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A Book Review: Overcoming Thyroid Disorders

David Brownstein, M.D. Medical Alternatives Press 2nd Edition, 2008

Dr. David Brownstein, is the Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan. This is one of eight books that Dr. Brownstein has authored. In this book he lays out what he has, along with other medical professionals, discovered regarding thyroid diseases. While I am not a medical practitioner and the solutions I offer for learning challenges are within the context of education, I do recognize that we need to look at the whole person. One condition that we have seen in many of our clients is hypothyroidism. In this review, I will summarize the ideas of Dr. Brownstein for your consideration.

Key Points:

I. Brownstein often reminds his readers that he is offering information, but he does not intend for it to replace working with a trained medical professional. II. Dr. Brownstein contrasts his “holistic treatment plan” which aims to resolve underlying causes with “conventional approach” which generally treats the symptoms. III. Brownstein quotes often the man who got him started in helping his patients with hypothyroidism. Broda O. Barnes, M.D. is considered highly among professionals like Brownstein. Barnes authored, Hypothyroidism, the Unsuspected Illness (1976). IV. “Symptoms and Diagnoses of Thyroid and Other Endocrine Imbalances: Acne, allergies, arthritis, birth defects, brittle nails, cancer, candida, chronic fatigue, constipation, coronary artery disease, cystic breasts, cystic ovaries, decreased sex drive, diabetes, dry skin, eczema, endometriosis, fatigue, fluid retention, gout, hair loss, headaches, heart palpitations, high cholesterol, hyperinsulinemia, hypertension, infertility, intolerance to cold, intolerance to heat, low blood pressure, low immune system, memory impairment, mental disorders, muscle loss, multiple sclerosis, nervousness, nutritional imbalances, overweight, P.M.S., premature aging, psoriasis, repeated infections, ridged nails, underweight.” P. 22

V. Hypothyroidism – an under active thyroid gland – butterfly shaped gland in lower neck. “Every single muscle, organ and cell in the body depends on adequate thyroid hormone levels for achieving and maintaining optimal functioning. Thyroid hormone acts as the body’s metabolic regulator. In a hypothyroid state, the thyroid gland is releasing inadequate amounts of thryoid hormone to meet the body’s metabolic demands, and the metabolic rate is therefore reduced.” P. 33 A. “Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism: brittle nails, cold hands and feet, cold intolerance, constipation, depression, difficulty swallowing, dry skin, elevated cholesterol, essential hypertension, eyelid swelling, fatigue, hair loss, hoarseness, hypotension, inability to concentrate, infertility, irritability, menstrual irregularities, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, nervousness, poor memory, puffy eyes, slower heartbeat, throat pain, weight gain.” p. 34 B. Prevalence of hypothyroidism – in US possibly 10% or 13 million people have undiagnosed hypothyroidism. P. 35 C. Thyroid Function – “A pituitary hormone, known as Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH stimulates the thyroid gland. When TSH is secreted from the pituitary gland, it causes the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormone. THS is very sensitive to T4 and to T3. When the body has adequate amounts of thyroid hormone available, TSH levels are lowered so that the thyroid gland can lower its production of hormones.” P. 37 The thyroid produces more T4 than T3 and when the thyroid is functioning properly, it converts the majority of T4 into T3. D. Traditional medicine considers normal TSH range to be 0.4-4.5 mIU/L and anything less than 4.5 mIU/L to be hypothyroid. This has been the “gold standard” for over 30 years. P. 38 Studies show that this is not accurate and many people with hypothyroidism are going undiagnosed. Some have proposed a change of the “Normal Range” to 0.5-2.0. E. Dr. Brownstein and other holistic doctors use the following to confirm or rule-out the diagnosis of hypothyroidism: thyroid