Book Review – Hair Like a Fox by Danny Roddy

Book Review – Hair like a Fox by Danny Roddy

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

Men and women alike have issues with hair loss. Is this natural? Is this normal? For Danny Roddy, author of Hair like a Fox: A Bioenergetic View of Pattern Hair Loss, fear of hair loss was imprinted in his childhood. At the age of 19, he made it a personal challenge to learn about hair loss and do all that he could to keep his hair. As he had feared, Roddy did begin losing hair despite his efforts. It was only by discovering the work of Dr. Ray Peat that Roddy finally found a new perspective on the underlying cause of hair loss and how it may be prevented.

Conventional Theories of Hair Loss Causes

The Androgen Hypothesis

Let’s examine the history first. In the 1940s, Dr. James B. Hamilton published his observations of 104 men without functioning testicles. He found these men did not mature sexually and had altered hormone levels. They also retained their scalp hair, had reduced oiliness of the scalp, and little to no dandruff.

Seeing this connection, Dr. Hamilton administered testosterone to men without functioning testicles who were not bald but who had a family history of baldness. Soon they experienced hair loss, which abated when the treatment stopped. When the testosterone was later resumed, balding proceeded again. Dr. Hamilton concluded that baldness was caused by androgens, specifically testosterone.

In the 1970s Dr. Julianne Imperato-McGinley studied a population in a remote area of the Dominican Republic who were born with ambiguous sexual features. From birth and throughout their childhood, these individuals appeared to be girls. At puberty, however, they developed male sex organs.

These men had no signs of baldness, had small prostate size, and normal testosterone levels. However, they lacked the enzyme needed to convert testosterone to its stronger metabolite, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Dr. Imperator-McGinley became convinced that DHT—not testosterone— was responsible for male pattern baldness.

Merck and Finasteride

Merck scientists became aware of Dr. Imperato-McGinley’s research and developed a drug which would block the production of DHT. The result was finasteride. Finasteride not only reduced symptoms and helped shrink the prostate in men with enlarged prostate glands, but incidentally contributed to regrowth of hair as well.

According to Roddy, finasteride may have enough progesterone activity to help with hair loss–at least part of the time. This new treatment was not without drawbacks, however: Large numbers of men suffered side effects such as erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, depression, and suicide. In addition, finasteride was not the total answer for the hair problem, either, as it was only effective for about 40% of the men who took it.

The Androgen Hypothesis Falls Apart

Why do young men with the highest testosterone and DHT have the best hair? Why does balding occur when the hormone levels are dropping with age? Why do women experience “male” pattern baldness? Medical practitioners tend to cling to explanations involving DHT or genetics in spite of the holes in these theories.

Dr. Peat and the Hair Follicle as a Mini Organ

Dr. Ray Peat is a prolific writer and thinker, and often challenges conventional thinking. Perhaps best known for his foundational research on progesterone, Dr. Peat’s work directs one to consider the hair follicles as mini organs.

Like other organs in the body, hair follicles depend upon the energy of the cells in their structure, and this cellular energy is produced by mitochondria. With time, stressors may diminish the function of the cells; hair follicles become clogged with mucopolysaccharides (mucin), calcification, impaired blood flow leading to low available oxygen, oxidative stress and finally, impaired function of the mitochondria.

Active Thyroid Hormone (T3)

Mitochondria need glucose and oxygen to produce energy. We get glucose with carbohydrates, but our bodies can also convert it from protein. Even more than glucose, however, energy production relies upon oxygen sources. A byproduct of cell energy production is carbon dioxide, which helps move oxygen from the blood and into the tissues and cells.

Active thyroid hormone (T3) stimulates the use of oxygen in breaking down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This, in turn, yields carbon dioxide, which improves the oxygen transport to the cell. In individuals with low thyroid levels, the body produces mucin, a gelatinous substance that solidifies in the spaces between cells. When mucin becomes calcified it cuts off circulation to the scalp. Hairs become progressively wispier until the hair follicle is choked off entirely.

Graying and loss of hair are symptoms of declining mitochondria function, and thus loss of cell energy. If proper cell metabolism is compromised, functioning in all parts of the body is slowed down. Declining cell energy may be linked to a wide variety of diseases, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart failure
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypertension
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Migraines
  • Non-alcoholic liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
Estrogen (and Other Hormones) Can Cause Hair Loss

Progesterone depends upon thyroid function. If estrogen is not balanced by plenty of progesterone, hair loss may result. During menopause, progesterone levels decline while estrogen activity soars. Relatively high levels of estrogen may, in turn, also inhibit progesterone production, creating a vicious cycle.

