|Feeling Fat, Fuzzy or Frazzled?
The problem could be a Hormone Imbalance
by Richard Shames, M.D. and Karilee Shames, Ph.D.
one of the millions who feel fat, fuzzy, or frazzled? Evidence is
mounting that a spiraling epidemic is catching millions in its
escalating whirl. If your lab tests show normal, you may be blamed for
not eating right, not thinking right, or not getting enough exercise.
Fatigue, depression, weight gain, high cholesterol, low sex function,
insomnia, anxiety, attention deficit, and severe menopause are common
health challenges today. Yet generally, they are not the true culprit.
What often lies at the heart of these various diagnoses and their
hundreds of related symptoms is one underlying cause: metabolic gland
imbalance. Experts concur that one in ten Americans has some degree of
endocrine gland disruption, where the various glands that are supposed
to work together in harmony (such as thyroid, adrenals, and sex glands)
become depleted or confused, altering their hormonal output. Most
people suffering with metabolic imbalance remain undiagnosed, while it
slowly drains their daily joy, eroding their overall quality of life.
One major cause of this increase in energy hormone challenges is the
constant stress of modern life. Our adrenals are the “fight or flight”
glands that secrete excess cortisol under duress, flooding the system
with biochemicals that affect our nervous system, resulting in
increased anxiety and irritability. Depletion of the adrenal gland
causes the thyroid gland to compensate, draining it, as well. Another
reason for today’s hormone disruption epidemic is environmental
pollution. For example, a sensitive person whose thyroid gland is
slowed due to exposure to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) will have
slowing metabolism, resulting in multiple uncomfortable symptoms. The
most obvious changes include excess weight and severe fatigue.
In reality, few health challenges are as demoralizing and upsetting to
people as persistent weight problems, particularly in our
thin-worshipping society. Compared with other health concerns, obesity
ranks foremost in frequency for various reasons. As a society, our
high-fat, low-nutrient diets eaten on the run, coupled with larger
portion sizes, add to our weight. In addition, the accelerating pace of
life makes it exceptionally difficult to find time to exercise
adequately. Moreover, many artificial hormonelike substances in our
environment directly interfere with proper metabolism.
If you are overweight, you may want to consider the possibility that a
metabolic imbalance is causing you those extra pounds. If the cause for
your overweight is glandular, proper hormone balancing makes it much
more likely that you will live longer, and more healthfully. Often
people who have what we refer to as the Thyroid Hormone Endocrine
Profile, or simply the Physical Endo-Type, experience a wide variety of
symptoms, including fatigue, overweight, depression, dry skin, hair,
and nails, as well as an intense sense of malaise, especially around
puberty, menopause, or during other life changes. The majority of
people in this category experience weight gain, despite normal eating
habits and reasonable exercise. The thyroid functions as the “gas
pedal” for the whole body by secreting energy hormones that control the
speed of every metabolic process in every cell and every organ. When
the thyroid slows, so do you.
Standard tests are not always able to diagnose mild metabolic glandular
imbalance. One of the main difficulties is that our present medical
system doesn’t conduct a sufficiently comprehensive evaluation of a
patient, despite the fact that the right testing could uncover the root
cause of a person’s suffering. The result is that regular blood tests
frequently miss the problem.
Your tests may show normal, but your symptoms may be pointing you
toward the truth. Unfortunately, you cannot count on your doctor to
bring up the possibility of thyroid, adrenal, or sex hormonal imbalance
as a likely culprit in your feeling fat, fuzzy, or frazzled. Most
people imagine that if they were at risk for having a hormone
abnormality, their doctor would tell them after running some
well-chosen blood tests. But many doctors are less than fully informed
about the newer diagnostic tests, or the milder yet often more
effective vitamin, mineral, or herbal interventions for restoring
Please realize that we are not suggesting that you forgo any blood
testing. What we are saying is that if you are having mild health
concerns, for which your own physician does not recommend further
evaluation, or if your blood tests have come back normal and you’re
still not feeling that well, you might need to take greater charge of
your own health process. Saliva testing can be an excellent beginning
step to help you pinpoint and correct subtle disorders, and they are
relatively easy to use. Though not entirely perfect, a growing body of
scientific literature confirms the validity of testing saliva for
hormone levels. These tests are much more accessible, and also much
more representative of a person’s actual hormone status. To order this
simple, low-cost home saliva test, go online to www.canaryclub.org.
Should you discover that you have low thyroid and are what we call the
Physical Endo-Type, the following immediate actions are recommended.
First, change your diet. The best foods for a thyroid type are items
that are high in fiber and low in calories. For many people, this ends
up being somewhat of a vegetarian diet with plenty of non-animal
protein sources. If your metabolism is sluggish, you want to support
your intestine as it transports food through its length, which is
helped by extra fiber (and slowed by meat and dairy). This type of high
complex carbohydrate way of eating is similar to the diets of
McDougall, Pritikin, and Ornish. Also, since you may have sluggish
metabolism, you want to satisfy your urge to eat with foods that have
the highest bulk, crunchiness, taste appeal, visual attractiveness, but
which are low in calories. This all adds up to eating more fruits,
vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and sprouts. To help handle the
auto-immune issues related to thyroid, include plenty of avocados and
olives, even though they are higher in calories.
You will also want to add certain supplements, with a focus on the key
metabolic minerals. In addition to a multiple vitamin and antioxidant,
you need: 200 mcg extra selenium; 200 mcg extra chromium; and 400 mg
extra magnesium. Selenium is of particular importance; this one step is
the key to many people’s thyroid balance, or lack thereof. Also
recommended is the amino acid taurine, (taken as a 500 mg capsule on
its own), and a high-quality digestive enzyme product. If your thyroid
is low, your enzyme complement is liable to be low, as well.
Also worth mentioning is rosemary, an herbal remedy useful for thyroid
symptoms. Rosemary is a source of carnosic acid, which is absolutely
essential for thyroid hormone to do its work. Another very useful
herbal medicine is withania somnifera, sometimes called ashwagandha,
from the ayurvedic medicine of India. It is extremely handy for helping
those with thyroid problems.
You might also consider homeopathic remedies. Thyroidinum is a
low-potency single-remedy homeopathic medicine available from your
health food store, which is very useful for many low-thyroid sufferers.
Take three pellets in the 6x or 6c potency under the tongue three times
daily for one week and then stop completely. Suppose you are a definite
physical endo-type, and you are still suffering with thyroid imbalance
despite using many of the natural interventions already mentioned. You
might want to consider taking actual thyroid hormone by prescription.
When you need it, there is nothing like it, but it’s a prescription
medicine, so you will need to be diagnosed sufficiently for a
prescribing doctor to be able to offer it. Perhaps the greatest benefit
of all is the normalization of your body weight. Once your thyroid is
balanced, you may finally stop that seemingly endless tendency to keep
gaining. Now your food plan and your exercise program can start working
as intended, so that you can obtain the results other people have
received all along. It may not matter so much what diet or body
movement you choose. Now that the thyroid is more balanced, it all
begins to work better. So good luck in having fewer problems and more
success, both of which are frequent results of proper thyroid balance.
Excerpted with permission from Feeling Fat,
Fuzzy, or Frazzled? ©2005 by Richard Shames, MD and Karilee
Shames, PhD, RN, published by Hudson Street Press, New York, NY.
To learn more from Drs. Richard and
Books & CD's on Self-Healing
Hidden Signs of Heart
Attack in Women
The Zone Diet
Managing Dietary Restrictions
The Skinny on Weight Loss Products