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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There I said it. It was always going to happen. I’m ok, thanks for asking. This week we had a case of a woman diagnosed with MS in her late 20s. That was 5 years ago and she’s been medicated ever since with an immunosuppressant and she is understandably very nervous about taking any complementary medicine that would pull against this medication, interfering with its actions. Her concerns extended to zinc supplementation in spite of her plasma zinc being 7 umol/L. That’s right, 7. Zinc STAT, right? But slow up there everyone, her apprehension is not necessarily unfounded.
The top nutritional research topics in MS are: Vitamin D (for der…we all knew that, right?), Vitamin A and Zinc. The fan-mail for the first two, as key immuno-modulators in both prevention and in established conditions, is almost at stalker level.
In contrast Zinc attracts both fan and hate mail.
Although the jury is far from in, there’s growing concern that while extracellular levels of Zinc may appear low in MS (that includes of course plasma/serum values) the same individual may actually have elevated levels inside their cells and more specifically inside their CNS. Gulp. But wait there’s more. There is a hypothesis that Zinc dysregulation may be a pathophysiological driver in MS. Double Gulp. My (nutritional) soul mate has shown a potential dark side finally and is sitting under a cloud of suspicion. So what do we need to do differently?
If you’re seeing MS patients you need to be up on the sizeable pile of research into CM in this condition. A brilliant place to start is this very readable review of ‘Vitamins in MS’.
And specifically in regard to Zinc status in your MS patients? Well my advice is don’t rely on a plasma/serum Zinc alone – but couple this with an rbc Zn to ensure there is no sign of intracellular accumulation at play before you make a decision about treatment. Not a perfect solution, but while we’re unlikely outside of research to ever be able to measure CNS zinc concentrations, a reasonable approach. An unchecked zinc deficiency is in no-one’s interests either, including your MS patients – so it’s about gathering the best quality information you can to walk that fine line of adequacy not excess. And if you’re still reeling at the very thought that Zinc has a dark side – remember I did warn you…in Mastering Micronutrients – which is essentially a series of truth-bombs one of which, is every nutrient has a sting in its tail, a U-shaped dose response and a dark side. We need to get to know them all.
Mastering Micronutrients – An Upskilling Opportunity for Old and New Hands
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!
Integrative Psychiatry is an inspiring area to work in & its evidence base, acceptance and recognition of potency is rapidly growing & offering more patients, more. Going beyond the ‘neurotransmitter imbalance model’ for each presenting diagnosis helps us to see the unique mix of biological & psychological drivers in each individual who presents seeking our help. However sometimes I believe, we find ourselves falling into looking through the lens of just another short-list of alternate models: What kind of methylation imbalance does this person have? What sort of Zn, Cu issues?
While I am so grateful for having learned these tools and watched them be very successful in a portion of my mental health clients, they are simply not the answer for everyone. We need to keep our thinking and practices dynamic and up to date, to reflect the incredible increase in research in new areas of integrative psychiatry, such that more of our patients can benefit and that we can continue to think beyond the box…even if that box itself was originally so progressive!
What do you know, for example, about abnormal purine metabolism in mania and using serum urate as a BPAD prognostic marker in depressed patients? Think you can simply be guided by the reference range provided, think again. What could good old LFTs reveal about our patient’s mental health vulnerabilities and what have we potentially misunderstood about copper in this area, particularly in children?
I appreciate Zinc’s role in mental health as much as the next integrative practitioner. Okay, given my 20K word thesis manifesto, more. But increasingly I am seeing mental health patients who need treatment with different tools. This upcoming ACNEM Mental Health Module in Perth is on point: thinking outside of, outside the box!
While the above only speaks to what I’m presenting, I know Dr. Sanjeev Sharma will also be sharing his wealth of individualised management insights and he’s a big fan of addressing Chronic MIld Metabolic Acidosis as an early treatment objective. Maybe we all need to hear why? And I am so looking forward to getting a PTSD update from Christabelle and hear all about the research into therapeutic keto-diets in psychiatry from Cliff Harvey…haven’t read all those papers to know which conditions and when this approach shows merit? No, most of us haven’t. That’s the point of outsourcing our up-skilling to colleagues who we know are across these more than us and to boot have the clinical experience to ‘make real the research’. As I’ve said before, given the content of this upcoming ACNEM Mental Health program, I wish I wasn’t presenting really, so I could just kick back and take it all in, uninterrupted. But alas, I have some important new information on reading basic bloods through a mental health lens to share! I really hope to see you all there. Let’s get out of the rut of 3-4 nutritional approaches to mental health and make the most of the explosion of research and shared clinical experience.