Hair is affected by other hormones as well. The pituitary hormone prolactin increases with age in men and may inhibit hair growth. Cortisol levels from the adrenal glands increase with aging and may contribute to hair loss.

As it happens, not only do men without functioning testicles have low testosterone levels, but they are also low in estrogen. Perhaps the lack of this hormone further inhibits hair loss for them.


Hair Like a Fox contains many more chapters discussing serotonin, essential fatty acids, types of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that produce cellular energy and contribute to hair growth. Rather than the simple cause-and-effect theory of androgen-induced baldness, the real key to maintaining hair follicle structure may be to maintain mitochondrial health. Optimizing how the body can best produce cell energy applies to every cell in the body, not just the tiny hair follicle organ. This may be a remedy for not only defying hair loss but also resisting those diseases associated with aging.

Additional Resources:

If you are wondering how Danny Roddy and his hair are doing, check out his blog at This website is rich with information, but Roddy feels the quest is not over yet and there is always more to learn.

  • Roddy D. Hair Like a Fox: A Bioenergetic View of Pattern Hair Loss. The Danny Roddy Weblog, LLC: 2013.

© 2019 Women’s International Pharmacy

Edited by Michelle Violi, PharmD; Women’s International Pharmacy

For any questions about this article, please e-mail

Carol Petersen at

Book Review – Hair Like a Fox by Danny Roddy2019-07-05T12:21:19-05:00

How Is the Thyroid Gland Like a Car?

How Is the Thyroid Gland Like a Car?

Understanding the Complexities of Treating Thyroid Dysfunction

Written by Michelle Violi, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

car driving through a forestThe thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It is responsible for producing hormones, which are essential for normal growth and development as well as regulating metabolism. Thyroid hormone function has been found to correlate with body weight and energy expenditure.

The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: levothyroxine (T4) and liothyronine (T3). T4 is an inactive thyroid hormone that must be converted to the active thyroid hormone, T3, before it can be used by the body.

Health care practitioners use testing and symptom evaluation to determine whether a patient’s thyroid gland isn’t working as it should. If the results indicate low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), there are a number of options they may prescribe:

Type of Thyroid PrescriptionExamples of Medications
Levothyroxine (T4) Only
  • Synthroid
  • Levoxyl
  • Compounded capsules
Liothyronine (T3) Only
  • Cytomel
  • Compounded capsules
A Combination of Liothyronine (T3) and Levothyroxine (T4)
  • Thyrolar (as of this writing in January 2019, on long-term back order)
  • Compounded capsules
Desiccated Porcine Thyroid

Taken from the thyroid gland of the pig, this contains T3 and T4, as well as thyroid cofactors such as T1, T2, calcitonin, and trace amounts of iodine

  • NatureThroid
  • Westhroid
  • WP Thyroid
  • Armour Thyroid
  • NP Thyroid
  • Compounded capsules

Levothyroxine (T4) only is the most commonly prescribed thyroid medication. However, this might not be the right choice in every situation. Because the thyroid gland plays a complex role in the body, some cases of thyroid dysfunction may require more than a “one medication fits all” approach.

Compare thyroid dysfunction to a car. When a car stops running, is it because it’s out of gas? Perhaps. In this case, fill up the tank and get back on the road. However, think of all the other possible reasons the car may have stopped running. The car may not be able to use the gas put in it or not use it well depending on whether the car needs diesel, premium, or regular. The car may be full of rust. The car may need oil or antifreeze, not gas. The list goes on and on.

In the case of thyroid function, there are also a wide variety of reasons why a thyroid gland may not be working. The thyroid gland may not be able to convert T4 to T3. The thyroid gland may be inflamed or be the target of an autoimmune response. The thyroid gland may need iodine, selenium, zinc, or other cofactors. As with a car, the list goes on and on.

If a patient with hypothyroidism is prescribed T4 only, the body must be able to convert T4 into T3 in order for the body to be able to use it. However, if there is an issue with this conversion process, the body may not be able to use a T4 only medication appropriately. Depending on what is wrong with the thyroid gland, additional support in the form of T3 or other thyroid cofactors such as are present in desiccated porcine thyroid may be needed.

As with so many things relating to health, optimizing thyroid function is complicated. If you are taking thyroid medication and still aren’t feeling well, don’t give up! Work with your health care practitioner and pharmacist to find a solution that fits your individual needs.

Additional Resources:

For more information on the thyroid gland, hormones, and treatments, visit our Thyroid Resources page.

How Is the Thyroid Gland Like a Car?2019-01-25T11:18:05-05:00

Hormones and Reproductive Health

Hormones and Reproductive Health

Written by Michelle Violi, Pharm.D. – Women’s International Pharmacy


Couple expecting babyWhat would we do without the human reproductive system? True, we might have fewer hormonal ups and downs, but it wouldn’t be long before humans would no longer populate the earth. Let’s take a closer look at how this very important system works in both women and men.

