Like Grandfather, Like Grandson…inheritance

 

When I was growing up, my much-older brothers would chime out with ‘We blame it on the parents!’ as a come-back when criticized for their various shortcomings, pointed out by school teachers and sundry concerned adults. When they became adults and then parents themselves they of course changed the line to “…blame it on the grandparents”

red headed bearded man and his son

Research from McGill University and published in the journal Science shows they were right! Apparently a son inherits not only directly from his father but also from his grandfather.

DNA and Darwin
Darwin knew back in 1836 there was some way that characteristics of one individual are passed to the next generation and that thinking developed over the decades into the field of genetics with DNA as its centrepiece. But no matter how many billions of dollars are thrown at discovering the cure for everything by decoding the human genome (DNA coding that makes a person an individual) it turns out the solution lies elsewhere… or at least in part.

father and baby feet crossed on coffee tableGenes in short
To give a little background, genes are turned on or off. You may have a gene for an illness but unless the relevant gene is turned on you will not suffer the disease. And we know that genes respond to their environment. So we can therefore work out that it is likely to be the environment which indirectly causes the disease THROUGH the gene. If you were in a different environment then the gene would have stayed switched off and the disease would have not manifested.
When a gene turns on and creates a characteristic or disease as in this example, it is called gene expression. A gene expresses itself by creating a protein (if you are interested in a detailed explanation of this it can be found here http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/makingprotein) which then affects the body’s physiology resulting in what we see as a genetic trait.

Like Father Like Son
In the McGill study they have discovered that there is a protein called a histone which is responsible for the transfer or inheritance of the information. I remember histone by thinking of it as passing on a history from one generation to the next. Histones are proteins found in sperm and therefore is definitely not part of the inheritance process from mother to child!

bearded man with his crochet bearded baby
The actual mechanism by which histones transfer the information isn’t known, however it is known that this information can be passed on through several generations.

What does this mean?
If you are interested at all in understanding the ‘why’ of ‘why did this happen to me’ or ‘why am I like this’, it might be well worth looking back through the generations of male relatives for possible answers. Remember this research can only provide possible clues – inheritance is a complex picture.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151008142622.htm

Thyroid Part 2

In Part 1 we discussed what the Thyroid gland is, what it does and what to do if you are concerned that something might be amiss.

In Part 2 we’ll look at what we might be able to do to naturally treat conditions that might lead to issues with the Thyroid.

The role of Iodine in the health of your thyroid gland?

The active thyroid hormone T3 is actually called tri-iodothyronine and as this name indicates each molecule of T3 contains 3 atoms of Iodine. So in order to be produced, a ready supply of Iodine needs to be in the body.

According to World Health Organisation  here are the daily requirements for adults;

Adults                                  150mcg/day

Pregnant women                 250 mcg/day

Breastfeeding women         250 mcg/day

The reason that your requirement is higher during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding is that you are supplying all the baby’s needs as well as your own. The consequences of the baby being unable to produce sufficient thyroid can be devastating resulting in low IQ or even Cretinism

In the long term, a lack of sufficient Iodine can lead to various problems. As the thyroid gland has difficulty providing enough iodised thyroid hormone (the active T3) it can enlarge in size, trying to harness more Iodine…

What foods contains Iodine?

The body obtains the Iodine it needs from food. The amount of Iodine in food varies considerably not only from food to food but also depends on its origin (country, region, individual farm ~ some have soils deficient in Iodine) and also the season.

Here are some Iodine Rich Foods;

  • Seaweed (sea vegetables – kelp*, arame, hiziki, kombu, wakame
  • Cranberries
  • Yoghurt (organic)
  • Navy beans (organic)
  • Strawberries (organic)
  • Cheese (organic)
  • Potatoes (organic) – you should learn about the chemicals they use in the non-organic growing of this staple crop – it is scary!!

* NOTE in the case of some seaweed such as kelp which contain very high levels of Iodine it is recommended that Pregnant Women eat it only once a week.

Research has shown that organic milk contains a 40% lower Iodine content than conventional milk so this will presumably knock on to yoghurt and cheese too.

I have found a few figures from reputable sources –

Food Portion Average Iodine/portion (mcg) actual Iodine content will vary
Cow’s milk 200mL 50-80**
Organic cow’s milk 200mL 30-65**
Yoghurt 150g 50-100**
Eggs 1 egg (50g) 20
Cheese 40g 15
White fish 100g 115
Oily fish 100g 50
Shellfish 100g 90
Meat 100g 10
Poultry 100g 10
Nuts 25g 5
Bread 1 slice (36g) 5
Fruit and Veg 1 portion (80g) 3

** Depending on the season, higher value in winter

What can I do or avoid doing to reduce the risk?

Below you will read a few cautionary statements for specific foods or minerals from the British Thyroid Foundation regarding Iodine and pregnancy.

