Category Archives: thyroid

Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Red Blood CellsIron-Deficiency Anemia is a very common health issue. Many women have been told at some point in their life they have Iron-Deficiency Anemia and that it is “chronic.” Unfortunately, the term “chronic” typically means the diagnosing doctor has chosen to not identify the cause of the condition. The doctor assumes the woman’s anemia is “normal” for her and therefore can only be controlled, not treated. I beg to differ.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia always has a cause or causes. It is never a “normal” state of being. Never. Let me clarify that I am speaking about Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the type of anemia that occurs when the body’s iron stores are below normal. Please note I am solely referring to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, not Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia, Pernicious Anemia, Aplastic Anemia or any other form of anemia. Although the symptoms of the various types of anemia may be similar, they each have very distinct causes and cannot be addressed using the same approach. Please note that all references in this article are for adults, not children.

Common Symptoms

Iron-Deficiency Anemia results in a deficiency of red blood cells and diminishes the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide away from cells. The most common symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Elevated heart rate/heart palpitations/chest pain (Seek immediate medical attention for any form of chest pain)
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen tongue/sore tongue/cracks in corners of mouth
  • Muscle pain
  • Pale skin
  • Depression and/or a lack of motivation
  • Brittle nails
  • Frequent infection/illness
  • Irritability/inability to concentrate
  • Bluish coloration to whites of eyes
  • Cravings for unusual items (chalk, clay, paper, etc.) or a strong desire to chew ice

Each of those symptoms could also be a sign of other health conditions, some more serious than others. Please consult a trained practitioner if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

Possible Tests for Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-Deficiency Anemia is typically identified via blood tests. When checking for Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the following tests should be run at a minimum. Please note that each lab has its own definition of what “normal” ranges are. The ranges provided below are general guidelines:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC):  An overview of blood composition.
    .
  • Hemoglobin:  A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Normal range for men is between 13.5-17.5; for women 12.0-15.5. Please note that results which are within “normal” but are at the low end may still cause symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
    .
  • Iron:  A measure of the iron in the blood stream. Normal ranges between 60-170 mcg/dL.
    .
  • Ferritin:  A protein that stores iron. Is a measure of the body’s iron stores. Although some labs state that levels as low as 10 are “normal,” most people do not begin to feel anything close to normal until their Ferritin levels are at least 40. Please note that levels as low as zero are not a definite indicator of cancer or other serious disease. Extremely low levels need to be researched in more detail to determine the cause, but are not necessarily an indicator of a terminal condition. I once had Ferritin levels of zero which my doctor erroneously assumed meant I had cancer. After having a bone marrow biopsy, the consulting hematologist looked at me and asked why on earth the doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy instead of investigating the cause and type of anemia first. Good question!
    .
  • Vitamin B12:  Vitamin B12 is essential for iron to be absorbed. A deficiency can lead to Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Normal ranges vary between 200-900 pg/mL.
    .
  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC):  A measure of the number of proteins available for transporting iron. Normal ranges are typically between 240-450 mcg/dL.
    .
  • Transferrin Saturation:  A measure of how saturated with iron the proteins responsible for transporting iron are. Normal ranges are between 20-50%.

Potential Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Your doctor may order other tests if s/he wishes to identify the specific cause of the Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Potential causes of low iron levels and Iron-Deficiency Anemia may include:

Iron Deficiency Anemia Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells in a person with Iron-Deficiency Anemia

  • Lack of iron in the diet
  • Inability to absorb iron in the digestive tract
  • Unidentified bleeding (in oral cavity, lungs, stomach, digestive tract, etc.)
  • Other forms of anemia not yet tested for or identified
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Extremely heavy menstruation
  • Frequent blood donation
  • Excessive exercise (Iron-Deficiency Anemia is common in long-distance runners)
  • Celiac, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s or other digestive disorders
  • H Pylori infection (stomach ulcer)
  • Use of a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec, Nexxium, etc.
  • Kidney disease
  • Gastric bypass surgery/colostomy
  • Thyroid imbalances or other hormonal imbalance
  • Enlarged spleen or splenic dysfunction
  • Lead poisoning

Further Testing to Identify the Cause of Chronic Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Consistent Iron-Deficiency Anemia can be caused by any of the factors discussed previously, but may also be an indicator of more severe health issues. I advise considering the following to identify the root cause of Iron-Deficiency Anemia:

  • Check antiparietal antibody levels to ensure Pernicious Anemia is not the cause of the anemia
  • Test for other forms of anemia if symptoms and blood work indicate a possibility
  • Test for digestive disorders
  • Test for vitamin and nutritional deficiencies and supplement as needed
  • Test for food allergies (the inflammation caused by food allergies can impair iron absorption)
  • Check for bleeding in the digestive tract and digestive disorders
  • Check for bleeding in the respiratory system
  • Test thyroid levels (with a complete thyroid panel including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO and Reverse T3 at a minimum)
  • Test hormone levels and have a gynecological exam if extremely heavy menstruation is suspected as the cause
  • Test for pregnancy (if appropriate)