The Female Reproductive System

A woman’s reproductive system is delicate and complex. In order for conception to occur, it is important for a woman’s hormones to be balanced and her organs and tissues healthy. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone play leading roles; however, there are many other hormones that are important players in the intricate process that is the female reproductive system.

Immediately following menstruation, estrogen levels begin to rise, causing the lining of the uterus to thicken. At ovulation an egg is expelled from the ovary into the fallopian tube where it travels to the uterus. After ovulation occurs, progesterone is produced from the corpus luteum, which forms in the ovary from which the egg was released.

Progesterone causes the uterine lining to become secretory and ready for the egg to implant should fertilization occur. If fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining. The corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone until the placenta takes over its production in the second trimester of pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum breaks down, estrogen and progesterone levels fall, menstruation occurs, and the cycle begins anew.

The Male Reproductive System

A man’s reproductive system is no less complex. The primary hormones involved in the functioning of the male reproductive system are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and testosterone.

FSH and LH are produced by the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. FSH is necessary for sperm production (spermatogenesis), and LH stimulates the production of testosterone, which is necessary to continue the process of spermatogenesis. Testosterone also is important in the development of male characteristics, including muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone mass, and sex drive.

Hormonal Effects on Fertility

Infertility issues are very complicated and have many possible causes, including hormone imbalances or deficiencies. The following are just a few ways hormones play a role in fertility.

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, can affect fertility due to menstrual cycles without ovulation, insufficient progesterone levels following ovulation, increased prolactin levels, and sex hormone imbalances. In a study involving 394 infertile women, 23.9% had hypothyroidism. After treatment for hypothyroidism, 76.6% of infertile women conceived within 6 weeks to 1 year.

Luteal phase deficiency (LPD) is a condition of insufficient progesterone exposure to maintain a normal secretory endometrium and allow for normal embryo implantation and growth. Progesterone is used in patients who experience recurrent miscarriages due to LPD. In addition, studies have shown progesterone can reduce the rate of preterm birth in certain individuals.


The human reproductive system is delicate, complex, and affects the overall health of women and men. Hormones serve an important role in maintaining harmony and promoting fertility in this intricate system. Because of this, achieving hormonal balance is a crucial component to supporting reproductive and overall health.

  • Lessey BA, Young SL. Yen & Jaffe’s Reproductive Endocrinology. 7th ed. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier; 2014.!/content/book/3-s2.0-B978145572758200010X?scrollTo=%23hl0000927 Accessed July 3, 2017
  • Accessed July 3, 2017
  • Liedman R, Hansson SR, Howe D, et al. Reproductive hormones in plasma over the menstrual cycle in primary dysmenorrhea compared with healthy subjects. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2008;24:508-513. Accessed April 11, 2017.
  • Hassan SS, Romero R, Vidyadhari D, et al. Vaginal progesterone reduces the rate of preterm birth in women with a sonographic short cervix: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2011;38:18-31.
  • Barda G, Ben-Haroush A, Barkat J, et al. Effect of vaginal progesterone, administered to prevent preterm birth, on impedance to blood flow in fetal and uterine circulation. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2010;36:743-748.
  • Mesen TB, Young SL. Progesterone and the luteal phase. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2015;42(1):135-151.
  • Verma I, Sood R, Juneja S, et al. Prevalence of hypothyroidism in infertile women and evaluation of response of treatment for hypothyroidism on infertility. Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2012 Jan-Jun; 2(1):17-19.
Hormones and Reproductive Health2017-12-05T12:33:07-05:00

Why Do We Get Hemorrhoids?

Why Do We Get Hemorrhoids?

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy


Hemorrhoids are very common. At least we think so. It is difficult to get a handle on the prevalence of hemorrhoids since they can come and go. Many Hemorrhoids bathroomhemorrhoid sufferers will find relief from over the counter and home remedies, but some will be so miserable they will seek help from a health care practitioner. Hemorrhoids tend to be a sensitive subject. People just don’t like to talk about them.

Hemorrhoids Defined

Hemorrhoids can form above and below the rectal sphincter. If you can imagine, hemorrhoids are like varicose veins in the rectum. The veins weaken and swell. If the swollen veins are located above the rectal sphincter, they may cause few problems, but you might see bright red blood in the stools if they happen to bleed. Hemorrhoids above the rectal sphincter may begin to cause pain if the tissue prolapses which means the hemorrhoid falls below the rectal sphincter.

