Vitamins, Minerals and your Thyroid - what your Doctor may not know - Part One
Shortly after hanging my Trichology 'shingle' I decided to specialise in female hair loss issues. I'd discovered early -contrary to general opinion - female hair loss is quite complex in what both influences and impels it.
Although males can (and do) experience different forms of alopecia, overwhelmingly the most commonly seen is Male Androgenic Alopecia - male 'pattern' balding. When a male has the genetics to exhibit this, it's as much a natural part of post-pubertal secondary sex characteristics as facial whiskers, deepening voice, muscle bulk, and body hair.
By contrast thinning scalp hair in women is almost always an indication of internal dysfunction; a collapsing of body homeostasis to the point where hair growth can no longer be supported.
* To menopause it's reasonable to assert most menstruating females will have some degree of iron deficiency at times in their life. Very few functions of the body are activated without sufficient iron to 'furnace' them.
Iron storage (termed ferritin) is considered the true indicator of iron status - with an accepted reference range of 20-300ug/L.To aspire to a 'target' level about mid-range - i.e.: 150ug/L -could not be considered unrealistic given the importance of iron in the body.
The significance of reaching and maintaining this target level was the research of Dr. John Lee - Australia's most prolific thyroid researcher. Insufficient iron restricts cell mitochondria production from which Adenosine Tri-phosphate (ATP)- 'cellular energy' is created. Our metabolic activity and Phase II liver detoxification pathways are ATP dependant.
Regrettably conformist practitioners still claim a ferritin of21ug/L is within range and therefore 'normal'! Just two points below (19ug/L) suggests 'depleted iron stores'. To take this point further are they proposing a woman with a ferritin of 21ug/L (one point within range) will experience the equal energy and metabolic drive as another whose ferritin is 299ug/L (again one point within range)?
I also reject the claim of those traditionalists who say it's impossible to achieve a 150ug/L ferritin in a pre-menopausal woman.
In terms of metabolic importance, Iodine is deemed the next most essential (trace) nutrient after iron. Simply put: Iodine deficiency = compromised thyroid hormone production.
Testing Iodine levels is a simple urinary 'spot-screen', but is seldom routinely assessed. Low Iodine results in an under-functioning thyroid. There is also a studied correlation between Iodine deficiency and reduced IQ in children, and breast disease in women.
At the time of writing - Australian Professor Creswell Eastman from the Council of Control (Iodine Deficiency Disorders) - is urging food manufacturers to again add Iodine to their products. His statement arises from a recent national study, which found almost half of all children of primary school age show Iodine deficiency.
As a Trichologist/ registered nurse I'm unable to directly order blood pathology for my clients here in Australia. Instead I suggest they ask their family doctor to review their complaint and authorise appropriate blood pathology. Two principle reasons for this: 1. It's a professional 'given'; the primary doctor has a right to know what another practitioner - orthodox or alternate - is proposing for their patient. 2. Medicare should cover the bulk of this pathology - that's why we pay the Medicare Levy.
It can be exasperating when zinc and/or copper testing are disregarded as unnecessary. Sometimes one will be authorised but the other refused. Both nutrients are vital for thyroid homeostasis (and hair growth) but each antagonises the other's action and absorption. If either mineral is elevated the other will (but not always) be depressed. Elevated or depleted levels of either mineral will have a profound affect on body functioning and the disruption of other nutrients.
Zinc is held to be implicated in at least 150 enzymatic actions within the body. Its main contributions to thyroid homeostasis are:
* The synthesis of Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) -produced by the Hypothalamus to stimulate production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
* A crucial catalyst in the binding and activation of the active thyroid hormone Triiodothyronine (T3) to receptors on the cell nucleus.
* Zinc deficiency is thought to contribute to poor thyroid hormone conversion - and deficiency diminishes healthy genetic expression of thyroid hormone.
A refractory zinc deficiency may result from inadequate protein availability (Baratosy: 2006). Amino acid (Tyrosine) derived from protein is a foundation of thyroid hormone production.
Reviewing copper levels is particularly crucial. Low copper is said to inhibit thyroid gland hormone production, whilst elevated copper obstructs cell receptor interaction with thyroid hormone.
A deficiency of copper hinders the deployment of iron by the red blood cells, resulting in the iron being accumulated (and unavailable) within the organs of the body. Because this stored iron cannot be utilised whilst the copper deficiency persists, symptoms of iron deficiency may present - despite an actual iron sufficiency.
An elevated copper level and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin is regularly seen in females using a contraceptive. This is largely due to the additional (synthetic) oestrogen found in contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. Oestrogen gives rise to copper retention - and vice versa - ultimately leading to zinc and other nutrient depletion, and oestrogen dominance.
Once copper is in excess and too dominant in relation to zinc, it can exert what Baratosy (2005) describes as an 'anti-nutrient' - or toxic metal influence. High copper levels restrict the absorption and utilisation of zinc (particularly), iron, magnesium, Vitamins B3, 5, and 6, Vitamins C and E, and certain trace elements.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is produced in the liver, and is the carrier vitamins protein for (amongst other hormones) 70% of the circulating but 'bound' (inactive) testosterone and oestrogen. Elevated SHBG levels may result in symptoms of testosterone and oestrogen deficiency.
In the long line of essential nutrients for optimal thyroid function, the importance of Selenium is only shaded by Iron and Iodine. Several thyroid enzymes are Selenium-dependant to the creation of thyroid hormone. Unlike copper and zinc, Selenium and Iodine are agonists to each other - with optimal levels of both (in balance) essential for a healthy thyroid gland. Selenium also has an integral role in anti-oxidant and immunity defence mechanisms.
There remain some differing opinions on the most reliable form of Selenium testing. Some advocate blood serum; others support hair mineral analysis (HTMA) - still others suggest toenail clippings.