Recently I contacted the site host of Stop the Thyroid Madness (and author of a book by the same title) Janie Bowthorpe. I’ve been trying to explain to Janie what’s been taking place at http://www.180degreehealth.com/ for quite some time, as I’ve seen the diet and lifestyle manipulation outlined in Diet Recovery about how to RAISE YOUR METABOLISM,repeatedly outperform thyroid medication for raising low body temperatures.
Since the low body temperature was the primary diagnosis tool used by Broda Barnes and his modern-day followers Mark Starr and Stephen Langer – the world’s leading advocates of the type of thyroid therapy championed by Janie’s site, I’ve been nothing short of relentlessly eager to share what is truly a groundbreaking and pivotal nutrition/lifestyle discovery (although it’s not recognized as such by an any “authority”).
Of course, Janie just brushed it off, not realizing that the vast majority of hypothyroidism as defined by Broda Barnes, Mark Starr, and others has a cause that is not genetic, and can be overcome without medication. I think it’s pretty cool, but Janie insisted that this article was not appropriate for her site because it promoted my site which is not acceptable to her guidelines and because she deals with people that have “organic thyroid disease” and not problems with leptin, omega 6, or dieting.
So be it. I will continue to deal with the other 95% plus cases of “hypothyroidism” as defined by Barnes and Starr that is NOT a glandular disease, and do so with great success. Perhaps half of the global affluent population has a leptin problem, pretty much ALL have an omega 6 problem as that’s been a century in the making, and at any given time over half of Americans for example report being on one type of diet or another. Those are all problems than can lead to, for all practical purposes, “hypothyroidism.”
Decades ago endocrinologist Broda Barnes took the first steps in popularizing the use of the basal body temperature test for diagnosing hypothyroidism. If the body temperature was low, and classic symptoms of hypothyroidism were present – which varied from constipation to acne to menstrual problems to hypoglycemia to you name it… that warranted the “hypothyroidism” stamp, regardless of what blood tests showed.
Over the past decade I’ve personally explored this strange phenomenon to the deepest depths that I can, and my general conclusion is that Barnes was simply genius to pinpoint a low metabolism as a causative factor in an endless array of health conditions. By targeting and treating a low metabolism specifically, his performance as a physician was, and still is, unprecedented.
In the last several years I’ve had some major breakthroughs in my own personal research of this matter. For starters, to call a low metabolism “hypothyroidism” when thyroid hormone panels are at least close to normal is misleading. It really should be distinguished from true thyroid glandular malfunction, and I think Mark Starr, in coining the name “type 2 hypothyroidism” is definitely on the right track.
We now know that the thyroid gland is not the head honcho when it comes to metabolism, just as the dealer is not the head of Caesar’s Palace in Vegas even though it is the dealer that is controlling the cards themselves.
The thyroid takes its orders, rather, from the hypothalamus in the brain, which sends out signals to the entire body as to whether to run at full tilt, or in what could best be described as “conservation mode.” It’s this mysterious conservation mode – this chronic low metabolism that so many people in the modern world suffer from, that I’ve spent so much time wrapping my head around.
When the thyroid gland is healthy and functional, but the metabolism is still low, it’s obvious that something peculiar is going on. In the rest of this post I’ll try to briefly describe what I think that peculiar something is and precisely what can be done about it in lieu of taking medication –desiccated thyroid, synthetic T3, or otherwise – as I’ve found that to be unnecessary to raise body temperature back to the ideal level in most cases – and the typical person on thyroid meds following my program has to stop taking the meds to avoid hyperthyroid symptoms.
In 1994, Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University in New York discovered a brand new hormone – one that scientists had been chasing for decades. This hormone was leptin.
Leptin resides in the fat tissue where it communicates to the hypothalamus as to the overall state of things. When leptin is high, it signifies abundance – and the thyroid kicks into high gear, growth hormone increase, the body is highly sensitive to insulin, and a whole chain of positive metabolic effects take place. Adequate or high leptin levels = Good times baby!
When leptin levels are low, this signifies famine or shortage. In this state, the hypothalamus activates all the “programs” that help us store fat and keep our metabolism reduced. The thyroid goes on vacation while fat storage enzymes are ramped up, we become less sensitive to insulin to prohibit muscle growth and energy for muscular activity, and our appetite skyrockets.
These are the master programs that determine not just our weight which everyone is so concerned about these days, but our metabolism – which I believe Broda Barnes and his modern-day followers have shown to be the kingpin in many modern disease phenomena – from heart disease to autoimmune disease to infertility.