ACNEM Face-to-Face Training
Fremantle, 27-28 July 2019 at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges
Oh and while you’re here…did you know the research into both beta-casomorphins and IgG casein reactions in relation to certain mental health diagnoses has taken some giant steps forward in the last couple of years? You should. Milk Madness is back and it’s via two distinct mechanisms – identifying which might be at play in your patients & correct management is now clearer than before. Want to get up to date in this area of mental health – check out our UU30 recordings: Milk Madness part 1 & part 2
Those ‘still-believers’ look away now. One of the great myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings in nutritional medicine is that supplementation with specific nutrients will produce change specifically in one system, or pathway, which just happens to be the one that the practitioner has determined would benefit most/is targeting. Let me explain myself a bit better. When we give patients any nutrient, in the cases where it’s not simply to correct a global deficiency & therefore improve levels all round, it’s typically on the basis of a specific desirable therapeutic benefit, e.g. some magnesium to help their GABA production…, additional B3 would improve their mitochondria. Beautiful on paper…but like sending a letter to Santa in reality (I did warn you!)
Truth Bomb No.1: There are nutrient distribution pecking orders that have nothing to do with who you ‘addressed’ it to
This dictates that when something is given orally, for most nutrients, the gut itself has first dibs. So the cells of your digestive tract meet their needs before any other part of your body gets a look in. Sometimes the digestive system’s needs can be quite substantial and leave little for any other part of the body…not mentioning any names (ahem) Glutamine!
Truth Bomb No.2: En route to the ‘target’, these nutrients get delivered and distributed to many other tissues – with possibly not so desirable or intended effects!
You may determine that a patient needs iron because their ferritin hasn’t got a pulse…so you keep giving them daily high dose oral iron to ‘fix’ this…not realising you’re making their GIT dysbiosis and gut inflammation worse in the process. Or you feel their mysterious ‘methylation cycle’, happening predominantly in the liver and kidneys, could do with a folate delivery…perhaps ignoring the very worrying fact that their colon may have already had a ‘gut full’. Literally. Hence the concerns and caution against supplementing with folate in patients with established colorectal cancer. So is bypassing the gut via IM or IV nutrients the answer…well yes and no…but mostly no. Read on…
Truth Bomb No.3: Those pathways that use the nutrient you’re supplementing, that are most active in the patient’s body currently – which is determined by many factors (genes, physiology, feedback circuits, pathophysiology) and rarely simply by the availability of nutrients – will take take the next lion’s share of that nutrient
Wanting to nutritionally support someone’s thyroid, you know tyrosine is the backbone of the thyroid hormones, so you include this in the hypothyroid prescription. Will it help? Who knows? Being a non-essential amino acid the body exhibits very complex regulation of its distribution and use – with thyroid precursor availability being only one job on a very long list! And if this was in a patient who is regularly smoking cannabis, due to upregulation of the tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme – there is likely to be more of the supplement headed for even more dopamine production and very little or none reaching in fact your intended target. And don’t get me (re)started on Glutamine – supplements of which in an anxious and glutamate dominated patient will make…G.L.U.T.A.M.A.T.E…right…not GABA! 🙁
Sorry, I know, it hurts right? But these are essential teachings, that tend to have been over-looked or under-played I find, in nutrition education, regardless of training: nutritionists, naturopaths, IM doctors, dual qualification practitioners remedial therapists. Nutritional medicine is a wonderful and potent modality when it’s done well…but we need to revisit some core truths and principles that many of us have missed out on, to ensure we’re not writing letters to Santa.
Want to revisit your core nutritional knowledge which will cover this and much much more?
Let’s start with Micronutrients. Let’s talk 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 felt well trained – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!
Standing at the podium, I looked down at my notes & slowly read out the title of my presentation to the hundreds of people attending, ‘Paediatric Digestive Issues & Neurocognitive Abnormalities’ and briefly froze thinking, Holy Heck (!) this is someone else’s presentation! Seriously. No, this is not one of my work stress dreams. This happened. I thought…oh my how am I going to deliver this, it sounds very complex and lofty and scary!!
Then I saw my scribbled hand notes on the page, the unofficial name I had affectionately given this presentation as I researched, compiled my case studies and brought it into being, months prior and I instantly relaxed…oh…Kids’ Guts Are Mental…now that I have some serious experience with and something to say about! (more…)
While I did diagnose this one correctly, I didn’t get 100% in this quiz – Can you? Speaking of the devil, Medscape, has this great little visual quiz to test your knowledge about physical signs & other hidden clues of nutritional deficiencies.