blood tests, medical history, basal body temperatures and a physical exam. P. 42 F. A full thyroid panel tests not only the TSH, but also T3 and T4. Some people have plenty of T4, but are poor T4 converters. Factors that contribute to this problem: nutrient deficiencies (chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12) medications (beta blockers, birth control pills, estrogen, iodinated contrast agents, lithium, phenytoin, steroids, theophylline) diet (cruciferous vegetables, soy) and Other (aging, alcohol, lipoic acid, diabetes, flouride, lead, mercury, obesity, pesticides, radiation, stress and surgery). P. 45 Another list: “Factors Associated with Decreased T4 to T3 Conversion: Alpha Lipoic Acid, Anti TPO antibodies, chronic illness, cigarette smoking, drugs, external radiation, fasting, growth hormone deficiency, heavy metal toxicity including mercury toxicity, hemochromatosis, high stress, iodinated chlorestorgraphic agents – used in x-ray procedures, low adrenal states, malnutrition, mineral and vitamin deficiencies – selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 & Vitamin B-12, old age, physical trauma, postoperative state, soy” p. 76 Because the thyroid affects every cell in the body, the symptoms discovered in a medical history is broad ranged. G. The Basal Temperature (known as Barnes Basal Temperature – Dr. Broda Barnes) “How to Measure the Basal Body Temperature: 1. Shake down a basal thermometer the night before and place at bedside or use a digital basal thermometer. 2. Upon awakening, place the thermometer snugly in your armpit for a period of 10 minutes and record your temperature for 5 days in a row. You must not get out of bed before checking your temperature or you will have an altered reading. 3. For women who are menstruating, the temperature should be taken starting on the second day of menstruation. …. For men and postmenopausal women, it makes no difference when the temperatures are taken. 4. If your thyroid function is normal, your temperature should be in the range of 97.8-98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature below this may indicate a hypothyroid state. 5. You can also check oral and rectal temperatures. Normal oral/rectal temperatures should be in the range of 98.8-99.2 Fahrenheit.” P. 50 H. During the physical exam common symptoms discovered include: outer third of eyebrow is very thin (Sign of Hertoghe) and “periorbital edema” or swelling under the eyes. P. 51 I. Conventional Treatment of Hypothryroidism: Synthetic Derivatives of T4 (thyroxine) – Synthroid, Levothroid, Unithroid, etc. Since this conventional treatment monitors TSH which is very sensitive to T4, this can actually lower the function of the thyroid because TSH levels will decline as T4 increases. P. 53 J. Holistic Treatment of Hypothyroidism – The goal is to find where in the normal thyroid function breaks down. What is the underlying cause? Is the individual a poor T4 to T3 converter? Which factors listed in F. above contribute? Dr. Brownstein recommends the use of “a desiccated glandular thyroid products (e.g. Armour Thyroid, Nature-Thyroid, Westhroid). These are not synthetic but are porcine (pig) derivatives – while not identical, the closest possible available, according to Brownstein. Further Armour Thyroid has diuretic effect on the swelling. P. 55, 56 K. “Thyroid hormone resistance is a condition in which the target tissue for thyroid hormone (i.e. the cells of the body) has a reduced responsiveness to thyroid hormone. In other words, thyroid hormone is not able to bind effectively to the cells of the body, resulting in signs of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone resistance can occur even with adequate production of thyroid hormone.” P. 90-91 Detoxifing the body, increasing thyroid hormone availability and correcting imbalances help the body to respond appropriately to TSH. “In cases of thyroid hormone resistance, higher than normal doses of thyroid hormone may be required to produce the desired effects on the body.” P. 91-92 Blood tests of those with thyroid hormone resistance may indicate that a person is hyperthyroid when the symptoms are consistent with hypothyroidism. P. 93

