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I wrote this book several years again and am in the process of creating a new, more complete text on the subject. Please feel free to download and share. All I ask is that you leave some comments on what you liked or disliked about it.

If you need any assistance with resolving energy, sleep, digestion, mood, libido, pain or other hormone issues then please check out the members area for more information or even the free resources section.

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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.

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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.

  

References:

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

 

Better gut health with less bacteria?

Can you have better gut health with less bacteria? There’s an old saying in the integrative health world that ‘ Death begins in the colon.’ These were the words of the 1906 Nobel science award holder Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian scientist who did much to elaborate on the mechanisms of embryology, immunology and other aspects of health and disease. These days there’s much that has been written about the micro biome and the suggestion that diverse microbes within the bowel are an important factor in health. How we need to eat plenty of fibrous and fermented foods for better health. But how true is this and are more bacteria necessary for better digestion and longer life? “The retention of faecal matter for several days very often brings harmful consequences. Organisms which are in a feeble state from some cause are specially susceptible to damage of the kind referred to.” (Metchnikoff & Metchnikoff, 1908)

Ok so you aren’t likely to die anytime soon from being constipated for several days, you might feel like crap (excuse the pun). But what if the repetition of constipation is over years? We have seen that hypothyroidism and constipation is clearly linked and can induce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (Lauritano et al., 2007). An inability to remove the waste products is a particular burden on a stressed system.

"Not only is there autointoxication from the microbial poisons absorbed in, cases of constipation but microbes themselves may pass through the walls of the intestines."

This description of endotoxin and other bacterial end products damaging and permeating the intestinal wall is a well-known modern concept of leaky gut or intestinal hyper permeability. Metchnikoff’s describes the putrefaction (think fermenting mass of stinky stuff) of foods within the bowel that lead to the damage described in a permeable gut lining that allows bacteria and endotoxin into the blood stream.

There’s a theory that I have, as it’s clear that not all people have constipation. Many present with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) like states, loose and perhaps a product of irritation induce by high serotonin and histamine (which by keeping to a minimum can also improve sleep and mood). It’s plausible to suggest that some people have already gone through a constipated phase induced by either a low energy or thyroid state, which may give way to a high adrenaline state over time. The lack of movement in the bowel for some can set the scene for future IBS reactions due to the accumulative damage induced by constipation, putrefaction, bacterial end products and increased irritation. Some clients have noticed that they previously went through a constipated phase before they arrived at their suggested IBS.

So if the current theme of recommending probiotics, raw and fermented foods is in vogue. What does that mean for the digestive system. I remember a newsletter from Ray Peat suggesting that animals born in a sterile environment generally live longer and have a higher metabolic rate. This in itself is a hard, near impossible feat to achieve outside of a sterile laboratory but consider this - Most babies are grown within a womb that does not contain any bacteria, as soon as they come through the birth canal and into the world at large. The bacterial management of life comes into play and had it come any sooner, may have had disastrous consequences. Other observations of Metchnikoff related to the longevity of birds, which have a high metabolic rate and limited intestinal flora -

‘Even in birds of pray which feed upon putrid flesh, the number of microbes in the intestine is remarkably limited. I have investigated the case of ravens which I fed flesh which was putrid and swarming with microbes. The droppings contained very few bacteria, and it was remarkable that the intestines had not the slightest smell of putrefaction. Although the opened body of a herbivorous mammal, such as a rabbit, gives off a strong smell of putrefaction, the body of a raven with its digestive tube exposed has no unpleasant smell. The absence of putrefaction in the intestine is probably the reason of the great longevity of such birds as parrots, ravens, and their allies.’

Metchnikoff also states that despite the absence of bacteria, their organisation and metabolism may be the primary driver for long health. Therefore if we were to keep bacterial interference at bay might we be better at living longer lives by improving our gut health? Our metabolism and cellular health is the key to prevention of many disease states. Extra bacteria may just be another factor that our immune system has to contend with and may be at the heart of autoimmune issues. From a comparative biology standpoint many other herbivorous animals don’t live as long as omnivorous animals. Horses, cows, and sheep live very short lives in comparison to other mammals that eat a wide range of foods. The main exception being the elephant, which has an extremely large intestine like other vertebrates.