Hemorrhoids can also form outside of the anus below the rectal sphincter. These hemorrhoids tend to cause the most problems with pain and itching. They can also bleed. It is possible the pooling of the blood in the swollen veins may cause a blood clot or thrombus to form. The common name for hemorrhoids, “piles” (from Latin pillae meaning balls), comes from the observation of the small balls these clots form in the swollen veins.

Theories Abound

Why hemorrhoids form is still a mystery. Hemorrhoid formation may be associated with standing or sitting for long periods of time, obesity, and straining while defecating with constipation or diarrhea. Hemorrhoids also often occur during pregnancy. The exact genesis is not clear whether it is the added pressure to the pelvic region by the baby, the changes in hormones which occur during pregnancy, the straining which occurs at delivery, or perhaps a combination of all of these.

Some say that being human and walking on two feet is a risk factor for hemorrhoids; however, this is not a health issue that only occurs in humans. Dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and sheep have all been identified to suffer from hemorrhoids on occasion. Moreover, a rat model for hemorrhoids was easily created by exposing the rat’s anal tissues to an irritating oil.

Along with the cause of hemorrhoids, a number of trends have yet to be explained:

  • There may be a hereditary component in some families
  • Women with hemorrhoids during their first pregnancy often have them again in subsequent pregnancies, but the hemorrhoids then disappear once the baby arrives
  • Hemorrhoids don’t seem to occur in the young or in the elderly

Hemorrhoids and Hormones

How hormones play a role in the formation of hemorrhoids is complicated. For example, constipation is a hallmark symptom of low thyroid function. Connective tissue weakness is also a sign of low thyroid. Is the constipation the direct cause of hemorrhoid formation or is there some innate laxity in the tissue associated with hypothyroidism that causes hemorrhoids to form? Or perhaps a combination of both?

As early as 1942, a theory existed that proposed the high levels of progesterone and estrogens that occur during pregnancy may contribute to the formation of varicosities in the legs and also to hemorrhoids:

  • Increased progesterone was thought to be responsible for decreased tonicity in the vascular walls of the veins
  • Increased estrogens were thought to increase blood volume putting greater stress on venous blood circulation and leading to increased stagnation and pooling of the blood

However, as Dr. de Barros and his colleagues point out in their paper, “Pregnancy and lower limb varicose veins: prevalence and risk factors,” this does not account for the fact that varicosities can occur in one leg and not the other under the same hormonal control.

Confounding Observations

Interestingly, not all studies show the same results with regard to hemorrhoid risk factors. A September 2015 study published in PLOS ONE revealed a lower risk of hemorrhoids with a high fiber diet as have other studies. However, the reduced risk of hemorrhoids was not associated with less constipation, and the number of pregnancies a woman experienced did not affect the risk of hemorrhoids one way or the other. Surprisingly, being sedentary even correlated with a decreased risk of hemorrhoids.

Treatment of Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids may come and go without a clearly identified cause or remedy. However, when hemorrhoids and the associated pain become serious, most seek help from a professional. Surgical procedures such as cauterization (burning the hemorrhoids) and ligation (banding or clipping the hemorrhoids) are part of the practitioner’s medical bag to bring relief. As welcome as the relief may be, these procedures do not prevent hemorrhoids from returning and do not address the underlying cause.

Numerous home remedies may also bring some relief:

  • Apple cider vinegar and witch hazel are astringent and may help relieve the swelling
  • Hydrocortisone and even progesterone creams applied to the area may relieve inflammation
  • Whether or not constipation is a cause of hemorrhoid formation, more fiber, more hydration, and any techniques to create softer stools are likely to reduce irritation to the tender tissues
  • Soaking in warm bath water or a sitz bath may ease the pain, and Epsom salts can be added for additional magnesium
  • Cold packs may be used to help reduce inflammation and shrink the hemorrhoids

Joanne May, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, says, “It’s simple.” She feels hemorrhoids are caused by a spleen qi deficiency. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is the spleen which governs the muscles and organs, and a deficiency of qi may cause an overall muscle weakness including the muscles lining the veins. Hemorrhoids are thought to be a sagging or prolapse of these muscles. Dr. May recommends using herbs to strengthen or tonify the muscles.

In conclusion

It’s astonishing something as common as hemorrhoids still poses such a mystery to our medical community. Researchers are working diligently to find the answers to our questions about hemorrhoids. Hopefully, these answers will come soon. Hemorrhoid prevention will bring great relief to many.

