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GETTING STARTED CORRECTING HYPERTHYROIDISM
Finding the Path
Finding the optimum path to correcting a disease, especially a complicated disease like thyroid disease, can be simple or challenging. While I have a pretty good concept of the deficiencies involved in Graves' Disease derived from my own experiences, others' experiences, studying hair analyses of people with Graves', and studying the scientific literature, there are individual differences.
For example, copper is a key mineral which seems always deficient at the cellular level in Graves', but some persons have low tissue and hair levels of copper and others have high hair levels and presumably have high levels of copper stored in their livers. A different plan of action has to be used for different conditions.
I have developed a theory for the correction of nutritional deficiency diseases and I believe that most diseases are nutritional deficiency diseases. Most diseases like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism, don't appear to be deficiency diseases because they involve very complex inter-related nutrient deficiencies. When medical scientists, medical practitioners, or individuals on their own attempt to correct these diseases with a single or limited group of nutrients, they condition invariably fails to respond and often gets worse. I have experienced this, seen it in others, and have a theory of why this happens.
Nutritional deficiency diseases which are very resistant to correction involve deficiencies of numerous nutrients. Some nutrients are very deficient while others are only somewhat deficient. Some nutrients are key nutrients and when they get deficient this causes other nutrients to be unusable by the body in certain metabolic pathways and therefore they take on toxic-like effects.
All nutrients and especially minerals need to be present in the body in the proper balance. When there is a pair of nutrients which work together and one of these nutrients gets deficient, ingestion of the other nutrient causes the less available nutrient to get used up and become even more deficient.
For example, copper and iron are key nutrients which are usually deficient in hyperthyroidism. Since copper and iron work together in many functions such as forming hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in the red blood cells, a deficiency of copper can cause iron to become toxic to the body. When the person takes iron, which is in virtually every multiple vitamin/mineral supplement, without taking enough copper and most of these aforementioned supplements are deficient in copper, then the copper becomes more deficient and the person gets sicker.
Because iron and copper are both necessary for hemoglobin production, anemia can result from a deficiency of either nutrient. A person can have iron-deficiency anemia or copper-deficiency anemia. Doctors seem to be very aware of iron-deficiency anemia and not very aware of copper-deficiency anemia. I've seen more than one case where an anemic patient has been prescribed massive doses of iron (up to 200 mgs. per day) to correct anemia and the anemia has gotten worse. This high iron intake eventually caused a severe copper deficiency and the development of thyroid disease. When I convinced the person they were probably suffering from copper-deficiency anemia and they commenced copper supplementation, the anemic condition finally improved.
Because vitamins and minerals work together in pairs, the same type of interaction can occur when a vitamin is taken to excess and the mineral which the vitamin facilitates is not taken. For example, selenium and vitamin E work together and among many functions they protect the body from free radical damage and work to prevent cardiovascular damage which manifests as heart disease. Large scale studies that have looked at the effect of vitamin E on preventing heart disease have found results which were curious to the scientists. At levels of less than 200 IU of vitamin E a day there was more heart disease than at 400 IU per day. But persons who took 800 or more IU per day experienced a higher rate of heart disease than those taking 400 IU. The scientists were baffled because more of a good thing didn't produce more benefits. Why is this?
My theory is that because vitamin E does not work alone and is really just the facilitator for the real protector, selenium. Since selenium wasn't supplemented in the study, the vitamin E provided the maximum benefit at 400 IU. At 800 IU the vitamin E was actually causing selenium to be depleted so the protective effect was diminished.
This interaction is seen in many nutrient combinations. Vitamins which work with copper, such as B-1, B-2, B-3, and C, can deplete copper is taken in excess and copper is not supplemented. High intake of zinc can deplete copper and iron. High intake of cadmium can deplete zinc, copper, and probably silver. High manganese can deplete chromium. High sodium can deplete potassium and probably lithium. High calcium can deplete magnesium. The list goes on and on.
