Seasonal thyroid fluctuations, biology and mood

 As you may have read from previous blogs, the thyroid, its pituitary stimulator - thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and the other thyroid hormones are heavily influenced by environment, nutrition and stress. Additionally these hormones can present as normal when relied upon purely by biochemical analysis from the blood. The seasons, differing temperatures, light exposure and effects of hibernation hormones and neurotransmitters can also be a key factor in the expression of adequate energy, organisation and coherence of an individual’s biology. We get sick more so in winter when our function is suppressed and the immune system is called upon to mount a response.


S.W. Tromp Biometerology 1967.

“ The yearly influenza peak in the Netherlands, around February. Which may be related to the usually low humidity and wind-speed in this period, but which effect is probably accelerated by the decreased thermoregulation efficiency of the body as a result of the preceding cold months and the accompanying changes in the physico-chemical state of the blood such as y-globulin level.”

 Ambient temperature can have a significant effect on TSH production in as much as a colder environment increases TSH and warmer temperatures decrease TSH production and thyroid requirement. Observations have suggested a biphasic seasonal nature of TSH secretion, with increased TSH readings during winter time suggesting what could be a functionally hypothyroid or subclinical hypothyroidism which resolved during the summer months (Kim et al., 2013). As this stress increases throughout longer days of darkness, organisational hormones decrease, whilst stress hormones increase. If chronic enough, or in an unstable biology, stress can decrease the accuracy of TSH to predict a low thyroid state

 Light, both red and ultraviolet (UV) are well-known modulators of immune function, metabolism and mitochondrial production of energy or  adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Wong-Riley et al., 2005) (Karu, 2010). These aspects of sunlight, exert their influence via enhancement of aerobic metabolism (at cytochrome c) and immunity enhancing via infra-red (NIR) and vitamin D synthesized by UV respectively.  The variation in light exposure as a consequence of daily sleep, darkness and seasonal variations present relationships that may explain the secretory patterns of TSH in healthy subjects. More than 100 years ago, thyroid function could be suggestively viewed via uptake of thyroid iodine levels in seasonal variations. (Fenger and Siedell 1913). Thyroid iodine levels rose during the summer in sheep, pigs and cows and decreased during the winter reflecting the variations in the need for TSH/TH production in healthy organisms. 

Seasons, Thyroid and Mood

 Depression is a known symptom of hypothyroidism and some studies have highlighted the need for a lower TSH value in the presence of depressive symptoms (Talaei, Rafee, Rafei, & Chehrei, 2017) (Hage & Azar, 2012). The former authors suggest a cut-off value of 2.5 mU/L for TSH as a point for treating hypothyroidism, which highlights the need for assessing symptoms as part of an effective strategy for diagnosing hypothyroidism. This compares to the attitude taken to expecting mothers where values should be decreased to compensate for hypothyroid states but in reality should be applied across the board.

 Relationships concerning seasonal variations of mood are well documented and decreased Beck mood scores are associated with the shorter days of winter (Harmatz et al., 2000). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be a reflection of the increase in serotonin and melatonin and depression of thyroid hormone, which are increased by shorter days and in mammals are associated with hibernation. This aspect seems to be lost on those treating transient depressed states but light therapy does appear to be taken seriously these days. I would encourage anyone wanting more information on serotonin and mood to check out the extremely well written blog Against Utopia.

 As days become shorter and light exposure is decreased, influencing cellular function and metabolism negatively. The extended effects of melatonin from the shorter days can antagonise TSH secretion via its inhibitory action on TH, increasing prevalence throughout winter. Whilst fluctuations in TSH levels in response to seasonal changes are well-known to occur, these fluctuations are also under the influence of the nutritional and environmental factors that can suppress TSH values.

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Wake me up when it’s spring?

Violent suicides increase with the onset of spring from March to May. I was trying to think why this might occur? After speaking to a friend recently about depression, they said that holding onto the feelings of a blanketed, safe, dark environment by being it home (in a somewhat hibernation like state), and gorging on boxsets or podcasts was easy to do and a comfort. I wonder if the shorter phases of darkness and increased light remove that blanket of increased serotonin and melatonin and the light itself might become a stressor that takes away that comfort? Those most at risk might explain this seasonal increase in suicides?

Ray Peat (1997) has discussed various aspects of stressors such as darkness, oestrogen-cold sensitive enzymes and nutritional factors affecting endocrine systems, adding an interesting perspective on hormone production and relationships with temperature changes (Peat, R. and Soderwall, 1972) (Peat, 1997)(Peat, 1972).