  • Azeemuddin M, et al. An Improved Experimental Model of Hemorrhoids in Rats: Evaluation of Antihemorrhoidal Activity of an Herbal Formulation. ISRN Pharmacol. Volume 2014 Mar 11;2014:530931. doi: 10.1155/2014/530931. eCollection 2014.
  • De Barros N, et al. Pregnancy and lower limb varicose veins: prevalence and risk factors. J. vasc. bras. [online]. 2010;9(2): 29-35.
  • Peery AF, et al. Risk Factors for Hemorrhoids on Screening Colonoscopy. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 25;10(9):e0139100. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139100. eCollection 2015.
  • May, J. Personal conversation: December 23, 2015.\
  • Petersen C. Hypothyroidism: Is 98.6° Really Normal? Women’s International Pharmacy.
Why Do We Get Hemorrhoids?2018-04-05T11:28:03-05:00

Eugene Hertoghe and Thyroid Dysfunction

Eugene Hertoghe and Thyroid Dysfunction

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

woman standing on mountainDr. Eugene Hertoghe was a Belgian physician who practiced in the early 20th century. He became a renowned thyroid expert in his time, and was so noted for his keen observations that one of the signs of hypothyroidism is named after him. To this day, the “Sign of Hertoghe” is used to describe the disappearance of the outer third of the eyebrows. In April of 1914, Dr. Hertoghe was invited to address the International Surgical Congress at what is now Columbia/NY Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Hertoghe’s presentation notes read like a story. The narrative reveals his observations, the conclusions he drew, and the serendipity of finding a research report describing the symptoms of a patient who had had their thyroid removed just as he encountered an unfortunate patient struggling with these same symptoms. He applied all of these findings in treating this individual and found success “feeding” the patient’s thyroid with a thyroid supplement.

Low Thyroid Function in Women

Dr. Hertoghe stated that nine of ten people who suffer with hypothyroidism are women. Thyroid sufficiency is needed for menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and even the return of the uterus to its usual size after pregnancy.


Let’s start with menstruation. Very heavy menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, is a hallmark of thyroid imbalance. Dr. Hertoghe cites two possible mechanisms:

  • The mucous membrane of the uterus is infiltrated by defective uterine muscle cells causing instability.
  • Hypothyroidism creates a sort of hemophilia condition in the blood leading to a higher propensity for bleeding. One can also observe this effect when small scratches on the skin lead to extensive oozing.

Dr. Hertoghe believed women need a more abundant supply of thyroid during menstruation. He even recommended adding thyroid supplementation only during this time for some women. Symptoms often associated with menstruation are also symptoms of low thyroid function:

  • Headaches
  • Muffled tone quality in the voice
  • Physical or mental weariness
  • Back pain
  • Constipation

During pregnancy, the thyroid gland becomes enlarged and produces increased amounts of thyroid hormone. Dr. Hertoghe claimed this additional thyroid hormone is responsible for the arrest of menstruation in pregnancy which protects the fertilized egg. Recurrent miscarriage may be tied into an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone available to stop menses.

The increased levels of thyroid hormone produced during pregnancy may be stored to be called upon later to aid in producing the tremendous energy needed for labor and delivery. Thyroid hormone is also needed to help the heavy walls of the uterus degenerate and oxidize to return to usual, pre-pregnancy size.


Thyroid function plays a vital role in mammary function. Thyroid hormone must be in abundant supply for lactation to occur. In general, women who have had a quick return to pre-pregnancy uterus size also tend to have a good milk supply. Dr. Hertoghe suggested using thyroid supplementation if a woman’s milk supply is scanty and menstruation returns too early.


This article encapsulates just a small amount of the information Dr. Hertoghe presented over 100 years ago. Dr. Hertoghe applied his skills as a medical detective successfully during his career, becoming widely respected for his expertise in thyroid dysfunction. Today, practitioners are encouraged to depend upon blood tests and procedures, rather than relying on their own skills of observation and experience. A young woman of the 21st Century, who has heavy menstrual bleeding or complaints during menses, is likely to be prescribed birth control pills to regulate her cycle rather than being examined for possible low thyroid function. The question that springs to mind is: Are we better off 100 years later?

  • Hertoghe E. Thyroid Deficiency: A lecture presented to the New York Polyclinic School and Hospital. New York, NY: April 1914.
Eugene Hertoghe and Thyroid Dysfunction2019-01-22T14:40:16-05:00

Lyme Disease Research Update

Lyme Disease Research Update

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP– Women’s International Pharmacy

What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by infected deer ticks. The bacterium that causes the infection is a spirochete named Borrelia. Initial symptoms include a rash that may look like a bullseye, fever, headache, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, one may experience arthritis, heart problems, and nerve problems. A diagnosis is most often made based on symptoms and history of a deer tick bite. Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic other diseases and lab testing is not definitive. Current treatment most often involves a two to four week course of antibiotics. However, a single round of antibiotics may not eradicate the infection and co-infections with other organisms may arise. Individuals with Lyme disease may find themselves in a situation where the condition becomes chronic and they are in a continuous struggle to restore their health.