Reversing the Deficiency

Many factors may contribute to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, so work with your doctor to determine what approach should be taken to reverse the deficiency. The most common approaches used to reverse the deficiency include:

  • Identify and Address the Cause:  Although it is imperative to get iron levels up using supplements or other approaches, it is also essential to identify why the iron deficiency exists and address the cause. If the cause can be identified and eliminated or greatly alleviated, the body can more easily restore iron levels to normal levels. If testing reveals a more severe form of anemia exists, additional steps will be needed. I will share more about the other forms of anemia in future posts.
    .
  • Increase Iron Consumption:  Increasing the amount of iron eaten on a daily basis can be helpful, but may not be sufficient in cases of absorption and digestion challenges. Please be aware that the iron contained in plants is called “non-heme” iron. It is not as easily absorbed as the heme iron in animal products. The body must convert non-heme iron into heme iron before it can absorb it. The best way to assist the body in making converting non-heme iron into heme iron is to eat fruits or veggies high in Vitamin C with foods containing non-heme iron. (Eating foods high in Vitamin C will assist with the absorption of iron in animal products, too, but is especially important for vegetable sources of iron.) This is one reason why spinach salads often contain oranges. The food that is highest in iron content is liver. Other foods high in iron include red meat, chicken and turkey, quinoa, organ meats, raisins, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, prunes, molasses, beans and lentils, salmon, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (at least 80%), broccoli and others. I am not a fan of “iron fortified” milk and cereals because the iron those foods contain is in a form that is very difficult to absorb.
    ,
  • Use Iron Supplementation:  Iron pills or supplements should never be taken if testing has not proven you are deficient in iron. Excess iron in the bloodstream can have negative affects which are as bad or worse as an iron deficiency. Please also be aware the forms of iron most commonly sold in drug stores are difficult to absorb and often cause constipation. Ferrous sulfate is the most commonly sold form of iron, but is very poorly absorbed and often causes constipation. It is not a form I recommend. My preferred forms of supplemental iron include iron citrate, iron gluconate, iron bisglycinate and/or chelated iron. Iron is best absorbed when it is taken on an empty stomach. My favorite iron supplements are Hematinic Formula and Vitamin Code Raw Iron.
    .
  • Severe cases of Iron-Deficiency Anemia may require blood transfusions or intravenous iron. Those approaches are usually not needed unless other health issues are present.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that Iron-Deficiency Anemia can usually be quickly addressed and reversed. More difficult cases may require further testing and additional therapies, but quality of life can usually be restored fairly quickly.

Red Blood Cell Photograph courtesy of Wellcome Images
Anemia Blood Cell Photograph Courtesy of Alpha Images

 

 

Case Study: Eliminating a 20-Year Cough

I recently promised to share more case studies so you could gain a better grasp of what I do on a daily basis and the types of cases I handle. Please note I have permission to share this information, will never use the person’s real name and may change minor details of the case to protect the client’s identity.

This case study is about “Eleanor,” a woman in her 50’s who came to see me because she wanted to lose weight and was trying to reverse Type 2 Picture of a daisy with a heart centerDiabetes. She was on Metformin, a nasal inhaler, two different allergy medications, asthma medication, high blood pressure medicine, a statin drug, Levothyroxine and Nexium. During her initial consultation, she casually mentioned she had constant post nasal drip with a cough and had to clear her throat constantly. She said this had begun over 20 years ago and nothing had worked to eliminate it. She had grown so used to this she didn’t even consider it a problem. I thought it was a significant issue we needed to address. Eleanor also shared she was exhausted and was often too tired to participate in social activities she was invited to attend.

As I reviewed Eleanor’s medical history and eating habits, I noticed she ate a large amount of carbohydrates and had bread or crackers with every meal and snack. The fact she was eating so much wheat made me suspect she had developed an allergy to it. A further review of her physical symptoms and a check of her allergy point with the EDS unit confirmed this. “EDS” stands for “Electro Dermal Scan” unit. It is a unit I use to check nerve centers associated with body systems and health conditions. Eleanor’s allergy point scored extremely high, meaning there was a large probability she had one or more allergies. Using a piece of bread, I was able to identify that wheat was a likely culprit.

