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Thursday, January 29, 2015

How's Your Thyroid?

The thyroid is an important gland for it controls many systems in your body.  It's a big player in your immune system.  20 years ago a doctor who I respected about told that historically, pneumonia as a cause of death in the elderly might have actually begin as a low thyroid. 

So how is yours?  Here is a checklist of symptoms that may be signs of a low thyroid.

___Tiredness, exhaustion, needing an afternoon nap
___Depression, sadness, down mood
___Feeling cold when others are ok, cold hands and or feet
___Inappropriate weight gain, difficulty losing weight
___Hair loss, particularly in outer third of eyebrows
___Dry or tangly hair
___Breaking, splitting, brittle nails
___Muscle or joint pain, fibromyalgia
___Chronic fatigue syndrome
___Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis in arms or legs
___Swelling or puffiness around eyes, face, arms or legs
___Low sex drive
___Mitral Valve prolapse, or heart palpitations
___Infertility, or recurrent miscarriages
___Heavier than normal menstrual cycles, longer, or more frequent
___Troublesome menopause symptoms
___Worsening allergies
___Stomach and abdominal bloating
___Anemia or hemachromatosis (excess iron)
___Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, slow thinking, forgetting words
­­___Swelling in neck region or full feeling
___More infections than usual, lowered resistance
___Asthma-like feelings
___Ringing in the ears (tinitus)
___Vertigo or dizziness
___Eye problems
___High blood pressure which does NOT respond to exercise or losing weight
___Unusually slow heartbeat not connected to a regimen of running
___Inability to sweat
The variety in the above list reflects the importance of the thyroid hormones in just about every system in the body. 
Women are particularly prone to low thyroid in middle age and beyond.  If you have three or more of those symptoms, consider addressing this problem.
Why so much hypo-thyroidism? Like all the things that ail us--big and small--this too starts with chronic inflammation that damages tissues.  I talk often and at length about things that we eat that cause inflammation (sugar, grains, vegetable oils among some).  But deficiencies can also cause inflammation.  The biggie for the thyroid is iodine.  The name of the thyroid hormone that does the work is tri-iodo-thyronine (hyphens are mine),  For every molecule of T-3, there are three molecules of iodine attached.  Not enough iodine equals not enough thyroid hormone.  Iodine deficiency is prevalent world wide where seafood is less available.  It is also the leading cause of preventable developmental mental retardation in the world. 
Iodine is concentrated in not only the thyroid gland, but in breast tissues and reproductive organs which is no doubt why women need more.  It's lack is implicated in breast cancer.
The US recommended daily requirement is 100 to 150 micrograms, but the RDA in Europe is 600 micrograms.  Even so, both are extremely conservative compared to the amount consumed by the Japanese with their consumption of sea vegetables (seaweeds) of about 60,000 micrograms per day.  The Japanese have lower levels of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer and less fibrocystic breast disease than American and Europeans.  In supplemental doses ranging from 5 milligrams (6000 micrograms) to 90 mg (90,000 mcg) a day, people reported feeling healthier, have a greater sense of well-being s well as the elimination of fibrocystic breast pain at least 70% of the time. 
So if you have symptoms of low thyroid, check your iodine intake.  Supplement.  ANd get rid of the other things which cause chronic inflammation!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Post from a Fellow Traveler in Wellness

Anne Wayman's story:

Anne is a freelance writer who blogs about writing at:


I think I was in my 50’s when I first met Ellie. I had been swimming at a gym and wanted to expand my exercise routine. I talked to a couple of the young trainers and they scared me more than anything else. They had no idea what to do with a woman who was menopausal, or how anyone in their 50’s should exercise.


Someone pointed Ellie out to me and I knew we were close in age. She looked great, tall blonde, slender and well muscled. She moved with confidence and I liked her look. We introduced ourselves and she became my trainer.


Even now more than 16 years later I can walk into any gym in the world and not be intimidated by the grunting of the muscle-bound men. If I run into a situation I don't understand I'm comfortable asking questions. In other words, Ellie taught me how to be comfortable with exercise equipment of all types.


I had begun to pick up a little bit of weight and she urged me to work at dropping it. We talked about proteins and carbohydrates and she suggested I work toward eating more protein and less carbs. She gave me a ratio which I don't remember right now But did tend toward fewer carbs and more protein after that.


It was about 10 years later when we met up again both of us a bit embarrassed by our weight but glad to renew the acquaintance. Although we were both in San Diego we weren't geographically close to each other so most of our more recent relationship was done via email and phone now and then. We got together for coffee from time to time and I think we visited each other's homes once or twice.