International Lyme and Associated Disease Society
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is a nonprofit, international, multidisciplinary medical society dedicated to the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and associated diseases. They are advocates for helping people with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases restore their health. Over 600 people attended the annual ILADS meeting in Fort Lauderdale this year. There were many presentations and among them, there were several linking the symptoms of chronic Lyme infection with hormones and hormone treatment.

Pituitary Gland and Endocrine Dysfunctions in Chronic Lyme/Co-infections, presented by Eugene R. Shippen, MD 
Dr. Eugene Shippen is a family practitioner in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He is also the author of The Testosterone Syndrome and a sought after lecturer on hormone replenishment. Dr. Shippen began his presentation by stating comprehensive hormone testing should be done for all patients with chronic illness. He recommended testing thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones, as well as pituitary hormones which normally stimulate the production of thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones. Pituitary hormones including luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, growth hormone, and prolactin may be used to evaluate pituitary function. If abnormalities are revealed, the function of the hypothalamus should also be examined.

Prolactin, a pituitary hormone known for stimulating breast milk production, tends to be elevated in chronic illness. Prolactin participates in a multitude of bodily functions and chronically high levels of prolactin can have far reaching effects. Symptoms may include decreased libido and mood, insulin resistance, and weight gain. Low thyroid function may also contribute to high prolactin levels, but a pituitary growth called an adenoma should be ruled out if prolactin levels are especially high. Proper treatment of hypothyroidism may restore prolactin to normal levels.

Impaired cognitive function can be a persistent symptom of Lyme disease and other associated diseases. Dr. Shippen described using a topical gel of selegiline, DHEA, and pregnenolone for cognitive dysfunction arising during chronic illness. Selegiline is a drug that inhibits the breakdown of dopamine in the brain. It is commonly used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and has favorable action on neuro-repair. The adrenal hormones, DHEA and pregnenolone, may also have neurosteroid or neuro-enhancing properties. Dr. Shippen presented case studies to illustrate the effectiveness of addressing some of these hormone deficits.

Changes of Thyroid and Adrenal Function in Chronic Infections/Lyme Disease, presented by Usha Honeyman, DC, ND
Dr. Usha Honeyman is a chiropractor and a naturopathic physician who practices in Corvallis, Oregon, and specializes in finding hidden causes to chronic disease and inflammation. She, too, focused on the presence of hormone dysfunction in patients with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases.

Patients with chronic Lyme disease and associated diseases tend to have low body temperatures. Normal body temperature is important in patients with chronic infection because white blood cell activity may be impaired under low temperature conditions. Healthy, active white blood cells are vital in helping the body fight infection. Low body temperature is also a symptom often associated with low thyroid function. Lyme disease and associated diseases may affect thyroid function in a number of ways:

  • Cytokines and inflammatory agents, which are often elevated in chronic infection, may affect thyroid function.
  • Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) is produced by the hypothalamus and activates cortisol in the body. CRH tends to be elevated in chronic infection. Excess CRH activity may interfere with thyroid function by inhibiting the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, to the active form, T3.
  • Infection is a stress activator of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
  • The interaction between these three glands regulates many functions in the body, including thyroid.

Final Thoughts
The incidence of Lyme disease is on the rise in the United States. Some practitioners have recommended that anyone who is struggling with any type of chronic health issue be examined for Lyme disease. Hormone disruption is not usually the first thing considered by practitioners when a patient presents with a chronic disease; however, some of the ILADS practitioners are now urging all practitioners to examine the effects of high or low hormone levels and treat accordingly in patients with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases. Chronic Lyme disease may contribute to hormone imbalance, or, alternatively, hormone imbalance may be a source of the symptoms exhibited in chronic Lyme disease.

  • International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
  • Shippen ER. Pituitary Gland and Endocrine Dysfunctions in Chronic Lyme/Co-infections. Lecture presented at: Annual ILADS meeting; October 2015; Fort Lauderdale, FL.
  • Honeyman U. Changes of Thyroid and Adrenal Function in Chronic Infections/Lyme Disease. Lecture presented at: Annual ILADS meeting; October 2015; Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Lyme Disease Research Update2018-04-02T16:25:10-05:00

Nicotine’s Effects on Thyroid Function

Nicotine’s Effects on Thyroid Function

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

A growing body of data suggests that nicotine can have a detrimental effect on thyroid function. Animal research has established a cellular link between nicotine and thyroid activity. Human research also points to a possible connection between nicotine-induced altered thyroid function and cognitive impairment.

