Tag Archives: zinc

If iron interferes with your thyroid function or thyroid meds, you might need zinc

After I started taking Armour thyroid to treat hypothyroid symptoms — including that lovely one where your hair feels like there’s an electric current going through it — I quickly realized that the 50 mg of iron I was taking every day for my abysmally low ferritin levels was making things worse. Even if I separated the doses by the requisite four hours or stopped taking the Armour altogether, I got more hypo-T symptoms — low mood, cold, fatigue, and insomnia.

Taking the Armour only fixed the symptoms to a certain point because of the low ferritin (which was at 6 for several years before any so-called health practitioner bothered to call my attention to it), but I couldn’t take iron to get rid of the rest of the symptoms or it would wipe out all the progress I’d made with the Armour. It was, I remember thinking every other day, like trying to get out of a parking spot in San Francisco on a Friday night — back an inch, hit the bumper, turn the wheel, forward an inch, hit the bumper.

Eventually I figured out that iron lowers zinc and a zinc deficiency can affect thyroid function. I took 50 mg of zinc for several months, then a little less for the rest of the year. After a few months, my mood no longer tanked when I ate dairy (oxalates in dairy will bind to zinc and hinder its absorption). It also solved the iron problem.

Sadly, I still couldn’t take as much Armour as I needed because my adrenals were trashed. Luckily, you can now find much better knowledge and guidance for these sorts of conundrums — see the Stop the Thyroid Madness website to start.

After 18 months on Armour I got sick of the whole thing and started calling acupuncturists all over the Eastern seaboard looking for someone with hardcore-enough training to do medical acupuncture on the thyroid. To my surprise I found someone 30 minutes away. After nine weeks and maybe 14 sessions with him, my test results came back within the newly revised, more accurate normal lab ranges. I stopped the Armour and haven’t felt any hypo-T symptoms since, knock on wood. My low zinc symptoms show up occasionally but they are unmistakably different from the lawdy!-my-thyroid symptoms — mostly low mood and $#@! irritability.

Hunting the mysterious origins of geographic tongue

by Kara

My experiences with geographic tongue (GT) started about ten years ago. GT is an unpleasant condition where patches of papillae are missing from the surface of the tongue and appear as smooth, red areas with slightly raised borders. The patterns of the lesions can change daily or hourly. It’s considered benign, but it can be painful, especially when eating acidic or abrasive foods, and is very unattractive. Because my GT makes me feel like my mouth is dirty all the time and that I have bad breath, I generally open my mouth less, am always covering my mouth or restricting myself when I laugh, and feel embarrassed to kiss my husband.

There seems to be no definitive understanding of what causes GT. When I ask doctors about it they don’t seem to take it seriously, so I’ve been doing research on my own. I’ve gathered bits and pieces of information from the internet and conversations with others and from monitoring my own condition. I have three theories as to the cause: 1) allergies, 2) vitamin B12 and/or zinc deficiency, or 3) post-nasal drip in general, either allergy related or caused by colds.

I developed GT in my early 30s, around the time I started developing my first allergies. We were living in an apartment in New York City that was situated right next to a garbage chute and had a bad roach problem. My husband was able to fill a small snack-bag with the roaches he had sprayed and killed. (He brought the bag down to the super, demanding they bring in an exterminator). Interestingly, my youngest daughter, who was about two, developed GT at the same exact time that I did. She also had dry patches of skin behind her knees and the inside of her elbows. I vaguely recall her doctor saying it was a form of eczema and that it was allergy related, but I can’t recall for sure. I once read somewhere that GT is similar to eczema in the way it manifests itself in changing patterns.

The coincidental timing of my GT and allergy onset and that of my daughter’s led me to believe that GT is an allergy symptom -– specifically, allergies which cause sinus congestion and post-nasal drip. I became further convinced of this when I came down with a bad sinus infection and my doctor prescribed antibiotics and Zyrtec. After taking these medications for a couple of days, I felt complete relief from my GT symptoms for the first time.

As the years progressed, however, my allergies worsened, and the Zyrtec did not seem to have the same effect. I eventually developed allergy-induced asthma and went to an allergist who told me that I have allergies to dust, roaches, cats and mold. I started going to her on a weekly basis and have been going to her for the past three years or so. My asthma is now under control, and I generally suffer less from my allergies. The geographic tongue improved noticeably with the allergy treatments, but did not resolve completely.

Because another woman I know with GT is also a vegetarian like me, I started wondering if the cause could be a vitamin B12 and/or zinc deficiency, developed as a result of my vegetarianism. My thinking was that the deficiencies were causing an imbalance in my immune system, but I’m not sure. I take B12 regularly now, but I don’t see any clear improvement. My next experiment will be to try taking zinc lozenges in addition to the B12, to test whether zinc might play a part in this.

When I get a sinus infection or regular cold that results in post-nasal drip, the GT comes back with a vengeance. This makes me wonder if it’s related not to allergies but to sinus issues in general. I don’t know. Do bacteria drip down my throat from my sinuses and trigger the GT?

