Sub Clinical Hypothyroidism

Strange, must-try exotic fruits!.jpg

I’ve seen a number of assumptions from doctors suggesting that there’s no optimal diet for improving thyroid function. If that were the case there would be no optimal diet for heart disease, cancer or autoimmune disease but there are many proposed guidelines of certain foods that should be avoided.

 If you want to slow down the thyroid eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables, fish oils and exposure to oestrogens (environmental pollution, contraception and other medical drugs) seems to inhibit thyroid function dramatically and large amounts of anti-thyroid (goitregens) foods are certainly linked with thyroid cancer. Often an individual’s perceived healthy choices can suppress thyroid function and therefore be resolved with nutrition alone. A functionally suppressed thyroid state that’s treated with thyroid hormone may not yield the best results.

 Sub clinical hypothyroidism (SCH) is an issue that divides endocrinology but when you look at the process of thyroid dysfunction there are some clear indicators that should suggest that it’s treatment would be the most sensible (but not the most money making) action in the long run. Let’s start with defining what SCH is.

SCH is usually defined as an asymptomatic state in which free T4 is normal but TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH is the pituitary stimulator of thyroid hormone) is elevated. If serum TSH is >10mU/L there is consensus that the patient should be treated with thyroxine because of the likelihood that the patient will develop overt hypothyroidism with subnormal T4 and because this degree of SCH predisposes to cardiovascular disease. When the TSH is in the range of 4.5 to 10 mU/L, there is controversy about the efficacy of T4 therapy (Lavin, N, Ali, Omar., Beall, M.U., Bhutto, 2016).

Although many people with most forms of thyroid disease often present with diverse symptoms due to the systemic effects of thyroid hormone action but are often ignored through reductionist observation. The table below lists most of the major actions of thyroid function and deficits created by a hypothyroid state.

Thyroid hormone is necessary for all aspects of organised biology.

Thyroid hormone is necessary for all aspects of organised biology.

Here’s a short history of some of the contrasting opinions on treating SCH. Biondi cites the original controversies of Wartofsky and Dickey (2005) who favoured a narrower TSH range (Wartofsky & Dickey, 2005), which was in contrast to the opposition to a lower TSH suggested by Surks et al. (2005) (Biondi, 2013).

 The latter authors stated ‘that there was little evidence supporting the treatment of SCH, citing a single small study by Kong et al. treating 40 women with SCH (Kong et al., 2002).  The main findings demonstrated that thyroxine treatment had no impact on lipids, energy expenditure, weight gain or composition despite decreases in TSH levels in the treatment group (8.0 +- 1.5 mU/L change from baseline -4.6 +-2.3 mU/mL compared to 7.3 +- 1.6  -1.7 +-2.0 mU/L in the placebo). However this study, perhaps like many others (Laurberg et al., 2011) (Surks et al., 2005), failed to assess the nutritional status of this small group of patients. For example, if calorific excess were present, these markers may show little change, as weight loss requires a calorie deficit.  Conversely if a patient were chronically undernourished through a low nutrient intake, attempting to enhance metabolic rate and weight loss with TH replacement may be negated when adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol are produced to regulate blood sugar levels.

 Problems associated with some of the smaller seemingly positive older studies, is often the lack of control groups for comparison. A smaller RCT (treatment n-22 control n-19) comparing treatment of subjects with biochemically euthyroid TFTs  yet clinical hypothyroidism with thyroxine, found the intervention no more successful than placebo (Pollock et al., 2001). Whilst the effect of placebo cannot be discounted, the study only focused on cognitive function and wellbeing, factors that are a limited component of thyroid function.  A friend of mine also pointed out that the use of T4 alone and female cohort with an increased weight some 20kgs over the control group are also problematic issues in studies like this.

 More studies trickle through that builds upon previous suggestions that measuring TSH is a poor way to accurately assess thyroid function, primarily due to the facts that stress, environmental pollutants and nutrition can cause biochemistry and in particular thyroid blood tests to present as normal. The problem with ignoring SCH is the following scenario.

 You have isolated or a number of hypothyroid symptoms such as weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hair loss, fatigue, low libido, altered menstrual cycle, anxiety or depression, poor sleep, constipation, brain fog, inflammation of the brain, altered heart contraction, dry skin etc.

 Good news Mrs X you have normal thyroid function as your blood tests came back within the normal ranges. The symptom/s you have must be in your head. Here you have high blood pressure take this anti-hypertensive medication.

The pituitary should be considered a source of evaluation that could be useful but should be treated with suspicion. There are many factors that alter thyroid feedback which include the disparity between the enzymes in the pituitary (deioidinase 2 supports the conversion of thyroid hormone in the pituitary and can appear normal)  and other tissues, thyroid receptor and mitochondrial damage. Recent meta analysis and other studies support the role of treating SCH to prevent cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, hypertension (Ochs et al., 2008)(van Tienhoven-Wind & Dullaart, 2015)(Udovcic, Pena, Patham, Tabatabai, & Kansara, 2017) (Sun et al., 2017) and there’s a strong possibility that hypothyroidism in the central nervous system in areas like the prefrontal cortex are associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s (Pasqualetti, Pagano, Rengo, Ferrara, & Monzani, 2015)(Davis et al., 2008).