THEORY OF NUTRITIONAL CORRECTION
This brings me to my theory of correcting nutritional deficiency diseases: You have to start with the most deficient nutrient. If you begin supplementation with anything but the most deficient nutrient, then this nutrient will get more depleted and the disease condition will worsen.
When I had hyperthyroidism and was experimenting with taking different nutrients, it seemed that everything I tried made it worse. Several nutritional books and my nutritionist doctor recommended zinc, but this made the condition much worse. Iron made it worse. Virtually all the vitamins made it worse.
Since everything made it worse I tried fasting for many days on water only and this made it worse. When fasting makes a condition worse, sometimes the faster will convince themselves that they are going through a "healing crisis" or a "detoxification". I've been through this process enough times so I really understand this thinking.
However in this instance I recalled so many times in the past when I thought I was "toxic" and needed to fast to cleanse, I eventually discovered I was suffering from a nutrient deficiency. So when fasting made my deteriorating health condition, which I later found out was hyperthyroidism, worse, I reasoned that I was suffering from a deficiency of some nutrient which must be very rare and little understood.
FINDING THE RIGHT STARTING POINT
As I was searching the "rare nutrients" in nutrition books and experimenting with these, I eventually discovered that the combination of copper, biotin, and trace elements made me feel better. It didn't take long either, just a few hours after taking copper and the trace elements and only minutes after taking biotin. I was basically copper deficient but for the copper to be utilized properly in my body, it took a combination of some trace element and biotin to be present at the same time.
One of my beliefs is that when you find the right nutrient, the one that is the most deficient, and start supplementing that one, you'll feel benefits within hours and significant improvement within days. Usually the most deficient nutrient in hyperthyroidism is copper and this is the best starting point, but this is not always the case. We will explore the other possibilities also.
Sometimes you may start supplementing the most deficient nutrient, but within days this deficiency will be corrected to the point where another nutrient becomes the most deficient. At this point, you'll get declining benefits or even negative effects from continuing to take that first nutrient and will only keep improving if the next deficient nutrient is added. Then in turn, you will keep having to add additional nutrients in the order of the seriousness of their deficiencies. Also, the inter-dependencies of the nutrients become important. One nutrient may not be utilizable until another nutrient is present.
If all this sounds complicated, it is. Fortunately it is possible by trial and error to get everything corrected and restore health. However, the usual path back to health is frequently three steps forward, two steps back, three steps forward, etc. Satisfying progress is accomplished gradually, but there are very frustrating times when you think you know what should happen, but it doesn't. Always keep in mind that the development of the best program for the nutritional correction of thyroid disease in still in the experimental phase. We are making progress, but still have a long way to go before the perfect program is identified.
If you have hyperthyroidism to the point of serious symptoms such as thyroid storms and periods of uncontrolled rapid heart beat, then the very first step is seeing a doctor and getting a prescription for either Tapazole or Propylthiouracil (PTU) which are antithyroid medications. While there is some concern about their long term safety and some people may have reactions to them, I consider them generally safe and far preferable to having a thyroid storm which can be fatal. Please see the section on thyroid drugs for further information.
With the assumption that your serious symptoms are under control with the use of an antithyroid drug, let's look at correcting the underlying deficiencies that I believe are responsible for creating hyperthyroidism.
First, however, let's look at magnesium and calcium. Magnesium is a mineral that gets deficient in hyperthyroidism, probably as a consequence of the disease rather than as a cause of the disease. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to produce rapid heart rate and arrhythmia (irregular heart rate). Look at the magnesium file for details. Rapid heart rate is the most serious and life-threatening symptom of hyperthyroidism since it can lead to a heart attack and death. As far as I can see the rapid heart rate is primarily the result of a deficiency of magnesium, so magnesium supplementation is a very wise step.
