In 1995 when his wife (a thyroid cancer survivor) became unexplainably fatigued Dr. Gonino started exploring integrative medicine to bring her back to health. He discovered that diagnosis and surgery are not the end of the story for thyroid cancer. It is then the beginning of a life-long battle with hypothyroidism.
Written by Dr. John Gonino, D.O., P.A.
The 2014 movie, The Fault in Our Stars, based on the novel by John Green about a young woman dying of thyroid cancer stirred up considerable emotion for me. I would like to talk today about thyroid function and it’s extreme importance to our health. Before I go any further, I would like my wife, Linda, a thyroid cancer survivor of thirty three years, to share her story with you.
I suppose I should start my thyroid story with the cancer diagnosis and surgery, but I believe the story preceding the diagnosis is just as important, so that’s where I will start.
My mother was half Cherokee Indian, my father, one quarter. My mom, her mother and three siblings were diabetic and all but one died young. Her father, a full blood Cherokee, died in his forties from pneumonia as a result of injuries sustained in World War One. Our family, being enrolled in the Cherokee Nation, were provided commodities as part of the US Government’s Food Distribution Program for Native Americans. I remember distinctly, my mom opening a box of “cheese” and handing me a slice of this pale yellow, gelatinous and rubbery substance. I remember squeezing it between my little girl fingers, and thinking, it doesn’t bend, break or crumble. I disgustedly dropped this so called cheese and refused to eat it. My grandmother would also mix our “free” powdered milk with water, which I also rejected. It was a chalky liquid, that would stay separated unless continuously stirred and shaken. Other “free food” included lots of sweets and sugary juices. My family also received “free” medical care, which basically consisted of drugs for only treating the symptoms and surgeries.
Many years later, recuperating from thyroid removal surgery, my thoughts kept returning to those days. Thinking about my mom dying young at age forty nine from complications of diabetes and heart disease. And now, I had cancer in my early thirties. “Something” told me my cancer diagnosis was somehow related to poor nutritional habits and genetic predisposition. My studies ,work and experience over the past nineteen years has proven this theory to be in large part, true. After my thyroidectomy, I was put on Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid medication, which I stayed on for the next twenty years.
When I reached my early forties, all hell broke loose in my body! My body became a stranger to me. I had horrible sleep problems with adrenaline rushes all night long, which kept me from getting no more than thirty minutes of sleep at a time. My bowels stopped moving, my energy was almost nonexistent, it was all I could do to get our daughter to school and back. It soon took a toll on me mentally and spiritually, because I had always been a high energy (too high in retrospect) positive person. Now, no amount of mind over matter, positive thinking could make my body do what I wanted it to do.
Fast forward to today and, as Dr Wayne Dyer says, “I Can See Clearly Now”, what had happened in those twenty years on synthetic thyroid medication and the effects it had on every aspect of my body. Thankfully, through a series of “coincidences,” John and I were lead on a path of healing education that has enabled us to be a part of many people’s healing journey.
Glory to God.
But the thyroid blood tests were normal
I became more and more frustrated about Linda’s mysterious symptoms and my inability to help her. I had performed all the usual thyroid blood tests, all of which were in the normal range. When I told her the results, she said, “Fix me or put me in a nursing home.” She was sick and tired and no one could help her, not even me.
She was a forty-four year old mother of a four year old, it was a sad time around our home. A few months later, a patient who I had talked with about Linda’s situation, brought me a book written by Dr. Majid Ali, called The Canary and Chronic Fatigue, and our lives were changed forever.
Linda’s symptoms were explained in this wonderful book and we started her on Dr. Ali’s detoxification program, changed her to a no sugar, no processed, whole food diet. We started her on a whole body cleanse product that gradually cleansed over six weeks. We followed Dr Ali’s vitamin and supplementation protocols as well and within a couple of weeks her symptoms began subsiding. (This was before we were set up to do the Intravenous therapies, or her response would have been much faster.) Although her health and strength continued to improve, we saw that if she deviated at all from any of the protocols, she would experience a small relapse. These episodes were very puzzling and we continued expanding our studies of Alternative Medicine. We soon found ourselves attending an eye opening lecture on thyroid at an ACAM (American College for the Advancement of Medicine, acam.org) Conference, presented by David Brownstein, MD.
