Posts Tagged ‘hormones’

HPA axis dysfunction

Hi friends! What up.  Today is another doozy.


There are two primary ways in which the HPA axis can malfunction.  It’s activity can increase, or it’s activity can decrease.

The HPA axis jumps into action when stressed or stimulated.   This is a good thing when the body is faced with short-term stressors.   In this event, adrenal activity increases.   Along with several other key responsibilities, the adrenal glands’s primary purpose is to help us survive in the face of a threat: they rally all of the body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode using cortisol and adrenaline.   Healthy adrenals instantaneously increase heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, shut down digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen the senses. But since they are programmed to respond to every kind of stress — physical, emotional, perceived, psychological, environmental, infectious, or any combination of these — a person under chronic stress can get into a fair bit of trouble.  It can knock the whole HPA axis off kilter.  Conditions related to increased activity are: Chronic Stress, Depression, Anorexia, OCD, Anxiety disorders, Excessive exercise, Alcoholism, Withdrawal, Diabetes, Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Hypothyroidism.  

The converse is perhaps just as bad.  The HPA axis suffers decreased activity either when hormones tell it to down regulate (as is the case with low leptin signalling!), or it has simply become exhausted by being in a high-stress, hyper-active mode for too long a time period.  Conditions related to decreased activity include: Chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Adrenal insufficiency, PTSD, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, asthma, and eczema.

Since cortisol plays a big role in our health and feelings of well-being, and since it also plays a crucial feedback role in up or down regulating the activity of the hypothalamus, stress will be a big piece of the rest of this post.  I’ll talk about different kinds of stress here, and then later detail the effects of cortisol on our bodies.

Clinicians generally divide stress up into four primary categories: emotional stress, sleep disorders, metabolic dysregulation and chronic inflammation.  In my book, they are virtually inseparable.  If you’re signed up for one, you’re almost always signing your life away to all of them.  BUT: they are each handled somewhat differently by the HPA axis.

Mental-emotional stress originates in the brain, and it eeks into the rest of the body via the hypothalamus, which is the hub of connectivity between your brain and the endocrine system.  This drives up the production of ACTH, which stimulates cortisol production later down the line.  Fortunately, this kind of stress is mediated by personality, perception of novelty, uncertainty, control in the situation, and how threatening the stimulus seems.  Low self esteem also makes it easier for the hypothalamus to jump into high gear.

Slow-wave sleep suppresses cortisol release, which is I believe the primary reason sleep is so important for health.   Exposure to chronic stressors results in a disruption of normal hormone fluctuations that occur throughout the day.   This means that cortisol will often jump up at night, creating a vicious cycle of decreased sleep, and therefore increased cortisol, and further decreased sleep, and even great cortisol levels.  No wonder I’ve been such a wreck for the last twenty years.

The most accepted model of how HPA axes dysfunction  asserts generally that stimulation drives the axis into an overactive state for some time, but that after a while the system becomes unresponsive.   Cells become cortisol-resistant.  This is where the popular term adrenal fatigue comes from, though much of the literature verges on pseudo-science.  While “adrenal fatigue” is certainly problematic, many scientists believe that this is an adaptive, and maybe even productive, response.  Hypercortisolism is bad.   Decreased HPA axis gives the body a bit of a break.  Or at least is intended to.

Why hypercortisolism bites

1)  Cortisol is immunosupressive.  It impairs cytokine production and function, induces the loss of tissues important to immune cell production, and may in fact play a causative role in the development of autoimmune disease.  Being immunosupressive means that cortisol inhibits inflammation.  Generally this is a good thing, but when it goes on for too long, important inflammatory reactions, including the immune reactions I just mentioned, fail to function when they are needed.

2)  Cortisol decreases hormonal output.  It signals to the hypothalamus to down-regulate, such that growth hormone, thyroid releasing hormone, and gonadotropin releasing hormone are released at much lower rates by the hypothalamus.  Yikes!  Without GH you don’t grow; without TSH your thyroid doesn’t work properly; and without GnRH your pituitary fails to signal reproductive activity.   GnRH is a factor in just about every single endocrine disorder.   YEAH.  To top it off, these hormones act as cortisol antagonists.   They typically mitigate the effect of cortisol in the blood.  This makes their absence is even more insidious.  Without them, cortisol can increase without ever being checked.

3) Cortisol increases insulin levels.  This fact, coupled with the decrease in androgens from decreasing hormonal output in general, leads to fat deposition. Visceral fat has buckets full of glucocorticoid receptors, which makes it very easy for cortisol and insulin to shuttle more and more triglycerides into fat cells.  I can’t emphasize how important this is.   The cardiovascular and all adipose-related issues from cortisol hyperactivity increase the aull-cuase mortality risk of patients two to three times and decrease life expectancy by several years.

4) Increases in cortisol-induced abdominal fat are associated with an increase in both total oxidative stress and in the number of inflammatory cytokines.

5)  Cortisol can destroy healthy muscle and bone tissue.

Why hypocortisolism bites

1)  Immune system up-regulation.   This can really improve health in some cases.  But up-regulating cellular immunity can induce tissue damage and excessive inflammation via the over-production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.    Low cortisol also makes catecholamine (epinephrine and norepinephrine) levels go unchecked.  These further increase inflammatory cytokines.  They also disrupt T-cell signalling.   The result is susceptibility to inflammatory diseases, including autoimmne diseases, mood disorders, malignancy, obesity  and chronic pain syndromes.  This can also increase susceptiblity to assaults by infectious and environmental pathogens.

2)  Bowel disturbances, PTSD, fibromyalgia, low back pain, burn out, and atypical depression.

3)  High-stress sensitivity, chronic fatigue and chronic pain.    These three occur so frequently and in such concert with low cortisol states that they are referred to as the “low cortisol triad” by some authors.  I know.  Catchy.


