Natural Healing Episode 1 – Cox

  • Angela:Hi, welcome back to Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing, I’m Dr. Angela. We have a great show this week. We’re talking about hypothyroidism and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS. We are going to start off talking about hypothyroidism. Do you have dry skin, or fatigue, slow metabolism? If so you may be suffering from low thyroid hormone production, also known as hypothyroidism. Dr. Mark, let’s talk a little bit about first, where is the thyroid gland?

    Mark: Right, well the thyroid gland is right below the Adam’s Apple, and it’s a butterfly shaped gland. And it, as you said, it’s very critical because it produces thyroid hormones, which control all of the metabolic activity in your cells; so producing energy, increasing your metabolism, so very, very important.

  • Angela: So let’s first talk about – if someone is suffering from hypothyroidism, many people don’t even know that because there are so many symptoms. List some of the symptoms off that someone might be suffering.Mark: Well there are a lot of symptoms, but classic symptoms are: fatigue, you gain weight very easily, you can be prone to depression and anxiety, joint pain, water retention. So there’s a lot of generalized symptoms people can get when they have low thyroid function.Angela: So some of the viewers may be wanting to know what can cause low thyroid.

    Mark: Sure, well there’s many different causes. First of all, studies show that just stress, prolonged stress can cause your thyroid function to go down lower. Pregnancy. It’s very common when women are pregnant; they do develop low thyroid function. The most common reason people develop hypothyroidism, it’s an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And that’s basically a condition where your immune system attacks your own thyroid gland and starts to inactivate it. And as well certain medications can disrupt thyroid function. For example birth control pills can suppress thyroid function. Cortisone and Prednisone use, some heart medications used for heart rhythm. So there are various medications which can suppress thyroid function as well. And of course then there’s nutrients. We know the thyroid gland really needs the nutrient iodine. So let’s say you’re avoiding table salt and you have an iodine deficiency, or in certain parts of the world where iodine isn’t that common in the food supply, that can cause low thyroid function.

    Ange: What about diabetes or insulin resistance, can that be also be a cause of the low thyroid?

    Mark: Absolutely. And of course those conditions are very common in America. So when your blood sugar and your insulin levels are high, that does suppress your thyroid function. So if you have diabetes, or even if you’re overweight, you definitely should have your thyroid hormone levels checked.

    Ange: Now a lot of your viewers may be wondering: how can we test the thyroid hormone? There are so many blood tests out there and people go into their doctor and say I’m suffering from thyroid problems, but all their blood tests are normal. Let’s talk a little bit about how to test it effectively.

    Mark: Right, well first if you have any of the symptoms we mentioned, again the fatigue, the easy weight gain, another common one, you’re just very chilly or cold, especially your hands or your feet. You’d want to get your thyroid tested, so what I do with patients, I run a very thorough thyroid panel, which by the way I recommend to people every year, at the most every two years, have your thyroid hormones checked, because it is so critical to good health. But we check people’s thyroid hormones. Such as T4, T3, a hormone called TSH, and we also check for those antibodies I talked about. Because your antibody levels could be elevated, and that means at some point in time you’re at much higher risk for developing low thyroid, so then there’s things we can do naturally to try and balance out your immune system so you don’t get low thyroid to begin with. And as well, we check your iodine levels. Because again if your iodine is low, you can develop low thyroid.

    Ange: Now are you seeing a lot, it seems to be more women that are getting older, are having these problems with the thyroid. Are you seeing that a lot more in your practice as well?

    Mark: Ya, I mean low thyroid is very, very common. There’s really two categories with it. One category is called subclinical hypothyroidism. And that’s where you have the symptoms we are listing off, but then the blood tests, the lab tests your doctor runs, doesn’t confirm, doesn’t diagnose you have low thyroid. We still treat those people with nutrition, with good diet, with supplements, to get their thyroid working better on its own. And then you have people with classic hypothyroidism. Their thyroid hormones are really low, and until you get their levels up, they’re just not going to feel good; they’re not going to have good health.

    Ange: Ok good. Now a lot of you out there might be wondering: how can we treat hypothyroidism? Naturally, with food, with supplements, and how does conventional medicine treat hypothyroidism? Dr. Mark, let’s start with diet first. I mean that’s just the easiest thing, the cheapest thing we can do to treat any condition, really. So we talked about autoimmune conditions with the Hashimoto’s, how can we treat using diet first, the first line of defense?