Among many other things, we learned that the thyroid lab norms are set too high. That the norms are based on the population, (and we all know that half our population is obese) and not science. That some of the top endocrinologists in the country went before congress to state the case that thyroid norms and treatment should be based on the science and patient symptom presentation. This happened over twenty years ago and has happened again in the last few years and still, nothing has changed, the norms are still set too high and many people are being left untreated as the destruction of their systems continue.
We also learned that the Synthroid Linda and my patients were on, some for many years, only replaced one part of thyroid. Just imagine, as in Linda’s case, functioning daily with only half the support her body needed for twenty years, what was going in with the other systems in her body that rely on thyroid hormone, such as the digestive tract and metabolism. You probably guessed it, her digestive and energy systems were sluggish and congested and eventually became toxic from poor elimination and the inability of the cells to receive and transfer nutrients. The body heals with nutrients – no nutrition, no healing, no energy.
I have observed that people with low functioning thyroids tend to rely on stimulants for energy, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, over the counter medications (decongestants) prescription drugs, and even obsessive thinking. All of these are acid forming and adrenaline producing. Adrenaline is designed only for fight or flight, not for getting through your day. It actually oxidizes the cells, similar to rust on a car.
After the ACAM conference, I took Linda off Synthroid, changed her over to natural compounded thyroid that contains both T3 and T4. I also began listening to my patients and their symptoms, instead of relying on the “normal” range. I wouldn’t say Linda sails through life now that her thyroid is properly treated. Too much damage was allowed to occur for too many years. Although I will say that getting her off the adrenaline roller coaster has stopped the accelerated aging process to at least a healthy and natural aging process.
The thyroid is often called the Mother Thyroid. And, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, certainly applies here.
Like the toys on a baby’s crib mobile, if one of the toys breaks off, the entire mobile is unable to function properly. It’s the same with our body.
The thyroid reigns over all the other hormones in her queendom, insulin, adrenaline, sex hormones, growth hormones, etc. So if she has been weakened or damaged by toxins such as gluten or fluoride, for example, a young woman may have painful or irregular periods. A teenage boy may have severe acne, or a mid-life woman may suffer through extreme peri-menopause.
A sluggish thyroid usually means a sluggish digestive system or slow metabolism. A symptom of a sluggish digestive system is chronic constipation. Where food stays in the stomach, small intestine and colon longer than is optimal, allowing chemicals (acidity) from food, water and air to sit in the tender lining of the gut causing damage that may not be experienced for many years.
I have also seen cases where a chronically sluggish thyroid can also present with symptoms of chronic diarrhea. When the lining of the gut has become coated with toxins, yeasts and undigested food, creating a “slick “, so to speak, it is unable to absorb and assimilate nutrients. This situation can be dangerous because with every diarrhea episode, the patient is losing electrolytes (critical minerals for maintaining body PH balance) and health giving gut flora (probiotics).
Bottom line, optimal thyroid function is necessary for optimal digestive health.
Chronic suboptimal thyroid function can also create disruptions of sex hormones. Estrogen dominance has become an epidemic. As most of us know by now, the mass produced meat and dairy we have been eating for the past few generations has been injected with hormones to make the animal grow faster. And, as a result, we humans have grown faster. Too fast to allow us to evolve to be able to process the hormonal onslaught.
Girls are starting periods as young as nine years old now. And many more experiencing painful and irregular periods.
Fertility problems are epidemic which has created a huge growth in the infertility healthcare industry.
In young men, hormonal imbalance can cause extreme aggression. Estrogen is the aggressive aspect of hormone balance. Over-abundance of estrogen combined with the naturally aggressive testosterone hormone, can manifest in symptoms as mild as acne to devastating aggressive behaviors.
Unfortunately, too many young people are prescribed anti-anxiety or ADD/ADHD drugs to deal with these symptoms, when what they really need is proper thyroid support.
Obesity and diabetes (insulin resistance) are at an all time high, creating a huge market for the diet and weight loss industry, as well as opening the relatively new industry of weight loss surgery.
My wife Linda’s mother, who passed away before I had a chance to know her, was a victim of her Native American genetics, government interference in the culture, and social brainwashing. And like many people of Native American heritage, struggled with diabetes and weight issues her whole life, ultimately, succumbing to a massive heart attack at age 49. Her poor heart could no longer withstand the constant stress caused by the volatile and delicate hormonal imbalances caused by diabetes.
Modern day thyroid destruction and disease is not due to accidents of nature.
~Dr. John Gonino
*Over the past 18 years Dr. Gonino, D.O., P.A., has instituted a fifteen-point wellness program at The Gonino Center for Healing in Heath, TX.