DHEA-S is produced in the adrenal cortex.  It is an androgen, and it is considered one of the dominant precursor hormones.  This makes it critical for endocrine and reproductive function.   DHEA-S is produced in other organs, but it’s primary source is the adrenal glands.

High levels of DHEA-S are often associated with hyper-activity of the adrenal glands- so in this case both cortisol and DHEA-S are elevated in the blood.   The HPA axis has started pumping, and it doesn’t know how to stop. Women with PCOS often have high levels of DHEA-S precisely for this reason.   This is bad for them because it makes it much easier to create androgens such as testosterone.  And without parallel increases in estrogen from the ovaries, the excess testosterone will wreak havoc.

Calorie restriction and exercise both also increase DHEA-S levels.   DHEA-S is the primary hormone, and DHEA is the active form.   When calories are consumed, more DHEA is recruited form DHEA-S.   This depletes DHEA-S stories.  So calorie consumption reduces DHEA-S, but calorie restriction will keep levels higher longer.

This is important to note for those of us who restrict calories and exercise frequently.  If we have hormone problems, particularly issue with excess, we might want to think about how to optimize our DHEA-S production.  Too much DHEA-S?  Eat more.    Too little?  Try eating a bit less, or intermittent fasting.

Low levels of DHEA-S are associated with adrenal fatigue and hypocortisolism.  In this case, the HPA axis just can’t do much of anything anymore.   This is bad.  DHEA-S is considered the best “feel good” hormone by many endocrinologists.    And it is a precursor to many hormones.  Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that healthy levels of DHEA and DHEA-S may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and obesity.   You can supplement with DHEA-S if you feel as though you desperately need it.  However, perhaps the best course is to supplement in the meantime while you address the underlying issue of decreased HPA axis activity and adrenal exhaustion.


The pituitary

Because stress is a big deal and everyone wants to know about it, most of the HPA research has focused on cortisol and the adrenals.   But the rest of the axis is important, too.

Decreasing hypothalamic activity down-regulates pituitary activity, which means that the production of sex hormones decreases.   And what causes decreased HPA activity?

One factor is a decrease in leptin levels.  If leptin signalling is weak–ie, if our body fat levels are too low, or if we exercise too often–then the lack of leptin crossing the blood-brain barrier into the hypothalamus signals to the hypothalamus that the body is starving, and certain extraneous bodily functions such as reproduction cease.

A second factor in decreased HPA axis activity is high cortisol levels.  I know that I told you earlier that high cortisol levels are associated with hyper-activity of the HPA axis, so this might be confusing, and you might think they lead to increased sex hormone production, but this isn’t necessarily the case.  Cortisol still always exhibits a dampening effect on the hypothalamus.   The amount of cortisol produced by the body relative to the general activity of the HPA axis is complicated, and has to do with the amount of stress the body is under, how long it has been under that stress, and whether or not the body has lost any of its sensitivity to cortisol.

And finally, HPA axis activity can decrease if it has become exhausted.  This is adrenal fatigue, plain and simple.

In all of these cases, the hypothalamus stops telling the pituitary gland to produce sex hormones.  The pituitary, in turn, stops telling the gonadal tissue to produce hormones themselves.  The end result is overall decreased sex hormone levels.  Sex hormones are necessary for reproductive function, as well as for a variety of other important roles such as waking the body up, putting it to sleep, being in a good mood, and having a good memory.   When sex hormones decrease,  many things can go wrong.  PCOS is one them.  Acne is another.  Loss of libido, too, and also, fertility.   Depression.  Weight gain.  Miscarriage.  Yikes.

The final big system affected by HPA axis dysfunction is the thyroid.  When the hypothalamus is suppressed, thyroid releasing hormone doesn’t get released.  And when the pituitary is suppressed, thyroid stimulating hormone doesn’t get released.  The result is wholesale decrease in thyroid activity, all the way from TSH through T4 and to T3.


So the solution?  Sleep as much as possible.  Eat the appropriate amount of food.   Rest often.  Refuse to be stressed.  I am a firm, firm believer in the power of positivity to make us healthy human beings, and the HPA axis probably plays a big role in that.  Don’t let your co-workers, your boss, whatever, all that nasty crap in your life get you down.  I mean– it’s a million times more complicated than that.  I understand.  But I really do think mitigating those stressors (especially the ones you impose on yourself!) transforms physical health.  No self-hating, no anxiety about your looks, no worries about being perfect.  Your cells will thank you.


*Thank you WomenToWomen for the awesome graphics!



04 2012

The HPA axis: an introduction

I have been serving up diatribes for several weeks now.  It’s time to bring it back to physiology for a while.  I feel this way especially because I am so interested in how we might best mitigate hormone dysfunction.  One way is by investigating the means by which cells communicate to each other.   The HPA axis, for this reason, is a very big deal.  From my perspective, for those of us who suffer hormonal imbalances, it is the most important part of our bodies to pay attention to. Here’s why:

If our cells are a kingdom, and our hormones the governors, and leptin the bitchy king, then the HPA axis is the divine law that enables and justifies the whole damn thing. Or we could call it the flashy green code of The Matrix. Or the binding of a book. The point being that when the HPA axis is good it’s good, and when it’s bad all the king’s subjects die. No one wants to die. How do we stop everyone from dying?

The abbreviation HPA axis stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. It is sometimes called the Limbic Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal axis, and also the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Gonadotropic axis. (Gonadotropic, ladies!) This axis describes the complex interaction between the vast diversity of your hormone hubs, via direct influences and feedback mechanisms.

The Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus, at the core of our brains, is the primary point of connection between the central nervous system and the endocrine system. The hypothalamus releases hormones into the bloodstream. Some of them act on distant tissues, but others go directly to the pituitary gland and in turn tell it what to do. This is why it is often said that the hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland. The secretion of hypothalamic hormones GnRH, gonadotropin releasing hormone, GHRH, growth-hormone releasing hormone, TRH, tryptophin releasing hormone, dopamine, somatostatin, TRH, thyrotropin-releasing hormone and CRH, corticotropin releasing hormone all influence the action of the pituitary and adrenal gland. Hence why they are called “releasing” hormones. The job of the hypothalamus is to conduct the orchestra. It asks for certain things to be played, and if all things are running smoothly, the whole orchestra plays in beautiful concert.

The hormones released by the hypothalamus have specific effects. There are a few that are more relevant for our purposes here. GnRH stimulates LH and FSH activity in the pituitary, which are directly responsible for ovarian activity, ovulation, and menstruation. TRH stimulates the release of TSH–thyroid stimulating hormone–so without this the thyroid gland does not produce what you need. Dopamine inhibits prolactin release, which also acts on the ovaries. And CRH stimulates the release of adrenocorticopin, a precursor to stress hormones. We might say that CRH is the first line of activity in the stress response.

The Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is generally divided into two parts, the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary. The posterior pituitary releases those distant-action hormones (ADH and oxytocin) which are less relevant for the axis. The anterior pituitary is the one that produces the relevant hormones. Follicle stimulating hormone stimulates the development of follicles on the ovaries and the production of estrogen. Luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation. TSH stimulates production of T4 and T3. In all cases, it’s clear that the receipt of stimulating hormones from the hypothalamus to the pituitary is crucial for reproductive function.

So direct central nervous system stimulation affects pituitary function. One example of this is circadian rhythms and the release of adrenocorticoid to stimulate waking. Yet there is another mechanism that tells the pituitary what to do, and this is feedback from its own system. The hormones directly secreted by the pituitary indicate to the pituitary how much of the product is in the bloodstream. This acts on the pituitary, but also on the hypothalamus, such that high estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels can all inform the hypothalamus to reduce production of GnRH. This is helpful often. But in other cases it is absolutely NOT, since high testosterone levels can inhibit GnRH in general, which reduces the production of all pituitary hormones.

The Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands consist of two distinct parts: the adrenal medulla, which secretes catecholamines directly into the blood, which I’ll touch on a bit later, and also the adrenal cortex, which secretes steroid hormones. The primary steroid hormones are cortisol, corticosterone and DHEA, the precursor to adrenal sex hormones.

Approximately 90 percent of the cortisol in our systems is “bound.” The remaining 10 percent is free, and it’s what is biologically active. Cortisol is metabolized in the liver, and it has a half life of 60-90 minutes! Isn’t that amazing? If we are not constantly stressed, then the hyper-stressed states we enter into from an immediate event are only supposed to last for 60-90 minutes. Amazing.

Cortisol is important for a number of reasons. Without it, we die. Here are some of its functions:

1. Metabolism.  Cortisol and other glucocorticoids exert anabolic effects– that is, gluconeogenesis and glycogenesis– on the liver, and catabolic effects– or proteolysis, and lipolysis– in the tissue. What this means is cortisol stimulates activity that utilizes energy sources. Proteolysis eats muscle tissue, which is generally bad, but lipolysis eats fat tissue, which is usually good. Gluconeogenesis and glycogenesis make glucose and glycogen in the liver.

2.  From the stimulation of cortisol, glucose output by the liver increases and glucose uptake by other tissues decreases. Another way to say this: cortisol increases blood sugar. Insulin is secreted in response to blood sugar, in order to mitigate the effects.

3.  Cortisol influences the immune system and inflammatory responses. Cortisol and all other glucocorticoids suppress the synthesis of arachnidonic acid, the precursors to a number of compounds involved in the inflammatory response.  They also decrease the key compounds interleukins and gamma interferon, which are crucial for the immune response.

4.  Cortisol also decreases REM sleep significantly: high concentrations in the blood can cause insomnia and, duh, decrease mood. Cortisol secretion increases in response to stressful stimuli. It is in fact crucial for survival in extreme circumstances. The reasons for this are not well understood, especially in light of the fact that cortisol inhibits immune function. The best guess is that cortisol is required for initial metabolic responses to stress–but that, right, we overdo it. Surprise.

ACTH and cortisol are released in irregular pulse throughout the day. The biggest pulse occurs in the early morning, and starts a few hours before waking. The lowest levels of ACTH in the blood occur right around the time of falling asleep (in someone with regular circadian rhythms.) Spikes in cortisol about half as large as though during waking occur each time you eat, roughly correlated to how much you eat. DON’T freak out about your meals because of this. Your body handles cortisol quite well. No irrational panics allowed. Just– take note. This is one reason why both grazing and bingeing are not optimal behaviors.

This whole system is moderated by negative feedback, as in most of the body’s systems. When the hypothalamus detects enough cortisol, CRH (in the hypothalamus), and therefore ACTH (in the pituitary), and therefore cortisol (in the adrenals) production, are all decreased. You understand, then. The HPA axis is a delicate flower.

Finally, there is a whole class of adrenomedullary hormones, such as catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine), we haven’t talk about. But they’re important, too. The first step in their biosynthesis is catalyzed by tyrosine. Don’t be in tyrosine (an amino acid). It’s important.  Epinephrine and norepinephrine both increase blood glucose concentrations and metabolic rate.  Epinephrine increases cardiac output, vasodiliation in skeletal muscle and liver but vasoconstriction in other vascular tissues– so essentially it shunts blood to skeletal muscle and the liver. Norepinephrine causes primairly vasoconstriction, which results in increases in blood pressure–ie, a reduction in cardiac output.