In states of undetectable SCH mediated by the stress, a hypothermic state may stimulate the adrenal stress system to compensate for a low-metabolic and decreased temperature state.  Activated compensatory stress response pathways may explain poorly detected hypothyroid patients. Decreased metabolic rate, lowered temperature and pulse rate are well-known signs of hypothyroidism. β adrenergic mechanisms involving increased catecholamine production such as adrenaline and noradrenaline (NA) can increase Tb and RHR. In my previous blog on body temperature, I explained how low temperature can be indicative of low thyroid function when blood tests appear normal.



Hage, M. P., & Azar, S. T. (2012). The link between thyroid function and depression. Journal of Thyroid Research. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/590648

Harmatz, M. G., Well, A. D., Overtree, C. E., Kawamura, K. Y., Rosal, M., & Ockene, I. S. (2000). Seasonal variation of depression and other moods: A longitudinal approach. Journal of Biological Rhythms. http://doi.org/10.1177/074873000129001350

Karu, T. I. (2010). Multiple roles of cytochrome c oxidase in mammalian cells under action of red and IR-A radiation. IUBMB Life. http://doi.org/10.1002/iub.359

Kim, T. H., Kim, K. W., Ahn, H. Y., Choi, H. S., Won, H., Choi, Y., … Park, Y. J. (2013). Effect of seasonal changes on the transition between subclinical hypothyroid and euthyroid status. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-1607

Peat, R. and Soderwall, A. L. (1972). Estrogen stimulated pathway changes and cold -nactivated enzymes. Physiol Chem Phys, 4((3)), 295–300.

Peat, R. (1997). From PMS to Menopause: Female Hormones in context.

Peat, R. (1999). Thyroid Therapies, Confusion and Fraud. Retrieved from www.raypeat.com/articles/articles/thyroid.shtml

S.W., Tromp. (1967). Biometeorology, iia and b. Symp. Publ. Div. Pergamon Press (Oxford).

Talaei, A., Rafee, N., Rafei, F., & Chehrei, A. (2017). TSH cut off point based on depression in hypothyroid patients. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1). http://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1478-9

The Armour Laboratories. (1945). The Thyroid Gland and Clinical Application of Medicinal Thyroid. Armour Laboratories.

Wong-Riley, M. T. T., Liang, H. L., Eells, J. T., Chance, B., Henry, M. M., Buchmann, E., … Whelan, H. T. (2005). Photobiomodulation directly benefits primary neurons functionally inactivated by toxins: Role of cytochrome c oxidase. Journal of Biological Chemistry. http://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M409650200


Methylene Blue - Let’s play the blues.

Methylene blue - an overview: There’s been many times when I have recommended compounds/agents to create change in clients. Even the basic strategies of increasing sugar, not wearing sunscreen or the use of aspirin for improving energy and decreasing oxidative stress has moved the odd eyebrow to be raised. Objections often dissipate when presented with the line of reasoning and research that supports my recommendations. Effective clients will often do their own research and come back armed with significant questions for a better understanding of what is trying to be achieved. Research previously conducted by the Nobel scientist Albert Szent Györgi showed that previously damaged cells that produce efficient energy can be restored with methylene blue.


Restoring respiration with colour.

So with the tradition of raising more eyebrows let’s suggest the use of a blue dye that can be added to aquariums for improving marine life health. That’s right you put it in fish tanks. Why indeed would you not think of consuming glassfuls of the stuff?

Methylene blue (MB) is a dye that has shown promising results in the following areas:

  • Tissue hypoxia

  • Hyper dynamic circulation of the liver post cirrhosis

  • Improved low blood pressure states

  • Hepato-pulmonary syndrome

  • Anti malarial agent

  • Improves mitochondrial function

  • Detects parasites such as h-Pylori

  • With additional treatment of red light has anti-parasitic effects.

  • Anti-microbial-kills MRSA

  • Hepatitis C and other conditions also effectively treated in tandem with red light application.

  • Anti-Alzheimer’s agent- attenuates amyloid plaques and improves mitochondrial function.

MB is able to decrease both nitric oxide and guanylate cyclase, both exert their influence on smooth cells and tissue, explaining its role in reversing severely low blood pressure states ( Medically termed - catecholamine refractory vasoplegia)

If we look closely at a couple of the major mechanisms, we can see that from a metabolic standpoint MB has some interesting benefits. It decreases hypoxia or increases oxygen saturation within the body, whilst also improving mitochondrial energy production.

The respiratory/ electron transfer (ETC) chain, that is essentially the mechanism providing optimal use of oxygen, carbohydrate, fat, when this functions well, carbon dioxide is produced, which allows for optimal dissociation of oxygen from haemoglobin. When the respiratory chain is damaged, cells often have to switch to inefficient anaerobic sources of energy production, wasting sugar and increasing lactic acid, which continue to decrease aspects of cellular function.