Probiotics and fermented foods provide a mixed bag of research(Goldenberg et al., 2015). In many studies bacterial infections and digestive issues have not been resolved by probiotics. They do seem to be particularly effective at reducing bacterial/food poisoning cases and decreasing the diarrhoea like state by a day or two. Primarily this acts as a competing organism in the battle of the bowel and maybe why faecal implants have been shown to beneficial in the short term for some.. Even beneficial strains of bacteria such as lactobacillus can be problematic in excess due to the high levels of lactic acid leading to d-lactate acidosis, decreasing our gut health and overall wellbeing.

After all increased bacteria equals increased immune system responses and constant battles, for some there’s only so much that a faltering metabolism and immune system that one can take. Providing easily digested nutrients that limit bacterial growth and metabolites, that doesn’t burden a compromised digestive system seems prudent. In hypothyroidism gastric secretions such as hydrochloric acid are often lowered, further compromising digestion. Easily digested nutrients equals easily available source of energy and macronutrients.

To read more on how to combat these issues, to improve your gut health, digestion, mood and energy, this article is extended in the members’ area or there's also some information in this blog from 2017.

References:

Goldenberg, J. Z., Lytvyn, L., Steurich, J., Parkin, P., Mahant, S., & Johnston, B. C. (2015). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Vol. 12). http://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004827.pub4

Lauritano, E. C., Bilotta, A. L., Gabrielli, M., Scarpellini, E., Lupascu, A., Laginestra, A., … Gasbarrini, A. (2007). Association between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 92(11), 4180–4184. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-0606

Metchnikoff, E., & Metchnikoff, I. I. (1908). The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies. Our post human future. Consequences of the biotechnology revolution. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=U8bgKGvZJV0C&pgis=1

How to keep your energy chain maintained. Protective compounds.

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How to keep your energy chain ( electron transport or ETC) running might not be something you think about, but if you are concerned about being healthier, this is an often overlooked area of maintaining health. It came as a huge disappointment to find out that the historical use of a false tooth compartment to hide cyanide tablets (for soldiers and spies) to commit suicide was pure fantasy. Although cyanide hidden in glasses appears to be more likely, the role of cyanide to induce rapid death is indisputable. We are at a time where industrial pollutants are at an all time high and cyanide being one of those pollutants, might not induce a theatrical foaming of the lips and contorted last throws of life (as seen in many an old war movie); it may induce a slower, less dramatic affect on cell function and efficient biology over time.

Cyanide is certainly ubiquitous in the industrialised environment but unknowingly for many, trying to achieve a ‘healthier’ balanced diet, cyanides are present in many foods favoured by the health conscious.

There are more than 2500 plants associated with cyanide content, these include almonds, millet, lima beans, soy, spinach, bamboo shoots, and cassava roots (which are a major source of food in tropical countries), cyanides occur naturally as part of sugars or other natural compounds. Cassava consumption (especially so in poorer countries) is associated with the neurological, irreversible disease called Konzo (Nzwalo & Cliff, 2011). Some other major sources of cyanide are:

Seeds/kernels of apples, apricots, plums, peach and nectarine, millet, almonds, flax seed, , spinach, sorghum gluten free flour like cassava often used to replace normal flours. Simply type in cassava poisoning into a search engine and you'll see some cases where dozens of people from the same meal have died from a so called bad cassava. Most likely it was the poor preparation and failure to remove the cyanide from the cassava that lead to these numerous deaths. In one case in the Philippines in 2005, 27 children died in such a manner.

Other cyanide sources include vehicle exhaust, releases from chemical industries, burning of municipal waste, and use of cyanide-containing pesticides (Jaszczak et al 2017) and the more obvious smoking.

Excess cyanide (ions) is able to disrupt the efficient production of energy that is produced through the electron transport chain/mitochondria (energy producing cells) where water, carbon dioxide and energy are end products. The loss of this function often creates a decreased ability to utilise carbohydrate effectively and the result can be an excess of lactate, which diminishes cell function further and creates hypoxia. Lactic acid seems to be getting some praise of late but it is the hallmark of inefficient energy production, as observed in the so called Warburg state seen in cancer (5). As cyanide levels increase cellular death occurs through increased lactic acidosis. This is the death throw that you see our actors who have crunched down on that mythical hydrogen cyanide capsule. It's also observed as a cause of death to the unlucky Private Santiago in A Few Good Men, where he has a rag with cleaning fluid, stuffed into his mouth creating a not to dissimilar occurrence.