    Mark: Right, well first of all, if you have the antibodies to your thyroid gland, the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, again the most common reason for low thyroid, there’s a few things you want to do on a diet. Number one, actually with these people, you want to avoid supplementing iodine. Iodine actually can make that autoimmune disease worse. So that’s why it’s important your doctor tests those antibodies to see if that’s the problem. Beyond that, if you have the autoimmune thyroiditis, the Hashimoto’s, some research is showing if you have low vitamin D levels, and you get the vitamin D levels up to a good range, that can help to calm and balance out your immune system. So it’s critical to get your vitamin D levels tested and supplement vitamin D to balance out your immune system. The other thing holistic doctors like myself find to be very helpful, and that is checking for gluten sensitivity. Gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barely, some oats, that for some people may cause or trigger that autoimmune reaction, so by reducing or getting off gluten for a period of time, two to three months, sometimes that calms down their autoimmune response. And then lastly, controlling stress. Because stress s can cause your immune system to go haywire and things you can do to balance out your stress can definitely help your thyroid gland.

    Ange: Well thanks Dr. Mark that was some really good information. I hope you out there enjoyed all of that great information. As always you can email us with questions, you’re watching Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing. Stay with us.

    Mark: Here at the Stengler Center for Integrative medicine, we focus on using the best of conventional medicine using modern lab testing to find out what’s going on with the patient, where the imbalances are in their body. And then we use natural medicine to treat those root causes, what the imbalances are, so we can stimulate the body’s own healing system. Here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, we believe in individualized care.
    Announcer: For a complete list of treatments offered, and conditions addressed at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, please visit our website (

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    Ange: Hi, welcome to Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing; we’re talking about hypothyroidism. So we know foods we need to avoid when people have hypothyroidism, certain vegetables actually can affect your thyroid.

    Mark: Right. So just in general there’s a class of vegetables, called Goitrogens: so bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, those are good examples In their raw form, there’s some studies, although they’re mixed, more so with animals, a little bit with humans, high concentrations in the raw form may suppress thyroid function. Now if you lightly cook, steam or cook those foods, inactivates those Goitrogens, and it’s not a concern. Obviously those foods I’ve just listed are very healthy, they have the anti-cancer effects, they’re rich in nutrients, so you can have those foods, but you wouldn’t want to have high concentrations in the raw form. And then foods which are naturally rich in iodine; if you don’t have the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, if you have low thyroid, but not the autoimmune component, foods rich in iodine, which is really a lot of your sea vegetables, you can now buy a lot in the health food stores, the health markets, they are rich in iodine, and that can help support thyroid function.

    Ange: Before we go onto the herbs, let’s talk a bit about hormone replacement using thyroid. A lot of the viewers are going to ask about synthetic thyroid hormones versus natural hormones that are thyroid, so let’s go through that a bit, then we’ll talk about the herbs.

    Mark: Right. Well we certainly have a lot of patients with hormone imbalance, and there’s a number of patients – they need to be on thyroid hormone replacement. Their thyroid gland just can’t make enough thyroid hormone on its own. And so the traditional thyroid medicines most doctors prescribe, and again they’re actually amongst the highest out of all the prescriptions in this country, they’re really medications which I call T4. Thyroid 4 or T4 is one of the main thyroid hormones in the body, and so most of the medications doctors prescribe they’re a form of T4, and they go by different names, synthroids, levothyroxine, Levoxyl, and for some people that works. However for a lot of people they get on this type of medication and they’re still not doing well. And simply it’s because this: the main function of that T4 is to be converted into the more active T3 form. That has the most metabolism in your cells; energy production, burning metabolism, burning energy. So often with our patients, we get them on a medication which has both T4 and T3 in it. That way you’re guaranteed to get the active T3. And the vast majority of our patients feel better, their lab values look better, and so in general it’s just a much better way to help a patient.

    Ange: Ok, great. Now let’s talk a little bit about some herbs. Bladderwrack is a good herb that you’ve been using quite a bit.