Temperature, pulse and symptoms can be a useful indicator of function when bloods appear to support the notion of sub clinical hypothyroidism


 It’s worth suggesting that endocrinologists should be well aware of all of the factors that can create the perception of normal blood tests, especially when individual’s present with clinical findings of hypothyroidism as suggested above. My previous posts on assessing thyroid function through body temperature and Ray Peat’s well written post should also be considered an integral part of assessment of thyroid evaluation. The concept of SCH is really only related to the blood test, because the other findings should give the game away.  Treating SCH shouldn’t be problematic when a thorough understanding of nutrition and environmental stimulus are known, and the only people at risk from taking a gradually increased dose of thryroxine would be individuals at risk of an immediate heart attack who generally would  present with a certain set of symptoms.

If Broda Barnes, an MD in the last century found that his patients didn’t succumb to heart disease when taking thyroid hormone. Shouldn’t we be looking for the more global implications of health improvements? Rather than treat high cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, menstrual irregularities, metabolic syndrome (and many others) which all have a substantial relationship with thyroid function, with many studies that show substantial improvements when treated with thyroxine. Call me a cynic but perhaps a more detailed understanding of nutrition, environmental pollutants and their effects on thyroid physiology is probably more challenging to integrate into practice than completing genetic analysis with the proposed mutation driving a specific dysfunction.



BARNES, B. O. (1973). On the Genesis of Atherosclerosis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.1973.tb01239.x

Biondi, B. (2013). The normal TSH reference range: What has changed in the last decade? Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-2760

Davis, J. D., Podolanczuk, A., Donahue, J. E., Stopa, E., Hennessey, J. V, Luo, L. G., … Stern, R. A. (2008). Thyroid hormone levels in the prefrontal cortex of post-mortem brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Curr Aging Sci.

Kong, W. M., Sheikh, M. H., Lumb, P. J., Freedman, D. B., Crook, M., Doré, C. J., & Finer, N. (2002). A 6-month randomized trial of thyroxine treatment in women with mild subclinical hypothyroidism. American Journal of Medicine. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9343(02)01022-7

Laurberg, P., Andersen, S., Carlé, A., Karmisholt, J., Knudsen, N., & Pedersen, I. B. (2011). The TSH upper reference limit: where are we at? Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 7(4), 232–239. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2011.13

Lavin, N, Ali, Omar., Beall, M.U., Bhutto, A. et al. (2016). Manual of Endocrinology and Metabolism (4th Editio). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Ochs, N., Auer, R., Bauer, D. C., Nanchen, D., Gussekloo, J., Cornuz, J., & Rodondi, N. (2008). Meta-analysis: subclinical thyroid dysfunction and the risk for coronary heart disease and mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine, 148(11), 832–845.

Pasqualetti, G., Pagano, G., Rengo, G., Ferrara, N., & Monzani, F. (2015). Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Cognitive Impairment: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 100(11), 4240–4248. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2015-2046

Pollock, M. A., Sturrock, A., Marshall, K., Davidson, K. M., Kelly, C. J., McMahon, A. D., & McLaren, E. H. (2001). Thyroxine treatment in patients with symptoms of hypothyroidism but thyroid function tests within the reference range: randomised double blind placebo controlled crossover trial. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098254

Sun, J., Yao, L., Fang, Y., Yang, R., Chen, Y., Yang, K., & Limin, T. (2017). The relationship between subclinical thyroid dysfunction and the risk of cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2017(2017). http://doi.org/10.1007/s00774-017-0828-5

Surks, M. I., Goswami, G., & Daniels, G. H. (2005). The thyrotropin reference range should remain unchanged. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 90(9), 5489–5496. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2005-0170

Udovcic, M., Pena, R. H., Patham, B., Tabatabai, L., & Kansara, A. (2017). Hypothyroidism and the Heart. Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, 13(2), 55–59. http://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-13-2-55

van Tienhoven-Wind, L. J. N., & Dullaart, R. P. F. (2015). Low-normal thyroid function and the pathogenesis of common cardio-metabolic disorders. European Journal of Clinical Investigation. http://doi.org/10.1111/eci.12423

Wartofsky, L., & Dickey, R. A. (2005). The evidence for a narrower thyrotropin reference range is compelling. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2005-0455

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


Body temperature and health

Most people are so confused as to what constitutes good health these days and when they turn up to my office in low metabolic states with digestion, sleep, energy, mood and other issues. One of the first things that they say is that they eat really healthily. If you throw into the melting pot the obsession with the keto diet, chronic calorific restriction (CR) or other modalities, those short term gains have turned into long term deficits. I’ve long opined that health in general terms can be defined by:


·      Good energy

·      Good Digestion 2-3 bowel movements per day

·      Restorative sleep

·      Balanced mood free of depression or anxiety

·      Desire for life, motivation, hobbies and interests

·      Healthy libido

·      Absence of pain

Humans are endotherms that regulate their temperature at 37 degrees centigrade.jpg

What does your body temperature suggest about your health?