Calcium

Some calcium rich foods and supplements interfere with levothyroxine absorption. A gap of 4 hours between the two would be adequate to ensure there is no significant impact on blood thyroxine levels. If you are trying to lose weight and using lower fat milk (i.e. semi-skimmed or skimmed) note that these remain high in calcium despite being lower in fat.

Soy(a)

Soya interferes with thyroxine absorption, therefore if you are taking thyroxine you should try to avoid soya. If you wish to take soya, there should be as long a time interval as possible between eating the soya and taking the thyroxine.

There is evidence of certain brands of soya milk being withdrawn from sale by authorities in countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan because they contained excessive amounts of Iodine or being highly enriched with seaweed products that naturally contain Iodine.

Kelp

Avoid products such as kelp, as they may interfere with thyroid function & wellbeing. Kelp is derived from seaweed and is naturally high in Iodine. Because of this it is sometimes marketed as a “thyroid booster” and can be purchased in dry preparations and tablets. As with Iodine itself, it is of no health benefit to those with thyroid disease.

Iodine

People with hypothyroidism should avoid preparations high in Iodine as it can make the condition paradoxically worse. Additionally, in certain people it could provoke hyperthyroidism.

The British Thyroid Association has issued the following statement on the use of Iodine supplements and we have advised our members accordingly

  • The thyroid gland requires Iodine for normal function. Adults need 150mcg of Iodine per day.
  • Typically we obtain the Iodine we need from a normal healthy, balanced diet. Table & cooking salt in the UK contains little or no Iodine. Too little Iodine can result in thyroid swelling (a goitre). Goitre in the UK is not due to Iodine deficiency Too much Iodine can be dangerous and cause either under activity of the thyroid (hypothyroidism) or, in some cases over activity (hyperthyroidism).
  • If you are taking thyroid hormone (eg. levothyroxine) for hypothyroidism or for a goitre (an enlarged thyroid gland) there is no need to supplement with Iodine. It will do no good.
  • Also, it can be harmful and dangerous to take Iodine if you have an overactive thyroid, even if you are on standard anti thyroid drugs, as the extra Iodine counteracts their effects.
  • Should you take Iodine supplements at any time? Only if it is recommended by your GP or hospital consultant.

Iron tablets

Some medications such as iron tablets (ferrous sulphate) can interfere with the absorption of thyroxine. Some doctors recommend a two-hour interval between taking thyroxine and the iron. Follow the advice or your doctor or pharmacist. Be aware that some multi vitamin tablets contain iron.

Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower kale)

Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, kale etc) may contribute to formation of a goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland) in some cases, but consumption needs to be very high before this is a real concern. In the UK, under normal dietary conditions, this is not normally a problem and the risk is very low.

There are also other risks to the health of the thyroid. A few things which can stimulate thyroid problems include cigarettes, plastics (PCBs) and the body’s own natural oestrogens as well as the xenoestrogens coming from our industrial pollution.

Where can I get more information?

Issues with the Thyroid during pregnancy are one of many common pregnancy health complaints that can be treated with alternative or complementary therapies. If you’d like to find out more you can grab a copy of my book “Alternative Therapies in Pregnancy and Beyond” at the link below. For a limited time only you can buy the book for a huge 75% off the normal retail price. You’ll also pick up a few free bonuses as well.

Just go to www.alternativetherapiesinpregnancy.com, hit the Buy Now button, and where the purchase form asks for a coupon, enter the following code exactly:

ATIPTW75

Other sources

Book; Dr Sandra Cabot and Margaret Jasinska ND Your Thyroid Problems Solved: Holistic Solutions to Improve Your Thyroid

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/endocrine/pregnancy-and-thyroid-disease/Pages/fact-sheet.aspx

The Association of UK Dieticians (BDA)

https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Iodine.pdf

Bastyr University

http://www.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2012/04/what-your-thyroid-and-what-does-it-do

British Thyroid Foundation

http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/108-thyroid-and-diet-factsheet

NHS UK

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Thyroid-under-active/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Fluoride Action Network

http://fluoridealert.org/studies/thyroid01/

If you wish to join a forum specifically for discussion amongst people with thyroid problems this may be the place for you

https://healthunlocked.com/thyroiduk

Thyroid Part 1

The THYROID GLAND and PREGNANCY

What and Where is it and What does it do?

The thyroid gland is a major endocrine gland which is located at the front of your neck, on your throat. It is a butterfly shaped gland of approximately 2 inches in length and affects the function of almost all organs in your body. It is in close communication with the Pituitary gland in the brain. The communication method is via chemical hormones most commonly known as Thyroid or Thyroxine (T3 and T4). There is also Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid gland when it needs to produce more thyroxine.

Multiple-Endocrine-Neoplasia_art

Picture from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (cropped to fit)

The Thyroid is the gland responsible for the maintenance of the body’s temperature regulation (are you hot or cold?), metabolism, weight, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycles, skin condition (dry and scaly?), brain development, skeletal development and heart rate. It effects the cells of almost every organ in the body.