I made the following recommendations:

  • I recommended that Eleanor eliminate wheat for three weeks. I encouraged her to keep a diary during those three weeks to record any changes she experienced physically, mentally or emotionally.
  • I recommended a revised eating plan known to help reverse insulin resistance.
  • I encouraged her to engage in some form of movement ten minutes each day.
  • I recommended three supplements known to help insulin resistance, thyroid function and systemic inflammation

At Eleanor’s next visit, she burst into my office grinning from ear-to-ear. She was visibly more energetic, happier and her skin looked better. When I asked her to share what changes she had seen, she said her cough and need to clear her throat had completely disappeared. After 20 years, she was finally able to sit through a movie without embarrassment, sleep soundly and leave home without tissues. She went on to say her energy levels had improved and she had lost ten pounds. Not bad!

After six months, Eleanor had lost 30 pounds, was off the Metformin, the statin drug, all allergy medications, the inhaler, Nexium, the asthma medication, and her blood pressure medication. In addition, she was on a lower dose of her thyroid medication, Levothyroxine. She had gone from taking nine daily prescription medications to only taking one. She said she no longer turns down social invitations, got a raise at work because her productivity improved dramatically, and she was training to run a mini-marathon. She thanked me profusely, but she gets all the credit. She recognized she needed to make changes and she committed to making them. I am so proud of her!

Currently, I meet with Eleanor via telephone about once a year. She is truly a different woman from the one who first walked into my office. Stories of transformation and progress such as hers are why I do what I do. How can I help you? Please contact me if you would like to schedule a consultation.

Confessions from Thyroid Hell

I guarantee you have been touched by Thyroid Hell at least once during your lifetime. If you do not personally have thyroid disease, you have definitely come in contact with someone who does. That encounter may have been quite pleasant, or may have been a nightmare. Either way, the quality of the encounter can be directly attributed to how well that person’s thyroid levels were balanced on that particular day. (Thyroid levels can fluctuate on a daily basis, which makes managing thyroid conditions that much more difficult.)

I thought I’d share an insider’s look at Thyroid Hell, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time there. I invite those of you with thyroid imbalances to share your stories in the comments. Feel free to have fun with it and please don’t worry about offending us. Thyroid disease is no laughing matter, but the situations it creates are sometimes hilarious.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share more detailed information about thyroid disorders. I will also launch a wellness coaching program for thyroid patients that will provide detailed information about lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements that can be used to support the thyroid gland. This program will also contain very specific information on how to discuss thyroid issues with your doctor and on the tests you need to request. I do not want one more thyroid patient to needlessly suffer, and I recognize that education is the only way to prevent that.

The Thyroid Gland is a tiny gland that wraps around the esophagus. It sits just below the “Adam’s Apple.” In spite of its size, the thyroid gland is incredibly powerful. It secretes hormones that directly affect every body system. Every single one. An imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can affect brain chemistry, emotions, digestion, reproductive health, fluid balance in the tissues, kidney function, heart function, liver function, hair and nail growth, sexual function, emotional balance, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, dexterity, muscle strength and stamina, cholesterol levels, anxiety, vision, internal temperature regulation, and more. As you can see, thyroid dysfunction affects body, mind and spirit in profound ways. Unfortunately, many MDs prescribe antidepressant meds to treat the symptoms instead of doing detailed blood work to find the cause of the problems.

The one item that is also affected but which was not included in the list is: RELATIONSHIPS. It is very difficult for thyroid patients to explain to family members and friends that they truly aren’t themselves. I frequently hear people with thyroid disorders express: “I hate myself and don’t know who this monster is living in my body, so I don’t know how any of my coworkers, family members or friends could stand me.” I’ve been that monster. Even though I was able to usually control my outbursts, the constant turmoil spinning through my brain and thought patterns was pure hell. Many people who are very positive, calm and chipper become Mr. Hyde when their thyroid levels become imbalanced. Those of us who have dealt with thyroid issues for many years instantly know it’s time to get blood work and check levels when the monster starts to rear her ugly head.

Unfortunately, people who have never before received a thyroid diagnosis often genuinely think they’re going crazy. It is extremely common for patients who are hospitalized due to suicide attempts to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. It is not uncommon for lab tests to reveal that people who successfully committed suicide had thyroid imbalances. I am very thankful that a growing number of MDs are choosing to specialize in both endocrinology and psychiatry. I personally believe the two cannot be completely separated.

In my own experience, I can say that I could easily deal with the physical afflictions of thyroid imbalance if the emotional effects were not so profound. I’ve heard other thyroid patients echo similar sentiments. Once you realize your thyroid levels are out of balance, you begin the process of changing medication dosages until the correct dosage is found. This can sometimes create a rollercoaster effect where the patient goes from being hypothyroid (having thyroid levels that are too low) to being hyperthyroid (having thyroid levels that are too high.) Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms for hypo- and hyperthyroidism, which makes the entire process that much more fun.

