Health, Thyroid and TSH.

Increasingly health is defined by a bunch of arbitrary numbers. High cholesterol? That’s not normal take a pill. Low iron? Here take this iron supplement. In Ivan Illich’s book, Limits to Medicine- Medical Nemesis, Illich makes the reader fully aware of his disdain of medical check ups –

” The medicalisation of prevention thus becomes another major symptom of social iatrogenesis. It tends to transform personal responsibility for my future into my management by some agency.”

Instead of heavily reliant systems on numbers and markers. Should we not look to improve qualitative and quantitative pairings to get a better picture of health and improve outcomes? The last ten weeks of my life have been wrapped up in a post graduate diploma in endocrinology. Getting a better picture of how clinicians tackle complex areas has been a rewarding but at the same time frustrating area of study.

Sometimes the questioning has been a down the lines of – This patient has this endocrine feature, what are the medication used, which medications interfere, what surgical options can be pursued and what is the follow up? What is frustrating for me is there is little effort to understand why? Why? Why Donald why? Diet, stress and environmental aspects of hormonal health are often forgotten about, because the goal of getting that client back into the window of numerical health takes priority. But what if we took a better look at the why? Might it not yield better long-term outcomes for the patient?

I have a special interest in thyroid function, motivated by the writings of Ray Peat, Broda Barnes, Mark Starr and others. There’s a significant amount of work discrediting the role of combined T4/T3 therapy and in particular natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). In many endocrine textbooks the elevation of the active form of thyroid hormone, T3 was elevated significantly post NDT treatment.

A confounding factor in this assumption was based upon a previously incorrect conversion which can still be found in endocrine textbooks stating that 1mg of NDT was equivalent to 1ug of LT-4. There is recent evidence available showing a patient preference for NDT, which showed improved outcomes to weight loss, energy, happiness, sleep and memory (Hoang, Olsen, Mai, Clyde, & Shakir, 2013).

A reliance on TSH, T3 and T4 levels alone may be ineffective at analysing the effectiveness of combination therapy in comparison to synthetic monotherapy treatment of hypothyroidism. Additionally this study highlights the inaccuracy of the assumed conversion of 1mg: 1ug. Using more accurate 3rd generation TSH assays yields a suggested ratio of 1.47 mg’s to 1ug. This may explain the lack of effectiveness in previously conducted trials and the conclusion that increased transient T3 levels were decided as unacceptable. NDT in many cases may offer a better solution than synthetic thyroid hormone after all

Potential mechanisms of improvement may also lie in the actions of T1 and T2 and assumptions based solely on TSH, T3 and T4 may not explain the benefits recorded in this and other studies.     Thyroid pic

Another pitfall of number reliance is well known in the reference of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is considered the gold standard for hypothyroid diagnosis but its limitations have become increasingly prevalent due to its production via the stimulating centers from TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus and then TSH from the pituitary, if a problem exists at the periphery the likelihood of getting an accurate assessment is diminished. A normal TSH reading is defined as 0.4-4.5 mU/L but generally many Doctors do not consider someone hypothyroid unless they present with a TSH over 4 mU/L.

Increasingly some Doctors are becoming aware of the reduction of hypothyroid symptoms when TSH is kept below 1mU/L and some evidence suggests that even at 0.5 mU/L (lowered but suppressed) is ideal to ensure that hypothyroid symptoms are decreased (Pantalone & Nasr, 2010).

Me? I am going to go back and contradict myself and say that numbers are useful. The basal temperature test with a cheap thermometer, as championed by Broda Barnes still suggests a good window of function of the thyroid test. 36.5 to 37 degrees is considered normal and reflects a well functioning metabolism. Couple that with a pulse rate test and you can also get a good indication of cortisol. So I am not against the numbers. I just think we need to ask better questions before we accept them as absolutes.


Hoang, T. D., Olsen, C. H., Mai, V. Q., Clyde, P. W., & Shakir, M. K. M. (2013). Desiccated thyroid extract compared with levothyroxine in the treatment of hypothyroidism: A randomized, double-blind, crossover study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 98(5), 1982–1990.

Illich, I. Limits to Medicine – Medical Nemesis. Marion Boyars. 1976.

Pantalone, K. M., & Nasr, C. (2010). Approach to a low tsh level: Patience is a virtue. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.