While we all know there can be a lack of specificity when it comes to some deficiency signs…like glossitis…eyeyiyi..naming a nutritional deficiency that doesn’t include this sign would be a tougher question 😉 but what a great reminder of some quirky things you may have forgotten or in fact deficiency features you may not have even known about.
A gem I love and apply frequently, is about zinc the ALP levels…watch out for the that later in the slideshow quiz.
Also note the distinct difference in opinion when it comes to vitamin D adequacy – with Medscape citing blood vitamin D result < 75 nmol/L unequivocally associated with osteoporotic change…in contrast to the …’anything over 50 nmol/L is a bonus’ line we’re being fed here in Aus and NZ! While we may not ever see some of these severe deficiency presentations walking through our doors – you can’t be so sure…given the reported resurfacing of scurvy in good ol’ Sydney just last year!
Is it just me? I love going back to nutrition 101. So tomorrow with your cuppa…test yourself and then let us know how you go 😉
Are you keen to keep developing your naturopathic knowledge in areas of diagnostics and nutrition? Rachel has a range of services that can help accelerate your learning. From the long list of great downloadable recordings in the store, that help fill your ‘knowledge potholes’ in a fun and engaging way that really brings these topics to life, to our Update in Under 30 Subscription: 30 mins of power-packed up-skilling delivered to your inbox every month, as well as our individual and group mentoring programs! There’s content galore and a delivery format to suit every clinician – come check out what’s on offer.
This year has been a steep learning curve but this is exactly as I had hoped and planned for. I strapped myself in for my roller-coaster ride, a series of intensive upskilling initiatives undertaken with mentors and experts in specialist areas, and I haven’t hurled yet or screamed loud enough to make the operator stop the ride (seriously this happened to me in about 1997 on a Pirate Ship in Rosebud!)…but I have come close 😉
One of the really big lessons has come from getting more into the science behind pyrroluria and urinary pyrrole testing again. What motivated me to tackle this spikey beast? Well, like many people who have been introduced to the concept of pyrrole testing and pyrrole driven mental health presentations – I had a lot of questions that hadn’t been adequately answered. Those gaps left me with some uncertainty about the validity of this investigation and about the interpretation of the results. I also have introduced this pyrrole theory to many naturopaths and hence feel a responsibility to polish up my knowledge on this and set the record straight.
Last but not least, in our local area we reputedly have a ‘pyrroluria plague’ at play – every man woman and their dog is getting this diagnosis and it had added not only to my misgivings about testing but also my concern about misdirected & unsafe treatment. (more…)
Most practitioners are pretty knowledgeable about Zinc and are quick to recognise a deficiency and the opportunities for zinc supplementation as an effective therapy and those same practitioners are often plagued by nagging questions that come up, in spite of loads of clinical experience, like:
- Are plasma and serum zinc levels interchangeable?
- What does zinc adequacy look like? Is it just a single number on a page or do we always have to factor in copper levels and get the ratio right as well?
- What can I expect from zinc supplementation in terms of changes to the patient’s plasma zinc?
- What should I do when a patient’s zinc marker is refractory to the intervention?
- Is there really a significant difference between the different supplemental forms available?
We should all be as skilled in investigating & treating male hormone imbalances as we are female ones, yet this is often not the case. A lack of confidence in this area, which seems to be an issue for many, in particular will compromise our ability to question male clients comprehensively and effectively about their reproductive health and ultimately reduce our capacity for making good clinical decisions and achieving the best outcomes for them. If you’re female, how would you feel seeing a male practitioner who doesn’t ask you about your menstrual cycle in detail?
Many of us are at risk of committing similar crimes but we need not be. (more…)
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…)
“Two great speakers – inspirational in the first half and bang on in the second – I now know how much I don’t know”
Just out now in time for Christmas…no seriously though… this year I had the good fortune to team up with Biomedica and in particular Rachel McDonald and we delivered a 3 hour seminar called Mental Health in Holistic Practice. The intention behind this collaboration was to shift the education focus for practitioners from a prescription based approach, to one really about the clinical reality of managing mental health clients. Probably most of you will agree that the ‘treatment’ counts for only a portion of the positive outcomes in your patients and this is particularly true in clients challenged with mental health issues. After more than 20 years in practice working in this area, I’m keen to share what I’ve learned so other practitioners can get there much much faster! (more…)
Just been speaking on the thyroid at ACNEM last week and am finding that practitioners across the board are getting more and more curly thyroid cases. One scenario that we increasingly see is something that might be described as ‘T3 resistance’, when your patient’s T3 value looks healthy but they continue to manifest the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. There are several differentials to consider of course (more…)
So far this year I’ve been doing most of my presenting online which has been fantastic because we can all be in our PJs and no one’s the wiser (except now!!) but I do miss the face to face seminars where sometimes the real magic happens thanks to the two-way dynamic between you and me!
