One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was about my experience with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. That was just three weeks ago, but I’ve had some relevant experiences since then that I think are worth sharing.
I was beginning to take estrogen pills the last we talked. The idea was, since my estrogen was a bit low, these pills would bring my male/female hormones into balance and would help me menstruate. They worked. The medical community knows their stuff, and if they want to make us fertile, they can do it. What’s more, the pills helped clear up my acne a bit. However, the pills also added 12 pounds of body fat to my 5’2 frame! I legitimately stopped fitting into all my clothes, and in just three weeks. For someone so acutely aware of body image and weight issues, this was startling.
So I had a period (my first in 15 months, huzzah!), but then stopped taking the estrogen pills (I was on Sprintec, a classic birth control pill) and ordered Yasmin, a birth control pill that’s supposed to be better for acne and for maintaining body weight than the rest on the market. This should be a better fix than my last birth control pill. However, I am not going to take it right away. Instead, I have discovered a new treatment for PCOS, and I am going to experiment with this first. Birth control pills are clearly just a band-aid over a larger issue, and I want to have the greatest holistic and true health possible.
Onwards, then! Onwards, I say!
I was staring out the window on a bus ride down the western coast of Taiwan when, listening to a Robb Wolf interview on the Livin La Vida Low Carb Show, the two of them discussed the perils of iodine deficiency. I know that my thyroid activity is a little low. I know, too, that the other women I’ve talked to who have started experiencing PCOS since losing weight also have relatively low thyroid levels. Robb said that he often sees many women experience PCOS and then normalize once supplementing with iodine. Fascinating. I decided to do some research. This is what I found:
Only iodine and chlorine, of the four halogens–(iodine, chlorine, bromine and fluoride)–are necessary to the body. We need iodine in many of our organs, including the skin, muscle, and reproductive tissues. We need chlorine in the stomach for secretion of hydrochloric acid. Chloride is also an important part of the blood’s regulation of its acid-base balance, so we need chlorine to breathe. We consume bromine and fluoride in higher quantities than either iodine or chlorine. Yikes.
Much like we’ve seen before with other elements, each of these halogens attaches to the same receptors in our cells. Therefore, if we take in excessive bromine (which we do) or fluoride (which we do), we inhibit our ability to take up and use iodine. Receptors may fill up with bromine, which is common in grains, bleached flour, sodas, nuts and oils as well as several plant foods. Fluorine from sources such as toothpaste, certain teas, and fluoridated water will also take up important spots in halogen receptors.
This information is important because iodine deficiency is not only caused by reduced iodine intake, but also by increased bromine and fluorine intake. One researcher in particular, Dr. Flechas, has looked into trends in halogen intake over time, with specific emphasis on women’s health. I found an interview with Dr. Flechas online, at the website www.iodine4health.com, which is maintained by health care professionals aware of the dangers of iodine deficiency. It’s a pretty cool site. I went ahead and listened to the interview with Dr. Flechas. What follows is a summary of what I thought were the most relevant points:
* 84% of women have some kind of cyclical breast pain, which is related to fibrocystic breast disease and linked to iodine deficiency. 84 percent… that’s so many people. Dr. Flechas reports that breast tissues uses as much iodine as the thyroid gland. The New England Journal of Medicine, on July 24, 2005 reported that women with fibrocystic breast disease have elevated rates of cancer.
* Iodine deficiency in the ovaries leads to ovarian cysts, ie, PCOS.
* A women with hypothyroidism has a 6% chance of developing breast cancer. Once she starts taking thyroid hormone, it doubles her chances. Once she’s been on thyroid hormone replacement for 15 years, it more than triples it – she now has a 19.6% chance of developing breast cancer. Thyroid hormone inhibits the body’s ability to take up iodine. Clearly, thyroid hormone is not the ideal fix for this problem. What’s more, those put on thyroid hormone may still suffer with 90% of their symptoms. For many, they have enough of the thyroid hormone already. The problem is with the receptors.
* Dr. Flechas argues that the RDA of iodine is too low. (Surprise!) The RDA recommends an enough to prevent goiter, but not enough for optimal health.
* Iodine in the body is used as follows: 3% by the thyroid, 70% by muscles and fat, 20% by the skin, and 7% by the ovaries. I am sure that this has implications for my ovaries and my thyroid and my weight loss, but how is totally beyond me.
