When low thyroid function sneaks up on you

In this video, I explain how malfunctions that are present in the body like the digestive system, the liver, other hormone imbalances and nutrient deficiencies can contribute to symptoms of low thyroid function. The symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, depression, constipation and hair loss. Many women get low thyroid function as they age because of estrogen dominance.

While primary treatments of hypothyroidism usually involve adding thyroid hormones such as Levothyroxine or Armour thyroid, it may not address the root cause if the low thyroid function can be caused by other malfunctions in the body. This explains why I help people restore normal functions in all body systems rather than focusing on symptoms, diagnoses or even a few specific lab numbers. When everything functions correctly, there will be no symptoms. In the case that hypothyroidism was caused by autoimmune attacks on the thyroid, or Hashimoto’s, intestinal permeability or leaky gut plays a big role (check out this review paper for scientific evidences).

I also discuss the reasons why many lab tests come back “normal” even though you know something is wrong.

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Does red meat really cause cancer?

In this video, I looked at the full text of the article “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat” that was released by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lancet Oncology.

As a cancer researcher who does original research, it is a pet peeve of mine that research discovery can often get misinterpreted by the media. Doing scientific research is an arduous job, and we the researchers are often very careful with our words not to overstate our findings. In this case, the message is greatly misunderstood and it has taken the internet by the storm. Therefore, I take up the role to report this as accurately and balanced as possible to the public.

The IARC prefaced their report that red meat has nutritional value. While they categorize red and process meat as carcinogen, then made no nutritional recommendations. Rather, they suggest that risks and benefits be weighted in providing the best dietary recommendations.

The Lancet Oncology article states that the studies that led to their decisions to categorize these meats as carcinogen include many epidemiological studies and plausible mechanisms involving testing of individual chemicals found in cooked meats in animals. It seems that all available data in humans remains correlational, which doesn’t directly proof causation.

Cancer is a multifactorial disease that involves numerous factors. Rarely is one thing a sole cause of cancer. In addition, our bodies have our own anti-cancer mechanisms. There are 6 (and more recently updated to 8) hallmarks of cancers that cells have to acquire to become full-blown cancer. While consumption of cooked, processed or charred meats expose us to some cancer-causing chemicals, we are also eating other foods (like vegetables and fruits) that may counteract or worsen the potential cancer-causing effects. In addition, several cancer-causing compounds are generated by bacteria in the gut rather than directly from the meat.

By the way, the IARC considers yerba mate tea as a class 2A carcinogen, which I find interesting. Most other items on their class 1 and class 2A list do make sense, though.

My dietary recommendations based on this would be:

  1. Eat red meat as you wish, and also eat lots of vegetables to go with it.
  2. Cook the meats gently
  3. Avoid conventionally grown meats and dairy. Instead, consume grassfed, pastured meats.
  4. It may be beneficial to limit red and processed meats if it appears that colon cancer runs in your family. Perhaps see a genetic counselor who can analyze the family tree to decide if the predisposition is genetic or more environmental.

    Questions/comments: Please post below.

The problems with eating yoghurt for IBS or digestive health.

If you are dealing with IBS, or constipation and diarrhea, and you’re eating yoghurt and fiber, you may be doing more harm than good.

Here are 4 problems to this approach:

  1. Dosage – the amount of probiotics in a common products, like yoghurt, are too low to be beneficial. You need at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs), and even better, strains that have been researched to withstand stomach acids.

Even with medical grade probiotic products that may contain up to several hundred millions CFUs, it may still be a drop in the bucket comparing to the total number of bacteria you have. Humans have trillions (a million of a million) probiotic cells. While introducing researched probiotic strains in a supplement form may be beneficial, it usually is not the end-all be-all with health problems like IBS.

  1. Probiotic products typically assume that you have normal levels of stomach acid and intestinal movements. Many people, especially those who have digestive problems, do not have normal levels of stomach acid. In addition, medications that reduce stomach acids such as Nexium and even Tums are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States and patients discontinuing these medications may not return to normal stomach acid levels. Lastly, chronic stress, bad nutrition, and poor eating hygiene often lead to reduced stomach acids and intestinal movements. If this is the case, the introduced probiotics may colonize in the small bowel instead of the large bowel, leading to small intestine bacterial overgrowth, which is believed to be the root cause of many health problems.
  1. Most yoghurt products market themselves for the benefits of probiotics, but not only do they usually not contain enough bacteria to make a difference, the problems actually include:
  • Antibiotics may be mixed into the feed of the cows that make the milk and this comes out in the milk.
  • Added sugar or artificial sweeteners that can be harmful.
  • Artificial flavors and additives that can irritate the gut further.
  • Residual lactose, as commercial yoghurts are fermented only for a short period of time. The remaining lactose can lead to bloating, flatulence, and more digestive problems.
  1. Lactic acid bacteria isn’t the only thing that is beneficial. In fact, they can cause trouble like very severe diarrhea for some people. For these people with preexisting gut bacteria imbalances, introducing lactic acid bacteria may not be a good idea.  content3


  1. Other factors like mental/emotional stress and chemical exposures can mess up your gut bacteria and digestive system, no matter how many probiotics you take. This may be why you still have IBS.

Want to learn more:



Overall health vs cardiovascular health? Is low cholesterol really healthy?