Epinephrine and Norepinephrine are activated by “fight or flight” situations, ie, our regular lives. Their production is, here’s another surprise, initiated by the hypothalamus. BUT these babies aren’t regulated by negative feedback. This is important. Cortisol will decrease in response to high cortisol levels. Epinephrine and norepinephrine instead can just keep on rising.  Ack, ack, ack.

So that’s a review of the HPA axis.  It’s complicated as all hell.  But even more than complicated, it is important.  The HPA axis runs the whole hormonal game, and therefore the vast majority of your reproduction and metabolism.    It responds to stress, and it helps you mitigate stress.  It responds to hormonal input, and helps you mitigate hormonal problems.   It is sensitive to signalling from all over your body.  These are all awesome things, but it also means that disruptions, can really throw you off.

The HPA axis significantly effects your thyroid gland, how you metabolize food, how much estrogen and testosterone you produce in your ovaries, and how much stress hormones and sex hormones you produce in your adrenals.  I’ll talk about those issues in my next post.


04 2012

Pepper’s advanced paleo archives: >200 kick ass posts for growing your perspective

Click here for the Introductory Archives.

What follows is a natural extension of the work I’ve done on the last two archives.  My primary aim in starting those archives was to provide to my readers with an overview of the vast wealth of research and work out there showing why an evolutionary perspective is important.  If that list of blog posts doesn’t convince you to give paleo eating a shot, I don’t know what will.

But I also struggled, when compiling that list, with thoughts like: “yes, but…”  For example: I wanted to present a clear picture of weight loss.  But there isn’t a clear picture of weight loss!   Even more controversial is CarbsGood versus CarbsBad, or InsulinOkay versus InsulinBad.  There exist, also, different opinions on ketosis, dairy, macronutrients, hormone regulation, how bad wheat is for non-celiacs, whether or not it’s good to eat fruit, hell, even the metabolic advantage… The point is:  there exists one consensus:  Paying attention to evolution is a good idea.  But what are the particulars?   What are the nuances?  Where is today’s cutting edge and insight? I’m really interested in these dialogues, and I know thousands of you are, too.

Here, I have compiled different positions on ‘controversial’ topics.  Instead of trying to convince you to go paleo, here, I am hoping to open your mind and show you the vast intellectual debate, exploration, and integrity going on out there.  It’s pretty amazing, and it is ridiculously difficult to keep up with, but I do my best.  The advanced archive is, thus, as follows:

Table of Contents:

Evolutionary History

Contemporary Non-SAD


Weight management and body composition: calories in v calories out?

Metabolic Regulation


Raw v cooked

Infectious diseases


Gluten and grains toxicity


Fructose toxicity





Evolutionary history

The case of the missing extinctions

The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization

The health of hunter-gatherers versus agriculturalists

The worst mistake the history of the human race by Jared Diamond

Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet

Early man in UK 780 000 years ago

The evolution of costly traits

Things that get on my nerves: the thrifty gene hypothesis

Ethnobiological commentary: Professor “gumby”

What can the diet of gorillas tell us about humans?

No baked potatoes for ancient Europeans

The new genetics: introduction and Part IV: Who’s in the driver’s seat?

How long does it take for a food related trait to evolve?

Contemporary non-SAD

Nutrition and physical degeneration

The Mbuti of Eastern Zaire

Okinawa: the island of pork

Masai and atherosclerosis

Exercise and body fat and hunter-gatherer activity

The Tokelau Island migrant study

The Tokelau Island migrant study: the final word

SAD versus traditional Japanese diets

Loren Cordain Plant-Animal Subsistence Ratios and Macronutrient Energy Estimations in Worldwide Hunter-Gatherer diets

The Inuit: Lessons from the Arctic

Mortality and lifespan of the Inuit

Cancer among the Inuit

Interview with a Kitavan

Kitava: wrapping it up

Cardiovascular risk factors in Kitava: Part IV

Kitavans: Wisdom from the Pacific Islands

Kitava and Uric acid

Living on Kitava

Leptin and lectins: Kuna

Say hello to the Kuna

Genetics and disease: the Pima

More Masai

Contradicting conventional wisdom: Bantu and Masai

Glucose tolerance in non-industrial cultures

Potato eating cultures

In search of traditional Asian diets

I’m so bored of the Kitavans

The Mediterranean diet: Pasta or pastrami?

Weston A Price and Sub Saharan tribes

The good Scots diet

Thailand: land of the coconut

Merrie Olde England

Koreans and beef

Surprising facts about Japanese foodways

Eating by the seasons in Russia

Australian Aborigines: Living off the fat of the land


9 Steps to perfect health number four: supplement wisely

Multi-vitamins boost breast cancer risk

Any point in antioxidant supplements?

Antioxidants do more harm than good?

Is red wine good for you?

Folic acid

Vitamin D supplementation bad?

The vitamin primer

From seafood to sunshine: a new understanding of vitamin D

Vitamin A on trial: does vitamin A cause osteoporosis?

Copper-zinc imbalance: more problems with plant based diets

The great iodine debate

Vitamin B12: Vital for good health

Vitamin B6: the underappreciated vitamin

Magnificent magnesium

Mineral primer

Are protein supplements as good as advertised?

Adiponectin supplementation: body fat loss

The mechanism of green tea

Vitamin K2: a summary


Fish oil or not?

Mark sisson on multivitamins

Throwing the gauntlet: omega 3 supplementation recommendations

Plants and plant compounds are not essential or magic

Weight management and body fat storage: calories in v calories out?

The China Study: Carbohydrates, fat, calories, insulin, and obesity

Clarifications about insulin, leptin, and reward

Carbsane: Why I eat low carb

Calories, fat, or carbohydrates: why diets work (when they do)

The twinkie diet for fat loss

Non-exercise activities like fidgeting may account for 1000 percent difference in body fat gain

How to lose weight

Spontaneous calorie reduction on low carb diet

3500 calories =? 1 pound?