Get cold…read on

I’ll also add to that list a warm body and the ability to generate efficient energy,  a phrase biologists might use is a state of negative entropy. Entropy is a state associated with decay and disorder and as entropy increases, equilibrium is achieved - where a state of no energy in and no energy out or death of a living system occurs. The basis for life and metabolism is governed by the enzymes. Enzymes function well in an appropriate temperature and in a medium that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. Mammals and specifically humans are endotherms that regulate their temperature in  tight range at approximately 37 degrees Centigrade (C) or 98.6 Fahrenheit (Bicego, Barros, & Branco, 2007). The central compartment theory of temperature  suggests that the head and the core should maintain a relatively stable temperature, due to the rich vascular supply and that the periphery may vary some 2-4 C.  

In a recent study that I conducted I suggested that the peripheral and core temperatures should remain at a similar level of about 37 C . The suggestion that a decreased body temperature recorded in the head, might be the last place that you would see a reduction due to the large quantities of glucose that the brain uses to maintain function. It’s possible to suggest that the slowing of function in low energy and hypothyroid states might be observed initially in the trunk or core. The well documented symptoms of constipation, decreased heart rate, slowed contraction relaxation of the heart and arteries and reduced peripheral relaxation of tendons (Achilles tendon reflex) might appear in the trunk and peripherally due to the preferential oxidation of glucose initially. Due to the vast systemic implications of low thyroid function, many different paths of decreased function might occur, dependant on nutrition, environmental stimulus and other stressors. In my study I didn’t find this but what I did find is strong linear correlations between low body temperature in both the mouth and armpit, multiple low thyroid symptoms (mean 6.8 per subject) and yet normal blood values.

Humans are endotherms that regulate their temperature at 37 degrees centigrade-2.jpg

Thyroid hormone affects all aspects of biology


There are many factors that can decrease body temperature such as CR, fasting, estrogen, stress, pollution, over exercise and more. CR has been suggested as a mechanism for maintaining longevity but studies lack any conclusive evidence (Carrillo & Flouris, 2011) and a theory that a cold body, decreases metabolism, oxidation and damage therefore preserving tissues. Another emergent theory and results show in rodent studies, that mammals with a high energy intake, high metabolism and organised biology can increase life span (John R. Speakman et al., 2004) (J. R. Speakman, 2005). Think about this for a minute:

Calorific restriction makes the body cold, decreases metabolic rate  (via inhibition of thyroid hormone) and disorganisation of tissues. Entropy State

Adequate energy, maintains body temperature and organises tissues to function at their best. Negative entropy state.

From an evolutionary perspective fasting due to lack of food was a necessity. Fasting these days could be a useful tool, if you were prone to constant overeating but if your system lacks the flexibility to do so problems can occur. That’s not to say that calorie restriction for weight loss isn’t helpful but sustained CR in a system that doesn’t respond well might be counterproductive. Pollution has increased at a phenomenal rate clearly affecting physiology and hormones (Gore et al., 2015). Does it make sense that a so called detox diet, low in calories, protein, carbohydrates can enhance the function of detoxification, when liver function is energy and thyroid dependant? Skipping breakfast alone in some is associated with increased cortisol, glucagon and metabolic inflexibility (Jakubowicz, Wainstein, Ahren, et al., 2015) (Jakubowicz, Wainstein, Ahrén, et al., 2015). These factors can also decrease the mitochondrial uncoupling proteins which are responsible for increased body temperature.

Ageing is also associated with decreased metabolic rate, colder bodies and accepted increases in thyroid hormone stimulating values (TSH) (Laurberg, Andersen, Pedersen, & Carlé, 2005) . If symptoms of failing biology are present with isolated thyroid symptoms such as increased cholesterol,  , high blood pressure and sugar, cardiovascular issues and even cancer the acceptance of TSH and other thyroid hormone analysis to accurately predict hypothyroidism should be considered. Body temperature and metabolic rate was reliably used in the last century to diagnose hypothyroidism with qualitative analysis of symptoms and symptoms resolved with thyroid hormone treatment (Barnes, 1942) (McGavack, Lange, & Schwimmer, 1945) (Peat, 1999). Whilst thyroid is useful for restoring function, food and other factors can be used to restore and maintain function (previous blog on maintaining the aerobic system)

Certain nuances exist in temperature regulation that are dependant on acute or chronic exposure to stressors and a slowing down of the system through  a functionally, subclinical or overt hypothyroid state. In short term fasting, TSH is initially raised then decreases, negating thyroid blood tests. In the same manner the time frame of any stressor can dictate whether short or long term compensations of  the sympathetic adrenergic system is supporting the system. In well established feedback mechanism it’s known that as TSH increases so does cortisol and as body temperature approaches hypothermic levels (around 35C) cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline can increase body temperature as a protective response.