Methemoglobinemia is a state where haemoglobin is unable to carry oxygen. MB reacts within the red blood cell and converts ferric ions, which have been oxidised, to its former oxygen carrying state. Additionally it helps to repair the ETC that is often damaged due to pollutant, poison or inefficient metabolic induced changes as seen in states of Alzheimer’s (Oz, Lorke, & Petroianu, 2009).

Another novel aspect of MB is the treatment of parasitic infection. MB absorbs and reacts with the spectrum of red light acting as an antimicrobial/parasitic agent.

“ Protozoa require the invasion of a suitable host to complete all or part of their life cycle.”

So what constitutes an appropriate host? I offer the following definition.

An individual or organism that is unable to assimilate and produce energy effectively, organise optimal cellular function and provide an immune response capable of expelling or eradicating an opportunistic parasitic/bacterial infection.

I quote Ray Peat with the following:

“ Occasionally you have very vigorous parasites that have intentions. If they encounter you in a state when your blood sugar is low, for example, the parasites might find an opportunity and start disorganising your system. So the competing systems’ lower system getting a foothold in a higher system, counts as randomness. The assumption of randomness is usually that everything is always random. What has been ordered is achieved at a high cost, the arrow of time for these people is that you have to expend energy to create order, and get things piled up in a certain way can only do that by expending energy somewhere else. "

MB and the use low level laser therapy (or LLLT which uses red or near infra red light) have a commonality with their ability to reduce the inhibitory actions of nitric oxide. This leads to enhanced cytochrome c oxidase action at complex IV of the ETC ( in English this means the enzyme that promotes better function of the cells that use oxygen efficiently), promoting increased cellular respiration and energy production (ATP). These dual actions appear to be an effective anti-parasitic treatment.

If your still running around taking a rucksack full of supplements, restricting energy and immune enhancing foods to kill parasites and candida, this may be a far more effective therapy to consider. It should be no surprise that that considering these actions, the use of MB is being investigated as a serious therapy in the fight against cancer. The biology of cancer can be attributed to metabolic defects/damage within the mitochondria leading to mutations.

Of course like any compound whether it be oxygen, water, broccoli or vodka certain doses are problematic. However these are generally high. For example doses used to treat malaria are suggested as 36-72mg/kg over 3 days (Meissner et al., 2006) and safe therapeutic doses are suggested as <2mg/kg (Ginimuge & Jyothi, 2010). Newborn babies seem susceptible to MB side effects such as skin discoloration, respiratory distress and other unwanted symptoms. However, the mechanisms of why this might happen, requires a blog alone. It also appears problematic to those taking SSRI’s and can increase serotonin uptake to toxic levels.

What I have learnt from taking MB.

I found that if I took doses of more than 5mg total within a day or two of each other, my urine turned blue. A self -limiting factor that probably suggests that I was taking too much. I also had the odd crazy dream. I generally found that a total intake of 2.5 mgs or around 5 drops 2-3 days per week seemed to serve me well. I titrated up and found the optimal dose, something which I strongly recommend doing for all.

I found that my pulse oximeter readings improved from a general SpO2 93-97 to regular 98. Which is interesting as one side effect previously suggested is the ability of MB to underestimate pulse ox readings. It’s prudent to imply that any therapeutic dose may only create change as the system allows. Therefore basics strategies such as effective blood sugar regulation, through regular eating and other strategies should be applied.

Ps it’s also great at reversing cyanide and nitrate poisoning in fish. Might it be useful in humans consuming too much bacon?

1. Ginimuge, P. R., & Jyothi, S. D. (2010). Methylene blue: revisited. Journal of Anaesthesiology, Clinical Pharmacology, 26(4), 517–20.

2. Meissner, P. E., Mandi, G., Coulibaly, B., Witte, S., Tapsoba, T., Mansmann, U., … Müller, O. (2006). Methylene blue for malaria in Africa: Results from a dose-finding study in combination with chloroquine. Malaria Journal, 5. http://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2875-5-84

3. Oz, M., Lorke, D. E., & Petroianu, G. A. (2009). Methylene blue and Alzheimer’s disease. Biochemical Pharmacology, 78(8), 927–932. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2009.04.034

4. Ray Peat quote originally taken from a YouTube interview with Andrew Murray. (cant recall which one)

5. https://www.google.com/patents/WO2007038201A1?cl=en 6. http://valtsus.blogspot.ae/ contains over 2500 LLLT studies and is by far the best resource available on the actions of LLLT.