* Absence of iodine in tissue allows cysts to grow. This would explain why iodine deficiency leads to both fibrocystic breast disease and poly cystic ovarian syndrome. In his practice, Dr. Flechas has put women with PCOS on iodine supplementation and has seen their cycles not just return, but become regular.
* Iodine is also important for pregnancy. Absence of iodine in early pregnancy = ADD type symptoms in children. Adequate amounts of iodine in early pregnancy and early childhood improves intelligence. In China, where there is fluoride in the water and the iodine levels are marginal, many babies born are cretin. Yikes.
*Bromine is evil. In the U.S., iodine used to be in bread – 160 mcg of iodine per slice of bread. Now manufacturers use bromide because it helps create a “beautiful” bread shape. Not long after this change occurred, the incidence of breast cancer rose dramatically. Another interesting Bromine phenomenon: Back in the 20′s, Bromo-Seltzer was used to cure headaches and hangovers. Yet too much Bromo-Seltzer caused a buildup of bromide in the brain which resulted in paranoia and schizophrenia, which the doctors termed “Bromomania.” The New England Journal of Medicine reported that from 1920 to 1960, 20% of the people admitted into psychiatric hospitals had acute paranoid psychosis (Bromomania) because of Bromo-Seltzer. In 1964, the FDA finally caught wind of this, so Bromo-Seltzer left the market. But, that same year, bromide was included in another produce in the form of brominated vegetable oil – Mountain Dew. They use it to disperse the citric acid in citrus- flavored drinks. Bromide depresses the central nervous system, however, so Mountain Dew is loaded with caffeine to make up for that effect. Finally, bromide is injected into soil and sprayed on some fruits and vegetables since it makes a great pesticide. Fluoride is also used as an insecticide and pesticide. In China they have found that no geniuses come from areas with fluoridated water. Many are of substandard intelligence.
* Iodine also used to be fortified in milk, but is no longer.
* 50% of American women cook with salt that has no iodine. The Journal for the AMA recommends all physicians decrease their patients salt intake by 50%. Where are these patients supposed to get iodine?
* 20% iodine sits in the skin – it helps the body sweat. If you don’t sweat, you may be iodine deficient. (I don’t sweat!!!)
* Japan has the lowest amount of cancer in the world, even though they’ve been bombed twice with nuclear bombs. Because they eat so much seaweed, they get the highest doses of iodine of any country. This is a correlation, but one that I think is perhaps relevant, currently, in my own life. More on that later.
* FSH/LH receptors (important hormones in the menstrual cycle) are also helped by iodine. Dr. Flechas mentions again that patients who aren’t having periods began having regular cycles again.
* Neuro-hormones in the brain also benefit from iodine. Within days, some people with depression find relief.
* Dr. Flechas has been supplementing with iodine for a number of years now. It took him a year to come off his thyroid hormone for hypothyroidism.
So that’s the interview. Pretty powerful stuff, huh? I have yet to fact check anything Dr. Flechas said, nor to perform further research on the matter. I was just too excited about the possibilities for this treatment to wait to post it.
I lived at home with my family in Detroit for the last five months before I came to Taiwan. While home, my symptoms with PCOS skyrocketed. I had been infertile and experiencing acne before, but once home it got much worse. I tried everything with my diet, and nothing was working. However, I now know that we did not use iodized salt in my home, and I also know that Detroit fluorinates it’s water. I also drank enormous amounts of tea, some of which may have had excess fluoride in it. I never sweat, I have low thyroid, I have cystic ovaries, and I have dry skin.
Since coming to Taiwan, I have stopped drinking tea, I drink a decent amount of my water out of bottles, and I have made sure to eat two servings of seaweed every day. Now, I know that I was on the birth control when I got here, so that might account for my improved acne and skin conditions, but while I was in the states and on the birth control I was still having breakouts. Since coming to Taiwan, I haven’t had any. At all. And my vaginal health has stabilized some, even since coming off of the birth control. Lots of things have changed in my life here–lots and lots of factors could be at work. But I think I am on to something, and I am excited.
In addition to having Yasmin shipped to me, my mother is shipping my kelp tablets along as well. I am going to supplement with them for a few weeks without any birth control, and see what happens. I will keep doing research into thyroid activity, cystic tissues, and iodine levels. And I will keep you posted both on my own progress and on what I find. We seem to be on the right track (duh), with the paleo diet by eschewing foods that are manufactured and contain bromide, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. I am plugging up those cracks one at a time, and I hope that in your pursuit of optimal health, you get to do the same.
The light of the future is bright and beckoning!