In a world where excess environmental and social stressors are ever increasing - it might make sense to maintain an efficient, organised warm body rather than reducing its function and heat.




Barnes, B. (1942). Basal temperature versus basal metabolism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 119(14), 1072–1074. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1942.02830310006003

Bicego, K. C., Barros, R. C. H., & Branco, L. G. S. (2007). Physiology of temperature regulation: Comparative aspects. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.06.032

Carrillo, A. E., & Flouris, A. D. (2011). Caloric restriction and longevity: Effects of reduced body temperature. Ageing Research Reviews. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2010.10.001

Gore, A. C., Chappell, V. A., Fenton, S. E., Flaws, J. A., Nadal, A., Prins, G. S., … Zoeller, R. T. (2015). Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s second Scientific Statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine Reviews. http://doi.org/10.1210/er.2015-1093

Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahrén, B., Bar-Dayan, Y., Landau, Z., Rabinovitz, H. R., & Froy, O. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologia, 58(5), 912–919. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9

Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahren, B., Landau, Z., Bar-Dayan, Y., & Froy, O. (2015). Fasting until noon triggers increased postprandial hyperglycemia and impaired insulin response after lunch and dinner in individuals with type 2 Diabetes: A randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Care, 38(10), 1820–1826. http://doi.org/10.2337/dc15-0761

Laurberg, P., Andersen, S., Pedersen, I. B., & Carlé, A. (2005). Hypothyroidism in the elderly: Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment. Drugs and Aging. http://doi.org/10.2165/00002512-200522010-00002

McGavack, T. H., Lange, K., & Schwimmer, D. (1945). Management of the myxedematous patient with symptoms of cardiovascular disease. American Heart Journal. http://doi.org/10.1016/0002-8703(45)90476-5

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

Speakman, J. R. (2005). Body size, energy metabolism and lifespan. Journal of Experimental Biology. http://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.01556

Speakman, J. R., Talbot, D. A., Selman, C., Snart, S., McLaren, J. S., Redman, P., … Brand, M. D. (2004). Uncoupled and surviving: Individual mice with high metabolism have greater mitochondrial uncoupling and live longer. Aging Cell. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1474-9728.2004.00097.x


Sleep, stress, sugar. Eat sugar for better sleep.

Onset of sleep

Onset of sleep

Can you improve sleep and decrease stress by eating sugar for better sleep? If you put sleep, stress and sugar in the same sentence, most people think they have already put the three together with something like; too much sugar causes stress and affects your sleep. If you read on you should find yourself advantageously aware of sleep biology and why consuming sugary foods before sleep, and indeed if you wake up are the answer for a deeper nights sleep.

Ah a good nights sleep. You remember one of those don’t you? As a father to 3 children I have had my fair share of sleepless nights but a recent 11 hour sleep whilst my kids slept for 12 hours, recently reminded me of why everyone should strive for better sleep and the common approaches that people tend to fail to implement. A couple of years ago I studied a short course on the neurobiology of sleep with the University of Michigan and I found it useful as it correlated with aspects of serotonin function that Ray Peat (7,8) had talked previously talked about.

Generalisations of sleep biology phases are:

Sleep latency - Getting your sorry arse to sleep

NREM sleep - Keeping your sorry arse asleep

REM sleep - Deep arsed sleep

Wakefulness - Wake your sorry arse up

One of the primary driving factors of the onset of sleep or sleep latency is the production of adenosine. Caffeine is a well-known antagonist of adenosine and therefore many a wise word about not drinking caffeine after 3-4 pm as it has a half-life of 6 hours are well heeded (yes I know there are some of you that metabolise caffeine really well after that time with no impact on sleep, STOP SHOWING OFF).  Avoiding caffeine though out the day isn’t necessary and caffeine is a widely mis-understand compound that shows many beneficial effects, if you follow the rules for its consumption.

Often there is much focus on the role of melatonin and sleep induction and structures like the suprachiasmatic nucleus and waking. Melatonin does indeed promote sleep but so does adenosine and I think the supplementing of melatonin misses key biological functions that induce sleep more effectively and without the negative effects associated with its use.