Ellie had had both her knees and hips replaced and I was struggling with quitting smoking. Ellie wanted to get back to a small farm where she could raise goats and garden.   My writing career continued with reasonable success and some six years ago, using nicotine – anonymous phone meetings I was finally able to quit smoking.


I had no idea how difficult it is for postmenopausal women to lose weight so I ate most of California until the nicotine cravings became manageable and eventually went away. By this time I was close to 200 pounds which is a whole bunch for somebody with my relatively small frame and 5 foot three height.


Although my breathing eased for a couple of months maybe even six months or a year after I quit smoking, it became apparent to me that I had done more damage than I had understood.  (By the way, if you're still smoking one of the biggest surprises was how badly cigarette smokers smell to non-smokers. I knew I smelled from cigarettes but it wasn't until I quit tobacco for a month or more than I was able to detect just how strong that odor is. If you're still smoking maybe that will give you some incentive to quit and you can find nicotine anonymous at www.nicotine –


I figured out that I probably had COPD but in truth I didn't want to admit it.  I must've told Ellie because she began to urge me to get off wheat.  Fortunately Ellie has the patience of Job for I ignored her for ages. One day, however, she challenged me to try to get off wheat for only 10 days and see if it made any difference in my breathing at all.  I reluctantly agreed and went to my kitchen and almost wept.


In that moment I wasn't thinking about bread or pasta or cookies so much.  But partly through Ellie's influence I had been reading food labels for a long time and I knew that wheat was in just about everything.  I remember standing in my small kitchen wondering how in the world anybody could ever get off wheat.  But I had promised so I began.


I took several boxes of cereals to a neighbor which was more symbolic than anything else. When I moved the last time I had a very stale box of Cheerios or something similar, I don't remember – some sort of cereal that I finally just threw out.


I actually managed to stay wheat free for that 10 days or darn close to it and there was no denying my breathing had begun to ease. Not a lot but enough to make me think it was worthwhile to stay off wheat. In fact it became easier to stay off all grains, except popcorn which is another story, than to try to figure out what grains might be okay for me. I did try one batch of store-bought gluten-free biscuits. They looked good, they tasted awful and when I read their label and saw how much sugar was in them I realized that I was better off just going grain free.


For months I allowed myself to have one cookie a week, when I was having coffee with friends. Every time I ate a cookie I enjoyed it and I also felt my breathing begin to clog up.  But I wasn't willing to go into a feeling of total deprivation so I had one cookie week for many, many weeks.


Ellie moved to Oregon and we continued our friendship via email.  She introduced me to which is a site that advocates a paleo diet.  I transitioned to a mostly paleo diet.   One of the things I like about Mark's approach is he doesn't recommend striving for perfection. He suggests aiming for 80 or 85% and that I found quite achievable and in fact have gone beyond it. 


I stuck with the paleo diet even though I didn't lose any weight or not enough to matter. But my breathing was gradually slowly almost imperceptibly improving. I finally gave up popcorn and thought that might help weight come off - it didn't.  I did start walking and stretching with some regularity and if I kept that up the scale would slowly drop maybe three quarters of a pound a month. I'm disciplined about my writing but not much else so it was a slog and I finally gave up worrying about my weight it had leveled off at around 189 or so and I remember emailing Ellie telling her I was just not going worry about it anymore.


But when you hang out with Ellie even by email you get health-conscious because she is, and she always shares what she finds out.  She was concerned about my breathing and COPD so some of her research included links to articles about how vitamin D can help and other hints that I mostly followed or at least experimented with. For example she suggested I quadruple the fish oil I was taking for 10 days or so. She's convinced as I am that most if not all of physical ailments we have come from inflammation. Omega 3s are known to reducing inflammation. So for 10 days I took massive amounts of fish oil.  That experiment didn’t seem to make any difference for me but I hear it’s particularly effective for folks dealing with chronic pain..


Somehow along the way, at Ellie’s iurging, I decided to experiment with a low carb diet. I hoped it would help me lose weight - it didn't.  But I did like the way it made me feel so I've mostly continued.  I probably average 20 to 30 grams of carbs a day. Sometimes I'll feel the need for additional carbs and I have an extra vegetable or potato or something. I'm almost completely sugar-free. If I'm making a sauce or something that seems to need sweetening all add no more than a rounded teaspoon of raw honey and that doesn't happen very often.