Sunlight, Low Level Laser Therapy and Photobiomodulation

Sunlight, Low Level Laser Therapy and Photobiomodulation

I first became interested in the healing qualities of light about 5 years ago after reading From PMS to Menopause: Female Hormones in Context by Ray Peat. The obvious connotations to improved health during summer compared to a so- called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD was well known. The mechanics were intriguing but not limited to the obvious features of Ultra Violet light and the production of Vitamin D.

UV has been known to be problematic and excess, increases ageing of the skin but the mechanisms and links to cancer are misunderstood. An incomplete overview of other potential mechanisms that might promote mutogenic or cancerous processes are often left out of the explanation. The business of sunblock marketing, like many other fear mongering industries, continue to warn us of too much sunlight, yet often we often lack the right amount. An old blog highlights some points relating to this. The qualities of the healing properties of light are often glossed over instead of promoting the optimal rays of the sun..

The light which penetrates deeply into our tissues (mainly orange and red light) is able to improve the efficiency of energy production, and to suppress the toxic free-radicals that are always being formed in cells. “

Consideration of the healing properties of certain wavelengths of light is a must for health, metabolic and rehabilitation promotion. The useOrange and red rays of light therapy for improving pain, healing and many other issues has been used for decades. In 1903 a Nobel science prize was awarded to Niels Finsen for ultraviolet-phototherapy.

Low Level Laser Therapy and Photobiomodulation

The use of light therapy for improving pain, healing and many other issues has been used for decades.

Here are just some of the issues that have seen great improvement using LLLT and Photobiomodulation.

  • Pain reduction
  • Improved hormone function
  • Swelling reduction
  • Increased healing
  • Neurological issues
  • Improved cellular function
  • Promote recovery from exercise
  • Rehabilitation of injuries
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved hair follicle stimulation

The use of infra red heat lamps have been used for decades and often been recommended in rehabilitation or in the beauty world as an anti-aging protocol. I have used heat lamps with myself and clients for several years but it is clear that many gains can be had without the use of heat and just focusing on the use of light alone.

There are many factors that can make the use of light more effective and these illumination parameters include:

  • Wavelength
  • Fluence
  • Power density
  • Pulse structure
  • Timing

For many, even finding these variables may prove a difficult task. In fact even using the word Photobiomodulation becomes problematic! I think the exposure of bright light during the day through incandescent or LED lights is important to offset the lack of natural daylight and healing properties of various waveforms, (unless of course you do work or spend much of your day outside) with the use of red light after sunset to decrease impact to circadian rhythm.

One of the most prevalent mechanisms that appears to offer an explanation as to LLLT’s effectiveness is by increasing cytochrome c oxidase which improves mitochondrial function, increasing cell efficiency and function and improving energy production.

The wavelength of 600-950nm or optical window is a general guideline and appears to be where most of the research and the effects of LLLT has been conducted on. The toxinless website listed below has some great recommendations for the use of light and ideal set ups, which are very cheap to set up at home.

The use of LLLT for improving hormones and in particular thyroid function has gained a greater following of late. It’s worth noting, that in some studies which can be found on Valtsu’s website (a great resource for thyroid) , the use of LLLT improved thyroid function without the need for thyroid medication. Additional studies corroborate the effectiveness in reducing the need for thyroid medication and addressing autoimmune thyroiditis.  Therefore I think the use of LLLT for improving energy, digestion, mood and sleep is validated.


Peat, R. From PMS to Menopause : Female Hormones in Context. 1997.

Online resources:





Adrenal fatigue or reductionist thinking? Part 2: Restoration of metabolic processes

adrenal Restoration of metabolic process- lowering the adrenal load.

Sugar, fat and other mal-aligned  factors.

Saturated fat is bad for you, so they said but it clearly wasn’t. Now it’s sugars turn. Sugar causes diabetes, cancer and many other modern conditions, if you are to believe many of the memes on social media. Well no, it doesn’t. Cancer for example is usually created from a specific defect to the respiratory apparatus of the cell. In English that means part of the cell that utilises oxygen. Sugar or Sucrose whose primary constituents are both Fructose and Glucose are readily available carbohydrates and the brain/central nervous system require plenty. Have you ever noticed that brain fog creep in when on that low carb diet? The reason? Restricted carbohydrates  equals reduced cognitive process’s. Yes we can generate glucose via oxidation of fat, in the form of ketosis and you can also break down protein to generate glucose too, but these methods are less than efficient forms of energy generation and long-term utilisation of these systems is not ideal.