For those of you who have friends, coworkers or family members with thyroid challenges, here’s a list of the emotional and behavioral changes you might observe when their thyroid levels become imbalanced:

  • Having extreme anxiety where none existed before
  • Reacting irrationally to minor issues
  • Responding to almost everything with anger
  • Displaying extreme levels of irritability (as in being annoyed by your breathing)
  • Overtweeting or excessive use of social media (I’m not making that up)
  • Suddenly having a total lack of self confidence and a complete disbelief their efforts will succeed
  • Becoming completely apathetic about projects or topics for which they have a passion
  • Dressing very differently because their clothes do not fit, their body image plummets, or they just don’t care
  • Suddenly becoming out-and-out mean, caustically sarcastic, hypercritical, etc.
  • Becoming very negative
  • Suddenly becoming a hermit who has no desire to leave the house or interact with others
  • A total slob may suddenly become obsessively tidy, or a neat freak may suddenly become a slob

That list could continue with many more points, but the bottom line is that thyroid imbalance changes people’s personalities, not just their physiology. The good news is that there are a wide variety of natural approaches that can support thyroid health. These approaches, used in combination with natural thyroid replacement hormones, can eliminate the hell and restore normalcy.

So what can you do to help a thyroid patient who’s in flux? Love them, obviously. In the midst of that, ask questions to ensure they are working with a professional to stabilize their hormone levels. I cannot stress this enough: Most thyroid patients are already experiencing a bit of self hate. Try not to be negative and judgmental about the changes in their life habits. They may need your assistance in maintaining the status quo, and they may need you to very gently hold them accountable, but they do not need your judgment. Threatening them with ending the relationship will not motivate them at all. Their hormonal imbalance is already affecting their self image, so losing a relationship may not matter to them (or they may expect it) when their levels are out of balance. I know that sounds extreme, but I hear it and see it on a daily basis.

The best advice I can offer is to ask the thyroid patient in your life how you can help them. Be specific. Ask if you can help with chores, if they need you to take them out to have fun, and let them know you love them and are there for them if they need to talk or need a soft shoulder to pound on. Your support will do more for them than anything else.

Ok … your turn. Have you experienced this? What else can we add to the list? I welcome in put from thyroid patients and from people who love them and who are on the receiving end of the angst.

Why You Need More Magnesium

Experts estimate that 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium, a very basic mineral that is essential for good magnesiumhealth and which is used by every system in the body.

A lack of Magnesium in the body may cause any of the following: 

  • muscle cramps
  • heart palpitations
  • headaches and migraines
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • muscle weakness
  • digestive disorders
  • impaired pituitary and thyroid function
  • PMS
  • kidney problems
  • insulin resistance and/or hypoglycemia
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • vertigo
  • problems swallowing
  • muscle aches
  • tremors and shaking
  • anxiety or over-excitability
  • muscle twitching and tics
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • kidney stones and heel spurs
  • coronary spasms
  • atrial fibrillation
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • numbness in extremities
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • water retention
  • high blood pressure
  • loss of appetite or nausea
  • and many more 

The problem with these symptoms is that many are very vague and most could be caused by a wide variety of other issues. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare for a medical professional to consider a magnesium deficiency and act accordingly when faced with symptoms that indicate one. Additionally, plasma levels of magnesium measured during blood tests are very inaccurate because only 1% of magnesium in the body is stored in the blood. The majority of magnesium in the body is stored in the tissues, making blood tests almost worthless. We live in a society where mainstream physicians are taught to place more weight on blood test results than on symptoms, which makes it even less likely that a person exhibiting multiple symptoms of magnesium deficiency will be given magnesium. (There is a blood test that is more accurate, the ionized magnesium test, but it is not widely available.)

As the huge list of symptoms indicates, magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of every body system. A deficiency can have devastating consequences. Magnesium is the most prolific mineral in the body and is responsible for almost 400 different biochemical reactions in the body. A short list of the body functions magnesium directly influences include:

  • Allows the body to absorb calcium and to place it where it belongs 
  • Essential for the production of energy
  • Essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
  • Relaxes muscles so they remain flexible
  • Essential for the activation of B vitamins
  • Helps build bone and keep it flexible enough to not shatter
  • Helps maintain a normal electrical flow of nerve impulses in the heart
  • Essential for hormone balance (especially during PMS and menopause)
  • Essential for initiation over 300 different enzyme reactions essential for health
  • Essential for proper digestion
  • Essential for the production of key brain chemicals
  • Essential for normal kidney and liver function

Obviously, you need magnesium. If you eat a standard diet, drink alcohol, or drink coffee, you are probably magnesium deficient. Many people are magnesium deficient because of digestive disorders and malabsorption. (Please read Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for tips on improving digestion.) 