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You want the truth? You can't handle the truth but it might be that a combination of dietary cyanide and pollutants might not be as healthy as you think.

If there’s a ubiquitous source of cyanide and other pollutants in the environment does it make sense to have plenty of cyanide containing foods? Let’s not take this out of context. Here and there - having foods that have some levels of cyanide in should pose no problem to a healthy individual but what if your diet contains a regular supply and also contains plenty of vegetables that contain goitregens or foods that slow down thyroid function (and also contain cyanide) it may be problematic. Many people seem to promote a diet high in raw green vegetables, nuts, seeds, often low in adequate protein and often deficient in adequate energy/carbohydrate. In this instance the so-called healthy diet, in a highly polluted area becomes a burden not a provider of energy to promote optimal thyroid health, energy and liver enhancer (energy, detox, hormones etc.).

Chris Masterjohn’s report - Thyroid toxins, highlights the out of context suggestions of nutritional science evaluation of compounds in a test tube compared to a real world scenario.

The line that divides nutrients from toxins is often thin and equivocal. Since any given chemical may react in any number of ways in a test tube depending on the other chemicals with which it is combined, it is often possible to prove such a chemical to be both a nutrient and a toxin.

If a diet is to be considered healthy, it should meet the body’s energetic demands without reducing its function. A healthy energy chain ensures that carbohydrate is metabolised efficiently without an excess of lactic acid production.

The abundance of glucosinolates found in broccoli, cauliflower (and other brassica vegetables) and other cyanide like food sources combined with other environmental pollutants may pose substantial problems over time. Heavy metals like mercury, which are also increasing environmentally can decrease selenium and iodine uptake creating another algorithm for decreased function.

cell enhancers

cell enhancers

Caffeine can be considered a useful compound for preventing excess uptake of metals and may go someway to explain the anti-oxidant and other positive effects observed in neurological degeneration diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia (Liu et al., 2016). Other compounds like methylene blue can be seen in the next diagram that promote a better energy chain.

" As I have shown in my earlier days , one can knock out the whole respiratory chain by cyanide and then restore oxygen uptake by adding methylene blue  which takes the whole electron transport chain over between dehydrogenases and  O2 ."   Albert Szent Györgi

You can also reduce the risk of excess cyanides in foods through heating, boiling and other forms of processing but given that the zeitgeist is as raw, wholesome and as gluten free as one can be, it’s unlikely that this occurs in the upwardly mobile food neurotic.

References:

  1. Jaszczak, E., Polkowska, Ż., Narkowicz, S., & Namieśnik, J. (2017). Cyanides in the environment—analysis—problems and challenges. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 24(19), 15929–15948. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9081-7

  2. Liu, Q.-P., Wu, Y.-F., Cheng, H.-Y., Xia, T., Ding, H., Wang, H., … Xu, Y. (2016). Habitual coffee consumption and risk of cognitive decline/dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition, 32(6), 628–636. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2015.11.015

  3. Nzwalo, H., & Cliff, J. (2011). Konzo: From poverty, cassava, and cyanogen intake to toxico-nutritional neurological disease. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001051

  4. Masterjohn, C. Thyroid Toxins Report. 2007

  5. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/cancer-disorder-energy.shtml

  6. Szent Györgi, A. Introduction to a Submolecular Biology. Academic Press. 1960.

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Being holistic versus (holistic) critical thinking.

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Is being 'holistic' an advantage to holistic critical thinking? It’s relatively easy to get drawn into a naturalistic fallacy of consuming all foods in their most raw natural state. Perhaps you’re someone who went from a fast food diet, where you didn’t feel your best, to consuming more whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables? It’s easy to see how a switch and positive changes can occur in the short term. The next step is to start preaching to the masses how sugar is bad, how your life will be saved with green smoothies, nuts, seeds and coffee butt cleanses. For the record this is a waste of coffee and not to far from what I was preaching a decade ago. So what does it mean to be holistic?There’s a large movement within the health fitness and wellness industry (and lay people) that are drawn to  'holistic' thinking, and their definition is often enforced by the fallacy that everything in its most natural state is better for human health. This appears to include foods like nut milks (yes you can milk a nut), kale smoothies, seed oils like flax and undercooked broccoli and other greens, despite their negative effects on human health when consumed in substantial amounts. It’s a religion, and much like religion and with this mind-set it isn’t going to make you any healthier. I’ll make reference here to the late, great Beastie Boy, MCA who despite being a vegan and a Buddhist died far too early from throat cancer.

