Keith Littlewood tells us why a low-carb diet might be bad for you; how Wi-Fi is affecting our health, and what you need to know about hormones.
As a personal trainer, I made many mistakes with my clients. Suggesting low carbohydrate diets was probably one of the biggest of them. The short-term gains of weight loss and running around feeling ‘great’ fuelled by cortisol, progressively shifted to low energy states, constipation and a host of other metabolic related issues. One of the many pitfalls that trainers often fall into with regards to dieting and food plans is assuming everyone has a functional capacity that can tolerate challenges such as low carb dieting. Figure and fitness competitions shouldn’t be falsely pictured as markers of health, as in many there appears to be significant challenges to hormone function in both males and females during extended bouts of calorific and restricted, carbohydrate intake.
Functional low thyroid states can be induced by low carbohydrate states (which increases cortisol, its precursor ACTH, ultimately increasing TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone), stress, extended fasting, and a host of environmental factors. If we know these facts, why would putting someone on a low carbohydrate diet be considered healthy?
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone. A compound involved in regulating part of the stress response but most importantly, it elevates when blood sugar levels are not being regulated well. One of the tests that you can do to assess the impact of cortisol is the Adrenal Stress Index or ASI. This will usually give the practitioner an idea of cortisol readings throughout the day on waking, midday, afternoon and at night. There’s a suggested norm for these cortisol readings and this should be dependent on several readings (if you are recommending interventions based on one test, you are doing the client/patient a real disservice, yes, I have done that before).
Let’s say the person isn’t eating well, they didn’t eat the night before and skipped breakfast. Will cortisol readings confirm that they have high cortisol? Do you want to lower that? Of course, not – what is the point of taking supplements to lower a perfectly normal biological mechanism, in response to a low blood sugar state? We do want to decrease the repeat of constant fluctuations in blood sugar that lead us to that stress response, but in many cases, high cortisol levels can be lowered by eating enough sugar/carbohydrates. So why have people become scared of eating fruit? The madness must stop.
Hypothyroidism And Low Energy Production
Think of the thyroid gland as the head honcho of energy, weight and metabolic rate. Increasingly, I think there are more maternal/paternal cases of low thyroid function being passed onto offspring. Hypothyroidism is a potent reason why we start to get poor energy production, weight gain (but can also be the opposite in some cases), and a host of other issues. Hyperthyroidism is a slightly different issue and can be associated with weight loss and increased body temperature. Hypothyroidism is becoming more prevalent and these are the most-commonly observed issues:
- Poor sleep
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Loss of hair
- Low libido
- Puffy skin
- Cystic breasts/ovaries
Some of the most prominent thyroid researchers of the last century suggest large parts of westernised society suffer from hypothyroidism. One of the most prevalent problems that exist with diagnosing hypothyroidism is its increasing reliance on blood tests to confirm this condition. Most doctors still use the thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH blood test to confirm whether patients suffer from hypothyroidism. TSH can be useful when you know other factors, however, if there are peripheral conversion issues, it can be normal. It can also be falsely elevated or decreased by nutrients and other hormones.
Putting It To The Test
Broda Barnes, one of the most respected doctors involved in treating hypothyroidism, as well as others, have shown time and time again that the basal temperature test is the most effective method for evaluating thyroid function. This can be achieved by simply placing a thermometer in the armpit upon waking. A suggestion is that temperature should be around 36.6 degrees on waking and after a good intake of food, rise to 37 degrees. Another accepted thyroid test is the Achilles return reflex, which uses a rubber hammer to assess the myotactic reflex of the muscles associated with the ankle. Moreover, the simple clarification of some of the symptoms stated above, with low body temperature, remain an effective assessment for confirming hypothyroidism.
Another pitfall of this overreliance on numbers is in reference to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is considered the gold standard for hypothyroid diagnosis, but its limitations have become increasingly prevalent due to its production via the stimulating centers from TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus and then TSH from the pituitary gland. Thus, if a problem exists at the periphery, the likelihood of getting an accurate assessment is diminished. A normal TSH reading is defined as 0.4-4.5 mU/L, but generally many doctors do not consider someone hypothyroid unless they present with a TSH over 4 mU/L.
Much like the rise of oestrogen, ever decreasing thyroid function is becoming more prevalent. The external sources of oestrogen can wreak havoc with cellular and thyroid function, and in a similar manner another factor of modern living may be interfering with thyroid function and increasing the likelihood of hypothyroid states. A small and short study by Sayed et al. in 2009, reported a significant increase in TSH levels following exposure to mobile phone use. Below you can observe the elevation of TSH, which may cause an interference with optimal thyroid hormone production when chronically exposed.
Another study conducted in 2003 by Rajkovic et al. (again, using rodents), reported effects of electro-magnetic frequency on thyroid function. The study detailed the short and long-term effects on both TSH, T4 and T3. By the two-month point of the study, thyroid output had increased, and analysis by the end of the study, at six months, showed thyroid output had increased significantly. In some cases, the thyroid recovered once the EMF was stopped, but not in all cases. This is important, particularly if the goal is to restore optimal thyroid function, for adequate energy and detoxification pathways to be optimised. Here, you can view the impact of EMF stress on T3, the active form of thyroid hormone.
Some similarities were also observed in lower T4 values. What remains clear is that mobile phones, Wi-Fi and other forms of EMF pose a potent challenge to maintaining homeostasis or optimal balance within living tissue. You can spend plenty of time effectively lowering oestrogen exposure, but failure to address other factors that influence thyroid function could prevent you from achieving your health goals. Many phones operate on a 450Hz frequency, and Wi-Fi technology operates mostly on 2.4Hz.
There’s a growing stance to restrict the amount of Wi-Fi on the developing brain and nervous system. France, Germany and areas in Australia (I am sure there are other countries) have taken steps for banning Wi-Fi in nurseries and some schools. Now, I know what you are thinking: it’s pretty much impossible to eliminate all Wi-Fi unless you manage to get into the wilderness – and you would be correct. That might also be the reason why many clients feel much better when they leave the hustle of the cities to low Wi-Fi zones. Of course, there may be many reasons why that might be beneficial. Fewer Pollutants. Less stress. More exposure to nature. All those are valid, but we cannot ignore the increasingly overwhelming data that suggests EMF is increasingly affecting our health.