But of course, it’s not just a simple matter of getting more leptin. The much more common cause of a chronic low metabolism is not a shortage of leptin at all in a strict sense – and certainly not a shortage of thyroid hormones (although overriding a low metabolism by taking thyroid medication can certainly help), but a leptin communication problem. Leptin, like most hormones, depends on receptor sites – and the body of your typical modern human is resistant to the hormone leptin.
Leptin resistance = The body thinking that it’s in a famine scenario
Wonder why you are tired, don’t feel like exercising, have trouble losing weight, gain weight easily, are hungry all the time, have a low body temperature, and have really strong cravings for fattening foods like doughnuts, ice cream, and French fries? Your body is acting like it’s starving that’s why, and that’s what it feels like to be starving if my own personal experience with it and my thorough word-for-word exploration of the 1,300-page The Biology of Human Starvation is any indication.
What is this villainous foe causing the bodies of modern humans to be unresponsive to leptin and suffer from a lifelong urge to store fat with an ever-declining metabolism?
In short, it’s the adrenal hormone cortisol (and upregulated activity of an enzyme in fat cells themselves that helps manufacture more cortisol called 11-HSD-1). Cortisol is considered a “stress” hormone, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a counter-inflammatory hormone, and cortisol, along with another hormone that counters inflammation called SOCS-3, are the leading suspects in blocking the action of leptin and leaving us all hungry, tired, fat, and sick due to the resultant low metabolism/low body temperature.
Unfortunately, the question of what causes cortisol to be so high is quite complex and individual. Anything that is chronic, whether it be chronic infection, tooth decay or gum disease, sleep apnea, dehydration, or nutrient deficiency, can all cause the activation of the “famine programs.” Anxiety, worry, fear, loss of a loved one through death or divorce, self-esteem issues, past emotional trauma, or other kinds of mental/emotional stress that is of a chronic nature can trigger it too.
But there are two causes of a leptin resistance-induced low metabolism that shine brightly above all others…
1) High omega 6 fatty acid concentration in cells and tissues
Target #1 is particularly intriguing. Prior to 1900, vegetable oils, rich in omega 6 fatty acids, had scarcely been invented and were seldom used. But solvent extraction made it possible to produce oil out of corn, soybeans, and other cheap commodities for the first time. In 1909 in the United States there was no epidemic of type 2 diabetes, no obesity epidemic, no early puberty epidemic, no infertility epidemic, no autoimmune disease epidemic – and heart disease had yet to be documented. Not a single case had been seen!
Top household fats at that time were beef tallow, butter, lard, olive oil, and coconut oil.
But soon vegetable oil-based margarines would outcompete with more expensive butter. Vegetable oil-based shortenings would beat out lard. And oils for cooking in the home and in restaurants became vegetable oil, vegetable oil, and more vegetable oil. From 1909 to 2009 vegetable oil consumption in the U.S. increased 1,450%. Consumption of margarine by 800%. The other richest sources of omega 6 are nuts and poultry, which saw increased consumption of 37.5% on behalf of nuts (mostly peanuts with a handsome omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 177 to 1), and 278% on behalf of poultry.
During this time we witnessed the world’s first documented case of heart attack followed by a wave of heart disease out of left field that became the leading killer of both males and females alike in affluent nations. Of all the dietary changes that took place during this time, there is none more drastic or biologically significant than the huge rise in omega 6 polyunsaturated fat consumption.
Why is this so important? Because what we are witnessing is a multi-generational, cumulative increase in inflammatory disorders as well as an increase in low body temperature as reported by Barnes and his followers Stephen Langer, Mark Starr, and others. And what does omega 6 have to do with inflammatory disorders and “low thyroid?”
Well, for starters omega 6 forms the raw substrate used by your body to manufacture its primary inflammatory molecules such as Interleukin-6 and TNF-Alpha. The higher ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 (a competing fat) in the cells and tissues of the body, the more of these inflammatory molecules the body manufactures. It really is as simple a formula as that, which is rare in human biology.
This leads to a mass epidemic of inflammation – and inflammatory responses to all kinds of benign substances (the core cause of most allergies, including food allergies, and autoimmunity), which causes a release of counter-inflammatory hormones that are anti-thyroid, immune-suppressive, and otherwise problematic. One is, of course, our buddy cortisol. Another, which is released in direct proportion to the amount of omega 6-derived molecules is SOCS-3, suspect #1 in biochemistry today for being the predominant cause of leptin resistance.
