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39: Dr. Michael Ruscio | All Things Thyroid (Thyroid 201)

AIR DATE: June 13, 2013 at 7PM ET
FEATURED EXPERT: Dr. Michael Ruscio
FEATURED TOPIC: “All Things Thyroid (Thyroid 201)”

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The thyroid gland serves one of the most under-appreciated and yet totally misunderstood functions within the human body. If someone is dealing with excessive weight on their body, you might hear them say something along the lines of it being due to having a bad thyroid. But there’s got to be more to it than that, right? What is at the root cause of why your thyroid might not be functioning at optimal levels? And what steps can be taken to fix these thyroid issues without resorting to taking potentially harmful prescription medications? That’s what we explored with a Walnut Creek, CA-based functional medicine physician named Dr. Michael Ruscio (listen to my interview with him in Episode 407 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show”).

Dr. Ruscio specializes in the subject of thyroid health (and has quite the personal story to tell) which is why he joined us to talk about “All Things Thyroid (Thyroid 201).” You might recall we had the great Chris Kresser on to talk about this subject back in Episode 10 to give a Thyroid 101 introduction to the topic. But Dr. Ruscio helped us dig even deeper into answering YOUR most pressing questions about thyroid health and how it relates to your healthy low-carb, Paleo lifestyle. If you want to get a taste for what his teaching style is like, then be sure to check out his YouTube channel for lots of informative videos on this subject and more. Dr. Ruscio joined us in Episode 39 of “Ask The Low-Carb Experts” to keep the conversation going on the vital importance of attaining and maintaining good thyroid health.

Here are just a few of the questions we addressed in this podcast:

DANIELLA ASKS: I’m a 36-year old mother who recently started eating a low-carb Paleo lifestyle. I consume 1500-1600 calories most days and take in about 50-60g of carbohydrates daily. My energy is great and I look and feel the best I have ever felt in my life. Sleep and athletic performance are incredible as well and my muscle definition at 5’3” tall and 110 pounds has never been better. My only concern is that I take 60mg Armour thyroid daily and I am concerned that my low-carb diet may interfere with thyroid function. I feel like I eat adequate calories most of the time, but should I be concerned? My last labs showed everything to be good: TSH 0.6, Free T3 at 2.2, free T4 at .8.

KATHERINE ASKS: I’m 39 years old and I’ve been on a low-carb diet (40-70g carb per day) for 22 months in response to pre-diabetic blood sugar levels. Since changing my diet, my T3 has dropped and is now borderline low. Initial thyroid tests 22 months ago were all normal. I’ve done some casual reading in recent months that a low-carb diet can suppress thyroid function. In other places I’ve read it can help it. Can you please help clear up this confusing issue?

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NANCY ASKS: I have actually been struggling with the low-carb concept out of fear of ruining my thyroid. There is so much conflicting information out there with regards to low-carb being bad or good for thyroid. I’ve heard that women should not be on a low-carb diet for too long or at all because of the risks to their thyroid function. I am already obese at 5’1″ and 184 pounds and I feel lost and not sure which nutritional path to take.

KEN ASKS: I’ve been eating Paleo over the last year and recently had an NMR test. My LDL particle count was very high at 1403 with my small LDL coming in at 492. HDL is 62 and triglycerides are 50. I was wondering if you could further explain the role the thyroid plays in the particle count levels and whether those of us eating a low-carb Paleo diet should be worried. It seems many of us eating this way, including Jimmy, have high LDL-P and I’m curious if our way of eating is making this happen.

JUNE ASKS: Do you have a preference between Armour vs. Nature Thyroid?

RICK ASKS: What are your thoughts on treating thyroid disease with high levels of iodine supplementation?

WENDY ASKS: I have been taking 30 mg of Armour Thyroid and have been Paleo/Primal since Jan 2011. I eat fish 2x per week. I avoid raw cruciferous veggies and take a drop or two of a concentrated iodine supplement weekly as I don’t want to overdo it. I recently started adding kelp sprinkles daily to my food and would like to stop having to take thyroid medications if at all possible. Is this doable?

