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…)

Hypothyroid Without a Trace?

 

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 Stop Normalising Abnormal Breasts

Breast boxer

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…)

Pig Thyroid For Who?

pigGot 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…)

Digging Deeper Into Thyroid

digging deeper

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…)

When I Would Give Withania A Miss

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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…)

Avoiding Overwhelm In Clinic

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…)

Iodine Excess in Action

 

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…)

Optimal Thyroid Function In Pregnancy?

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…)

End of Year CD Clearance

As we head rapidly towards the change over of our calendars we would like to offer you a special on the very best educational recordings from 2014 – buy 2 CDs before Jan 31st and receive one complimentary Premium Audio Recording of your choice  OR purchase 4 CDs and receive a 3 month Premium Audio subscription for free

It’s been a busy year during which Rachel has delivered 7 very successful new seminars in the area of mental health and  beyond, most notably fortifying her role as a leader in the field of diagnostics and pathology interpretation.  This has included collaborations with ACNEM, Biomedica, Health Masters Live, MINDD and Nutrition Care, however, each recording is classic Rachel – full of fresh perspectives on diagnosis & treatment, colourful analogies  & humour.  In case you missed some of these this year or want a copy for keeps – here’s a quick summary of the 2014 recordings included in this end of year offer: (more…)

An Iodine Revolution?

Also presenting at the Science of Nutrition in Medicine Conference this year was Professor Eastman who is a world-renowned Australian endocrinologist with a primary interest in global iodine deficiency. He is also Deputy Chairman elect of the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) and is frequently consulted by Australian health authorities and medical groups on the issue of iodine deficiency in Australia.  Boy did he have some things to say…and it kind of went like this:

  • Substantial epidemiological research has shown that 95% of euthyroid patients have a TSH between  0.04-2.5 mIU/L  (note the current reference range suggests results < 4 mIU/L are okay, Eastman strongly refutes this)
  • The mean TSH in a disease free population is actually 1.5 mIU/L
  • In fact Professor Eastman was emphatic that the mean TSH in iodine replete individuals is actually 1 mIU/L
  • While acknowledging the limitations of spot urinary iodine testing for the assessment of individual iodine status, he genuinely seemed at a loss to understand GPs reluctance to refer for this test when patients exhibit risk factors for hypothyroidism and in his article (Screening for thyroid disease and iodine deficiency. Eastman CJ. Pathology. 2012 Feb;44(2):153-9.) he argues strongly for screening of all mature age women, pregnant women (1st trimester) and school children, using the urinary iodine and TSH together
  • And while we’re stirring the pot how about this: Professor Eastman says that hyperthyroid individuals who have a low urinary iodine result should still be given judicious iodine! Such sacrilege!!
  • But wait…before you get too excited and join the ‘too much iodine is never enough… just look how much the Japanese eat’ camp…I was very relieved to hear Professor Eastman remind the audience that while the Japanese diet does provide substantially more iodine than the Western one, it is not without problems, with very high rates of thyroid disease especially thyroid cancer and in fact, Japanese health authorities are concerned about excessive intake and are currently investigating ways to cut back.  And lastly, if you’re not convinced by this, he says perhaps you should talk to one of the many litigants in the current class action against Bonsoy, who developed severe thyroid diseases thanks to excessive iodine exposure from the milk (7.5mg/cup)!

So keep arguing for urinary iodine assessment and for addressing individuals with ‘within range reference results’ for TSH that are clearly not healthy ones.  Check out Professor Eastman’s article, there’s a goldmine of information in there and while we’re talking about incredible resources in nutritional medicine – take a moment out to thank Dr. Tini Gruner (previously from Southern Cross University) for her significant contribution to naturopathic nutrition education in Australia.  She was a mentor and inspiration to me and many others. She sadly passed away this week and we will miss her dearly.