Fun huh? Watch out for those heart disease-causing saturated fats! Fats like metabolically-stimulating, immune system-enhancing, insulin-sensitizing butyric acid found in butter (gasp), or the medium-chain triglycerides with similar properties found in the world’s richest source of saturated fat – coconut oil (the subject of one of Janie’s recent blog posts).
What’s ironic is that Broda Barnes was innately skeptical of the recommendation to eat polyunsaturated vegetable oils over saturated fats throughout his career – as he openly mentions in Solved: The Riddle of Heart Attacks. Wow, if he could have only seen the Pandora’s box that was opened with the discovery of Eicosanoids – the hormones derived from polyunsaturated fats with incredibly far-reaching biological and hormonal significance, particularly as it pertains to his baby – the metabolism.
Note, this omega 6 fat accumulates in our cells and tissues and continues to pile on generation after generation. This is a 100 year omega 6 pileup, your average American citizen has well over ten times the amount of omega 6 in cells and tissues that can be considered normal, and it will continue to negatively impact us individually and collectively until radical changes are made to tilt the balance back in the opposite direction – which takes several years to achieve with diligence.
Target #2 is dieting. First we had a problem with all this omega 6 making our bodies think we were starving, and then we addressed it by ACTUALLY STARVING ourselves. I believe restricted dieting is the greatest immediate threat to the human metabolism and human health – particularly extremes of calorie cutting, carbohydrate restriction, or low-fat vegan diets (despite apparent short-term results or what the priests of various dietary religions are preaching).
Talk about throwing gasoline on a fire. By far the worst health predicaments and lowest body temperatures I’ve encountered (96 degrees F and below, sometimes WAY below), were the result of severe calorie or macronutrient restriction – vegan and very low-carb being the worst.
But don’t just take my word for it that dieting is a dead-end strategy that lowers metabolism. See if you see anything that rings a bell in our discussion here and at www.stopthethyroidmadness.com from the greatest-selling diet author of all-time, Dr. Robert Atkins, issuing a warning about all diets including his own as referenced by the phrase “this one”:
“…remember that prolonged dieting (this one, low-fat, low-calorie, or a combination) tends to shut down thyroid function. This is usually not a problem with the thyroid gland (therefore blood tests are likely to be normal) but with the liver, which fails to convert T4 into the more active thyroid principle, T3. The diagnosis is made on clinical ground with the presence of fatigue, sluggishness, dry skin, coarse or falling hair, an elevation in cholesterol, or a low body temperature. I ask my patients to take four temperature readings daily before the three meals and near bedtime. If the average of all these temperatures, taken for at least three days, is below 97.8 degrees F (36.5 C), that is usually low enough to point to this form of thyroid problem; lower readings than that are even more convincing. It may be appropriate for those of you who fit these criteria to be prescribed thyroid by your doctor, and if so, a natural form of the hormone, which contains T3, is far superior to the most popular form of prescription thyroid, synthetic T4.
The good news is that I have had very little difficulty whatsoever with helping people to bring up low body temperatures to Broda Barnes’s magic 97.8 degrees F or above (axillary/armpit temperature). In fact, I would gladly put my protocol up against thyroid medication any day, as temperature gains from 95.0 F to the upper 97’s is something that my followers regularly achieve in as little as 30 days.
The main points of the program, which you can read about in exhaustive, intriguing, and entertaining detail in my free 64-page non-promotional eBook on the subject at www.180degreehealth.com, is to…
1) Anti diet – this means eating ample calories, carbs, fat, animal protein, and whatever the latest diet guru calls to restrict in abundance until the point of complete satisfaction or even beyond in the initial stages to jumpstart your metabolism
2) Favor saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and beef fat over polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils, poultry, nuts, and seeds (but this takes a LONG time to make a really substantial difference) – start by throwing ALL liquid oils out of your house and eating mostly your own, homecooked food
3) Eat whole, unrefined carbohydrates and avoid white flour, white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
4) Favor starches like potatoes, yams, brown rice, and corn over sugars like white sugar, soda, fruit juice, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and fruit
5) Sleep like it is your job – as many hours as you can get per night
6) Keep exercise minimal until body temperature rises
Matt Stone is an independent health researcher, author of 6 books, and voice of http://www.180degreehealth.com/ and its associated blogs: http://www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com/ and http://www.180kitchen.wordpress.com/