Serotonin and melatonin confusion

Sleep wake compounds

Sleep wake compounds

Just like the holistic health practitioner that suggests that coffee causes adrenal fatigue (it doesn’t but that’s another blog by itself), some practitioners recommend the use of 5HTP - tryptophan supplements (tryptophan converts to serotonin) for better sleep but this is misguided for the following reasons. It’s true that melatonin is a hormone of sleep and that it is derived from serotonin and that serotonin has a small but limited role in inhibiting the cholinergic system responsible for keeping you in an alert, thinking state. In the diagram below and born out of many studies is that serotonin is a powerful compound of wakefulness that synergises with histamine and the histaminergic system to bring you out of the deeper REM sleep, and start the process of waking you the hell up. The diagram from Brown et al (Brown, Basheer, McKenna, Strecker, & McCarley, 2012) highlights the complexities of the sleep wake compounds but also useful for highlighting serotonin's role (5HT) in the excitatory waking state. It’s also a great overview of the many areas and compounds that aren’t addressed in this blog. One thing that should become clear is that the neural structures controlling sleep are many and so are the interactions between hormones and other compounds of wakefulness. My advice below is not complete but merely a reflection of some of the simple changes that you can do (and which I have done with many clients) to create better sleep and recovery. 

Here are a few pointers on serotonin and melatonin.

  • Many people are aware of the fact that at least 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the intestines - namely the enterochromaffin cells.

  • People associate serotonin as a hormone of calmness. 1) It’s not a hormone 2) well known side effects of serotonin excess are insomnia and anger.

  • Serotonin induces spasticity of the colons smooth muscle tissues

  • Eating excess muscle meats increases serotonin (as does eating poorly digestible foods), inflammation and can contribute to increased wakefulness by synergising with histamine.

  • Melatonin may be implicated in seasonal affective disorder due to increased levels in darker winter days. Sunglass wearing may pose similar issues (Alpayci, Ozdemir, Erdem, Bozan, & Yazmalar, 2012)

  • Supplementation with melatonin during the day can induce disruptive changes to fertility and also suppress thyroid hormone (Creighton & Rudeen, 1989).

  • Peak concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) occur at night and might be suggestive of thyroid hormone suppression induced by melatonin and other hormones. The pituitary responds by increasing TSH to bolster thyroid hormone supply.

Of course there are other compounds which include acetylcholine, GABA, oxycretin, histamine and many other areas of the central nervous system that could be mentioned but I have tried to stick to the mechanisms that can be changed and promote change in a short space of time.

If you find it hard to drift off, these are my suggestions as to why this might happen:

  1. You are eating foods that promote intestinal inflammation and increase serotonin and histamine.

  2. You are exposed to excess stimulus such as blue light, Wi-Fi or other source.

  3. Your blood sugar levels are not balanced and promote the stress hormones that liberate glucose from stored fats and proteins - adrenaline-glucagon-cortisol.

If you wake up at night the following might be also be an issue

  1. You are eating foods that promote intestinal inflammation and increase serotonin and histamine.

  2. Your blood sugar levels are not balanced and promote the stress hormones that liberate glucose from stored fats and proteins - adrenaline-glucagon-cortisol.

Point 2 may be a significant factor for many people and available efficient glucose production may be one of the most under-rated factors in both the onset of sleep and maintenance of sleep. Waking up to urinate at night is a feature of the diabetic like state. Poor blood sugar regulation requires, that instead of relying on blood and liver glucose stores, the stress response be relied upon to liberate energy from stored fats. This is an inefficiency that requires a stressed state. You should not be waking at night to go for a pee.

Morning Cortisol profile

Morning Cortisol profile

You can see from the average nighttime cortisol profile that cortisol generally starts to rise around 2 am, steadily increasing prior to the onset of waking. If your ability to regulate blood sugar levels is compromised this can increase the burden to blood sugar regulation and increase waking further. The REM phase of sleep uses a similar amount of glucose as the waking state.

Here are some useful tips that I use with clients to promote better sleep and recovery.

  1. Take a look at the previous post on resolving digestion issues. This helps to take away some of the factors related to serotonin and histamine excess.

  2. If you are exercising hard, low carb, busy parent or whatever form of stress and therefore don’t manage your blood sugar levels, you don’t manage your sleep. If you struggle getting to sleep a sweet drink like milk and honey (yes the old wives tale works like a charm). A glass of fruit juice with gelatin is also good. Any pattern with something with sweet with a little protein/fat is useful.

  3. Add some salt - increased stress burdens the adrenal glands, usually though thyroid hormone suppression. Salt is wasted in this state and so is magnesium. Salt spares magnesium, so adding a little salt also helps magnesium regulation.

  4. If you wake during the night. This can be common when trying to resolve these issues as liver function and hormone regulation take a little time to adjust. Therefore having something sweet by the bed can help to help you re-enter sleep. Squeezy honey tube or pouch of juice with straw I find useful so that the juice goes straight down rather than covering my teeth.

  5. I have often found that progesterone and thyroid play a key role in sleep and many clients have benefitted from resolving the states of low progesterone/thyroid, which may not have resolved with food alone.

