Friday, June 27, 2008

For people who suffer from insulin resistance

For those who don't know, a la Wikipedia: "Insulin resistance is the condition in which normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce a normal insulin response from fat, muscle and liver cells." So basically the body over compensates and produces WAY too much insulin and since insulin is a hormone, too much of it affects the production of other hormones.

The most common way of treating insulin resistance, per information given me by my nurse practicioner, is threefold: diet (eat foods high in protein and fiber/low in fat and sugar), exercise (who doesn't need more exercise?) and a medication called Metformin or Glucophage. The medication makes the insulin receptors more sensitive, thus reducing the need for an excess amount of insulin in the bloodstream. Unfortunately the drug has some uncomfortable side effects including nausea and abdominal cramping. I have thus been looking for some natural cures and stumbled across this interesting coffee alternative: Teecino herbal coffee.

According to the FAQ on the website: "Another factor that may explain why people experience an energy lift from Teeccino is the pinitol that is naturally present in carob pods. Pinitol has been shown to act like insulin by making cells receptive to taking in glycogen, the energy component in the blood. The natural pinitol in carob may help people who are insulin resistant by increasing the ability of their muscles to use glycogen." Interesting, no?

Now for the experiment: I will try this "herbal coffee" and see how I feel over a period of weeks and/or months. This isn't a very scientific way of doing things, but the worst that could come out of it is that I get to drink a great coffee alternative every day. I will update again as soon as the "experiment" begins.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I suppose, if we are to discuss obscure endocrine disorders, it probably will be good to understand the the most common first. Hypothyroidism is a disease where the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone for some reason or another. Usually, the cause is genetics (thyroid problems run through family lines and are ridiculously easy to trace), but some people suffer from hypothyroid problems because their thyroids have been damaged by exposure to chemicals or even because part of their thyroid has been removed because they were hyperthyroid as children.
Whatever the cause, hypothyroidism affects from 10 to 40 percent of the population of the US! And it goes undiagnosed in the majority (perhaps up to 30 percent) of cases (Brownstein 19). The reasons this disease is ignored by the medical community are many. The main reason is that doctors are afraid to mess with our hormones, and we shouldn't blame them. Experiments in the past (before doctors had figured out the right dosage and formula) have gone terribly wrong. I'll have to look for some specific examples for you. The second reason hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed is because we still understand so little about the endocrine system in general. Researchers have set "normal" ranges for our hormone levels, but really, we still have no idea what normal should be. Is it different for every person? It seems so. For example, the level for TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) has been set at anywhere from 0.5-4.5 mU/l, a range which includes 95 percent of the population, some of which, it turns out, actually have hypothyroid disorder (Brownstein 18). Needless to say, bloodtests very rarely reveal hypothyroid disorder, and without hard blood test facts, doctors are often unwilling to treat hypothyroidism based on symptoms alone.
Another confusing aspect of hypothyroidism is its incredible variety of symptoms. Let's see . . . Brownstein's symptom list, which is in alphabetical order, reads like this: "brittle nails, cold hands and feet, cold intolerance, constipation, depression, difficulty swallowing, dry skin, elevated Cholesterol, essential hypertension, eyelid swilling, fatigue, hair loss, hoarseness, hypotension, inability to concentrate, infertility, menstrual irregularities, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, nervousness, poor memory, puffy eyes, slower heartbeat, throat pain, weight gain." Add to that Dr. Dennis Remington's research on hypothyroidism and allergies, and you've got quite a list. No wonder this is a hard disease to pin down.
The best way to diagnose this disease is actually wonderfully simple. Let's go back: the thyroid is the most important gland in the endocrine system. It affects all the other glands as well as all of the cells and organs of the body. The thyroid helps the body produce energy, maintain body temperature, and optimize metabolism. The function we are concerned with here as we test for hypothyroidism is the thyroid's role in maintaining body temperature. In the morning, as soon as you wake up, take your temperature. This morning temperature is called the basal body temperature and should remain around 98.6 with fluctuations throughout the month (especially for women). If your temperature is consistently in the 96 or 97 range when you wake up in the morning, you probably have a thyroid disorder and should ask your doctors what he/she can do for you (Shames 52).
Hypothyroidism is easy to treat with either Synthroid (synthetic T4) or Armour thyroid (natural T4 with a tiny amount of T3). Taking your optimal dose each morning 1/2 hour before you eat usually fixes the thyroid problem and makes all of the symptoms disappear.

Brownstein, David, M.D. Overcoming Thyroid Disorders.
Shames, Richard L. M.D and Karilee Halo Shames, R.N., Ph.D. Thyroid Power.

Hashimoto's Disease

Most people have heard about hypothyroidism, especially those who live in the Rocky Mountain area, but not many people know that there are many other problems associated with the thyroid gland that exhibit symptoms similar to hypothyroidism. One of these diseases is Hashimoto's Disease. People with Hashimoto's disease have overactive immune systems that (for some reason the medical world still has yet to discover) produce antibodies against their own thyroid glands. Because of this characteristic of the disease, Hashimoto's is classified as an autoimmune disorder (along with Graves' disease, Crohn's, Juvenile Arthritis, Lupus, and many others).
The antibodies attack the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign invader like a virus or bacteria, and slowly destroy it. The symptoms of this disease are extremely contradictory. People with Hashimoto's exhibit both symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (not at the same time, of course) because as the antibodies attack, the thyroid swells and releases excess amounts of thyroid hormone (T4), but after the attack, the thyroid functions less effectively because part of it is destroyed and thus produces too little thyroid hormone.
The most obvious symptom of this disease is the stinging, burning, and redness of the skin at the neck near the thyroid gland during an attack. Other symptoms are (in extreme cases) blood-shot, bulging eyeballs; goiter; and tingling and shaking during the attack and weight gain, hair loss, low energy, dry skin, and constipation after the attack.
A simple blood test usually unveils this disease, but doctors don't often think of it because they consider Hashimoto's to be a rare problem. Patients should ask their doctors to test not only their levels of T4 and T3 but also their TSH and, most importantly, their thyroid antibodies. Any level of thyroid antibodies is too high and must be treated even if the other blood work comes out normal (which it usually does).
This disease must be treated with a combination of T4 hormone (Synthroid) and T3 (Cytomel). Also, Prednisone or another steroid can help to stop the attacks while the optimal thyroid does is being worked out.
Information comes from Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by David Brownstein, M.D. which I recommend to anyone with any type of Thyroid problem.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What this blog is for

Hey everyone! I finally made a blog all about endocrinology so we can exchange information on how the endocrine system works and the problems it can cause when it's out of balance. Please do your own research and post everything you learn about the endocrine system. Also, please cite your sources even if they're friends and family just so we know where the information is coming from. I'm really excited because I think this info, especially natural remedies and such can really help us all to be healthier. If this gets going, I hope we can spread the word.