Are you having trouble refilling your Armour Thyroid?

Although I do not prescribe thyroid medication many of my patients take Armour Thyroid, the natural form of thyroid, and I have often recommended that they ask their doctors to switch them to this form of thyroid medication from the more common synthetic forms. Over the years, many people commented that they felt better after switching to Armour from an equivalent dose of synthetic.

A few months ago Armour Thyroid was reformulated and this coincided with people commenting to me that they felt symptoms of low thyroid creeping back although their dose of medication had not changed. To read more about the reformulation go here:
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Melatonin for more than just sleep

Are you aging and don’t feel as sharp as you used to? Do you have macular degeneration or other vision problems? Were you diagnosed with breast cancer, or other estrogen-sensitive cancer? Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or do you have an ulcer? Research is showing increasingly that people suffering from these and other conditions, in addition to those with sleep-related problems, can benefit from taking melatonin every night as a supplement.

The major concern I hear from people who consider taking melatonin is that it is a hormone and they worry that taking it as a supplement could impair the body’s ability to make its own. I understand their concern because many other hormones, including thyroid and sex hormones, have been shown to have such an inhibiting effect. However, this does not appear to take place with melatonin. Based on the studies I have seen, even administration of enormous doses of melatonin in experimental animals did not alter the body’s production of nighttime melatonin (see J Pineal Res. 1996 Nov; 21 (4): 231-8 and others like it).
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Iodine and Health

Do you feel tired and depressed? Are you often cold or has your weight gone up for no apparent reason? If you are a woman, do you have fibrocystic breasts or cycle abnormalities? Do you suffer from chronic pain? If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, your problem could be iodine deficiency.

This notion seems hard to believe because we have all been told that iodine deficiency was erased in our country with the introduction of iodized salt. However, no study was ever performed to identify an optimal intake of iodine, and it could be that iodizing salt only took care of the most severe cases of deficiency. In addition, more and more types of non-iodized salt – including sea salt – are becoming available and many people on salt-restricted diets avoid salt altogether.

Much of what we know about iodine today comes to us from Guy Abraham, MD, a former professor of endocrinology and iodine researcher who has posted much of his research – as well as other studies on the topic – on his website at

It is a well-established fact that iodine is essential for the thyroid gland. However, you don’t have to look very far to find warnings to avoid iodine, especially if you have thyroid problems. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me and, as Dr. Abraham points out, there is no science behind these warnings, just confusion with toxic forms of iodine (like radioactive iodine) in a medical profession that pays no attention to nutrition, ultimately leading to what Dr. Abraham labels “iodophobia.”

In my practice I see many highly frustrated people who know more about every possible symptom of low thyroid than I do, and they have every one of them! To add insult to injury, their blood tests often keep showing normal thyroid levels. If they find a sympathetic doctor who agrees to prescribe thyroid medicine for them based on their symptoms alone, they may feel a little better for a while, but that’s about it. Dr. Abraham’s research indicates that a majority of these people do remarkably well with iodine supplementation. In fact, Dr. Abraham has shown that even people with clinically low thyroid who take medication for it often do better when they add iodine to their regimen and, in time, can cut back or even discontinue their thyroid medication.

But the thyroid is not the only part of the body that needs iodine; the brain needs it as well. In fact, severe iodine deficiency is described with the term “cretinism” (originally a French word that in time has become synonymous with “stupid”). If not enough iodine makes us stupid, it would only seem logical that optimal intake of iodine might sharpen our minds! This may be exactly the case, and Dr. Abraham’s research indicates that many neurological conditions respond favorably to iodine supplementation.

The female breast also needs iodine. Numerous studies have shown that fibrocystic disease of the breast (FBD), a condition characterized by multiple tender nodules, is a result of iodine deficiency and can be fully corrected in a majority of cases with iodine supplementation. Studies have also correlated the incidence of breast cancer with iodine intake. For example, Japanese women who have the highest iodine consumption in the world, primarily as a result of their taste for seaweed, also have a very low incidence of both FBD and breast cancer.

Iodine also has natural antibiotic and anti-yeast properties. Historically, iodine was used routinely to treat infections prior to the advent of antibiotics. This is still a viable option for many cases although, of course, we never hear about it. Compared to antibiotics, iodine has the distinct advantage of also treating yeast.

Few people know that iodine can be used to disinfect swimming pools in place of chlorine, and at only half the concentration of chlorine. There are studies that confirm this very fact and whenever people have been given a choice between iodine and chlorine, they always chose iodine. It doesn’t have an unpleasant odor, it doesn’t dry the skin or cause rashes, and allergies are rare. The fact that iodine is never even offered as an option is further proof of how deep this prejudice or “iodophobia” runs in our society. So much so that it has led us to choose chlorine, arguably a toxic chemical, over iodine, an essential nutrient.