It is possible to maintain adequate magnesium levels by eating high levels of dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. If you’re eating well and don’t have absorption problems, you’re probably not deficient. If you don’t eat well, drink alcohol or can’t get by without your daily cup of java, you need to be getting supplemental magnesium other ways. (Coffee and alcohol sap the body of magnesium very quickly. It is not unusual for alcoholics to have anxiety and sleep disorders as a result of their magnesium deficiency.)

Drinking a daily Green Drink is a wonderful way to get sufficient magnesium and other essential nutrients. If you don’t care for the taste of green drinks (which taste like grass, to be blunt), try Green Vibrance Capsules by Vibrant Health. It is one of my favorites and is one I use frequently.

If you prefer to increase your magnesium using supplements, do NOT take Magnesium Oxide. It is a form of oxide that your body cannot absorb. It is worthless. Read labels and make sure whichever supplement you purchase does not contain magnesium oxide. Most people do best taking 200-800 mg of magnesium on a daily basis. I recommend starting with 200/day and very gradually working up (not exceeding 1200 mg) until your symptoms disappear. Having loose stools is a good indicator that you’re taking too much. If you develop diarrhea, take less magnesium.

I recommend doing or using the following to increase magnesium levels, in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • Take a very warm bath three times weekly with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts in the bath. Your skin will absorb the magnesium, eliminating the need for it to be absorbed through the digestive system.
  • Use Magnesium Oil:  Magnesium oil is not an oil, but has an oily feeling due to the high concentration of magnesium in the liquid. Note that it is necessary to use high doses of magnesium oil in order to receive a high amount of magnesium. Most oils need to be used in doses of eight sprays, three times daily.
  • Take Magnesium Glycinate:  Magnesium Glycinate is one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium. The magnesium molecule is bonded with glycine, which is an amino acid. The human digestive tract is maximized to absorb amino acids, and glycine is known to improve digestion, so the combination of the magnesium and the glycine greatly increases the absorption levels. The amount of glycine absorbed is minimal, so please do not use magnesium glycinate instead of a glycine supplement if you need supplemental glycine.

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

As always, none of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none were intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Check with your medical practitioner before starting or stopping any supplement or medication.

References:

Yu ASL. Disorders of magnesium and phosphorus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 120.

Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

Common Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Medications

Prescription Bottle

Many people do not realize the prescription they are taking to address one health issue is depleting nutrients that may cause other health problems. Unfortunately, few patients are told about nutritional deficiencies that can be caused by prescriptions. This results in health issues developing which may be a mystery but which can typically be reversed very quickly simply by replenishing the nutrient that was depleted by the prescription medication. In a strange twist of fate, many of the prescription medications I listed below deplete the body of a nutrient that is essential for preventing or controlling the very condition the prescription is used to remedy. Unfortunately, many doctors are not aware of the nutritional deficiencies caused by the medications they prescribe. As a patient, it is imperative to look up each prescription medication you take to see if you should be supplementing to replace what it is depleting. In my office, I review each client’s prescriptions medications to ensure they are taking measures to prevent a potential deficiency.

The table that follows provides a list of just a few of the most common prescriptions that can cause a nutritional deficiency. I’ve provided information about the prescription medication, the nutrient(s) it is known to deplete in the body, and information on which supplement might be used to help counteract or prevent deficiencies. I’ve shown one possible supplement per deficiency, but many options exist. I’ve merely shown the one I like or use personally. Please note this is a very tiny list and is not complete. If you’d like to pick up a book providing excellent, detailed information on deficiencies caused by prescriptions, I highly recommend Suzy Cohen’s Drug Muggers: Which Medications are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients and Natural Ways to Restore Them.

Please also note this table does not list interactions which may occur between foods or supplements taken with prescriptions. Please consult your MD, read the information that comes with your prescriptions, and research to determine which supplements and foods should never be taken with your prescription medications.

NOTE: This information is being shared for educational purposes only. If this information concerns you, please discuss it with your MD before making any changes to your care plan. Please DO NOT begin taking any supplements without checking with your MD. Additionally, never stop taking a prescription medication or alter the dosage without the express consent of your MD or other healthcare practitioner. None of these statements were reviewed by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.

Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Prescription Medications

Medication Deficiency Caused Potential Source of Replenishment
  • Statin Drugs
  • Anti-Diabetics (Micronase, Glynase, DiaBeta, Dymelor,  Glipizide/Glucotrol, Metformin/Glucophage, Tolinase)
  • Pamelor and other Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Beta-Blockers Used for High Blood Pressure (Lopressor, Toprol, Inderal, Coreg, etc.)
Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Co-Enzyme Q10 is essential for heart health, so it is concerning that statin and drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes cause a severe depletion in this nutrient. Some studies indicate congestive heart failure’s base cause is a deficiency in CoQ10. If you take a statin drug of any of the antidiabetics listed, I strongly encourage you to take a Ubiquinol Supplement on a daily basis. I recommend taking .5-1mg per pound of body weight. Your body must convert CoQ10 into Ubiquinol in order to absorb it, so it is much more efficient to simply take the Ubiquinol.
  • Metformin
  • Most Antibiotics (Azithromyzin/Z-Pack, Amoxicillin, Penicllin*)
  • Most heartburn and GERD medications (Cimetidine, Omprazole, etc.)
  • Colchicine and other anti-gout medications

*Almost all antibiotics deplete Vitamin B12. A complete list would not fit in this table.

Vitamin B12 There are many differing opinions about how much Vitamin B12 a person should take to replenish a deficiency caused by a prescription medication. Luckily, Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, so it is very difficult to develop an excess without taking ridiculously high amounts. My recommendation is to take a minimum of 2000mcg of sublingual, Methylcobalamin B12 on a daily basis. I also recommend having your B12 levels checked every three months if you are taking a medication known to deplete B12. Please see my post, Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Vitamin B12 for more information about how important Vitamin B12 is and how many health issues may result from a deficiency.
  • Ritalin
  • Most Blood Pressure Medications
  • Most Acid Blockers and Antacids
  • Most Antibiotics
  • Most Oral Birth Control
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids (Flonase, Nasonex, Flovent, Pulmicort, Rhinocort, etc.)
Magnesium Magnesium is essential for lowering blood pressure, yet almost all blood pressure medications deplete the body of this essential nutrient. Seems somehow backward, doesn’t it? Several studies found that 70-85% of the US population – children included – are magnesium deficient. (See my post Why You Need More Magnesium for more information on the importance of Magnesium and information on which types are most beneficial.)
  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Xanax (Alprazolam)
  • SSRI Antidepressants (Fluoxetine/Prozac, etc.)
  • NSAIDS (Celebrex; Ibuprofen/Motrin, Advil, etc.; Naproxen/Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.; Lodine; Daypro; etc.)
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Prednisone
  • Beta-Blockers Used for High Blood Pressure (Lopressor, Toprol, Inderal, Coreg, etc.)
Melatonin Oddly enough, Melatonin is a hormone that is essential for maintaining serotonin balance and for maintaining a positive outlook. Deficiencies can cause depression and insomnia, and may also increase the effects of aging because Melatonin is such a strong antioxidant. Dosage of Melatonin varies from person to person. I generally recommend starting with 1-3 mg each night and increasing the dosage (up to 10 mg) until restful sleep is easily attained. If you take Melatonin and it does nothing for you, that’s a good indicator that you are not deficient. However, most people taking anti-anxiety medications are deficient and find their symptoms improve very quickly once a Melatonin supplement is started.
  • NSAIDS (Celebrex; Ibuprofen/Motrin, Advil, etc.; Naproxen/Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.; Lodine; Daypro; etc.)
  • Aspirin
  • Anti-GERD Medications, both OTC and prescription (Axid, Tagamet, Pepcid, Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, etc.)
  • Hydrocodone
  • Anti-Cholesterol Medications (Cholestyramine, Collestipol, Questran, Colestid, Atromid-S, etc.)
  • Colchicine (anti-gout)

 

 Iron

Please read Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia to learn more about combating anemia.

A word of warning about iron: Do not take an iron supplement unless you know you need it. Additionally, iron may interfere with the absorption of many prescription medications. (One example is that it should never be taken with thyroid medications such as Synthroid or Armour.) For best absorption and to prevent interactions with medications, I recommend taking iron supplements on an empty stomach, at least two hours before or after taking prescription medications.Many forms of over-the-counter iron supplements are almost impossible to absorb. This is why many of them cause constipation. I prefer to use forms of iron which are very easily absorbed and therefore do not cause digestive upset or constipation. My recommendation is to never purchase iron supplements from standard drugstores, as I have yet to find one that carries iron in a form that is easily absorbed. (Please let me know if you find one!)

Have you suffered from a nutritional deficiency you later learned was due to a prescription? How did you counteract it? If you’re taking one of the medications listed, I’m curious to know if your doctor told you in advance about the possibility that it might cause a deficiency? Were you warned and given a list of recommended supplements? I hope you were!

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Please note that the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links but that my use of an affiliate link in no way encouraged my listing of these supplements. They truly are my favorite supplements, most of which I use myself.