What happens during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a time of intense change for the body of the mother as well as the fetus. During this time the mother’s body needs to accommodate the growing baby as well as the hormonal changes caused by the pregnancy. Two of the main pregnancy hormones, estrogen and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) tell the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone which circulates around the body. hCG has weak thyroid stimulating actions, behaving like TSH so it is unsurprising that during pregnancy some women develop goitres (see a little later).

What will I feel or see? (symptoms or signs)

During pregnancy, typically during the first trimester and towards the end of the pregnancy, you will be feeling tired. It is hard to say what a ‘normal’ level of tiredness is, so use your judgement. If you don’t think you should be as tired as you are seek, guidance from a health care professional.  If they think it is necessary they will conduct a Thyroid Function Test (TFT) which is where they take blood from you and measure the Free T3, Free T4 and TSH levels and measure them against the healthy range. You could also notice a thickening or swelling at the front of your throat. This is called a Goitre.

Goitre (Goiter)

This is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. It can vary greatly in size from almost invisible to really large and affecting throat function. It may be due to underactive, overactive or even appear where there is supposedly normal thyroid function.

Struma_001

What do I need to do if something appears to change?

If you notice a change in the area of your Thyroid gland during pregnancy it is advisable to speak to your obstetrician or GP about it and they can decide whether or not to do a Thyroid Function Test (TFT). Ideas are changing about the limits of the measurements in the TFT. It used to be that a measurement of 4.5 was thought to be the upper TSH limit but specialists in this area are now reporting their patients are at their healthiest with levels between 1mIU/L and 2 mIU/L.

Here is a link to a video where two Drs discuss the optimum TSH levels (in the first few minutes although it is quite a long video)

Here is a link to a great book by Dr Sandra Cabot and Margaret Jasinska ND Your Thyroid Problems Solved: Holistic Solutions to Improve Your Thyroid

Thyroid Part 2 coming soon. This blog will answer questions such as;

What role does Iodine play in the health of your thyroid gland?

What foods contain Iodine?

What can I do or avoid doing to reduce the risk?

Where can I get more information?

The importance of Birth Plans


“Birth Plans” or “Birth Wishes” are becoming more and more popular for women having their baby in a hospital. Some hospitals even have a birth plan form that they hand out to all of their pregnant women. I will refer to the birth plan as ‘birth wishes’ for the remainder of the article.

Most couples have at least one thing that they either really want or really don’t want during their birth. Some examples include: being able to freely move around, using the tub for natural pain relief, delayed cord clamping, no epidural, etc. I’m not a promoter of having a set birth plan, but I do think it’s important to write down and discuss the things you want and don’t want before and during your birth.

It can be very helpful to write down your birth wishes and desires and review it with your doctor before the big day. This can do a couple of things for you:

You will know how your doctor feels about your birth wishes. If you want something like delayed cord clamping, and your doctor is against it, it may be a good idea to switch providers. You won’t know how he/she feels about it until you ask.

You can have your doctor review and sign your birth wish form. It’s not always guaranteed that you will give birth with your doctor. In that case, you would be working with someone you have never met before. If you have your birth wish form that your doctor signed, then you can show the on-call doctor. Even if he/she doesn’t agree with what you want, they are more likely to go along with your desires if your doctor signed off on it.

The nurses will know exactly what you want. The nurses are there more than the doctor and if they know what you want, then they can give you better support. If your nurse knows that you don’t want an epidural beforehand, then she/he will be less likely to ask if you want one.

If you have a request that the hospital is not used to, it is best if they know right away (like keeping your placenta, for example). This will give you more time to discuss it with them and come to an agreement.

Here are some helpful tips to writing a good Birth Wish form:

Try to keep it short and precise. A one page typed letter is best so it can be easily reviewed (and quickly – the nurses and doctors are often very busy).

Rate which ‘wishes’ you want most and put them right at the top.

Be respectful. Your birth wish form can set the tone for future communications with hospital staff. Try to use phrases like: “Thank you for helping me to achieve a natural birth.” or “We appreciate your support with… ” or “Please don’t ask me if I want an epidural – I will request it if I want it.” – “Please” and “thank yous” are great.

Decide what you can ask for in the moment, and leave those things off your birth wish form. Don’t feel like you have to write everything down. There are some things that can be asked for in the moment – like walking around, or using the shower, using the birth ball, etc.

Find out your hospital policies beforehand – for example, some hospitals do immediate skin-to-skin contact for 1 hour after birth. This is something that you don’t have to put on your birth wish form since they already do it.

And finally, don’t be afraid to express your desires. It is your birth.

Svea Block is a holistic doula and Naturopath In Montreal, Canada. Her website can be found here: http://www.montreal-doula.com/

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