    Mark: Right, well bladderwrack is and herb which in some studies has been shown to help your thyroid work better on its own. So again, if you’re kind of a person where your thyroid is sluggish, but not to the point where you need thyroid hormone, it’s an excellent herb to use. Again if your iodine levels are low, and you supplement iodine, we find a lot of patients, they’re thyroid hormone levels go right up to normal.

    Ange: And the ashwagandha. That’s used as well for thyroid help.

    Mark: Yes. Ashwagandha is interesting because what ashwagandha does, it does two things. Number one, it reduces the stress hormone cortisol. And when your cortisol level is at high levels, from the effects of stress that suppresses your thyroid function. So indirectly balancing out your stress hormones with ashwagandha can help your thyroid function. So it is an herb we use quite a bit with people. And then your thyroid does need certain nutrients. Like for example: selenium is critical. If you’re low in selenium, you cannot produce enough of that active T3 hormone I talked about. So that’s a very important nutrient as well.

    Ange: Another one that we’ve used in the past: L-tyrosine. How is that helpful with the thyroid hormone?

    Mark: Right. L-tyrosine, which is an amino acid. Actually your body uses a precursor molecule to synthesize – make thyroid hormone. So it’s a very safe, effective supplement people can take to boost up their thyroid hormone levels. Again not if you need thyroid hormone replacement, but if it’s kind of sluggish, on the low end of the normal range, it certainly is a safe supplement people can use to boost up their thyroid levels.

    Ange: Now there’s a lot of things in the health food stores you’ll see that says thyroid glandulars. What’s the difference between the glandulars versus the hormones versus the herbs? Let’s discuss that for just a bit.

    Mark: That’s true. There’s a product called thyroid glandulars – many different companies have them – and basically what that is, is extract of thyroid gland, usually from sheep, cows, where it’s been purified, and the idea behind that is, it basically provides nutrition specifically to your thyroid gland. So you take these types of products and it nourishes, stimulates your own thyroid function to work better, and for some people that works very, very well.

    Ange: Now we have an opportunity to answer some of your questions that we get about hypothyroidism and thyroid hormone. Dr. Mark, one of the most common questions obviously that we get daily from people that have hypothyroid is that they are on medication, but that they still have the symptoms of low thyroid. So what’s going on with those people?

    Mark: Right. Well remember with patients, especially with thyroid, you have to look at both: the patient’s symptoms, and their lab tests. I mean obviously if your lab tests are looking good, but you still have the symptoms of hypothyroidism, then that’s still a problem. So it needs to be addressed. I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier: most doctors are giving out these T4 medications, not checking patient’s T3 levels; you know those Free T3. So those T4 levels are good, but their Active T3 levels are low, and that’s why they don’t feel good. So with these patients again, we work to get their T3 levels up, and hence their symptoms go away. So usually it’s a pretty straight forward thing to address.

    Ange: Now another question we get a lot is about foods – in particular soy foods. There’s something out there that says soy food are damaging to the thyroid. Let’s address that a bit.

    Mark: Right. Well soy foods are also in that category we mentioned called Goitrogens. So soy in its raw form may hinder some people’s thyroid function, especially at higher levels. The reality is, when you look at studies there is no conclusive evidence that soy products suppress your thyroid function. But that being said, it’s something I have patients keep on check. Eat it in moderation, especially the fermented soy foods: tempeh, tofu, natto, those are the healthier types of foods. And for most patients I don’t find it’s a problem, but something people should be aware of if they have thyroid issues and they consume a lot of soy. It may be causing a problem.

    Ange: Well thanks Dr. Mark that was some really good information. I hope all of you out there enjoyed all of that great information, as always you can email us with questions. You’re watching Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing, stay with us.

    Mark: Here at the Stengler Center for Integrative medicine, we focus on using the best of conventional medicine using modern lab testing to find out what’s going on with the patient, where the imbalances are in their body. And then we use natural medicine to treat those root causes, what the imbalances are. So we can stimulate the body’s own healing system. Here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, we believe in individualized care.

    Announcer: For a complete list of treatments offered, and conditions addressed at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, please visit our website (

    Ange: Hi, welcome to Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing; we’re talking about hypothyroidism. Something else that is a big concern to people is the testing of thyroid hormone. How often they should be tested when they are on treatment; whether it be with just herbs, or the glandulars, or the thyroid hormones themselves.

