be better able to recognise the early features of this condition which profoundly impairs quality of life and induces depression in its sufferers and that begins with validating patients’ concerns when they report “thinning” or “increased losses”.  But what do we do from there?  This recording talks you through the assessment, diagnosis and management of FPHL based on a combination of the most recent research and Rachel’s clinical experiences.  Once you’ve ‘seen’ FPHL.., you won’t ever ‘unsee’ it and your patients will thank you.

Real-time Diagnostics on the Couch!

Well, this is different, now I’m watching you! 😆 In early 2021 we released our very popular MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics, as a ‘self-paced’ online offering for the many who missed out on attending live in 2020.  Many have grabbed this opportunity with both hands (& a headset and some hardcore Do Not Disturb! signs) but we know that for some, doing the entire course on your own, >24hrs of video presentations, can be a tad onerous & overwhelming. We want to remove these barriers and empower & upskill as many practitioners in pathology interpretation as are keen, and as a means to achieve this, we’re offering the MasterCourse I Watch Party.  So bring your bhujia and a beverage and let’s do this!!

Practitioners who sign up for this will be able to watch each session’s video replay live with other practitioners and have the opportunity to ask Rachel questions & participate in case discussions at the end. Another key detail is that we will run the sessions weekly, so that the full course is covered in just 6wks, from July 8th to August 12th.

MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics LIVE WATCH PARTY
24 hours of live Zoom sessions + Bonus sessions!
8, 15, 22, 29 July & 5, 12 August on Thursday at 3.30pm to 7.30pm AEST.
Each Thursday, the video presentation for that week will be played so we can watch it together. Then Rachel will open up her webcam and mic, inviting you to do the same, to participate in a Q&A  as well as set case discussionsWhen you register, you get immediate access to watch our preliminary/preparatory sessions, prior to 8 July: Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and the RAN Patient Pathology Manager Tutorial.

Below is an overview of the Watch Party schedule.

Week 1 – 8 July | SESSION 1: Acid Base Balance & Electrolytes
Week 2 – 15 July | SESSION 2: Renal Markers
Week 3 – 22 July | SESSION 3: Liver Enzymes
Week 4 – 29 July | SESSION 4: Lipids & Glucose
Week 5 – 5 August | SESSION 5: Immune Markers
Week 6 – 12 August | SESSION 6: Haematology

“I thought my pathology skills were pretty up there until I did Rachel’s Diagnostic Masterclass course!  Nothing like being knocked off my perch by a literal avalanche of new information, especially when it comes from the most commonly tests that we all use so often.  The course has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me, and has since helped me pick out many intricacies in cases that have previously been missed.  

The course structure was great, the level of detail was right up my alley, and the case studies were entertaining (in true RA fashion).  Once again Rachel has increased my knowledge base, and help me provide way better service to my patients.” – Rohan Smith, Naturopath


Join Rachel on MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics Watch Party and register here.
MasterCourse I is a pre-requisite to join MasterCourse II which will be delivered live in 2022.

The Temporal Tap On Thyrogastric Autoimmunity

I love a little temporal lobe tap. Especially the kind patients provide.  This week mine came from a mentee’s patient who, while presenting with concerns about possible perimenopause, was found to have radical shifts in her thyroid hormones, largely thanks to a dramatic increase in TPO Abs (>1000).  The patient’s other presenting complaint was ongoing gastritis (confirmed via scope) and reflux…and that’s when I started to deep-dive into the archaeological archives of my brain…with the…’didn’t I have somewhere in here, in some dark dusty deep recess…a connection between the two?!’

Aha!  With the help of a torch [read Google Scholar] the temporal tap bore fruit.
1 in 4 patients with AITD (Hashimoto’s or Graves, you choose!) test positive to Parietal Cell Antibodies

I’ve created (clearly, not-so)SmartArt graphics on powerpoint slides on this exact topic, waxed lyrical about it in my thyroid training packages…but in fact needed a temporal tap to be reminded!  And in turn thought, well gosh if this has slipped from my mind, it might just have slipped from yours too! ‘Thyrogastric autoimmunity’ as it’s called, refers to a patient group that exhibit antibodies to both and remember, the antibodies precede the condition in both disorders, so you can have a patient with established AITD, who has zero gastric symptoms but tests positive for the antibody…an important heads-up, as it speaks to significant risk of the subsequent development of gastritis in the following years.  This excellent prospective study of AITD patients by Tozzoli and colleagues mapped exactly that! Jump forward just another day or so and…

I’m preparing for our final FiNAl FINAL Q & A on Haematology for our MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics and I’m wrestling with all the conflicting ‘facts’ about the anaemia that may present alongside hypothyroidism – it has been documented and described as being macrocytic, normocytic and even microcytic… how can it possibly be so diverse I wonder and then 💡
I’m guessing the presence or absence of these parietal cell Abs likely has something to do with it!!