JACKIE ASKS: I had thyroid cancer in 2008 and had a total thyroidectomy. I’m currently taking 200 mcg of Synthroid daily. Since the thyroid controls metabolism, how do I increase my metabolism to lose weight? I’m 57 years old, 5’2″ tall and weigh 260 pounds.

DEANNA ASKS: I did the HCG diet over 2 years ago and lost nearly 40 pounds. Since then I have slowly gained almost all of it back. I am having hypothyroid symptoms (hair loss, brittle nails, cold hands and feet) the main one being a total inability to lose weight no matter how hard I try. I eat mostly Paleo. What are your thoughts about the HCG diet and its effect on thyroid function? I have read that it could affect reverse T3 but there are a lot of functional medicine doctors advocating it.

PAUL ASKS: What are Dr. Ruscio’s thoughts on the Endocrine Society’s updated clinical practice guidelines for the management of thyroid health in pregnancy? They seem to be quite controversial.

LINDA ASKS: I read that eating one Brazil nut a day is enough to bring up a low thyroid to normal levels. Is that true? What other foods can help with this?

JASON ASKS: Is the excessive fluoride typically added to the drinking water in local municipalities something to be worried about because of iodine absorption issues and by extension be a contributor to hypothyroidism?

INGE FROM MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA ASKS: I lost weight after my sister died in 1993 and at the age of 40 I developed a taste for alcohol that killed my thyroid. For 10 years the specialist put me on Thyroxin until my blood pressure became very high due to a lack of T3 stimulation. She then put me on 7 grains of thyroid extract and I started losing weight again. I’m now seeing an integrative doctor who is not happy about this high dosage of thyroid extract. He told me to back off of it and now I’m gaining weight again putting on 8 kg, I sleep 10 hours a night, I retain fluid, I can no longer exercise because I’m so exhausted all the time and I have severe brain fog. Do you have any suggestions for me?

MELANIE ASKS: I just got diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue that according to my doctor is causing Functional Hypothyroidism. So my Free T3 and T4 were in the normal range, but at the lower end. I need to fix the adrenal fatigue issue but I also need to be supporting my thyroid so that it doesn’t get any worse. I’m pretty familiar with ways to support the thyroid, but wanted to ask the opinion on taking animal glandulars. I wonder if Dr. Ruscio is familiar with the Xymogen T-150 thyroid support product (a freeze-dried, BSE-free, bovine, multi-glandular, mineral and herbal formula to support healthy thyroid function). Do you have an opinion on it? My doctor wants me taking it.

ROGER ASKS: Before I went low-carb Paleo, I knew my thyroid wasn’t functioning well. My Free T3 and T4 levels were horrible and I was feeling sluggish. Is a short-term supplementation of pregnenolone a good way to boost thyroid health and balance other hormones?

CATHY ASKS: I started Synthroid for hypothyroidism in January and quickly developed a bad case of acne. Is this just a coincidence or did the medication cause this?

AMBERLY ASKS: The thyroid tests done by my doctor were all normal, but then I started going to another doctor who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement. He said that one of them was low, maybe the Free T3. He put me on Armour thyroid to treat it. When I asked him if this could have any negative effects, he said that it could shut my thyroid down, but that since my thyroid wasn’t functioning as well as it needed to on its own. Thus, he convinced me it would make sense to go ahead and start the Armour since it wasn’t going to get any better on its own anyway. My Free T3 is now slightly too high. Do you agree with this doctor’s aggressive approach?

2 Responses to 39: Dr. Michael Ruscio | All Things Thyroid (Thyroid 201)

  1. Wenchypoo says:

    I had symptoms of thyroid problems when I hit menopause (coldness, tiredness, insomnia, etc.), and asked my doctor to test me. Everything came back normal (of course), so I took matter into my own hands: I tried upping my carbs (they put me to sleep), added kelp flakes to food, and looked into what makes T-3 and T-4, which is tyrosine. What makes tyrosine? Phenylalanine–specifically DL-Phenylalanine. I started supplementing with it, and now I’m perfectly fine. Levels still show in the middle of the ranges.

    Miss a dose of my DLPA or kelp? I’m cold and tired again.

  2. NancyM says:

    If you get your DNA analyzed at 23andMe.com there’s a place you can upload your genetic results to get the status of your MTHFR gene. 23andme.com is only $99 and gives you tons of info!