So guess what? I’m coming to Sydney on the 31st August (and then Brisbane 6th September and then Melbourne 13th September) to touch base with many of you again. I’m joining forces with Rachel McDonald from Biomedica to talk about the real world application of naturopathy in mental health conditions. (more…)
I briefly mentioned in a previous post Dr. Robyn Cosford’s inspiring opening speech at this year’s MINDD conference. A key point she made was the growing gap between what’s regarded as normal and what is actually healthy.
Having worked in general practice for decades, Robyn provided us with one illustration after another – Type 2 diabetes, previously called adult-onset diabetes, now not infrequently diagnosed in primary school aged children; delayed speech and learning difficulties in male toddlers which many increasingly regard as ‘normal’; precocious puberty in girls; escalating rates of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents…Robyn asked us as practitioners to be vigilant about helping patients to distinguish between what has become perceived as ‘normal’ and what is actually healthy.
In my MINDD presentation this year I talked about the mental health challenges faced by young men and I expressed a similar concern: that when we witness extensive aberrant behaviour in young men we are prone to rationalise it. Are we mistakenly attributing these signs of dis-ease in males as simply being an initiation into Australian culture? When you hear of young men exhibiting binge drinking behaviour, does it set off the same alarms as it would if your patient was female and if not….why not?
As part of a broader discussion of the issues, I presented two cases of young men with mental health problems – both from very different sides of the tracks, one gifted and the other a struggler but one of the features they shared included the way their use of alcohol & other substances had passively been condoned by society instead of being seen as a call for help. We can help these young men but only once we’ve acknowledged there’s a problem. So now I’m extending Robyn’s plea and ask you to be vigilant in making the distinction between ‘normal’ and healthy… when mothers relay stories of their son’s ‘antics’, when brothers, cousins & uncles temporarily ‘go off the rails’, when young men reluctantly present for a quick fix…
If you missed the presentation and are interested in the full recording check out https://rachelarthur.com.au/product/new-young-white-men-mental-health-challengers-face-mindd-conference1hr-total-50/
I’ve been curious about the push towards using so-called ‘active forms’ of B vitamins over the last 10 years in nutritional medicine – particularly with regard to B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) and B2 (riboflavin 5’-phospate aka FMN) in light of substantial research demonstrating that these phosphorylated forms will in fact be dephosphorylated prior to uptake in the small intestine (Gropper, Smith & Groff Advanced Nutrition & Human Metabolism 2005) – so initially it seemed we were being encouraged to pay more for something that ultimately gave us less of the same vitamin. Funnily enough the only established scientific way to ensure uptake of the active forms in their intact active states is to use very high doses – however supplements containing either active B6 or B2 consistently offer very low doses compared with the regular supplements, so this seemed to rule this out as an explanation.
In spite of my scepticism & encouraged by the Pfeiffer approach, I got into using P5P and had to suspend my disbelief in the face of good clinical results.
However finally at the MINDD conference last week, scientist Woody McGinnis at last made sense of this riddle for me!
McGinnis, who some of you might know as previously being a key researcher at the Pfeiffer Institute which specialises in nutritional and integrative management of mental health & behavioural disorders, confessed that he had also struggled with concept of P5P supplementation from a scientific perspective until Bill Walsh suggested that this form was particularly indicated for the ‘lean malabsorbers’.
What Woody essentially took from this was that patients with leaky guts could absorb the P5P intact & would ultimately benefit from this form. Adding to this is my understanding that the dephosphorylation process for P5P in the gut occurs via ALP – a zinc dependent enzyme found in the brush border of the small intestine…so here you have the double whammy – if your patient is a malabsorber AND zinc deficient (which of course commonly go together) they are the ones picking up the P5P perfectly and for the rest of us perhaps the pyridoxine will do.
Woody also attested to this with his story of his own pyrroluric son who initially only responded to P5P but in his teens (with significantly improved gut health) appeared to stop responding – at which point Woody switched him to the higher dose pyridoxine with fantastic results…..Aaahhhh at last my scientific curiosity has been quenched! 🙂
As Rachel says in this month’s From My Desk to Yours, “I had to do it sooner or later, we have to talk about Zinc.”
Rachel has been talking about Zinc for years.
Here are some of the items you might like to catch up on to brush up your background on this important mineral.
Do we need to rethink zinc?
Dynamic Balance I – Iodine, Selenium, Iron, Zinc, Calcium & Magnesium
Coeliac disease presents as behavioural problems