Anyway, it’s getting towards the end of a VeRy loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong year…thought we could all do with a temporal tap 😉

 

MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics is a self-paced online program due for release in December.
The course has over 18 hours of video presentations plus 2 free bonus sessions 1) Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and 2) Patient Pathology Manager and access to resources and tools within, for your own use.
This is a pre-requisite for MasterCourse II that will be delivered live in 2021.

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Health
You can view the full course outline here.

A Simple…

My how the time just flies when you’re chasing answers from private pathology companies!  As Brisbane based naturopath, Sandi Cooper, can attest to having recently been down the seemingly eternal email trail with a pathology company trying to ascertain if their urinary iodine result accounts for the concentration of the urine sample (via the iodine:creatinine) or doesn’t….because of course it can make the world 🌎  of difference. Like clarifying that someone who appears to have very little iodine in their urine, actually has a lot or vice versa!  I wrote about this back when I was a mere ‘babe blogger’, more than 5 years ago. After recently reading this historical document, Sandi has been practising due diligence and checking with her providers whether they have already corrected for creatinine..or whether she needs to herself and she shared that multi-departmental epic email endurance event thread with me.  The short answer? They used to and now they don’t. Why? Oh…formatting issues or something 🙄

But just in case you do want the ‘short answer’ regarding your particular pathology provider…without emailing enigmas…the answer is, in fact, in front of you & it’s Super Short!

mcg/g Vs mcg/L

If your patient’s urinary iodine result  (random or 24hr) is reported using the units on the left, sometimes actually written mcg/grCR, then BiNGo! The pathology provider has done the creatinine correction for you.   If they only report the urinary iodine results using the units on the right…it’s time for some maths to avoid misinterpretation.  No one panic, the formula is easy: Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine.  So don’t lose time sending endless emails like poor Sandy or placing countless calls, like poor Nina on my team…who has to pursue pathology providers on an almost daily basis for answers to our zillions of sensible questions!!  Just check the units! You’re welcome everyone 😉 oh thank you Sandi for chasing this again and sorry about needing to chase this again! 😳

And if all of this is nEWs to yOU, you might want to review what you thought you knew, about Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment too!

We can never rest when it comes to learning more about the individual nuances of our patients thyroid pictures!  In this 90min recording, Rachel covers the key thyroid parameters both functional & autoimmune (TSH, T4, T3, rT3, TPO, TgAbs, TRAB).  As well as the most accurate methods of assessing relevant thyroid nutrients: iodine & selenium & a genuinely game-changing insight on interpretation of these .  Finally she pulls all the individual parameters together to illustrate common patterns of thyroid imbalance – making it almost as easy 1-2-3! Well, hey..it’s the thyroid…a fickle fellow.

 

TSI* – Not the Car Kind!

No doubt you’ve heard me refer to the thyroid Abs by their nicknames, TRAb is one I mention often, or Thyroid Receptor Antibody, as its mum calls it, when it’s in trouble.   And it’s always in trouble!  But TRAb is actually the collective name for several flavours of trouble.  What these auto-antibodies share in common is the ability to bind the TSH receptors throughout the body.  They differ however, in terms of whether, once engaged, they stimulate this receptor (mimicking the action of the real-deal TSH) or they block it, so that the real-deal can’t in fact dock and do its job.  The contrasting consequence is clear: stimulating ones drive up thyroid hormone production, while the blocking variety contribute to low thyroid hormone levels – and what was meaningful was each patients (im)balance of the two to produce a net effect. Because yes…a proportion of patients make both.

In Australia, and many other countries, we previously measured TRAb as a sum total and then specified what fraction was each ‘flavour’ but then the ‘flavours went out of favour’! 

So for a long time now, TRAb has been measured, undifferentiated, and the assumption is, they’re stimulating…because this is in fact a) more common and b) the most common reason this test would be referred for…a set of TFTs that look suspiciously on the high-side aka Grave’s disease.

