“One of my recurring objects of thought has been the slowness with which raw knowledge is assimilated. For example, I have been thinking about Broda Barnes’s work on the prevention of heart disease with thyroid extract. He did solve much of ‘the riddle of heart attacks,’ but recent statements by the Heart Association show that the dominant forces in the health business haven’t learned anything at all from his work, which he began 50 years ago. His work is clearly presented, not hard to understand, and it is scientifically so sound that no one challenges it, at least not on the scientific level. It is ignored, rejected by people who choose not to be bothered to read it. How many people have died from heart disease, since his work first became available? (And how many more from cancer, tuberculosis, and other diseases he showed occur mainly among hypothyroid people?)”
Like myself, Ray Peat was highly impressed with the work of Broda Barnes when he came across it. Ever since, with a deeper understanding of the hormonal and biochemical systems and their relationship with the cellular metabolic rate, Peat has been a firm believer that the preservation of a high level of metabolic intensity is the key to health and resistance to disease – both infectious and degenerative alike. I too have seen very little to sway me away from what is far more compelling than some dumb theory out of left field about villainous saturated fat or carbohydrates or gluten being the root cause of rising rates of many diseases.
Peat often mentions Broda Barnes and the Barnes method of assessing thyroid functionality – the morning temperature test. While I have recommended this simple home monitor for ages, and it is a decent overall indicator – especially when you see it rising in response to diet and lifestyle manipulation, Peat offers much more insight about how to get a better overall assessment of the level of thyroid-generated metabolic activity.
This is actually an incredibly important concept, as body temperature and even metabolic rate are not the be-all end-all in assessing the health of your thyroid hormone system. For example, adrenaline is a powerful stimulator of the metabolic rate. Go into any “health food store” and you are likely to see walls filled with “thermogenic” weight loss formulas like Lipo-6, Slim Quick, Arson, Hydroxycut, and countless others (most of them made by the same company, Iovate). The term “thermogenic” refers to the ability of these stimulant-laced pills to increase heat production in your body.
And yes, even anorexics with very low thyroid output often wake up in the morning, with adrenaline peaking, with a high body temperature and high pulse rate (two of the most prominent indicators of metabolic rate). Eating, however, makes body temperature and pulse rate drop like a stone. In a sense, when adrenal hormone levels are lowered, the true output of the thyroid gland is revealed, and shown to be extremely low. In fact, testing your body temperature and pulse before and after meals is actually a pretty decent way to tell whether or not your adrenal glands are overactive. If pulse and body temperature drop, your adrenal glands were likely way too active prior to eating. All I have to do is eat low-carb for a couple of days and then have a big carbohydrate meal to trigger this – or even just skipping breakfast or a hard workout will do this.
If you don’t feel like monitoring, just assessing how you feel before and after the meal is very revealing. If you feel tired and sleepy and brainfogged (like when needing a cup of coffee to boost adrenaline) after eating, odds are your adrenals were overactive prior. Feelings you might feel prior to eating in a high adrenaline state are mental focus, nervousness or anxiety, jitteriness or irritability, and the big one – cold hands, feet, and tip of your nose (blood rushes away from the extremities when adrenaline surges).
According to Peat, this may be a better indicator of true thyroid function than an actual body temperature reading because of the interference you can get with the adrenal hormones on a body temperature reading. My real world experience thus far suggests that this might be the case. JT and I both for example, had healthy body temperatures on diets that destroyed our health via signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue (and in JT’s case, actual diagnosed severe adrenal fatigue). My body temperature actually fell when I initially started doing RRARF, while the health problems I incurred on a low-carbohydrate diet vanished. Eat to keep fingers and toes warm and you might just find your health improving.
Peat also points out that Colorado, where Barnes was a medical practitioner, made the body temperature reading that Barnes relied upon more accurate – as the weather there is cool enough most of the year that low thyroid function would indeed surface with low body temperatures. In warmer weather, body temperatures could still be held at 98.6 F even in a hypothyroid state, due to the ease of maintaining a higher body temperature in warmer weather.
This comment is both true and false. For starters, Denver ain’t that cool. One year I lived there saw 60 days over 90 degrees F. You also can maintain body heat just as well wrapped in warm clothes in cold weather as you can in shorts and a t-shirt in warm weather. And in today’s day and age, no matter where you live, odds are everywhere you go is relatively climate controlled with air conditioning and heat. Climate is something that humans have managed to distance themselves from pretty well at this point. And Barnes’s subjects were taking their body temperature first thing in the morning, covered with blankets and toasty as can be.
But, I have noticed myself, as I do not use air conditioning in the Matt Cave, that my body temperature gets extremely warm late in the afternoon as I sit in my shorts and sweat in 85-degree heat. My body temperature, while just under 99 degrees F in the morning (rectal, huh huh), climbs up close to 100 degrees F when I am physically feeling hot and sweaty. After a MAXercise session the other day when I was feeling even hotter my temperature sprang up to 100.7 F! So yes, if you feel hot, body temperature will be artificially elevated. But most people do not feel excessively hot when taking a morning basal body temperature reading, so I find this to be somewhat of an irrelevant point that Peat is all too fond of making in interviews.
Peat prefers to look at all of the indicators as a whole, which is a fantastic idea. Barnes was a medical practitioner. He had a lot of hands on experience with diagnosing and treating patients for hypothyroidism. But he certainly did not possess the vast knowledge of human physiology and hormonal interactions that Peat seems to possess. According to Peat, one of the best tests is simply seeing how much oxygen and carbon dioxide you inhale and exhale. The more oxygen you take in, the higher your metabolism. But if carbon dioxide is low, you are in a high adrenaline state (burning fat for fuel instead of glucose lowers carbon dioxide levels, and adrenaline favors fat burning while thyroid-generated metabolism favors more glucose oxidation, yielding greater carbon dioxide levels).
Calorie consumption that is abnormally high or low for your body weight is yet another indicator that Peat believes should be taken into consideration when trying to get the best overall assessment.
Anyway, the point of this post is simply that Peat acknowledges the work of Broda Barnes as being highly significant. Few could argue that it is not. But Peat has looked deeper into the big picture and has a much broader understanding of the many factors, thyroid hormones as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), adrenal hormone interaction, and other factors involved.
Body temperature is just one tool in the bag. It is not the only tool. Assessments of the warmth of your feet and hands, sleep quality, the number of hours you can comfortably go without eating, pulse rate, sex drive, energy levels, fatigue after eating, bowel frequency, water consumption (should be high), calorie consumption, reflex quickness, blood glucose levels – both fasting and postmeal, menstrual regularity – anything and everything should be used in making an overall assessment of your health and self-diagnosing what may be needed to rebalance your “body chemistry” as Melvin Page called it. With those in mind, you can use nutrition and lifestyle change to the fullest.
Taking all that into consideration, you can use something like this program on how to raise your metabolism wisely, paying close attention and tweaking meal frequency, carbohydrate, fat, and protein levels – as well as even levels of salt or experimenting with starch vs. sugar and vice versa in restoring and/or maintaining your health. Most find this approach to be much more effective than they thought it would be. Simple changes often make a big difference. Drastic changes often lead to excessive blogging, ruin your health, and make your parents and remaining friends (the ones that weren’t so weirded out by your fanaticism they stopped calling you) worry about you.