    Mark: Right. What I do with patients when we first diagnose them with hypothyroidism – I start them on treatment, and within normally four, eight weeks at the longest, we retest to see what their levels are. Make sure we are headed in the right direction, things are looking pretty good. Once I have a patient doing well, normally I recommend they get tested every six months, twelve months at the longest. And that way you can make corrections if things are being thrown off. Like I said, things like stress, and other medications, and diet can imbalance the thyroid. So you want to keep an eye on that.

    Ange: Well thanks Dr. Mark that was some really good information. I hope all of you out there enjoyed all of that great information. As always you can email us with questions. We are now going to be talking about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. 20-30% of the US population is affected by this condition. What’s interesting is that twice as many women than men go for treatment, but it seems that men and women are equally affected. And you know what else, this is the condition that is most referred to gastroenterologists. It is very disruptive in people’s lives, and Dr. Mark and I are going to talk all about it, right now. Dr. Mark, let’s talk about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS. What’s going on in the digestive system right now, what are people feeling? What are some of the symptoms?

    Mark: Common symptoms are abdominal pain, mucous in the stool, diarrhea, constipation, or often people get can get alternating diarrhea and constipation. There can be no pattern to what’s going on in your digestive tract. Other symptoms people might get: headaches and fatigue. It’s kind of a constellation of different symptoms, but mainly revolving around the digestive tract and all the discomfort people get, including things like gas and bloating.

    Ange: Now I remember a long time ago when this was kind of a catch-all phrase, you know people didn’t really think it existed, but it truly is a condition that people suffer from.

    Mark: Right. It still is kind of a generalized condition because really what you do as a doctor is you rule out other kinds of digestive illnesses. Ulcers, colitis, crone’s disease, cancers, things like that. And if you don’t have those things, and you have the symptoms we listed, then you’re kind of in this general categorization of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Now the problem with that condition is it doesn’t tell you why you have it.

    Ange: Let’s start talking about some of the causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We know diet is the main one, let’s talk about that.

    Mark: Right, well diet is very important because the American diet really is conducive to developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome. High sugar diet, refined foods, not enough fiber, that can trigger this condition to develop in a lot of people. So working with people’s diets; what we do with people is actually we test their food sensitivities. For a lot of people there are certain foods which are irritating their digestive tract. Common ones we find with patients: dairy products, gluten is very common, in wheat products for example, but of course just all of the refined, preservatives, and colorings, and dye agents, for some people just wreaks havoc in the digestive tract. So diet is very important. Getting back to more of a natural based diet; so lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, try and minimize the grains in the diet, that normally helps; staying away from the packaged foods as best you can helps a lot of people. But beyond that we find a lot of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome they actually have what we call Dysbiosis. And that’s an imbalance between the good and the bad bacteria in the digestive tract. So studies have shown that good bacteria, known as flora or probiotics, these good bacteria really help to break the food down, reduce all the cramping, the bloating, and the gas, the symptoms people get. Very effective. And you can get those in foods as well – fermented foods – or foods like yogurt for example if you tolerate dairy products.

    Ange: Now what about infections? I mean there are certain infections of the gut that can cause these symptoms, and then Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

    Mark: Absolutely. Different bacterial infections, parasites, but the most common one we find is fungal overgrowth in the digestive tract. So usually the history of the patient is they’ve been on antibiotics, one or several courses, and then they develop symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So yes, often we have to put people on anti-fungal protocols using anti-fungal herbs, a low sugar diet, a low carbohydrate diet, sometimes even anti-fungal medications. And for a lot of people that’s very, very helpful to do for a month or two to get rid of this overgrowth of bad bugs in the gut.

    Ange: Now as far as testing, of course we are going to test their food sensitivities, food allergies, to test the stool would be a good idea to rule out any parasites, fungal overgrowth. Any other specific lab tests that you would want to run for someone?

    Mark: Those are the main tests with patients. Now we do know some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, just stress. Stress directly impacts their digestive system. So anything we can do to reduce the effects of stress, both supplement wise, exercise, stress reduction techniques, and the other way we help patients is give them supplements, at least for a period of time to get their digestion working better on its own. So you can use herbs, you can use digestive herbs, enzymes; help to break the food down more effectively so you don’t get reactions in the gut. And that is very helpful for a few months and gets people back on track as you’re improving their diet.