But a new era has dawned, with many mainstream laboratories now opting for the more specific assay: Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins (TSI)* over the old TRAb. Fancy schmanzy, I know. Considered more accurate in the detection of autoimmune hyperthyroidism and in this regard, we’re told we’ve made a diagnostic step forward and nothing has been lost. Except the much less common type of antibodies that bind the TSH receptor only to fill it full of gum so it won’t work.  That apparently, due to its low incidence and reduced clinical impact is no longer something worth testing.  So consider the TSI results for your patients, the new version of your old (drab) TRAb, with similar cut-offs etc. And remember detectable levels of this may be seen in toxic nodules, and acute toxic Hashimoto’s, as well as prodromal and active Grave’s disease.  

AND DON’T FORGET
(and yes, I am screaming because it is so easy to forget!!)

Biotin!!  Patients on biotin at the time of the test (even as little as 1mg as part of a formula) can produce False Positives for the TSI!!!  And give you and your patient the ‘fright of your life’ with a pseudo hyperthyroid set of labs to match!

Need to read more on this because you’re left thinking WTF about the TSI?!@#%^ Check out Mayo Medical Labs (always a good go-to for info on pathology) or this recent review paper 🙂

*Note TSI does not stand for Turbo fuel stratified injection in this scenario!!

Want to learn all the thyroid antibody alphabet??!!  Start Here!

Learn the ropes of Thyroid Dysfunction Assessment & Identification, including all the related thyro-nutrition! Rachel covers the key thyroid parameters both functional & autoimmune (TSH, T4, T3, rT3, TPO, TgAbs, TRAB).  As well as the most accurate methods of assessing relevant thyroid nutrients: iodine & selenium & a genuinely game-changing insight on interpretation of these .  Finally she pulls all the individual parameters together to illustrate common patterns of thyroid imbalance – making it as easy 1-2-3!…almost!

 

Are You Going Hot & Cold On Thyroid Cases?

What’s the most common thyroid disease you’re seeing in practice?  Nope, try again. I’m serious.  There would be very few of us who’d get this right without cheating. It’s nodules.  Current figures suggest 1/2 of all us middle-agers have them and by the time we’re 80 that’s risen to 90%!  There’s a school of thought that says these figures have jumped purely because of increased rates of thyroid imaging and we should stop sticking our nose in places it doesn’t belong. Just because they are there doesn’t mean we need to know about them or that they are causing trouble. All this is true and yet there is a percentage of patients for whom these nodules are a whole lot of trouble, in fact, that’s why they’re coming to see you…they (& possibly you!) just don’t know it yet.

Nodules, outside of radiation exposure, have always been primarily viewed as a nutritional deficiency disease: Iodine.  While this was always a bit one-dimensional (poor selenium…when will you ever get your due?) it’s an explanation that no longer fits as well as it once did because even in populations who have addressed iodine deficiency, the incidence of nodules continues to rise. 

So, what now?

New nutritional drivers have been identified but rather than being about our deficiencies they speak to our nutritional excesses.  And while iodine is not totally out of a job here, some people of course are still experiencing long-term suboptimal iodine which can trigger nodule development, we now need to question if there is any therapeutic role for iodine once the nodules are established. Well the answer is both ‘yes, maybe’ and ‘absolutely not’. The determinant being whether we’re dealing with Hot or Cold Unfortunately most patients and therefore their practitioners can’t tell the difference. But it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  

I’ve seen a lot of thyroid nodule cases pop up in mentoring this year and it’s been a great learning opportunity for everyone to get comfortable with clues in both patients’ presentation & their pathology. While iodine deficiency no longer ‘fits’ like it did, nutritional medicine should arguably remain the primary approach to their management and the new research gives even more credence to this and  identifies a far greater range of dietary and supplemental tools.

Thyroid nodules are going to explain a surprising number of our subclinical (hypo and hyper) thyroid patients and we already have a dispensary full of powerful interventions but we need to start by familiarising ourselves with their story: their why (they happen), their what (this means for patients) and their how (on earth are we going to address these effectively) Knowing your Hot from your Cold…is step one.

 An increasing number of our patients have thyroid concerns but unbeknown to many of us the most likely explanation of all is thyroid nodules, whose incidence is on the rise globally.The development of nodules has always been primarily viewed as a nutritional disease. Traditionally attributed to chronic iodine deficiency but recently novel nutritional causes have emerged . Benign nodules come in 2 flavours: hot and cold and while patients can present with a mixture, it is the presence or absence of a hot nodule that radically changes what complementary medicines you can and can’t use and what an effective treatment plan looks like.  The pointers, as is often the case, are there for us in the patient’s presentation and pathology, so knowing the difference is no longer a guessing game. This UU30 comes with a great visual clinical resource and includes key papers on the nutritional management of nodules.
You can purchase Are You Running Hot and Cold on Thyroid Nodules here.
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Are We Missing A Different Kind of ‘Hyper’ Child?