A calorie is a calorie!

Exercise versus diet for weight loss

Leptin, Insulin, adipose tissue, and regulatory hormone

Is insulin resistance really making us fat?

The body fat setpoint: how to change it

Why we get fat

Carbsane Vs Taubes on Why we get fat

Do other theories dispel the calorie hypothesis?  Carbsane response to Guyenet

Views on insulin and obesity

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Low carb, central adiposity, estrogen, and insulin resistance

Regulation of circulating adiponectin

Atrial Natriuretic Peptide: Another fat mobilization hormone?

The myth of starving cells

Microflora and energy balance

Low carb and leptin

Where does insulin resistance start?  The adipose cells

Growth hormone, insulin, body fat accumulation

Growth hormone secretion decreases with age, but not how you’d expect

Butyric acid: an ancient regulator of metabolism, inflammation and stress response

Insulin, leptin, aging, and health

Leptin resistance and sugar

Leptins and lectin

Physiological insulin resistance

Our body’s priority is preventing hypoglycemia, not hyperglycemia

Intermittent fasting, engineered foods, leptin, and ghrelin

Growth hormone: the fountain of youth

Insulin is a door-man at the fat cell night club, not a lock on the door

Insulinogenic is not hyperglycemic

Insulin and glucagon

Insulin resistance and P1K3

Type I diabetes, adiponectin, and leptin

Fat: the endocrine organ

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Fasting insulin and weight loss on a water fast

Growth hormone, insulin resistance, and body fat accumulation

Stephan Guyenet’s recent thoughts on carbohydrate and reward

Thoughts on obesity inspired by Stephan Guyenet


Short term effects of adding carbohydrate to a very low carbohydrate diet

Dangers of zero carb diets, part IV

A brief discussion of ketosis

The effects of consuming a high carbohydrate diet after 8 weeks in ketosis

Ketones and ketosis: physiological versus pathological forms

Ketosis, methylglyoxal and accelerated aging: probably more fiction than fact

Thoughts on Ketosis I and II

Autism and ketogenic diets

Why a ketogenic diet reverses kidney damage in type I and type II diabetics

Ketogenic diet

Ketosis in a low carb diet

Raw vs cooked:

The China Study: Are raw plant foods giving people cancer?

Raw paleo and food re-enactment

Raw paleo and zero carb: right for the wrong reasons

Raw journey Part I

More raw truth about raw vegan diets

Infectious diseases

Nutrition and infectious diseases

Fats and absorbing endotoxins

Short term effects of adding carbohydrates to VLC diets: endotoxins

Does celiac require an infection?

Heliobacter and glucose



Polyphenols, hormesis, and disease, part II

Polyphenol hormesis follow-up

Mother Earth and polyphenols

Gluten and grains toxicity

Quinoa, millet, emmer and einkorn wheat

Reactions to bread: gluten or fructans?

Eating gluten causes symptoms in some people who don’t have celiac disease

The China Study: Wheat might not be so bad for you if you eat 221 g of animal products daily

Traditional preparation methods increase nutritional value of grains

Wheat: in search of scientific objectivity

Minerals, milling, grains, and tubers

The argument against cereal grains

Avoid poison or neutralize it?

Where are all the healthy whole grains?

Wheat and lactose: no one is tolerant of WGA

Gluten sensitivity: promises and problems


Potato diet interpretation

Potatoes and human health, part III

Weight loss on potatoes

Interview with a Kitavan

Kitava: wrapping it up

Potato eating cultures

Taters, eh?  Saponins in potatoes are possibly important

What’s the trouble with sweet potatoes?

Fructose: controversy?

The China Study: Fruit consumption and mortality

The fructose index is the new glycemic index

The bitter truth about fructose alarmism

Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?

Fructose, not HFCS: Serenity now, death earlier?

Fructose and the tropics

Paleo and fructose

Fructose in fruits may be good for you, especially if you are low in glycogen

Lipogenesis versus adipose tissue gain: Fructose?


Devil in the milk

Dairy fat and diabetes

Pastured dairy may prevent heart attacks

Cheese’s vitamin K2 content, pasteurization, and beneficial enzymes

Cheese consumption, visceral fat, and adiponectin levels

Lactose intolerance: Often a result of ‘silent’ wheat derived bowel disease

A taste of dairy

How dairy entered the human diet

Dairy and its effects on insulin secretion

Mark Sisson’s definitive guide to dairy

Lactase persistence in Europe

Casein versus gluten


How to raise HDL

HDL and immunity

Cholesterol and innate immunity

The central role of LDL receptor in heart disease

Myths and truths about cholesterol

What cause heart attacks?

The China study: Cholesterol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease

Meta-analysis finds no evidence that saturated fat promotes heart disease

Does dietary fat increase cholesterol or promote heart disease?

Statins and the cholesterol hypothesis, part I

Can a statin neutralize the cardiovascular risk of unhealthy dietary choices?

Dirty little secrets of the fat-heart hypothesis

Coronary heart disease: possible culprits part II

The Choline Smackdown (why you should save your liver and eat cholesterol containing foods)

When your brain is hungry for cholesterol

The diet-heart hypothesis, oxidized LDL, part II

Macronutrients: how many?  Is this even the right way to think about food?

9 Steps to perfect health part 2: Nourish your body, or, not all macronutrients are created equal

The myth of the high protein diet

Low carb diet trumps low fat

Positive and negative feedback on replacing protein with carbohydrates

Can you be lean on a low protein diet?

Protein, satiety, and body composition

Can protein turn into fat?

Dangers of zero carb diets: can there be a carbohydrate deficiency?