Until the 1960s, iodine was also used in the process of making flour to prevent mold. A side benefit was that people could get their RDA of iodine from just one slice of bread. Because of the same prejudice, iodine was then replaced with bromine, which also keeps flour from turning moldy, but for humans it is a toxic chemical that competes with iodine in the body interfering with thyroid function and possibly increasing the risk of cancer. As Dr. Abraham reminds us, when iodine was used in flour the rate of breast cancer was 1 in 20; it is now 1 in 8 and climbing.

Another benefit of iodine is that it promotes detoxification. Dr. Abraham has used laboratory evidence to show that iodine causes the body to excrete lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and aluminum in variable amounts. In addition, iodine also detoxifies a class of chemicals known as goitrogens. These chemicals block absorption of iodine, eventually leading to enlargement of the thyroid (known as a goiter), but when enough iodine is taken it forces them out of the body. Goitrogens include the bromine discussed above, fluoride, found in water or toothpaste, and a long list of chemicals in the environment.

Now, before you run to the health food store to buy all the iodine you can find, consider a few facts: the RDA for iodine is 150 mcg per day. Considering that the average American consumes 10 grams of salt per day, as long as the salt is iodized, he or she takes in 750 mcg of iodine a day. Maybe not the optimal intake but still this should provide a certain margin of safety. Except that, as shown in multiple studies, when iodine is added to salt it is very poorly absorbed. Research that looked at peak levels of iodine in blood after salt consumption have concluded that out of the 750 mcg we only absorb 40 to 60, well short of the RDA.

According to Dr. Abraham’s research, ideal intake of iodine to optimize health is around 13 mg per day for adults (1 mg equals 1,000 mcg). This level of intake is very difficult to achieve in our country even with supplements available at health food stores, but it represents no more than the average consumption of iodine in Japan.

Dr. Abraham also found that when iodine-deficient people take this optimal dose of iodine every day, they remain deficient and continue to have symptoms even after one year of supplementation. To overcome deficiency an intake of close to 50 mg per day for adults is required, but this should be calibrated through a simple testing program Dr. Abraham designed. In addition, thyroid medication will need to be adjusted for some people and others will develop symptoms from detoxification, so the program should be monitored by a trained health care practitioner. Dr. Abraham designed a supplement called Iodoral that supplies optimal amounts of iodine in the ideal forms but, because of the required precautions, it is only available through practitioners.

To read in detail about iodine supplementation, find references and possibly obtain a referral in your area go to

Low thyroid: is it everybody’s problem?

A partial list of signs and symptoms of low thyroid reads a bit like a “who’s who” of adults who come to see me:

Morning fatigue
Headaches or migraines
Muscle and joint pain
Menstrual disorders
Weight gain
Hair loss
High cholesterol
and so on

In many cases it would seem that just ordering a simple blood test to measure thyroid hormones would solve the riddle, and yet blood tests are often normal – even tests that are sophisticated and expensive!

Some seemingly forward-thinking doctors try to solve the problem by prescribing thyroid medication based on symptoms regardless of test results, but this is probably a bad idea. Excessive thyroid hormones suppress the body’s thyroid function and cause osteoporosis, and people rarely feel better in the long run. A better solution may be found by looking at what happens to thyroid hormones after the thyroid produces them.

The thyroid gland produces mostly T4, an inactive hormone, and much smaller amounts of T3, the active thyroid hormone. As T4 circulates in the blood, it is carried to body tissues where it is gradually converted to T3. For some people, the problem is that their bodies do not convert T4 to T3, not that they don’t produce enough T4.

Since blood tests are just a snapshot, they don’t fully evaluate the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3, a gradual process that occurs throughout the day. Experience has shown that a more sensitive test to evaluate conversion adequacy requires a 24-hour urine collection.

Once it is determined that there is a conversion problem, through testing or a process of elimination, we need to look at factors that could be hindering this conversion. The first of these is a deficiency of the mineral selenium.

I believe that selenium deficiency is widespread, because the soil in which our food is grown is itself depleted of this important mineral, and what little might be in our food is wiped out in refining and processing. Selenium in multivitamins may not be absorbed, considering that minerals compete with one another for absorption and that certain forms of calcium block absorption of other minerals. Further, the form of selenium used for thyroid hormone conversion, selenocysteine, which is found in garlic and broccoli from selenium-rich soil, is rarely included in supplements.

Stress also indirectly suppresses the conversion of T4 to T3 . Stress causes overproduction of the adrenal hormone cortisol, and cortisol blocks the conversion. Therefore, testing adrenal hormone levels makes a lot of sense when there is stress in addition to symptoms of low thyroid. Many herbal extracts, including the Indian herb Ashwagandha can be used to help normalize cortisol levels and can therefore improve thyroid metabolism.