 

Stop press. No, seriously.  This new research warrants the attention of every practitioner working with children & teenagers. In the largest paediatric study of its kind to date, which included 2,480 children aged 10-18yrs diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (Grave’s or otherwise), Zader & colleagues found

Double the rate of ADHD diagnoses  
5 times the rate of Bipolar diagnoses (almost 7 times in males)
 5 times the rate of suicidality
That’s what I said: in 10-18 year olds 

What is most alarming of course is that these mental health diagnoses were made in half of these children >3 months prior to the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.  What does this mean?  It means we are missing this critical biological driver in this patient group. We all recognise the potential for some psychological presentations people affected with thyroid conditions, however, perhaps we are more alert to this in adults and letting it slip off our radar in kids? There’s been renewed talk about the over- and mis-diagnosing of ADHD lately and given that research has found up to 80% of hyperthyroid children meet ADHD diagnostic criteria this is one of the 1st place arguably to look! It also means, as these researchers discuss in detail, these kids are being medicated with psychiatric meds that in fact may, at the least mask their abnormal thyroid, lead to the incorrect diagnosis of hypothyroidism (lithium & even stimulants for example) or exacerbate their hyperthyroidism (quetiapine). But wait there’s more and it’s essential to understand.

Zadar & colleagues note that while we can not be 100% clear about the direction of the relationship…e.g. were these children already at risk psychologically and the hyperthyroidism just exacerbated that, they note that correction of the TFTs does not always equate to ‘cure’ of the mental health issues.  This is not entirely surprising of course. What the problem emerges via a combination of biology and psychology & we resolve or remedy the biology…guess what you have left? PLUS the learned behaviours etc from suffering from anxiety, impaired cognition, suicidality they’ve been battling at the hands of excess T3 and a subsequent tsunami of reactive oxygen species.

This is one of those papers we should all have to read top to toe and therefore ideally be able to access for free but alas 🙁  What you can read is the Medscape review of this, which is a reasonable summary but the full paper is worth it if you can. You know the other key take home here…the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism was only made with overt out of range TFTs… which begs the question what about all those subclinical hyperthyroid cases we know exist?  Yes, no wonder this paper has RACHEL’ S FAVOURITE written all over it…paediatric thyroid assessment and missed biological drivers of mental health and the opportunity to get better at both…can my research reading get any better this week?!🤓

 Do you know how paediatric thyroid assessment differs from adults? Thyroid Assessment in Kids & Teenagers – Why, When & How

Currently in Australia there is limited use of age specific reference ranges for thyroid parameters in children & teenagers yet they are essential for correct interpretation and diagnosis. Even doctors & specialists seem to be at a loss with diagnosing thyroid problems in kids unless they are extreme presentations. Subclinical thyroid presentations, however, are increasing in both children and adults. Many practitioners competent in adult thyroid identification & management are less familiar and confident with knowing when why and how to test in this population. Make sure you’re not missing thyroid imbalance in your paediatric patients…early detection makes treatment easy.

Wondering Who Shouldn’t Fast?

 

 

Remember biochemical individuality folks? That great core underpinning principle of naturopathic & integrative nutrition. We should always keep this in front of mind, when something utterly fabulous for absolutely everyone pops its head up.  Like every month or so, in the area of health, correct?

Fasting, in all its forms, is having a lot of time centre-stage right now. What a novel & truly prehistoric notion in this era of food 24/7! I get it and I agree, most of us would do much better by regularly moving out of the top paddock.

BUT…and there has to be a but…or we are no longer treating the individual…

Some of whom, due to specific conditions or biochemical tendencies, do utterly horribly with any sort of prolonged periods between feeds.  I already have a hit-list of conditions where fasting and food restriction is a no-no…then I saw a set of labs the other day from a patient who self-initiates regular, 4-6 day fasts during one of said fasts,whose alarming results jumped out in bold, italicized CAPITALS, illuminated itself in neon pink and reminded me to remind you!  This patient’s (extended) fasting labs went a little like this… total bilirubin 48 (normally 15 umol/L),  bicarbonate 18 (normally 26 mmol/L), corresponding anion gap 20 (normally 12), uric acid 0.62 (normally 0.4 mmol/L). Are you thinking what I am thinking B1?

So here’s my hit-list of ‘fasting = foe’ for – still subject to case by case assessment (of course!! because we treat the individual, right?!)…but

  • Any individual with a history of, or currently risk factors for, disordered eating, e.g. orthorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, anorexia
  • Gilbert’s Syndrome
  • Low T3 – thyroid ‘hibernation’
  • Hypocortisolemia
  • Anxiety and PTSD
  • Drug addiction
  • Children, pregnant women, the elderly…of course!