    Ange: Well thanks Dr. Mark that was some really good information. I hope you out there enjoyed all of that great information. As always you can email us with questions. You’re watching Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing, stay with us.

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    Ange: Hi, welcome to Dr. Stengler’s Natural Healing, we’re talking about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS. Let’s talk about soluble fiber, which kind of goes into what I want to talk about next, but let’s talk about soluble fiber first with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

    Mark: Well it’s interesting. Again a lot of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome do develop constipation, they get sluggish bowels, so some people do benefit from getting extra fiber in their diet. So more salads for example, some fruits, sometimes fiber supplements like Cilium, or ground flax seeds, or chia seeds, really can help reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That being said there are some patients actually they do worse on the high fiber diets. So it’s one of those things that’s trial and error. You have to try it and see how they respond.

    Ange: Well and some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome actually have a bowel movement without wanting to. So it can kind of be both ways, so we can also use herbs to help control, using the enzymes and things, I think it is quite helpful.

    Mark: Ya, well I was going to say natural medicine, really in my opinion, is a superior way to help people with this condition. When you look at studies, and there are certain drugs you can use for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I mean the studies do not come out very good. Plus then you always get serious side effects, so natural medicine really is superior in treating this very common condition.

    Ange: And then how do you help someone that needs to exercise to help their digestion? Many people in this day and age don’t exercise; they’re just sitting at a desk all day. So we need to help them at least walk around, park farther away from the grocery store, and get them moving.

    Mark: Well the regular exercise does a few things. First of all studies show regular exercise improves motility. So if you are having bowel movement problems, exercise can correct that in a lot of people. Number two; it of course reduces the effects of stress, which can impact your digestive system directly. So exercise has to be a part of a comprehensive program to help these people.

    Ange: Ok, that was great information. Now we are going to switch gears a little bit and talk about a study done in the Journal called Obesity; it talks about belly fat – something that we all don’t like. So a new study is coming out about increasing your soluble fiber and that in turn decreases your visceral body fat – great news, you don’t have to have surgery! You just add some apples to your diet.

    Mark: Absolutely. Right. And that key is that soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber which helps to absorb sugar from your foods so it doesn’t absorb into your bloodstream as quickly – cholesterol as well. So really what happens, a lot of people get abdominal fat because their blood sugar and insulin levels are going up. Remember 20% of the American population has pre-diabetes, and diabetes is skyrocketing, so the soluble fiber reduces your blood sugar spikes, and insulin spikes in your bloodstream, so you’re not going to be forming the abdominal fat as easily, so very interesting.

    Ange: Yes and this study also showed that adding exercise helped even more so, which makes total sense. Now in this particular study, it was a five year study, and they found a 7.4% decrease in belly fat with that added exercise – that’s a huge amount.

    Mark: Well the combination is always best; increase the soluble fiber and of course don’t just rely on a quote “magic bullet”, get the exercise in combination, and between the two I mean that’s a perfect one-two punch for abdominal weight gain.

    Ange: So let’s give some examples of what is soluble fiber in the diet.

    Mark: Right. So soluble fiber common foods would be oatmeal, legumes, all the different beans, the skin of apples, of course you can eat just an apple whole and get it with this skin, so those are very good examples. And then there are supplements you can get from the health food stores which have soluble fiber in a powder form or capsule form as well. For example one is called Glucomannan, and that’s a type of food which is very rich in soluble fiber. People can take that before or with meals, and again it can help with your abdominal fat, it can help with your blood sugar levels, help lower your cholesterol as well.

    Ange: That’s excellent. So eating the soluble fiber is better than taking the supplement that would be a fiber supplement.

    Mark: Well some people need to do both; I mean it depends on how much of a problem you’re having. Obviously first start by trying to get more soluble fiber in with most of your meals, but a lot of my patients definitely benefit from supplementing soluble fiber. Again normally we have them take two to three capsules of soluble fiber with eight to ten ounces of water, 15-30 minutes before a meal, and what that does is actually, you’ll feel more full studies show. So you’re going to eat less at your meals, and then again you’re going to reduce that glucose/insulin spiking, so you don’t have to store that blood sugar as fat in your abdomen.

    Ange: Thank you for all of that great information, and thank you for joining us, we hope to see you back again real soon.

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