  6. Optimal blood sugar regulation often starts with eating breakfast to decrease adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol (Jakubowicz et al., 2015)(Levitsky & Pacanowski, 2013). Drinking a kale smoothie or coffee on an empty stomach is not the best way to break your fast and set up the day.

  7. Of course aspects of sleep hygiene related to no phones, WI-FI etc goes without thinking and go as far as turning your router off at night.So armed with some facts that you can decrease stress and improve sleep by eating sugar in the right amount, you can go and experiment for yourself.


  1. Alpayci, M., Ozdemir, O., Erdem, S., Bozan, N., & Yazmalar, L. (2012). Sunglasses may play a role in depression. Journal of Mood Disorders, 2(2), 80. http://doi.org/10.5455/jmood.20120529055051

  2. Brown, R. E., Basheer, R., McKenna, J. T., Strecker, R. E., & McCarley, R. W. (2012). Control of Sleep and Wakefulness. Physiological Reviews, 92(3), 1087–1187. http://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00032.2011

  3. Creighton, J. A., & Rudeen, P. K. (1989). Effects of Melatonin and Thyroxine Treatment on Reproductive Organs and Thyroid Hormone Levels in Male Hamsters. Journal of Pineal Research, 6(4), 317–323. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-079X.1989.tb00427.x

  4. Jakubowicz, D., Wainstein, J., Ahrén, B., Bar-Dayan, Y., Landau, Z., Rabinovitz, H. R., & Froy, O. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomised clinical trial. Diabetologia, 58(5), 912–919. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9

  5. Levitsky, D. A., & Pacanowski, C. R. (2013). Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake. Physiology and Behavior, 119, 9–16. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.006


7. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/serotonin-depression-aggression.shtml

8. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/serotonin-disease-aging-inflammation.shtml


Scar tissue - is it an issue?

Is scar tissue really an issue? Alongside myself, scars may be one of the most under appreciated and neglected structures, when it comes to assessing aspects of an individual's pain and movement limitations.   For many people, which include physicians, surgeons and often the owners of said scars, there’s an acceptance that the scar has healed and is not involved in any process of pain, strength or movement dysfunction. Dr’s and surgeons often assume that time enables optimal healing and patients simply forget about the previous trauma. Time may be a great healer but the healing is only partial - the nervous system always remembers. Writing this, reminds me of a client who had filled in all historical injury and trauma that he had experienced on my intake forms, which might have been a factor in his chronic back pain. It wasn’t until he took his top off and under questioning revealed that he had  donated his kidney to his brother some twenty years ago. It wasn't a big deal though as it was twenty years ago apparently.

This sequence of events has been summarised as homeostatic, inflammation, granulation and remodelling phases (1) which are undergoing symbiotic relationships with other structures and dependant on energetic, endocrine and other functions of the individual, which often depend on environmental stimulus. During the granulation and proliferation phase, sub-phases, which include collagen deposition, remodelling of blood vessels and tissues occur. It’s likely that during these phases the health and energetic response of the individual will dictate the capacity to regenerate and may also influence the layers of dysfunction that are present with scar tissue.

“ In childhood, wounds heal quickly and inflammation is resolved, in extreme age, or during extreme stress or starvation, wound healing is much slower and the nature of inflammation and would closure is different. “Ray Peat.

Unsaturated vegetable fats, serotonin and estrogen promote collagen synthesis and resulting fibrosis and keloid scars are associated with these states (3). Perhaps the capacity to organise energy and regenerate are instrumental in decreasing the associated dysfunctions that can be found in all scar tissue? Most Drs that I have spoken to just assume that after 12 weeks the scar has generally healed and that normally activity can be resumed. As a rule, there is no thought given to mechanical, pain sensitising or emotional constraints induced by the presence of the scar. It’s generally accepted that most scars have 80% tensile strength of the previous structure, but again might that too be a product of the quality of healing available to the individual?

“ The amount of disorganised fibrous material formed in injured tissue is variable and depends on state of the individual and tissue situation. “

In hypothyroidism, high levels of the pituitary hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) are known to stimulate fibrosis (1) Maintaining adequate thyroid hormone production promotes DNA transcription, optimal energy production, carbon dioxide production and probably decreases the proliferative effects of 'estrogenic' states that can be attributed to keloid scar formation.

The bigger the scar, the more likely the associated dysfunction? Perhaps the more disorganised tissue that exists, the increased likelihood of fuzziness between the central nervous system and output to structures associated with that scar. In scar tissue that has not been assessed or treated, it's relatively easy to induce weakness or stress to the surrounding tissues by a variety of stimulus which might include thinking and different types of pain,  touch or vectors of stretch that create neurological chaos or threat to to the individual.

Good therapy should allow for conversations between the clinician and patient that create stimulus that may (or may not) affect the output of surrounding structures associated with the scar. Poor feedback mediated by the scar might involve the following:

Emotional: Aspects of recall of the event that the individual finds upsetting.