No such thing as a macronutrient: carbohydrates

No such thing as a macronutrient: fats

FODMAPs (a carbohydrate)

Carbs deserve a presumption of guilt

Carbohydrates: no dietary requirement but metabolically critical



06 2011

PCOS and acne update

I’ve been wanting to give you an update on my PCOS for a while now, but I kept saying, “just wait until X,” or “once Y happens.”  This was stupid.  Health progresses very slowly, and I might end up waiting to write about PCOS forever if I decide to wait for everything to be perfect.

Here is my original post on PCOS.  To summarize:

PCOS is the condition of having cystic ovaries, which is caused by a hormone imbalance.   When women have too many androgen (male) sex hormones, and not enough estrogen, we do not ovulate properly.  We develop cysts on our ovaries, and often exhibit other symptoms: we might stop menstruating, become infertile, have irregular periods, or exhibit testosterone dominant characteristics such as male-pattern facial hair, loss of head hair, and acne.  Gross.  Most PCOS patients are overweight and tend towards insulin resistance.  Testosterone is high in these patients for this reason, and even conventional medicine prescribes low carbohydrate diets for remediation.  However, there exists a minority of PCOS patients who have a bit of an opposite problem: that when they lose weight, or are perfectly fit, they mysteriously struggle with the same imbalance.  I am one of these.  Doctors are having a difficult time figuring out why.

I stopped menstruating about a year and a half ago now.  I don’t want to get to the punch line too early, but I also want to let you down slowly, so know in advance: I do not have an absolute victory to share with you.  I am not menstruating yet.  But I have hope that I will begin some time soon.  (!)

When I became period-free, I had recently lost a lot of weight.  I have maintained, more or less, that body size since then.  My doctor’s hypothesis for why I have PCOS is, therefore, as follows: since estrogen is produced in fat cells, when I lost fat, my body, which had become dependent on fat cells for estrogen supply, stopped having enough estrogen to menstruate properly.  Make sense?  Sure.   But I have also tested low on thyroid, and around 40 percent of PCOS patients also have hypothyroidism.  A high percentage of hypothyroid patients, in turn, (up near 80 or 90, according to Chris Kesser) have Hashimoto’s Thyroidism, an autoimmune condition.  So it is possible that this is the underlying cause of my PCOS.  I have yet to be tested for it since I am living in Taiwan, but I intend to find out once I return state-side.

That October 2009 was when I stopped menstruating.  I was on a zero fat vegetarian diet, and had in fact been doing that for three years, though it was only in the final months of 2009 that I ever “got really serious” and lost weight.   I wonder if this had anything to do with losing my periods, but, again, I don’t know anything for certain.  In March of 2010, still around 19 percent body fat, I switched to lacto-paleo.   My ovaries remained the same.  I had no periods, no vaginal discharge–which I used to have in spades–and no sex drive. Life can be really hard sometimes.

In August of 2010, acne emerged.  And not just acne, but, like, acne. I don’t have any photos from the time period because it was too horrific to even contemplate.  At one point I had 37 active cysts around my mouth.  Yikes.  I do, however, have one photo from after I had recovered a little bit, and I’m going to post it below.  We can pretty definitively attribute this acne to the high testosterone levels, since this is where testosterone-heavy people (such as steroid abusers) always break out.  I really panicked about it being due to food allergies, however, which made my diet an absolute mess.  My new hypothesis is that certain foods exacerbate the acne, but testosterone is the underlying cause.

Ugh, gross.  At this point, I decided to give up dairy.  It didn’t really help.  I was eating a lot of vegetables (including a shit ton of goitrogenic cabbage), eggs, fish, and industrial meat.  I noticed then when I took a lot of fish oil it seemed to improve, and also that whenever I put on weight it seemed to improve.  When I lost weight again after putting it on over the holidays, my face was a fiery nightmare.  Recall that estrogen is produced in fat cells, and helps mitigate the hormone imbalance.  Putting on weight, then, was at least moderately effective.

The first time I saw any significant improvement was when I took progesterone pills for three weeks.  This also made me put on about ten pounds in that three week time period, so I stopped taking it.  It made me a little suicidal anyway.

In any case, because of this, I have always sort of used my face as a metric for my PCOS.  The general trend seems to be that with a better hormone balance in my system, my face gets better.  The state of the acne is also, I believe, related to my diet.  There are two specific ways:  1)  I notice that if I have some sugary drinks while out on a weekend, I get a small break out.  This might be why dairy was so problematic for me, too.  (I think I noticed that the worst food instigator for me was store bought blue cheese dressing: dairy and low-fat additives and omega 6 dressing: Gods, could I have been putting anything worse in my body?)  So insulin is related.  Note that insulin’s role in all of this is probably due to how strongly it stimulates testosterone production.  2) I think that my diet, despite my best efforts, was still high in omega 6s while at home.  I also think I have a lot of inflammation left over in my body from my previous lifestyle and diets, so I need to really watch my omega 3s and 6s.  That “meat” that I was consuming a lot of including high quantities of chicken.  So perhaps it was never enough to balance the salmon filets I ate a couple of times per week.  I don’t know.  In Taiwan, I have been eating a whole hell of a lot of fish, which I think definitely helps.


Ok.  So my skin is bad and my vagina is as dry as Oscar Wilde, and I depart for Taiwan at the end of January 2011.

