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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

27: Still More Iodine?

Last week I left off with mention of a breakthrough in my health. I was at the ten-month point following my adrenal crash, still not much better and in some ways worse. It had already been a long, hard go. But it hadn’t been wasted. I wasn’t sorry that this affliction had come upon me: sometimes we can’t recognize how badly things need to change until it gets so bad that we cannot go on.

The things that had to change in me were as follows: I had to learn to stop pushing myself beyond my limits. I had to get serious about feeding myself consistently, before my blood-sugar had a chance to go in the tank. I had to keep trying to get to bed by ten o’clock. I had to learn that I do not breathe normally when I’m focussed on the things I enjoy. A case in point: the thing that totally put me over the edge with my adrenals last spring was writing these health articles. Yep. Total irony. I’d work intensely, not realizing that I wasn’t breathing. I would suffer debilitating anxiety (because my low oxygen was telling my adrenals that we had a crisis at hand), yet never understanding why. So I would just keep going, even though I knew it was taking a terrible toll on my body.

Rewind to August of 2010. I’ve been on iodine for nine months, beginning at 25 mg and increasing over time to 50 mg. From the six-week point and onward, I’ve been feeling no anxiety. Fantastic emotional resilience. Bear in mind that these doses are, respectively, 160 and 320 times the RDA. Now my hormone doctor was suggesting that I cut back to 12.5 mg.

This dose, 12.5 mg, is generally considered to be a good maintenance dose, once you’ve replenished your body. So I found this plan copasetic. But in retrospect, I believe that from that point on, my iodine stores began to gradually diminish until, about six months later, I’m starting to struggle with anxiety again. Three months further, I’m crashed. Flat.

Fast forward again to early March of this year: I’ve changed some habits, but I’m still not doing well. I decide to go for an iodine-load test. This is a lab test (it costs $100) to discover if you are deficient in iodine. Here’s how it works: You take a dose of 50 mg of iodine first thing in the morning. You collect all your urine for the next 24 hours and send a measured sample away to a lab in the US. If you have sufficient iodine stores, they expect at least 90% of that dose to show up in the urine, indicating that the body doesn’t need much.

(Interestingly, the way this somewhat arbitrary 90% was settled upon was that they found each of the patients who expelled this percentage had, in the course of their iodine supplementation, come to the place of feeling great, both physically and emotionally. The others, whose bodies retained more than 10%, were still not feeling optimum.)

Another month went by as I waited for the results. Very early in the morning of April 11 (1:30 a.m. to be exact) I was awoken to a family crisis. When everything was finally resolved and I got back to bed, it was 4:00 a.m. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay there vibrating with misplaced adrenaline, feeling like I was levitating six inches off the bed. Eventually I slept fitfully for two hours but was unable to rest any more. By late afternoon, I was so strung out that I phoned my husband in tears. ‘‘I think I need to take some medication,’’ I said. He knew what a big deal this was. Twenty-seven months it had been since I’d used these pills, and it had been a terrific personal victory. He gently told me to do what I needed to do and not worry about it. So I did.

The very next day, my hormone doctor called with the results of my lab test. “Bottom line,” she said, “you are not getting enough iodine.” I had expelled only 58% of the iodine. Who would have guessed that I was still deficient! And it turns out, the adrenals are one of the many glands and organs for which iodine is crucial.

Immediately I increased my dosage. I continued to take my anti-anxiety medication because I was in such bad shape, but over the next three weeks I tapered down from 2 doses daily to none as the extra iodine kicked in. Two months later I’m still improving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

26: A Year in Retrospect

As I ride the mower along the edge of the bush around the outer parameter of the lawn, I see that the black currants are in blossom: tiny, delicate yellow blooms set against the bright green leaves. It takes me back to the beginning of June a year ago.

The first day of June 2011 brought a much-anticipated event for our family: the U2 concert in Edmonton. Later, after a full evening’s entertainment, Melissa and I, having got separated from the other four, stood outside in a crowd of 60,000 people waiting to get on the LRT. After we’d stood for half an hour and not seen any progress, she suggested that we walk back to our parking spot, about three and a half kilometres away. She phoned the others, passed along the plan, and told them we’d meet them at the vehicles.

She set out at a sizzling pace, her long legs eating up the metres. My legs are long too, but I haven’t near as much sizzle anymore. She is a long-distance runner, so her stamina is formidable. I tried to match her pace, breaking into a run intermittently to close the gap. Now bear in mind, it was almost midnight, and I had been up since 4:30 that morning. Dinner was a faraway memory, not a good thing for someone who tends toward low blood sugar. But I’ve always had this mentality that it’s good to push your body hard, that this is what makes us strong.

This attitude comes from long-distance training back in my own distant youth. However, I’ve come to realize that this is a dumb idea, especially when there are other mitigating factors, like being overtired and hungry. And all this on the heels of several weeks of operating with uncontrollable anxiety. I was running on fumes; more accurately, as I understand now, I was running on adrenaline.

Thirty minutes later we reached the vehicles, far ahead of the others. As I leaned against the truck, my equilibrium went strange for a few minutes and I found I was having trouble keeping my balance. The rest of the family caught up with us after a bit, and in due course we all got something to eat and got home to bed.

I didn’t think any more about the demands I’d made on my body, until I got up four days later. I tried to go for a pleasant walk on a Sunday morning with my husband and found I simply could not do it. (Adrenals Amok, Blog #10).