Sugar produces energy and when processed with oxygen is much more efficient than glycolysis or energy production without oxygen (anaerobic). In those who have damaged metabolism, there is a reliance on the production of energy in this manner, lactic acid is often produced even at rest. Therefore trying to exercise at intense levels poses a problem for those with both adrenal and metabolic issues.

Give the body what it needs?  Got cravings? You know those ones where you are dying for some food, starchy carbohydrates, a sugary drink? There are no demons at work here, just a simple case of biology, carbohydrates are a primary fuel source for the body. Want to avoid coming crashing down? Avoid having 3 big meals a day and maintain blood sugar levels by eating frequently. Some do better than others but allowing 4-6 meals a day and noting how you feel is a step in the right direction. Maintaining a body temperature of 37 degrees and a pulse rate of 70-85 beats per minute is ideal. This has been well documented in the work of thyroid researcher Broda Barnes and the work of Ray Peat PhD.

Eating readily available carbohydrates such as ripe digestible fruits, protein and saturated fats (in the right amounts) such as coconut oil help to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day without the resultant elevations in cortisol, which affect adrenal regulation issues.

Stressful situations often warrant the use of supplements such as Vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium and potassium. In particular sugary foods, which should include fruit, maple syrup and honey are ideal choices to diminish the stress response (even table sugar could play a therapeutic role in lowering stress).

Salt is also a powerful anti-stress compound. During stress sodium is often passed more rapidly from the body. Sodium spares magnesium. If you drink too much water the level of sodium excretion increases, which further decreases available magnesium. The research on lowering salt intake is inconclusive but what is known, is that when a low sodium state exists, aldosterone, a hormone that is used to regulate both salt and blood pressure elevates in response. It would come as no surprise that in a low adrenal state, feeling dizzy when moving from seated to standing exits due to poor blood pressure regulation. Craving salt is a mechanism to improve such a situation.

The current mind set regarding exercise and wellbeing is

Increased exercise + Low carb and raw foods = Health

And in the short term, markers suggest that this could be favourable. So how do you tell if this working for you long term? The monitoring of both pulse and body temperature give a great insight into optimal biological function. Here are some of the symptoms, which combine both compromised cortisol and thyroid function.

  • Cold hands, feet and nose
  • Energy crashes
  • Poor wound healing
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or alternation between constipation and diarrheoa
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Skin issues
  • Low libido

In reality:

Intense exercise + low carb/raw food diets= compromised metabolism.

Historically in many, changing both the way you eat and completing more exercise may have worked previously, but as you push the markers of exercising more and eating less or certainly eating foods that do not support your activities. You may see many of those symptoms above start to creep into your daily life. There’s no doubt that eating well and exercising are productive pursuits for optimal body function. However for many the lines are blurred as to what actually is a healthy diet.  Consumption of large amounts of grains, margarine and low fat foods were being touted as healthy a decade or two earlier, now look at the research condemning that approach. The following information seems to be heading a similar route.

For the health conscious exerciser today a diet high in raw green vegetables, green juices, seeds nuts, fish oils, low carb, low starch seems to be the zeitgeist but is it that healthy? From a biological perspective the answer would be no. Eating these foods over a long period of time not only increases the stress response but may actually damage how our body’s cells actually function. Increasing available energy from easily digestible foods helps to assimilate energy for production. In contrast foods such as many raw green vegetables, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, not only irritate the bowel, sit and accumulate bacteria damaging the intestinal lining, but also provide less than optimal nutrition, which will lower metabolic rate.

Moving is important, no doubt, but exercising to within an inch of total fatigue can be detrimental, especially so when dealing with issues related to both adrenal and metabolic based issues. Finding the right type of exercise and even stepping back and focusing on exercise that doesn’t produce high levels of lactic acid, causes hyperventilation and the loss of carbon dioxide should be considered in the short term. The goal of improving metabolic function, restoring deep sleep and raising energy should always predominate over the loss of body fat reduction. It’s a tricky issue to get your head around for some, but when you start to feel great again. You’ll understand why.