How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate

I recently realized my dosage of thyroid medication was too high. This was great news, as it means my thyroid gland is coming back to life and doing what it’s supposed to. Although I considered this good news, it took a while to convince my practitioner it was possible for me to recognize a wrong dosage and that blood tests are not the only way to truly tell if a dosage is wrong. 

I will spare you the details and will simply share it took two weeks before my practitioner agreed to change my dose, even though I knew within two days that the dose was wrong. My symptoms were severe enough to negatively impact my ability to function normally. I could not wait two weeks to return to normal, so I changed my dosage on my own without her approval. (Please don’t do that. Always discuss dosage changes with your physician and never make changes without his or her direction and approval.)

Sign indicating thyroid frustration

Every thyroid patient I’ve ever met or interviewed says they know within two days whether a new dosage will work or not. Unfortunately, many doctors and mainstream practitioners don’t believe this and insist on waiting SIX WEEKS before performing blood work and agreeing to change a dose. If your thyroid gland stopped producing adequate levels of hormones, you would know something was terribly wrong within a few days. The same is true for medication dosage changes. Making a thyroid patient suffer for six weeks … or even ten days … is simply not acceptable and indicates a lack of understanding of the severity of thyroid conditions. It also indicates a lack of understanding of how sensitive patients are to what is occurring in their own body. There are multiple Facebook groups and international thyroid support groups that repeat this over and over again. Thyroid patients are tired of having practitioners ignore their symptoms. The fact these groups have hundreds of thousands of members from all over the world is valid proof there is a problem and lack of understanding related to adequately and effectively treating thyroid disease.

Being hypothyroid – or having insufficient levels of thyroid hormones – is a form of hell on earth that no one can understand unless they’ve experienced it. This is why many mainstream practitioners just don’t get it. They think thyroid patients should happily endure incredibly rapid and consistent weight gain unrelated to food consumption, edema that causes “cankles” and makes it impossible to see the bones in one’s feet, bald spots, depression, fatigue, itchy skin, severe aches that resemble arthritis, loss of balance with vertigo, weak muscles, muscle cramps, constipation, irritability, memory loss, slurred speech, feeling cold all the time (even in 100+ degree heat), and more. I’m here to say: NO MORE. (What I would actually say can’t be posted in a family-friendly article such as this one.)

It is estimated that 10-20% of US citizens have a thyroid disorder that requires intervention. Unfortunately, many of these thyroid conditions get ignored due to improper testing and doctors who don’t recognize the common symptoms. There is also a tendency for practitioners to dismiss symptoms, saying things such as, “You work full time and have four kids. Of course you’re tired!” Many doctors assume that complaints of fatigue, weight gain and more are simply “whining” and are not genuine symptoms or are indicators of psychological issues. There is also an assumption that weight gain is related to laziness and that patients who insist they are doing everything right are lying. That attitude, my friend, brings me closer to cussing than anything shared previously.

So what can you do? Be the squeaky wheel. If you know you have something physically wrong or that your thyroid medication dosage is wrong, INSIST your doctor change the dosage. Do your research and share your symptoms, stating the symptoms you are experiencing are obvious indicators the dose is wrong and that waiting several weeks to perform blood work will cause further damage. Be blunt and be insistent. If this doesn’t work, go ahead and get the blood work run early. Although docs insist blood work requires six weeks to show true results, your blood levels of thyroid hormones will show enough change after two weeks to show an imbalance and a need for a medication change.

Let’s review … to truly check how your thyroid is functioning, you must have the following tests run every time:

  • Free T3: A measure of the active T3 thyroid hormone.
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  • Free T4: A measure of the less active T4 thyroid hormone. The body should convert T4 to T3 but often does not.
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  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH): A measure of a pituitary hormone the body uses to stimulate the thyroid gland. Many doctors ONLY order this hormone, which is a grave error. Only measuring TSH – a hormone produced by a different gland entirely – is similar to checking the the temperature of your radiator fluid in order to gauge whether you need more oil or not. It is indirect and very inaccurate. Measuring the true thyroid hormones (Free T3 and Free T4 at a minimum) is the only way to tell where your levels are for sure. TSH levels may also fluctuate greatly in thyroid conditions caused by an autoimmune condition, so their use is highly unreliable.
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  • Reverse T3: Reverse T3 is a hormone that counteracts the T3 your body is producing. It is important to test this because your TSH, T3 and T4 could potentially be “normal,” but overproduction of Reverse T3 could cause you to be extremely symptomatic because your body is “killing” the T3 that’s produced. Excess insulin and insulin resistance often cause excess RT3, so it is important to test this hormone each time thyroid hormone levels are checked.
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  • Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO): TPO measures the amount of anti-thyroid antibodies in your blood stream and is used to identify an auto-immune thyroid issue. TPO typically should be measured multiple times, because levels vary and it may take several tests before levels are high enough to be identified in a blood test. (Remember that a blood test is a very tiny “snapshot in time” and that the results shown in that instance may not always be 100% accurate for some measures.)
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  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb): This is another measure of autoimmune antibodies that is typically only used when hyperthyroidism exists.