Finally, herbal extracts that support liver function – such as milk thistle – have been found to help thyroid hormone conversion as well, simply because a majority of the T4 our bodies produce is converted to T3 in the liver.

It has been my experience that we need to look at more than blood tests to diagnose low thyroid, and treat stubborn cases with more than just a thyroid supplement.

Perchlorate pollution: a link to thyroid disorders and possibly autism

Two recent Wall Street Journal articles raised concerns about perchlorate pollution in our country. The December 2002 article can be found at and the April 2003 article can be viewed at

These articles discuss the fact that perchlorate may have reached toxic levels in the drinking water of 20 states and contaminated the Colorado River – a river that supplies drinking water for 15 million Californians and irrigates our country’s entire winter vegetable crop.

Perchlorate is used primarily in the defense industry and, according to the articles, the U.S. government has stalled efforts to determine the full extent of the problem. A large-scale study that could have provided conclusive evidence for this problem was delayed due to lack of funding.

Perchlorate is known to affect the human thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. This could, in part, explain why we are seeing such a dramatic increase in thyroid problems among adults as well as children. More importantly, perchlorate has been found to affect early fetal development when women are exposed early in their pregnancy.

Studies have shown perchlorate to potentially affect speech development, behavior and attentiveness in children. In rat studies, perchlorate was also found to cause reduced head circumference at birth. Although results from rat studies are not always applicable to humans, rats have been shown to be consistently more resistant to environmental chemicals than humans. For more on this see

These findings are of particular significance in light of another California study published this year that found autistic children have a smaller head circumference at birth followed by increased head growth during the first year of life (JAMA.2003 Jul 16;290(3):337-44).

Researchers concluded that smaller head size indicates that autism is likely to be genetic and not caused by later environmental factors such as vaccines.

However, it seems to me that reduced head circumference might be caused by exposure to chemicals such as perchlorate during early fetal development. This might also cause infants to become more susceptible to environmental insults, and vaccines could be among these -particularly when they contain mercury-based preservatives.

Could You or Your Child Be Gluten-Sensitive?

Gluten is a protein found in commonly eaten grains, including wheat, rye, barley and oats (however, the gluten in oats is different and can be tolerated by some gluten-sensitive individuals).

Gluten sensitivity has been found to cause celiac disease, a severe developmental disorder. The association between gluten and celiac disease was discovered by pure coincidence during World War II when some children with the disorder “miraculously” recovered when deprived of wheat, only to relapse when wheat was reintroduced in their diet.
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Natural Thyroid Extract Found To Be Superior To Synthroid

As many of you have probably read, Synthroid (levothyroxine) is under scrutiny by the FDA and may be recalled. Synthroid had never been approved by the FDA but was nevertheless considered as the “gold standard” for thyroid hormone replacement. In recent years, questions have been raised about the reliability of this medication and lawsuits have been filed against its manufacturer.

Armour Thyroid and similar products are the natural equivalents of Synthroid. Extracted from pig thyroid, they are not perfectly identical to human thyroid hormone but are the closest to it that we have available. Many naturally oriented practitioners recommend that patients switch from Synthroid to Armour or a similar preparation. For some this switch makes no difference, but others feel considerably better and/or are able to reduce their dosage.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999 (Vol. 340:424-429) compared the effects of these two medications. Although patients in each of the two groups had similar laboratory test results, those receiving natural thyroid extract scored better on tests for cognitive performance, including memory, language and learning. In addition, those receiving the natural product scored significantly better on scales relating to mood and physical status.

Thyroid Dysfunction And Environmental Chemicals

A recent study (Environmental Health Perspec, June 2000;108 (Suppl 3): 433-438) reveals that certain common environmental chemicals can alter thyroid function by acting directly on the thyroid or by affecting centers in the brain that regulate thyroid function. These chemicals, known as PCBs and dioxins, are widespread in today’s environment. This may explain why low thyroid function and many related disorders, including depression and weight gain, have become so common.

A far more disturbing finding of the study is that, in animal models, these chemicals impaired brain development in early life. In humans, adequate thyroid function is essential for brain development starting several months before delivery through the first two years after birth. Based on this information, thyroid deficiencies could be a contributory factor in today’s epidemic of neurological disorders in children such as ADD and ADHD.

Tap water may cause damage to thyroid

A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (August, 2000; 42: 777-782) reveals that perchlorate, a chemical found in the water supply of some Arizona cities, may be to blame for thyroid disease in newborns. Apparently this chemical made its way into these citiesí municipal water from the Colorado River system. Current water treatment plants cannot remove the chemical.

This study underscores the importance of drinking reverse-osmosis filtered, spring or distilled water and avoiding all tap water. In the long run, we may discover many more dangerous chemicals that have found their way into our drinking water.