Nociception/pain: First and second pain, visual or auditory, crude/fine touch, tickle/itch temperature, stress or recall od suffering responses to stimulus. (Involve pain feedback related to spinothalamic, spinotectal, spinohypothalamic and spinomesencephalic tracts)

Mechanical: Pressure, rebound, stretch, joint mechanoreceptors and other responses to tissue and structures. (Related to Golgi, Pacini, Ruffini and other dorsal column feedback pathways.)

Improving the optimal healing of scar tissue might involve aspects such as adequate carbohydrate, proteins, sunlight (or red light), carbon dioxide, thyroid, progesterone, vitamin A and E. Avoiding phytoestrogens and low carbohydrate diets would also be prudent.

Despite optimised nutrition and endocrine function, it’s likely that many scars leave some artefact that prevents the nervous system communicating with tissues. C - sections, episiotomies, appendectomies, laparoscopies and most surgeries, injuries or trauma leave a trace that needs to be resolved with the right therapy. Inhibition can be purposeful but restoration might need a little nudge from therapies like proprioceptive deep tendon reflex (P-DTR).


  1. Kim, D., Kim, W., Joo, S. K., Bae, J. M., Kim, J. H., & Ahmed, A. (2018). Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Low-Normal Thyroid Function Are Associated With Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis and Fibrosis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 16(1), 123–131.e1. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2017.08.014

  2. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1298129-overview?pa=1ZDxXAnEOeNV9BUnYezdYpt49YJzASbxEvvw80YIDjlelzZDQj3XLvbI0V2MbTq%2FX8MwC0EECwzp432Skuf9qw%3D%3D

  3. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/regeneration-degeneration.shtml

An energetic approach to restoring gut function: Part 1.

Let’s kick this blog off with a question as to whether or not an energetic approach to restoring  gut function is useful or should we rely on testing and supplements? Let me clarify, that I have had my fair share of success stories with a reduced and diagnostic approach to improving gut health. Just like I have also had my fair share of kickbacks from the laboratory for recommending their tests. At one point I was using nearly 200 stool tests per year and making a little cash on the side. Many of the tests worked in isolating some specific disturbance to their gut bacteria, presence of a parasite or elevation of putrefied fatty acids. A ‘cleansing’ diet was promoted and a few supplements for good measure created some short term change whilst the client was in my care. But here’s why the long-term approach to that type of assessment and treatment may not be the best response. A standard functional medicine approach  after spending quite a lot of cash on an integrated stool test is using the 4 R approach.

Remove (offending parties)- spend money on supplements

Restore function- spend money on supplements

Re-inoculate - spend money on nice expensive probiotics

Repair gut lining- spend money on supplements

Regurgitate. Ok the 5th one is mine but no supplements needed.

By taking this approach, an important question is not asked of the individual. Why is this person experiencing an overgrowth of bacteria/SIBO, parasitic infection, endotoxin overgrowth, inflammation and degradation of the bowel lining? I like to think that it is not because of the easy kickbacks FM practitioners are getting for the lab tests and supplements they recommend? So what is the persons level of biological energy and immune system function that allows their digestive system to get in such a state. We know there are some usual suspects. Food, stress or alcohol perhaps?

The typical gastrointestinal complaints people came to me with, were bloating, excess gas, constipation or irritated loose stools combined with poor energy. It was Ilya Mechnikov who originally stated that death starts in the bowel or colon and there’s’ certainly many degenerative and inflammatory conditions that appear at the last stop to poopy central. But is the bowel the main driver of this dysfunction? Many of the symptoms that I recalled earlier are also key symptoms of an energetic and perhaps a thyroid dysfunction. So instead of reaching for our drastic 4 R protocol with an expensive poo test lets consider the following.

 The likes of Broda Barnes and Ray Peat have highlighted how a lack of energy, either from a low or inappropriate food intake or a dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid axis can be evaluated by assessing body temperature and the combination of pulse. Additional information on Thyroid and TSH evaluation can be found here.

Most people are aware that when they get stressed or exercise, blood is shunted away from the digestive system to the periphery and other working tissues. Even the concept of high Adreno-corticotrophic hormone (ACTH), cortico releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenal production of cortisol is becoming common place in work and gym environments alike. These hormones suppress thyroid hormone and the energy compound ATP that provide energy for tissues.

It’s also well known that low energy states create tight painful muscles that are difficult to relax and one might be able to apply that line of thought to the smooth muscle tissues that regulate bowel contractility. Therefore a low energy state that does not allow for adequate energy production will not allow adequate digestion and bowel function to occur. Cold hands and feet can be a symptom of not eating enough carbohydrate and protein.

If the cold hands and feet, low body temperature, fatigue, constipation don’t resolve from eating energy rich meals that contain plenty of fruit and contains little of the foods that promote the bowel irritants histamine and serotonin (nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, grains, gluten free products, beans and pulses). Then, often factors that influence the hormones such as thyroid, estrogen and progesterone may need a deeper consideration.