Within a week I see mild improvement.  Wtf?  What changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  There have been lots of variables at play already, and in Taiwan there are even more.  I stop eating chicken, and I eschew dairy 100 percent.  I also start eating seaweed.  I notice that this helps, I think, considerably.  This makes me wonder: is my low thyroid being fixed by iodine consumption, and is that in turn helping my PCOS?  Iodine is known to support ovarian and mammarian tissue health, so basic nutrient supplementation could be the key, I think.  When I discover this, I decide to eat seaweed daily.   I also decide to really pay attention to my omega 3s and omega 6s.  I eat as few vegetable oils as possible (though that is incredibly difficult in Taiwan), so I also eat fish twice per day.   This means that I am decently balanced, omega 3 to 6 (though I really have no idea, and I don’t take fish oil), and also that I am getting more than sufficient iodine.  More than sufficient, since seaweed and seafood are the most rich natural sources. I am also eating some pork, getting sufficient protein, avoiding sweets, and even adding some carbohydrate back into my diet.  I have yet to really test whether the carbohydrate is important, or not, probably not, but there we go.

I see my skin improve with time. It’s slow, at first.  Quite slow.  I troubleshoot and figure I need more seaweed and omega 3s.  I also stop eating sugar-free gum.  I start consistently sleeping seven hours a night.  I no longer live with my enormously stressful father.  I have put on five pounds.  I don’t know what is working, but something is.   After about six weeks in Taiwan, my vaginal discharge returns.  At this point, I’m pretty hopeful.

This is what I look like in early April:


From April through May, something really amazing happens.  I don’t know what.  But my skin advances like a warrior.  Every day I see it clear up.  Today, May 12, 2011, I have no acne.  Only scars.  I just sit back, and eat as carefully as possible, and watch the scars heal over time.

It’s also pretty fascinating, however, because in April I start getting violently ill once in a while.  I get incredibly nauseated and have disturbingly thorough diarrhea.  The first time this happens to me it is so severe that I am hospitalized for dehydration and shitting mucus and blood.  Yikes.  This meant that I end up eating a lot of sweet potatoes and occasionally squeezing in pork and eggs, and also carrots.  For a while I drink soy milk and even eat some granola, simply because those are the only things that feel good in my stomach (but I worry about the insulin for my face!).  This also means that, still, I am worried about my health.  Am I doing something wrong?  What is making me so ill? I don’t know.  Honest.  With my expert medical opinion, I have narrowed the causes down to: hyperthyroid activity, whether from an autoimmune condition or the vast amounts of iodine I was consuming, food poisoning, a duodenal ulcer, a parasite the hospital missed, or, my favorite candidate right now: iodine poisoning.   I think I overdosed on iodine.  Iodine can be corrosive in the stomach, and for a while I was exceeding the upper limit on iodine by a few thousand percent each day.  I didn’t know I had been eating that much.  In any case, my intestinal lining is upset and ulcerated, and this may be due to iodine consumption.  Therefore: I have dropped my seafood and seaweed consumption to about zero recently (boy I miss omega 3s), and I have been doing okay.  Skin still looks good, I feel great otherwise, my vaginal discharge is now not just present but constant, and my sex drive is back in full force. That is unfortunate, since I liked the mental clarity I had as an asexual for a year and a half, but Zeus hates me so what can I do?

This means that, I think, my periods will come back.  I have no real evidence for what is working and what isn’t.  The answer could simply be that my body needed time to adjust to the new body weight.  Or it could be as complicated as having low thyroid from iodine deficiency, or low thyroid from an autoimmune condition, recovering from inflammation, needing omega 3s and more iodine for my PCOS, living a relaxed lifestyle, eschewing dairy, getting more nutrients in my body, drinking more water, drinking less (herbal) tea, or keeping insulin low.   Another very important factor is that I’m about 5 pounds heavier than I was in September 2010.  That’s not very significant for someone who weights 200 pounds, but the difference between 110 and 115, or 115 and 120, is pretty profound.  I think it is a mix of a lot of things.  In any case, I am no longer ashamed of going out in public–of inflicting my face on people, I used to think–and I have a sex drive and I was kidding above it’s fucking (pun intended) incredible, and I may in fact regain my fertility in the near future.

When I first started getting vaginal discharge a few months ago I thought my periods would start right away. Now I know better.  Just like it took a long time for my acne to develop, cysts to show up, and menstruation to stop (perhaps that was a result of my long-term vegetarian low fat lifestyle), it is going to take a while for my body to find new balance and reap all of the benefits from increased nutrients on the paleo diet.  I need to keep moving forward slowly, and to experiment with different foods ideas, and to be as smart and safe as possible.  I think it’s going to come in time.  I don’t have a triumphant success story for you yet, but trust me, when I begin menstruating, you may in fact be the first to know.

This weekend.  A bit of foundation, hints of scars on the left side of the photo, but otherwise, well, free.  Not bad, eh?:



05 2011

Best paleo foods to eat after sugar binge

So you’ve done it.  You ate more than you wanted to.  Or you ate foods you think are unhealthful.  You feel overly full, perhaps, and maybe are slammed with a sugar rush, and you are (wrongly) feeling shitty and guilty about the whole thing.  What do you do?  I get asked about post-binge/ post-sugar behavior a lot.  I don’t have all the answers.  But I do have some.


What happens to our bodies when we binge?

Mostly, we get flooded.  Our hormones get right down to work, and do their assigned jobs with absolute vigor.  We’ve consumed lots of carbohydrate, so our blood glucose and our insulin levels spike.  The blood glucose eventually crashes, so we feel lethargic and perhaps dizzy in the end, but in the beginning we feel high and charged.  Often, I think, we feel good enough that we try to maintain this high, and therefore keep on eating.  This is a strong motivator both for bingeing and for grazing behaviors.

Another strong motivator is dopamine, which gets released in the brain when we eat.  Those of us who have experience with overeating know this phenomenon well.  The more conditioned a response–that is, the more of a habit this behavior is for us–the stronger the desire for dopamine, and the more relieving it feels to finally eat.  This relief and this pleasure is so strong that it keeps us eating.