My mom loves seafood and it rubbed off on all of her kids. As we drooled over the 12 oz. lobster tails and octopuses at the specialty market, she passed on those things saying, “These have high cholesterol.”

She is fairly educated and definitely not stupid, but I find it interesting that the cholesterol propaganda has caused her to think that cholesterol is absolute poison and that all high cholesterol foods should be avoided. Unfortunately, lots of yummy and nutritious foods are usually high in cholesterol.

It is intuitive to think that eating high cholesterol foods will raise blood cholesterol levels. That is simply not true because the body produces most of the cholesterol depending on the needs. If we eat more cholesterol, it produces less. We need cholesterol to stabilize the membranes of every single cell in our bodies, as well as to make hormones and vitamin D. Stress and inflammation increase the needs for cholesterol, and that may raise cholesterol levels. Humans with genetic defects that prevent them from making cholesterol, either die shortly after birth or exhibit mental retardation and developmental abnormalities.

I myself have experienced having very low cholesterol. A few years back, I was mega-dosing a plant sterol supplement to control my allergies and eczema, but I wasn’t aware that plant sterols are potent cholesterol reducers as well as immune stimulants. At the same time, I was going through a lot of stress in graduate school, working out 12 hours a week and dieting to lean out. My total cholesterol level was borderline hypocholesterolemia (low enough to need intervention) at 4.1 mm/dL or 158.3 mg/L. Although the number may not be out of range, it was definitely too low to be healthy for me. Alas, my doctor told me that my bloodwork looked perfect.

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My perfect bloodwork while I was a complete mess.

Generally, stress and inflammation may increase cholesterol because there is greater needs to produce the stress hormones cortisol, among other things. However, because my cholesterol was artificially lowered, my body wasn’t able to produce enough cortisol and sex hormones; I experienced what many people call “stage 3 adrenal fatigue.” The adrenal crash, together with the immune stimulating effect of the plant sterol and my stress levels, caused the biggest eczema and allergy flare-up I had ever had. My upper body was nearly covered in eczema. I became allergic to things I had not been allergic to my entire life. Also, my cycles were prolonged to up to 50 days in between. I was also very depressed and had very little energy, possibly because of low sex hormones, vitamin D, cortisol, and everything else that was made of cholesterol. I’ve since stopped the culprit supplement, and gobbled up some butter, my cycles have normalized, I cleared up the eczema completely (mostly with nutrition) and the depression is gone.

I’m absolutely not saying that no one on the planet needs to lower their cholesterol. We need to be reminded that all diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), are multi-factorial. It usually takes more than one factor to cause heart disease or stroke. The total cholesterol number alone is not indicative of heart disease risk, unless it is more than 330 mg/L. Generally, factor that put people at higher CVD risk include smoking or oxidative stress, being overweight, diabetes or insulin resistance, hypertension, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet. If you are curious, try the Framingham Risk Assessment Tool to estimate your 10-year risk of developing CVDs.


The general model of how CVDs occur is that there is an insult to the arterial wall, such as a tear and then the body attempts to repair the tear by depositing oxidized cholesterol, fat, calcium and blood clot. As with any tissue repair process, this involves inflammation. People with more inflammation levels have faster plague buildup than those who don’t. The initial insult to the arterial walls happen because of oxidative stress and blood pressure. Also, oxidized fat and cholesterol get deposited in the plagues. While there is no direct scientific evidence that high cholesterol on its own cause diseases in humans, reducing cholesterol in people with previous heart attacks reduce the risks of subsequent heart attacks given that they also have high cholesterol.

In addition, there are subclasses of LDL (the generally called “bad” cholesterol) which are not commonly tested for in standard bloodwork.  Small, dense LDLs with oxidized fats and cholesterol are much more likely to cause CVDs than larger, more buoyant LDL particles. It seems like diets higher in refined carbohydrate, rather than dietary saturated fats or cholesterol, increase bad LDLs.

With all of that said, the way to manage your cardiovascular risk is not by avoiding high cholesterol foods. If you are reading this, I assume that you are in shape and eat a healthy diet. Here’s my take on how I usually help my clients manage their CVD risks if that is their concern.

  1. Eat a low glycemic impact diet
  2. Cut back on fructose
  3. Reduce inflammation with a fish oil supplement. In some cases I may recommend additional antioxidants such as curcumin. Also, maybe I would put them on an elimination diet or run a gut pathogen screen to reduce inflammation.
  4. Eliminate all sources of refined high-omega-6 oils (i.e. vegetable oils), especially ones that has been heated. Focus on monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado oils and macadamia nut oils.
  5. Manage stress
  6. (If the doctor clears) exercise
  7. Supplements like plant sterols (in moderate dose), niacin and vitamin C may help reduce cholesterol.

For many athletic people, rather than cardiovascular concerns, the converse is true that they need to maintain healthy cholesterol levels while keeping oxidative stress in check. Therefore, if they have symptoms of hormone imbalances, I generally recommend adding fattier cuts of meats from healthy sources to their diets. Since exercise increases oxidative stress, athletic people could benefit from diets higher in antioxidants, and perhaps supplementation.

In case you are wondering about the blood numbers to look for, check out Dr. Spencer Nadolsky’s blog post.

Also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.