VI. Hyperthyroidism and Autoimmune Disorders A. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism – “nervousness, sweating, palpitations, nerve tingling, fatigue, heat intolerance, hyperactivity, eye disorders and an increased appetite.” P. 115 “Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism: fatigue, goiter, heat intolerance, hyperactivity, hypertension, menstrual disturbance, nervousness, palpitations, sweating, tremor, weakness, weight loss.” P. 117 B. “Examples of Disorders that can lead to hyperthyroidism – Chronic thyroiditis with transient thyrotoxicosis, graves’ disease, hashimoto’s disease, hyperfunctioning adrenoma, subacute thyroiditis, toxic multinodular goiter.” P. 116 C. “Autoimmune illnesses: Chron’s, Graves, Hashimoto’s, Juvenile Arthritis, Juvenile Diabetes, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Polymyalgia Rheummatica, Polymyositis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Reiter’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, Sjogren’s Ulcerative Colitis, Vasculitis” p. 118 Many of these and other appear to have “infections” as the underlying cause. P. 120 D. Iodine Deficiency plays a major contributing factor to autoimmune disorders and a poor functioning thyroid. Helpful supplements: Vitamins B2 (500 mg / day) and B3 (300 mg / day); Magnesium -chelated (200-400 mg); Vitamin C (3-5000 mg / day); Iodine (dosage varies) p. 123; in addition to these – B12 (hydroxyl or methyl cobalamine – injected 1,000-5,000 mcg per day for 30 days); Vitamin B6 – 50 mg per day; Cat’s Claw – 600-900 mg per day; L-Carnitine 1-2 gm per day. P. 137-138 See Brownstein’s book: Iodine: Why You Need it, Why You Can’t Live Without It E. Diet related factors: Gluten sensitivity, Aspartame (toxic in body), Sucralose or Splenda (chlorinated table sugar), medication. VII. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome A. “Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder, characterized by poor sleep, muscle pain, stiffness and tender trigger points on the body. p. 143 B. “Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe fatigue that is unrelieved by rest.” P. 144 At least 4 of the following: short-term memory impairment, sore throat, tender cervical or axillary nodes, muscle pain, multijoint pain without redness or swelling, headaches of new pattern or severity, unrefreshing sleep, postexertional malaise lasting less than 24 hours.” P. 145 C. “It is my belief that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are inter-related syndromes that often have a common underlying factor: hypothyroidism.” P. 144 D. “Possible Causes of Fibromyalgia – Allergic disorder, autoimmune disorder, bowel dysbiosis, emotional distress, infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic), nutrient deficiencies, toxicity (heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, etc.), trauma (physical or psychological).” P. 146 E. “Triggers for Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS): Allergic Disorder, Autoimmune Disorder, Bowel Dysbiosis, Emotional Distress, Infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic), Nutrient Dificiencies, Trauma (physical or psychological), Toxicity (heavy metals, chemicals, etc.).” p. 155 F. If Brownstein’s hypothesis is correct, then by treating the underlying cause (hypothyroidism), there would be a better outcome for those being treated for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Traditional medicine treats the symptoms and holistic medicine seeks to treat the underlying causes. G. To treat these disorders: “In evaluating the hormonal system in fibromyalgia or CFIDS, the thyroid gland is not the only gland that should be evaluated. These patients often have multiple hormonal systems out of balance, including the adrenals, sex glands (ovaries in women and testes in men), pituitary, hypothalamic and others. The entire endocrine system needs to be appropriately evaluated and balanced with natural hormones to achieve the best results.” See Brownstein’s book: The Miracle of Natural Hormones. P. 164 VIII. Adrenal and Gonadal Hormones and Their Relationship to the Thyroid A. “Although this book focuses on recognizing and treating thyroid problems, it is important to look at all of hormone glands because they are all closely related. If there is a need to use a hormone for any condition, I recommend using natural, bioidentical hormones. I have found a synergistic effect that is readily apparent when small (physiologic) doses of natural, bioidentical hormones are employed to balance the endocrine system.” P. 169 B. Brownstein uses the following in treating his patients and covers them in Chapter 7: DHEA, Hydrocortisone, Testosterone, Natural Progesterone, Natural Estrogens, Human Growth Hormone and Pregnenolone. P. 170 IX. Diet and Detoxification A. “6 Steps to Improving Your Diet: eliminate refined sugar, eliminate trans fatty acids, eat organic food, drink more water, eliminate artificial sweeteners, eat a balanced diet.” P. 216 B. “Eating a healthy diet can be difficult. Much of the refined food is inexpensive and readily available. It may take some work suggest that you try to follow the six steps listed” above. P. 244 C. Areas in Detoxification to explore: heavy metal toxicity (mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, nickel), nutritional support for aiding detoxification, sauna therapy to enhance detoxification. P. 251 D. Sources of toxic mercury – fish, water-based paint, polluted water, fungicides, some pesticides, immunizations, some cosmetics, soft contact lens solutions. P. 253 E. Toxic mercury affect brain, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, liver, fetal issues (from mother’s fillings). P. 254 F. “Mercury has been shown to bind to the thyroid gland and disrupt its functioning.” P. 256 G. “Steps for treating heavy metal toxicity: remove source, improve diet, take proper medicine and nutritional supplements, drink adequate amounts of water, sweating.” P. 261-265 H. “Nutritional Supplements Recommended for Detoxification: Cilantro drops – 4/day; Garlic – 500 mg/day; L-Glutamine – 3-6/day; multiple vitamin-mineral complex, Selenium – 400 mcg/day; Vitamin C – 3000mg / day; Vitamin E – 800IU/day.” P. 264 X. Coagulation Disorders A. “When the immune system of the body is not functioning correctly, as in an autoimmune disorder, this can lead to a hypercoagulable state. This means that the blood has an increased tendency to become thicker and perhaps form blood clots.” P 272 B. “Agents that trigger coagulation: genes, allergens, bacteria, biological warfare agents, chemicals, fungi (candida), heavy metal (mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and others), parasites, trauma, vaccinations and viruses).” P. 275-276 C. “Treating the coagulation disorders – drinking water, detoxifying the body, treating pathogens, exercising, eating a healthy diet, using anticoagulant herbs and vitamins, taking natural hormones, using anticoagulant medication.” P. 278 XI. Iodine and the Thyroid Gland A. “Iodine is perhaps the most important nutrient for the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland cannot make thyroid hormone without iodine.” P. 281 B. “Iodine is found throughout the body. In fact, every cell in the body requires and utilizes iodine. The thyroid gland contains the largest concentration of iodine – approximately 15-20 mg when iodine levels are sufficient.” P. 292 C. “Research has shown that 100x the RDA for iodine provides enough iodine necessary to produce the molecules, such as d-idolactone, necessary to prevent thyroid cancer. This amount would be approximately 15 mg.” P. 296 D. For more information read Brownstein’s book: Iodine: Why You Need it, Why You Can’t Live Without It (See blog on this website for the review of this book.) XII. Final Thought –Dr. David Brownstein says the first step is to educate yourself. It is my desire that this review will begin or add to your self-education. We have found many of our clients have hypothyroidism. When treated, the individual’s function physically and academically will improve.

For our Washington state readers, our medical advisor also treats thyroid disorders.


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