Because magnesium and calcium are one of the pairs of minerals that work together, supplementing one requires supplementing the other. Supplementing magnesium alone will work to an extent, but eventually calcium needs to be added to prevent muscle cramping and bone and tooth deterioration. However, taking calcium without magnesium is one of the worst things you can do in hyperthyroidism, because this increases the magnesium deficiency and increases the heart rate and arrhythmia. This is one of the reasons why dairy products, which are high in calcium and low in magnesium, need to be restricted until magnesium levels are replenished.
Every person with hyperthyroidism should have a bottle of magnesium on hand for emergencies. It can save your life. Studies have shown that magnesium given to heart attack victims (without hyperthyroidism) greatly improves their chances of living and avoiding further heart attacks. Supplementing magnesium on a daily basis and using it for periods of rapid heart rate is very valuable.
Most healthy people can use a calcium/magnesium supplement with two parts of calcium to one part of magnesium (a 2:1 ratio). Others find that a 3:2 ratio works best for them. I've found for myself and others in the group have found that a calcium/magnesium supplement with a 1:1 ratio works best because it provides extra magnesium. Others have found that taking more magnesium than calcium is best for them. Even if you take a 1:1 ratio cal/mag supplement, keep a bottle of magnesium at hand and with you when you travel. It's your best first aid kit if you run into a stressful situation or somehow get your cal/mag ratio disturbed through diet.
While magnesium and calcium are the first supplements for hypers, I don't believe that deficiencies of these are the cause of hyperthyroidism. Practically all people with thyroid disease show high or unbalanced levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in their hair. I believe that as copper, iron, zinc, and the other deficient nutrients are replenished and get into balance, the need for calcium and magnesium supplementation will gradually subside and these two minerals and sodium and potassium will come back into balance.
With my present understanding of hyperthyroidism, I believe that the critical deficiencies are primarily minerals and possibly some vitamins.
These are the key minerals which seem to be involved in hyperthyroidism:
Minerals in excess:
We want to supplement the minerals that are deficient and stop the intake of the minerals that are in excess.
The key mineral deficiency is usually copper, but remember that there are two cases of this:
In the first case, supplementation of copper (about 5 mgs. per day) should be tried as the first step. If this proves beneficial, then it should be continued until the benefits diminish. At that point, a B complex (50 mgs.) with 50 mgs. of extra niacin and 600 mcg. of extra biotin, should be added. Also, iron (about 18 mgs. per day) and sulfur (about 500-1000 mgs. of MSM) should be added.
Failure to commence iron supplementation once copper starts getting replenished can lead to iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia. Since copper was deficient, the body does not have a great store of iron. Once copper is begun, this limited store of iron will be used up rather rapidly. Iron deficiency can be deduced from increasing symptoms of (1) anemia evidenced by dizziness when standing or reduced capacity to exercise and (2) feeling worse after taking copper or vitamin B-2 or eating high copper foods like chocolate, beans, nuts, crab, or lobster.
While iron may be the next major deficiency to correct after commencing copper supplementation, it is usually not the only one. Probably the next mineral to get deficient will be sulfur, evidenced by increasing aches and pains in the joints. Taking MSM should alleviate these symptoms. Since copper, iron, and sulfur work together to form the structural components of the joints, excesses and deficiencies of any one of this trio affects the other two. In arthritis, it appears that copper and sulfur become deficient leaving iron deposits remaining to irritate the joint.
Eventually zinc will get deficient and the symptoms of zinc deficiency can seem similar to copper deficiency. Because zinc and copper combine to form one of the body's prime antioxidants, copper,zinc superoxide dismutase (cu,zn-SOD), a deficiency of zinc can lead to a deficiency of this antioxidant. A deficiency of SOD appears to be a part of hyperthyroidism, so a zinc deficiency can sometimes be the reason.
Beyond these key minerals, there can be deficiencies of selenium, silicon, chromium, or possibly tungsten. There is more information on these minerals and various vitamins in the Supplement List and in their individual files under Nutrients and Toxics.