Nicotine may cause underactive or overactive thyroid symptoms in certain individuals. Reproductive-aged women, heavy smokers, and people attempting to quit smoking may be more susceptible to hypothyroidism. People already diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and the general population may more likely develop an increase in overactive thyroid symptoms.

Thyroid hormone levels should be closely monitored in smokers as well as in those attempting to quit so that abnormalities can be addressed. It may be that weight gain and other negative effects associated with smoking cessation can be minimized with thyroid hormone supplementation.

Nicotine’s Effects on Thyroid Function2018-04-04T16:23:50-05:00

Catching Up with Dr. David Brownstein

Catching Up with Dr. David Brownstein

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy


Dr. David Brownstein is a family practice physician practicing in the Detroit area. He is the author of 13 books and a highly sought-after speaker. This month, I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine conference in Blaine, Washington.

Desiccated Thyroid and Iodine in Autoimmune Disease

During Dr. Brownstein’s presentation, he focused on the use of desiccated thyroid and iodine in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease. Desiccated thyroid is a porcine-derived thyroid hormone replacement medication containing a full complement of thyroid hormones. He shared that when he was in medical school, he was taught desiccated thyroid and iodine were not to be used in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease. Iodine was even blamed as a cause of the disease! However, when he investigated further on his own, he found practitioners had used desiccated thyroid and iodine with great success over 100 years ago. He now thinks that thyroid autoimmuneity actually arises from a scarcity of iodine in the body.

Two of Dr. Brownstein’s books focus specifically on iodine and thyroid health: Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It and Overcoming Thyroid Disorders. In his books, Dr. Brownstein describes two of the major autoimmune thyroid diseases which involve inflammation of the thyroid gland: Grave’s Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Grave’s Disease is associated with hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid activity) and Hashimoto’s Disease is associated with both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (too little thyroid activity). Dr. Brownstein believes that autoimmune thyroid disease is becoming epidemic, and routinely tests each new patient for thyroid antibodies associated with these diseases. He estimates that as many as 15-20% of the population are now positive for autoimmune thyroid disease.

Are We Getting Enough Iodine?

In the first part of the 20th century, it was discovered that some parts of the country are naturally low in iodine. Iodine was added to salt in an effort to prevent widespread iodine deficiency in the U.S. However, the amount of iodine in iodized salt may fall short in meeting our body’s iodine needs. Dr. Brownstein states the amount of iodine needed by the body is much higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). In addition, over the last several decades, our exposure to bromine, chlorine, and fluoride has skyrocketed. Bromine is used as a disinfectant, in fire retardants and as an anti-caking agent in flour. Chlorine is added to our drinking water as a disinfectant. Fluoride has also been added to drinking water to decrease the incidence of tooth decay. Dr. Brownstein describes how these substances compete with iodine in the body and make it difficult for iodine to perform its necessary functions.

What Does Iodine Do in the Body?

Iodine is necessary to form distinct thyroid hormones. It is also needed to create a substance called iodolactone. Iodolactone is a key regulator of cell growth and programmed cell death. This regulator is needed to prevent excessive cell growth (including cancer) in the thyroid gland. Dr. Brownstein proposes thyroid antibodies (substances in the body that can attack the thyroid gland) form when there is damage to the thyroid gland. Iodolactone works with fish oils in a way that can protect the thyroid gland from damage. Iodine also has a number of other important functions in the body unrelated to thyroid.

Thyroid Support and Monitoring

Some patients may need desiccated thyroid in addition to iodine to support their thyroid function. However, the test most practitioners rely on to determine if thyroid hormone supplementation is needed may appear abnormal during the first few months of iodine use and then drop back down to normal levels. This test is called the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test. Dr. Brownstein recommends also testing T3 and T4 levels and thyroid antibodies in addition to taking a patient’s basal body temperature and symptoms into account. Dr. Brownstein further suggests supplementing cofactors like selenium and magnesium, and antioxidants such as vitamin C.

This brief summary of Dr. Brownstein’s presentation and his books just touches the surface of how important iodine and thyroid are to our health. Dr. Brownstein shares a great deal more of his knowledge in his books and I would recommend reading them. The more we can understand about how our bodies work, the better we can direct our efforts to regaining or keeping our health.

Catching Up with Dr. David Brownstein2017-12-14T16:09:35-05:00

Is There a Connection Between Thyroid Dysfunction and Mental Illness?

Is There a Connection Between Thyroid Dysfunction and Mental Illness?