I drafted a little flow chart that will be helpful for some quick strategies on what might be happening but what I would like to focus on the low energy state that might have its source from a food or hormone factor or perhaps both. Instead of using a strategy like the 4 R approach, these simple questions can help guide you to understanding whether it is the foods that you eat or an energetic factor that could be causing your digestive system to suffer. It's not a complete algorithm but it does offer some simple solutions that have helped plenty of people resolve digestion and energy issues.

Foot note: I haven't needed a stool test with a client for over 4 years now following this chart.


In part 2 I will elaborate on foods and basic supplements that can be used to resolve most long standing digestive issues and understanding other hormone actions that create digestive discord.


Lokaj, J., & John, C. (2008). [Ilya Ilich Metchnikov and Paul Ehrlich: 1908 Nobel Prize winners for their research on immunity]. Epidemiologie, Mikrobiologie, Imunologie : Casopis Spolecnosti pro Epidemiologii a Mikrobiologii Ceské Lékarské Spolecnosti J.E. Purkyne, 57(4), 119–24. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19069024

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

Peat, R. (2006). Autonomic Systems. Retrieved from raypeat.com/articles/other/autonomic-systems.shtml

Health, Thyroid and TSH. Assessing and treating the thyroid.

What is the impact of thyroid hormone on health?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.      

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. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2012-4107

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. http://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.77a.10056


Muscles, pain, hormones and other stuff.

As a therapist who works within the fields of pain, movement, energy and digestion I have seen my share of pain and muscle dysfunction in clients. As my exposure to these situations increase, I realise more than ever, that the muscles are very rarely the problem. Specific muscle dysfunction usually boils down to spindle cell

Thyroid pic

dysfunction and notably Nuclear Bag Fibres (NBF) and Nuclear chain Fibres (NCF). The primary roles of these structures are related to stretch and contraction of muscle function. There can be other factors involving neuro transmitters, involved in nocicpetion such as glutamate, utilised in the withdrawal reflex and often referred to as first pain, (also known as Neospinalthalamic tract located in the Anterolateral system or ALS) and lasting, less than a tenth of a second. Problems can arise when the following pain pathway, called second pain (or Paleospinalthalmic tract also part of the ALS) has problematic feedback with first pain, this is mediated by Bradykinin.

Further complexities arise with serotonin and other structures associated with pain such as the Amygdala and Peri Aqueductal Gray (PAG) that are beyond the scope of this short blog. However a common, over looked feature of pain, may arise with hypothyroidism .

Low thyroid function can be classified effectively with assessment of a basal temperature test and a reading of between 36.6 and 37 degrees. Most blood tests designed to measure thyroid hormones such as TSH, T3, T4 and others, often do not reflect accurate function of thyroid hormone. This is often due to feedback loops between cellular function and the Pituitary gland. Some of the regular hallmarks of hypothyroidism are poor energy, weight gain, poor sleep, hair thinning, digestive dysfunction (constipation and also alternating loose stools), cold hands and feet and pain. Here's an old blog on thyroid and adrenalin issues.

Another assessment of thyroid function is the Achilles return reflex. When stimulating the myotactic reflex a hammer hits the Achilles tendon stimulating, the dorsi flexors or calf muscles. The response should be a quick return of the foot to it’s resting position but with low thyroid the foot returns slowly. Low thyroid output equals low ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate – the energy used by the mitochondria/cells). This low energy state does not allow for optimal contraction and relaxation. This is where we can see specific issues with NCF and NBF’s within the muscle spindle cell.

Muscle tendons and associated ligaments provide a feedback loop via the Golgi Tendon Organs or GTO’s. There’s potential for pre-existing GTO dysfunction to drive muscle dysfunction and vice versa. As far back as the 1960s symptoms associated with muscle disorder from low thyroid were.

* Weakness

* Cramps pain and stiffness

* Hypertrophy

* Myotonoid features.

A well-documented feature of hypothyroidism is muscular hypertrophied calf muscles and despite their size may often test weak to stimulation.

Muscle pain, may indeed not be muscle related, it may be due to many factors, suggested above and these may even be related to hormones and neurotransmitters. Many people often deal with muscle aches and pains by constantly focusing on mobility work but these structures continually return to their pre mobility work status (although this could also be an underlying stability issue). In reality there can be many factors that create dysfunction such as crude touch, vibration, nociception, Golgi, Pacini-pressure related structures and many more. But even after seeing a skilled therapist, these still don’t appear to get better, then addressing the chemical aspects of pain and function might be the next sensible thing to do.


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

Ramsay I. Thyroid disease and Muscle Dysfunction. William Heinemann Medical Books. 1974.

Purves, D. et al. Medical Neuroscience. 5th Edition. Sinauer Assocates Inc. 2001

Starr, M Hypothyroidism Type II. Mark Starr Trust 2013.