In short: any patient whose condition or biochemistry may be too negatively impacted even in the short term by any of the following: higher cortisol release, significant slowing of phase II detoxification, or radically elevated acidosis, should step away from the fast and towards the fridge!  🙂 🙂

Got any you want to add to this list?

What’s this you say about a hibernating thyroid?

Thyroid hibernation produces a low T3 value coupled with a ‘lowish’ TSH  and typically a clinical picture of hypothyroidism.  As the practitioner we are faced with the conundrum of how to effectively ‘wake up’ the pituitary which appears to be sleeping on the job.  This audio connects up the dots between this type of thyroid dysfunction, dietary patterns, restrictive eating (including a history of eating disorders), carbohydrate intake and disturbed iodine nutrition of the thyroid gland.  This pattern is increasingly seen in practice and this audio is a must for anyone working in the area.

 

Are You a Quercetin Queen (or King)?

Did you and all your patients survive Spring?  Have you had a chance to restock the shelves with all the big-gun-Quercetin-products for the next allergy onslaught…or maybe for patients presenting with other conditions that respond well to this, like leaky gut, asthma, MCAS, Grave’s disease?  Either way…can I ask you a Quiet Quercetin Question…how high do you go? 

I ask this because I know myself to be pretty heavy-handed at times, especially in those severely affected by traditional allergies..and the results are so impressive for patients and practitioners alike, it’s easy to perhaps get very enthusiastic with this approach, with doses sneaking higher and higher… if a little is so good then a lot must be great!

“Severe eczema and allergic asthma – [Insert preferred big-gun-Quercetin-product] 2 three times a day – STAT!”

And we use it across all patients, right?  I love it in kids, teens and adults, men and women.  So I kind of stopped dead in my tracks when a colleague recently said…”I do the same…buckets of Quercetin especially over hayfever season but Rach, what about it’s phyto-oestrogenic effects? Should we be worried?” Ah…yup…that’s right…being a flavanoid…it has them. Now let’s be clear about one thing, unlike  some practitioners I am NOT, I repeat, NOT against phytoestrogens nor even (ahem) soy 😉 but the question was great because it got me thinking…at high-end supplement doses we are producing levels in the body 100s if not 1000s of times higher than a fruit and vegetable rich diet ever can….is it time we knew a little bit more about what Quercetin does at this level, or is suspected of doing and not just the benefits. Therefore we can be more informed about who we should not be so generous or so long-term with our big Quercetin prescriptions?

So I started busying myself in the literature and it turns out THERE IS A LOT OF LITERATURE!

[Note to said colleague who asked me question, you owe me some sleep] But at least I got an answer! 

If you want a bit of DIY drilling then this Andes et al paper is an excellent overview of quercetin supplementation safety concerns…but it doesn’t cover everything.  We need to talk.  We need to talk about that dang estrogen aspect but it’s bigger than that – you see Quercetin doesn’t just engage with oestrogen receptors like a ‘normal’ phytoestrogen…it messes with levels of this hormone via several other paths…and where does that lead us…?  Listen in to the latest UU30 Querctin – Are We Pushing the Limits? and you’ll know exactly our destination. This is important for the Quercetin Queens (both male and female) among us…and that’s like…everyone…right? 🙂

Quercetin has become an absolute go-to treatment for many practitioners faced with patients affected with allergies and high histamine.  It is in this context, that often we find ourselves using large amounts over long periods. Supplemental quercetin exhibits a 5-20 fold higher bioavailability than its dietary counterpart, therefore increasing body levels beyond what a diet could ever achieve. This introduces more potent novel actions: anti-thyroid, pro-oestrogenic, detoxification disrupting…are we pushing the limits of desirable effects and introducing some undesirable ones and who should we be most conservative in?

Hear all about it by listening by my latest Update in Under 30: Quercetin – Are We Pushing the Limits?
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, it’s now available in your online account and if you are not a subscriber you can purchase this individually here.

Double Trouble for Hypothyroid?

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.

Thyroxine Replaced Patients Left To ‘Set & Forget’?

One tree in field

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…)

A Mum, Dad & Their Son Walk Into Your Clinic

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…)

Iodine – Questions & Confusion Need Clearing Up!

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…)

Iodine Deficiency May Impair Ability to Conceive…Who’d Have Thought!

“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…)

No Holiday For The Thyroid

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…)