It is true that eating plenty of foods in their most natural state f(or some foods) can be important for health. But the image on the right highlights the faulty narrative of being holistic without thinking about the consequences. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats and the like require minimal processing but in the quest for longevity, taste and profit, adding preservatives and flavour enhancers causes our food sources to become problematic. The so called ‘holistic’ folk get lost in this narrative urging your diet to become abundant in the rawest, greenest and brownest foods, that are most indigestible and contain potent inhibitors of biological function.

To integrate a level of holism into nutrition and function requires a level of critical thinking. What do these foods contain? How do they affect physiology? It’s well known that the brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts contain potent compounds that decrease energy output. These goitregens inhibit thyroid output and isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables affects TPO or thyroid peroxidase, both of which are exacerbated when iodine uptake or restriction is present. Research tends to support these problematic effects (Choi & Kim, 2014)(Truong, Baron-Dubourdieu, Rougier, & Guénel, 2010), but much attention is focused on the smaller compounds that seem to work well in test tubes, rather than its global effects. As the environment becomes more stressful for biology do we need more building or reducing factors within our control?

The environment can be a harsh place. There are plenty of pollutants that have a negative effect on fertility, metabolism and other key endocrine aspects of health, some of which are industrial, others purposively added to food (arguably another form of industry) (Rajpert-De Meyts, Skakkebaek, & Toppari, 2000)(Upson, Harmon, & Baird, 2016). We can argue that the environment has always been a harsh place and adaptation has taken place as a response to selective pressures at the heart of evolution. Yet currently we are heading towards a tipping point, as environmental stimulants appear to be at the heart of acquired biological damage that is inherited by offspring. Cancer, fertility and other metabolic diseases are more common than ever and yet the approach is to keep seeking the magic bullet to ameliorate the fate that awaits many of us.

If we were to ask:

What enhances biological function, makes us more robust and allows us to have a stronger conversation with a stressful environment?

Rather than succumb to its stressors.

The highway to health

The highway to health

A biological system in its best working order could be represented, as an infinite road stretching into the  distance, perhaps with the odd bump along the way or a slight deviation but an ability to get back on track is available. Compare that to the inhibitory T-junction where the body cannot function as the clear straight road, it deviates from its true organised direction. The journey is laboured and restrictive. The ability to flux and respond to stressors is key and adequate energy is an essential component of reorganisation.

Nutrition is an important factor for such conversations with the environment. Eating a diet that is dominated with foods that are difficult to digest, decrease energy availability and create more stress are not going to make chatting any easier. If we make the effort to understand what keeps a cell and its mitochondria functioning at its most efficient state, we can understand why aspects such as sugar, adequate protein, moderate exercise, light and other factors, can play a role in overcoming current stimulus that decrease function and increase disease states.

The following article is definitely worth a read for an understanding of the concepts that I have talked about. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/vegetables.shtm

References:

Choi, W. J., & Kim, J. (2014). Dietary factors and the risk of thyroid cancer: a review. Clinical Nutrition Research, 3(2), 75–88. http://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2014.3.2.75

Rajpert-De Meyts, E., Skakkebaek, N. E., & Toppari, J. (2000). Testicular Cancer Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Endocrine Aspects. Endotext. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905224

Truong, T., Baron-Dubourdieu, D., Rougier, Y., & Guénel, P. (2010). Role of dietary iodine and cruciferous vegetables in thyroid cancer: A countrywide case-control study in New Caledonia. Cancer Causes and Control, 21(8), 1183–1192. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-010-9545-2

Upson, K., Harmon, Q. E., & Baird, D. D. (2016). Soy-based infant formula feeding and ultrasound-detected uterine fibroids among young African-American women with no prior clinical diagnosis of fibroids. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 769–775. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510082