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy


Endocrine glands, and the hormones they secrete, significantly affect the central nervous system (CNS). Thyroid hormones in particular are crucial to the formation and function of the CNS. The inactive thyroid hormone T4 is secreted by the thyroid gland and transported across the blood-brain barrier, where it is converted into T3, the active thyroid hormone. Adequate thyroid hormone levels are necessary to support both the neurons, which are the structural and functional units of the nervous system, and the glia cells, which connect and support the brain and spinal cord.

Suboptimal thyroid function can lead to mental disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Hypothyroidism may contribute to apathy, low energy, impaired memory, and problems with attention span. Hyperthyroidism may also result in mood swings, impatience, irritability, and mental decline in the elderly.

To make matters worse, medications used to treat mental disorders can adversely affect thyroid function. A comprehensive review of the medical literature concluded that some medications used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression are associated with thyroid function abnormalities. These include lithium, phenothiazines, and tricyclic antidepressants. Patients using these classes of medications should be monitored for thyroid dysfunction. Patients receiving other types of mental illness drug therapies may also need to be monitored.

Additional Resources:

For more resources from Women’s International Pharmacy, see our Mental Health Resources page.

  • Noda M. Possible role of glial cells in the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and mental disorder. Front Cellular Neurosci. 2015 June; 9(194).
  • Bou KR, Richa S. Thyroid adverse effects of psychotropic drugs: a review. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2011 Nov-Dec; 34(6): 248-55.
Is There a Connection Between Thyroid Dysfunction and Mental Illness?2018-04-04T15:16:07-05:00

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane by Mia Lundin, NP, RN

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

How many women have felt like her world was falling apart at some stage in her life? Assailed by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, irritability, weeping, brain fog, and loss of focus and concentration, she seeks help from her trusted medical practitioner. Traditional medicine offers her symptomatic relief with pharmaceutical chemicals such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, and sleep aids. Side effects from these medications sometimes lead to the addition of more medications. When this option fails, the medical practitioner, at a loss, may tell her, “It’s all in your head.” This roller coaster of symptoms can make any woman think she is going insane.

This happened to Mia Lundin, NP, author of Female Brain Gone Insane, after she gave birth to her second child. Although resistant, she did turn to antidepressants for a time. Prior to using antidepressants, she noticed an injection of progesterone dramatically relieved her symptoms for a few days. Ultimately, her curiosity about hormones, sparked by the benefit she experienced with progesterone, led her to a 20-year clinical practice using bioidentical sex, adrenal, and thyroid hormones along with amino acids to help with neurotransmitter production in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are made in the body from amino acids obtained by digesting proteins in the diet. Neurotransmitter balance is a key component of brain function. There are over 50 known neurotransmitters, but those we understand the best are serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine (or noradrenaline), and dopamine. The first two have calming effects and the second two are excitatory. Neurotransmitters do not operate alone, but are greatly influenced by sex, thyroid, and adrenal hormones.

A woman’s hormone levels may be especially affected at certain times during her life. Hormone fluctuations may occur cyclically before a woman’s period, after childbirth, and during perimenopause. Low hormone levels are common during perimenopause, menopause, and surgical menopause. These hormone level changes may produce changes to the hormone-brain chemistry balance.

Estrogen affects serotonin activity in a number of ways. Estrogen makes tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, more available in the brain to make serotonin. Estrogen also supports serotonin levels by enhancing the removal of the enzyme, monoamine oxidase (MAO), that breaks down serotonin in the brain. Additionally, estrogen sensitizes serotonin receptors and fluctuating estrogen levels may impair the production of serotonin. Loss of the calming effect of serotonin may trigger symptoms of agitation, sensitivity, and uneasiness.

Adrenal cortisol may become depleted when the body is under continuous stress. When this happens, estrogen and progesterone can become unbalanced. GABA levels may be affected because progesterone stimulates GABA production. Serotonin stores may also become depleted.

On the other hand, if adrenaline and cortisol are high, as during a response to acute stress, and estrogen is out of balance with progesterone, thyroid activity may be inhibited. Low thyroid function can contribute to low serotonin levels and low serotonin levels can contribute to low thyroid function.

In Female Brain Gone Insane, Lundin does much more than describe how the disruption of hormones affects brain chemistry. She supplies lists of symptoms to help identify hormone deficiencies and excesses, provides suggestions on hormone testing and how to have it done, and she suggests ways to approach medical practitioners to find assistance with hormone use. She provides questionnaires and charts for those who want to help themselves. In short, she provides the framework for an entire lifestyle makeover. Women who feel that their world has fallen apart can find guidance back to themselves in this book.

This book is an excellent primer for those who want to learn more about bioidentical hormone therapies. Further, it is so well-referenced that practitioners who want to start learning about identifying and helping their patients with hormone-brain chemistry imbalances will find what they need here.

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane2018-06-14T10:49:33-05:00