My daughter’s GT seems to have gone almost completely away. Her tongue is as smooth and healthy as a baby’s, which I am thrilled about. She still does have occasional flare-ups of eczema, but I haven’t been taking note of whether her GT comes back during these times or not.

Kara is the post author, but in the comments below Marjorie’s avatar describes her as the post author. This is not correct but I don’t know how to change it. Apologies for the confusion. Kara is not actually responding to comments herself anymore because I don’t know something about raising two children while working full-time and studying for a PhD. Whatevah.

Diagram of how various deficiencies can egg each other on

Soon after I discovered that typical guidelines about iodine are outdated and wrong (1), I came across information about vitamin K that made me realize the amounts I had been experimenting with were pathetically small. Also, it is possible that vitamin D supplements affect vitamin K, which for me would explain a lot (2). This is yet another example of how difficult it is to find reliable info about all the nutrients and how they work in the body and interact with each other.

Here’s a diagram of how I suspect my iodine, vitamin K, vitamin D, zinc, and iron deficiencies have been interacting.

1: You can find a list of iodine references at the bottom of this Breast Cancer Choices’ iodine investigation page.

2: From the World’s Healthiest Foods vitamin D page:

“Vitamin D helps to regulate the production of certain calcium-binding proteins that function in the bones and kidneys. Because these binding proteins are also dependent on vitamin K, interrelationships between vitamin D and vitamin K have become the subject of active research investigation.”

Kinda-sorta helpful approaches to sciatica

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyI don’t know how non-telecommuting workers cope with a bout of acute sciatica if they can’t take time off. There is no way I could’ve functioned at my desk. I tried one morning and had to return home to recline with my laptop for five more weeks, fantasizing about slitting my backside open with an Exacto blade, pulling out the nerve, and drowning it in a bin of icewater.

Perhaps they’re doped to the gills? All my doctor offered me was Aleve, which was a joke.

Finally I went to Needleman the acupuncturist. I spent an hour on my side with needles from the nape of my neck to my ankle, like a brontosaurus. By the time I left the pain was gone, but it crept back during my 30-minute drive home. So if you do have a medical acupuncturist in your town who can treat you for sciatica, have someone chauffeur you so that you can recline in the back seat on the way home.

At Needleman’s recommendation I visited a new osteopath. The pain had already started to taper off the day of my appointment. By the time I got in my car after the session, which didn’t involve as much violent cracking as I like but a lot of weird and undignified stretching, the pain was gone for good.

At the time the sciatica started, after a hamstring stretch went horribly wrong, I was convinced it was brought on by a surfeit of vitamin A, plus the overzealous stretch. For about a year I could count on a twinge of sciatic pain whenever I ate foods high in copper or vitamin A, such as liver and pate. Now I think it wasn’t so much that I had too much of those nutrients, but that I had too little zinc, and in large enough amounts the two can compete with zinc to lower the zinc even more.

Occasionally if the twinge got strong enough I’d do a yoga triangle pose and that was enough to stop it. (In this video the instructor is saying “lift your THIGHS,” not “lift your tights,” in case you were confused by her accent.)

Illustration: detail of “Odalisque,” Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1874, {{PD-Art}}. Remix by MRhea.

Rx, OTC, diet-, and needle-based ways to treat hypothyroidism

It took me two years from the time I first suspected I had thyroid problems to get treated for it. I was very tired, had a weird, periodic hum in my body as if the ship’s engine on “Star Trek” was running in the background, was unbelievably cold outside in the winter, and my hair felt like it had an electric current running through it. But my test results from my traditional doctors, who were only looking at TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), always came back normal. When I read that ideally other markers should be looked at as well (e.g. T3, T4, etc.) I asked for those tests, but they, too, came back normal.

In the meantime, after going gluten-free, I had decided I was going to REALLY get healthy. I started eating fish several times a week and every morning I would drink juiced greens, including Swiss chard, mustard greens, and two types of kale.

I was rewarded with a worsening of my thyroid-esque symptoms (and with elevated mercury levels, but that’s another story). During yet another bout of research, probably at about.thyroid.com, I discovered that cruciferous vegetables — such as greens, cauliflower and broccoli — when ingested raw are capable of tanking the thyroid, either by lowering iodine levels or by affecting hormone production directly.

I also learned at around the same time that a New England Journal of Medicine article had declared that another, wider set of lab ranges were more accurate for diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism.

So I stopped the goitrogens immediately and felt better soon after, but the issues remained. I had at this point already given up on traditional doctors so went straight to the two alternative medicine practices I had visited earlier. The doctor I saw at the first one told me that food had no effect on the thyroid and to “put those papers away” (the copies of the research papers on goitrogens) and that “you need to educate yourself,” in a tone reserved for the types of people who believe you can get pregnant by swimming in a public pool. Then he listened to a list of my symptoms and pronounced me hypothyroid.