When a dosage is changed, it is imperative to have new blood work run (TSH, Free T3 and Free T4 at a minimum) within 3-6 weeks to ensure the new dosage is correct. It breaks my heart when people tell me their provider changed their dosage of thyroid medication and told them to come back in six MONTHS for blood tests. Severe physical harm can occur in six months of hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Waiting that long is not acceptable.

Did you notice your thyroid gland makes two hormones? (It makes more, but T3 and T4 are two of the most important ones and affect health the most.) Be aware that commonly prescribed medications such as Synthroid and its many derivatives only contain T4. Your liver should convert the less active T4 into the active T3, but many people’s bodies just don’t do that. This means many people suffer needlessly while taking Synthroid because their bodies desperately need more T3. There is a mainstream prescription, Cytomel, that contains T3. Many people find their hypothyroid symptoms disappear once they add T3 to their regimen. Natural thyroid medications such as Armour and Naturthroid contain both T3 and T4 and work far better for most people. For me personally, switching to a combination of T3 and T4 was a true life-changer. My symptoms began to disappear within a few days and I could actually begin living again.

To receive the best care possible, you must be your own advocate and seek the best care you can. Have you done that? If not, please do!

If you are a thyroid patient who can’t make sense of your blood test results, please contact me. I would love to help you interpret the results and will help guide you to discuss the results with your practitioner. Please feel free to call me at 317.489.0909 to schedule a 15-30 minute test results review consultation.

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Raving Thyroid

In the last two months, I’ve gained twenty pounds and started to have an eerie resemblance to the Michelin Man. This is not because I’m eating Snickers bars for every meal or because I’ve stopped working out. It’s because my thyroid levels are Raving Thyroidseverely imbalanced. It began because my body was healing rapidly, which meant I was on far too high a dosage of thyroid medication.

What happens when one is hyperthyroid, even due to over-medication? I’ll spare you a long list of physical symptoms and will simply say that absolutely everything is affected. Mood, weight, energy level, sex drive, ability to deal with stress, hunger level, irritability, etc., etc., etc. In a word, hyperthyroidism is HELL on earth. (And I don’t use that term lightly. I promise.) For six weeks I became a person I did not recognize or want to be associated with. I was, to be quite honest, mean and extremely irritable. Other people noticed. Those who love me were willing to forgive me; those who didn’t took offense and became as much a stranger to me as I was to myself. Some of those relationships have been healed. Others could not be. Please note I am not implying that being hyperthyroid removes personal responsibility. I should have controlled my emotions and words, but chose not to. Yes, my hormone levels were responsible for that, but I was ultimately still in charge of my behavior.

Once we realized my medication levels were far too high, my doctor and I worked together to find a lower dose that worked. It took a while, but I eventually enjoyed one beautiful week where I was myself again. No nasty temper, no irritability, same sense of humor, same loving outlook, and same joy I’d always known. This was short-lived, because the medication I was on was under attack by the FDA and was no longer available. I was able to find a replacement, but the formula is not the same. This resulted in having far too little medication. I therefore went from being severely hyperthyroid to being severely hypothyroid within the span of a few short weeks.

What I’m experiencing now can’t even be described with the word “exhaustion,” because it is a sucking energy void physically, mentally and emotionally. One good thing that resulted from this is that my patience in traffic is greatly improved because I drive slower than normal. In addition to that, my heart beat has dropped more than 30 beats per minute, I could sleep 24 hours a day and still be tired, I have overwhelming brain fog, and my body is not digesting the food I eat. This is because hypothyroidism has substantially slowed everything in my body, including circulation, digestion, nerve conductivity, metabolism, etc. I should add that the one thing that has not slowed down is weight gain, resulting in my current resemblance to the Michelin Man. I’m currently waiting on test results to find out how we can adjust my meds to get things back in balance. Unfortunately, in spite of using many natural remedies to help my thyroid gland continue healing itself, this is one case where a prescription med is required. Having to wait for my MD to make that decision is tough, but necessary.

I share this partially so you’ll understand why I’ve been out of sight lately and so that those who see me will understand why I’m so huge. I also share this as an encouragement to others. Thyroid issues affect every aspect of your life. If you suspect your thyroid levels are imbalanced, please get your blood levels of TSH, FT3, FT4 and RT3 checked immediately. You’ll be amazed at the changes you’ll feel once you get things back in balance. If you’d like help and advice on balancing your thyroid levels naturally, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, I’m off to try on more tents. Have a blessed night!