So sugar and fat are processed in the intestines and in the liver and then getting stored as fat.  Protein is much more difficult to convert and to store, so its likely that if protein has been a part of our binge, it is being sent to become molecular backbones for a whole range of cell types, particularly muscles.  If we ate” too much” protein (more than 1 g/day/lb of body weight, generally), our body will convert it to glucose in the liver, and it will be handled by insulin like the rest of the glucose already in our bloodstreams.

The food in our systems is all the while triggering the release of satiation hormones.  The biological need to eat has passed.   Ghrelin, the “appetite” hormone produced primarily in the stomach, decreases after food has entered the stomach.  Insulin acts on the hypothalamus and tells our brains we’ve had enough.   Cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide 1, and peptide y are all produced by the gut and signal satiation.   Lots and lots is going on here.  But: “I don’t know what it feels like to be ‘satiated’!” you cry.  Amen.  It’s… I don’t know.  Difficult.  Really, really fucking difficult. Those of us who binge, or who graze, or who have some sort of unhealthful relationship with food often have dysregulated appetite signalling.  Or we’ve got it just fine but don’t know what to do it with.  So we binge.   We never feel satiated, and we don’t know how to stop.  But we employ certain strategies and eat certain foods and think certain ways… and in the end we find progress.  Over time.  And perhaps get better and better at hearing the signals of our hormones.

In any case.  We’ve now flooded our systems with food and with the appropriate hormones and we’re each wondering… how the hell do I get back on track?  Is it hopeless?  Is it futile?  Can I still be healthy?  Can I still be me?


How do you recover?


First, you fast.  Easier said than done, I know.  But hear me out:

Fasting is great for your system, metabolically.  It triggers autophagy–a sort of cellular clean up–increases insulin sensitivity, and generally allows your body to clean up shop, get efficient, and perform damage control.  If the idea of a fast doesn’t scare you, doesn’t further dis-regulate your eating, and won’t be further stressing out your adrenal system, consider waiting a while before you eat.  Determine the proper time period for you.  Is it the following morning?  Afternoon?  Evening?  Or another great idea: wait until you feel absolutely, certainly physically hungry before you eat again.  That way, you’ll know that you’ve maximized the calories and benefit you can get from the foods you binged on, and your body is now hormonally and physically primed to resume eating.  This will help you feel positive about your self, affirmed about your actions, and physically much better all at the same time.

You may also, of course, exercise during that time.  (!)

And what foods do you eat?  Whether you’re coming off of a fast or not, what helps your body and your mind the most?

Eat protein. Protein is a vital part of every cell.  Therefore, when we consume protein, a lot of it is going to go directly to cell maintenance and repair, and will not be stored as fat.  Protein, when digested, also comes with a thermal effect, which means, in essence, that it creates some excess energy (re: heat) when digested.  It’s “harder” to digest than carbohydrates or fat, so our body expends more energy (that heat) when digesting it.  Bottom line: metabolically, you work the hardest to break it down, so if you’re looking for a low-impact, highly satiating food, protein is your star.

Some great proteins to eat would be eggs, which are high in protein, important vitamins and minerals, and saturated fat.  Also: fish, which is high in protein, high in omega 3s, and low in just about every other kind of fat.  It is also relatively low in density, and fairly low calorie, if that is a concern of yours.  Also: beef, lamb, or pork.  Ruminants have awesome protein, vitamins, saturated fat contents, and pretty good omega 3/6 ratios.  Eat a lean portion if you just want the high protein content, but fat is great for satiation, so go ahead and eat up as much of the fat as you like.

Eat fat.  Animal fat. Re: eggs, fish, and meat, as stated above.  Bacon. Fat gets you all kinds of wonderful satiation hormone activity, so eat up!  Try eating in small quantities at first.  Since you’re coming right off of a binge, you don’t actually need all that many calories to maintain your weight and your health.  What you’re looking for in this meal is a regulator, something to take the place of a meal, and something healthy and filling that can get you back on track.  Perhaps have a few eggs fried in butter, one hamburger patty, or one half filet of salmon.  These foods are hugely nutritious and hugely satisfying, even when we have somewhat messy relationships with feelings of fullness.

If you feel the need to keep eating, however, or perhaps to fill up your stomach with more stuff, supplement your animal foods with some nice, fibrous veggies.   Sometimes when I come off of a period of overeating I feel the need to ramp down slowly.  So I might do a whole head of cabbage for lunch one day, and then have a protein/fat heavy meal for dinner.

The point here is to think about your favorite healthful (PALEO) food, to get as much satiation from it as possible, and to make sure you get as much satisfaction out of this time period as possible. You want to be healthy, and to “stay on track” but you never want to create feelings of deprivation.  One negative eating episode won’t derail you (IT WON’T), so just fast a  bit and eat your favorite paleo foods and continue to revel in how awesome you treat yourself and your body.

You also need to think about you. How do you react to certain foods?  What made you binge in the first place?  Is that trigger removed from your life?  What foods will help you get back on track as soon as possible?

And you need to think about your psychological response. Despair is a big NO.  Self hate is a big NO.  Disordered eating is a monster and you are amazing for resisting it as often and as well as you do.  The fact that it got you this time is OK, and natural, and, in fact, inevitable.  So forgive yourself for bingeing, and consider it a natural part of your healing process.  Use the binge as a learning episode and continue your paleo lifestyles as healthfully and happily as you had been before.  If you really, really can’t resist the pull of sugar, phase it out of your life gradually.  The next day, have some sweet potatoes and enjoy them and consider it a wonderful and healthy paleo way to ease back into excellence.  Recall that your body is in fact a temple and you are going to continue treating it with as much love as you were previously.  And in the days following your binge you will eat the best paleo foods for your body and for your particular soul, and it will feel good and satiating and all will settle with time.



04 2011

PCOS, cancer, pregnancy and more: Why taking Iodine may save your life

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, 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!



02 2011