The alterna-doc at the second group had also heard about the NEJM changes but had never heard of the effect of those vegetables on the thyroid. She started me on 1/4 grain of Armour thyroid, which is derived from pig thyroid and has been around since the 1920s (I think). After a month or so my mood, temperature, memory, fatigue, and skin were much improved.

However, I discovered that if I took iron, which I needed for fatigue, it brought back the hypothyroid symptoms, even if I took it at the requisite four-hour interval from the Armour. Without the iron, I was exhausted. Eventually I discovered that I could avoid this effect by taking 50 mg of zinc.

Wonderful as it was, that dose of Armour did not resolve everything. When I tried to increase the dose I got heart palpitations, a weird vibration in my thyroid, insomnia, and jitteriness. Most glorious of all, a hair would start to grow out of the middle of my forehead. This is when I discovered that you can whip your thyroid all you want, but if your adrenals are shot, you won’t get very far.

The alterna-doc gave me hydrocortisone (Cortef) for about six months in an attempt to boost the function of the adrenals, but I noticed no effect at all. My cravings-driven chocolate intake also probably thwarted anything positive we could do for them.

After 18 months I got tired of taking Armour every day and asked Needleman the acupuncturist to treat me with acupuncture. That involved nine weeks of about 15 treatments, 60% of which was covered by my insurance. (This has since dropped to almost no coverage.) At the end of the nine weeks, my test levels (by the new ranges) were normal, so I dropped the Rx and never felt those symptoms again.

My thyroid numbers are still obscenely robust, or so I’m told, and yet I still cannot eat goitrogens, such as pears, buckwheat, or broccoli, without feeling symptoms. That makes me think that my remaining complaints — stubbornly low iron, fatigue, insomnia, hair thinning, and brain fog — might still be associated with thyroid function. (They are also associated with adrenal function.)

Two doctors who’ve written books on iodine (Brownstein and Abrahams) believe that under some low-iodine circumstances, the thyroid can display my type of complaints without betraying anything in the usual lab tests. In other words, it might have been bludgeoned into submission with an Rx but isn’t necessarily healthy.

How I induced cystic acne in myself

Except for several regrettable weeks in 1995 when I was drinking seven cans of Pepsi a day, I have rarely been bothered by anything but the occasional pimple despite heavy chocolate abuse, which I’m guessing is offset by my heavy water drinking.

But then two years ago, in a desperate attempt to get some energy, I started taking about 100 mg of iron a day. I’ve taken iron off and on, sometimes for years at a time, sometimes at 150 mgs at a time, but I’ve never been able to get my ferritin levels past 26. Conventional doctors feel this number is fine, but… don’t get me started on how stupid lab ranges are. Even though iron had done nothing for me in the past before except energize me for two days and then disable me with zombie brain and splitting headaches, I tried it one more time for about a week.

I was rewarded with all new reactions: the kind of vertigo that makes you have to throw up when you stand up, and the kind of acne that erupts even under the hair in large, painful cysts. Since I’d been eating poorly and avoiding supplements for two years — from constant exhaustion, and because the whole nutritional therapy thing really can be a pain in the ass — I knew I was most likely deficient in a whole lotta stuff. I figured the iron was outcompeting other nutrients.

First, obviously, I quit the iron. The vertigo got better but still hung on. Since I was also experiencing dry eyes, which I had learned earlier was what happens when my vitamin A levels fall, and since vitamin A was one of the nutrients that competes with iron, I thought I’d start with that. I did an internet search for an association with vertigo, found it, and decided to try 30,000 IU a day. The vertigo went away in about three days. I kept taking a smaller dose for a few weeks, until it, too, gave me headaches.

This also put a small dent in the acne, but not enough. It was a very minor case compared to what some people experience, but still, it did not go away for weeks and I had the scars for A YEAR. My friend suffered this several times a year and always ended up going to the dermatologist for a cortisone shot, but my insurance wouldn’t cover that.

Zinc is closely associated with acne (as is vitamin A) but I didn’t think of this for a while because for years my first sign of lower zinc levels would be a plummeting mood, which I did not have, except for the normal feeling you get when you have to appear in public looking like a disfigured freak. (This is another example of how your deficiency symptoms will change over time.) I finally got wise and looked online at a bunch of forums on the subject and decided to try 90 mg a day for a while. The acne was gone in four days (having lingered for weeks up to that point). I kept taking a smaller dose for several weeks — 50 mg and then 25 mg.

After that lovely episode, I remembered that in high school and college I would get a much milder case of these cysts, in the same place every time. (But not in the places I had them for this episode.) According to acne.org, , “unresolved nodules can sometimes leave an impaction behind, which can flare again and again.” That might be an argument for taking the zinc long after the cyst disappears, to make sure you’re getting rid of all the crap that lies beneath.

In my current self-experiment with super-mega-walloping doses of iodine, the zinc/acne issue is also a problem, but 25 mg every other day seems to be enough to prevent it.