Every now and again I do some research online on COPD. One of the things I noticed was that more than a few articles pointed to an amino acid called NAC as being helpful for people with lung problems. I found some articles just on NAC and discovered it's relatively cheap – you can find 100, 600 mg. capsules for around $10. I ordered some and began to take one or two capsules daily.


It didn't take me long to realize that it was helping my breathing. I did more research and discovered that the maximum dose is considered 1800 mg, although there was some indication 2400 mg would be okay. So I began taking it three times a day.


NAC has made a huge positive difference in my breathing. This reduced my inhaler use by half. I can walk for several blocks even slightly uphill in reasonable comfort. If I leave my emergency inhaler at home I don't have to rush back to get it because I know I'll be okay. None of this was true before the NAC.


It’s Ellie's theory that somehow this particular amino acid is balancing out my metabolism because after six weeks of taking NAC pretty regularly I got on the scale and I had lost five or 6 pounds! I was amazed, 90 days of Weight Watchers, six months of overeaters anonymous, a year and a half or two years of paleo and I had not managed to lose more than five or 6 pounds. As it stands right now I've lost 11 or 12 pounds in about 3 1/2 months.


I've developed my own theory, and that's that most people probably are lacking in one amino acid or another and I got lucky and found the one that is helping me. I have a male friend who has some breathing problems and he also felt the NAC helped his breathing right away. So who knows.


As you might imagine I'm grateful to Ellie as well as enjoying her as a good friend. Plus she has a ton of amazing helpful information on wellness – she’s been digging through research for years.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Is Getting Cancer Under Your Control or Luck?

As I work on finishing my book, I'm actively researching this question for one of the chapters.  The world seems to be heavily weighted toward those who think it's luck.  I'm probably in the minority, then, but as I complete this chapter that makes my case, I wanted to blog about it today.  There is a lot of science for my position that there are specific things to prevent cancer.  By implication, I think they also have a place in treatment.  I'm not sure anyone is doing studies on such treatment, but I'd sure like to get the word out there more and see some cancer patients trying these strategies...well, that's another subject.

Today, I just want to give you two small arguments for cancer being entirely a lifestyle thing, not luck.  These from a historical perspective.

In the development of the early and later hominid species, only healthy individuals (without cancer, of course) produced children and lived to raise them and contribute to the social groups that insured that survival.  Granted, most cancers in our own time are problems for older people--but certainly not all. Today in modern humans, one of every four deaths in the US in 2014 was by cancer.  If that were the case in a developing species, it could never succeed as a viable species, much less spread to populate the entire globe.   I (as have others) postulate that the prevalence of cancer was probably absent or nearly absent in early humans.  Clearly something else is going on, now.

So let's look at a primitive culture that extended into the modern era.  The Inuit.  They were untouched by modern civilization well into the 20th century.  Here's some data about this group of hunter/gatherers from J.A. Urquhart, a physician who practiced medicine in Northern Canada in the early 1900′s.

       “First, as regards cancer, I have not in my seven years’ experience in the north seen a single case of malignancy in either Eskimo or Indian. It has been suggested to me that perhaps I have not met enough of the older, cancer-age people, or that perhaps the natives do not come to the hospitals as readily as in other parts of Canada. To this I may reply that my practice takes in amongst the tribes very intimately, and I frequently have to live in their campments while making my patrols among them. I therefore meet all types and ages. As for the hospitals, the natives appreciate them to the utmost and use them freely. It is for someone else to explain this absence of cancer amongst these people."

Nor were the Inuit the only primitive peoples studied.  Mind you, these are groups still eating their native diet, not "civilized diets".

Dr. F. P. Fouché, who was a surgeon stationed in Africa, was quoted in the British Medical Journal in 1923:
“For six and a half years I was District Surgeon in the Orange Free State. The district in which I practised had a native population of 14,000, the large majority of the Basuto race. During the whole of that period I never saw a single case of gastric or duodenal ulcer, colitis, appendicitis, or cancer in any form, in a native, although these diseases were frequently seen amongst the white or European population."
There is plenty of documentation how these impeccable health conditions changed as the native populations adopted Westernized diets.  A dentist named Price, traveled the world and extensively documented changes in native populations as they changed from native foods to 'civilized" foods.  As a dentist, he was most interested in teeth and facial structure, but documented much more.  The book is "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Weston Price, and was first published in 1939.  Worth the price on Amazon if just for the photos (hundreds).

Cancer does not jump out and get us.  It is not luck but nutrition.  When you give the body what it needs and do NOT give it what is toxic, it is designed to last to the far end without disease.  Join me for this journey of discovery!