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the black currants being in blossom. Well, I’m getting to that. The following day I was still completely drained. I was pretty sure I had exhausted my adrenal glands. I looked up an email that had come from a reader less than three weeks earlier. She had written me about something called Ribes Nigrum, which “resets the adrenals.”

On Google I discovered that this is the Latin name for black currant and that this remedy is made from the blossoms. I ordered a couple of bottles from a supplier in Ontario, wondering how long it would take to get here. I was feeling quite beside myself. I wanted to dig out my old anti-anxiety medication, but it had been 17 months since I’d used that crutch. I wasn’t going to give in without a fight.

Midday I wandered outside in my robe and slippers, too tired to bother dressing. I climbed down the grassy embankment behind the house to the westerly edge of the lawn, looking for the currant bushes that grow wild there. They were in blossom. I picked a handful and chewed them slowly, thinking I must look like a real nut-case. They didn’t taste very good.

To my amazement the Ribes Nigrum arrived the following day around noon. How is that even possible, ground shipping from Ontario? An answer to prayer for sure. I eagerly began on the suggested two-daily doses.

Two days later found me at a naturopathic clinic in St. Albert that the same reader had mentioned. The doctor, after confirming my self-diagnosis, put me on an adrenal support product containing freeze-dried bovine adrenal and spleen, as well as 3000 mg of Vitamin C daily, and gave me some other directives. He indicated that it would take my adrenals about a year to recover.

But taking stock in early April, the ten-month point, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel any better. In fact I felt like I was still losing ground. And then I had an amazing breakthrough, which I’ll talk about next time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

25: More Salt?

The last thing you expect to hear in a doctor’s office is encouragement to take more salt, but it happened to me. Here’s how it unfolded:

I was at my hormone doctor’s clinic; this was just over a year ago. Into the little room came the doctor’s assistant to do the preliminaries. With her she brought a blood pressure monitor.

“Oh, good!” I said. “I’ve been wanting to make sure my blood pressure is okay, because I’ve been taking extra salt.”

“Good,” she responded.

“Well,” I qualified, “I’ve been taking quite bit. Up to a teaspoon a day extra.”

“Good,” she said again. “Take one to two teaspoon daily. But it has to be good quality sea salt.”

“Absolutely,” I assured her.

I had begun taking salt in my drinking water a few months earlier as a result of some articles I had read. I had wondered occasionally, though, whether I was throwing things out of whack. The monitor quickly confirmed, however, that my blood pressure was as low as ever.

At this site,, I have found 20-plus vital functions of salt in the body. For instance, unrefined salt is key in stabilizing irregular heart rhythm. And though reputed to exacerbate high blood pressure, it is actually essential for the regulation of both high and low blood pressure.

Table salt, by contrast, is stripped of everything but sodium and chloride. Then “to further prevent any moisture from being reabsorbed, the salt refiners add aluminosilicate of sodium or yellow prussiate of soda as desiccants plus different bleaches to the final salt formula. After these processes, the table salt will no longer combine with human body fluids, it invariably causes severe problems of edema (water retention) and several other health disturbances.” Our bodies are also obliged to function without the proper balance of the other 82 elements, causing subtle deficiencies and undiagnosable problems.

In an article last summer, I shared about sea salt’s ability to regulate blood pressure , and a reader was subsequently challenged to try it. After a quintuple by-pass some ten years ago, he had maintained a strict, salt-free diet, and he monitors his blood pressure daily. He contacted me to let me know that since beginning to use sea salt on his food, his blood pressure is lower than it’s been in years.

Salt is also apparently vital in the balancing of blood sugar levels; in digestion, clearing mucous, and preventing muscle cramps, varicose veins, and osteoporosis. It’s a natural antihistamine and also helps regulate sleep and maintain healthy libido.

If you drool while sleeping, it’s an indication of salt deficiency.

Here’s one that I found interesting personally:

“When the body is short of salt, it means the body really is short of water. The salivary glands sense the salt shortage and are obliged to produce more saliva to lubricate the act of chewing and swallowing and also to supply the stomach with water that it needs for breaking down foods. Circulation to the salivary glands increases and the blood vessels become ‘leaky’ in order to supply the glands with water to manufacture saliva. The ‘leakiness’ spills beyond the area of the glands themselves, causing increased bulk under the skin of the chin, the cheeks and into the neck.”

Seventeen years ago I developed some severe problems after a performance of an hour and 40 minutes of singing and speaking. I lost my voice for a month (Try handling four young children without a voice!) and my neck swelled up on both sides right under the jawbone. My GP said I was carrying my stress in my neck and it was affecting my salivary glands.

A dear old fellow in our church offered to pray for me; commanded those lumps to come out in the name of Jesus. I touched his arm and said good-humouredly, “No! Those lumps are my salivary glands. I need them!”
Over time I came to recognize that vocal problems come with dehydration, but it was only when I read this article last year that I finally understood the physiology of this swelling that I’ve frequently had in my neck.

Just a year ago in January, during a wintery cold snap, I was speaking and singing at a Christian Cowboy retreat in Manitoba. On the second song, I lost my singing voice—went completely hoarse. It was brutal. By the end of the evening, my contacts were stuck to my eyeballs, and I realized then that something about the heating system in the place was zapping the moisture out of the air, and my body. The second evening, before I got up to share, I drank a pile of diluted orange juice with an extra teaspoon of salt, over and above my usual quota. I sang flawlessly.

Salt. Don’t leave home without it!