This post is dedicated to a well-known expert in the field of thyroidology and fibromyalgia Dr. John C. Lowe who suddenly died on January 9, 2012 due to complications following a head injury
Dr. John C. Lowe was a leading expert on the natural treatments for thyroid disease. He was first to introduce a simple but very effective treatment for fibromyalgia by using T3 thyroid hormone.
Dr. Lowe got interested in the thyroid disease about 25 years ago when he was researching and using a myofascial trigger point therapy to heal the pain in fibromyalgia. The majority of his patients had positive outcomes following his trigger points treatment, however some of them did not get a desirable relief due to perpetuating factors.
According to Travell and Simon, low cortisol levels, anemia, nutritional deficiencies, physical stress, chronic infections, metabolic and psychological factors contribute to the development of trigger points and prevent some patients from recovery. In addition to these factors, Dr. Lowe discovered that hypometabolism due to inadequate regulation of the thyroid hormone can also cause myofascial pain and activate latent trigger points.
Based on his research, Dr. Lowe came to a conclusion that most fibromyalgia patients are either hypothyroid or thyroid hormone resistant that are also the main cause of their chronic aching, pain and presence of abnormal tender points.
The inadequate thyroid hormone regulation hypothesis was first introduced by Dr. Lowe and is the best supported scientific hypothesis of the cause of fibromyalgia today. It suggests that fibromyalgia can be caused by too little thyroid hormone regulation of cell function which happens due to one or a combination of both of the following abnormalities:
- Thyroid hormone deficiency
- Partial cellular resistance to thyroid hormone
The thyroid is one of main glands of the endocrine system and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. As a part of the normal feedback mechanism the pituitary gland produces TSH to control the thyroid gland and keep thyroid hormones at the normal levels. However, these chain reactions can be affected by the thyroid hormone resistance.
3 Types Of Thyroid Hormone Resistance
- General thyroid hormone resistance occurs when both the pituitary gland and the peripheral tissues are partially resistant to thyroid hormone. The patient’s thyroid hormone levels are elevated, however the TSH is non-supressed and the peripheral tissue metabolism remains normal. Most patients do not feel any hyperthyroid symptoms and metabolic changes due to the excess of thyroid hormones.
- Pituitary thyroid hormone resistance occurs when the tissues do not respond as readily to thyroid hormone as do the tissues of most euthyroid individuals. The lab test results indicate high-normal or high blood readings of TSH, free T4 and free T3. These high levels of thyroid hormones do not overstimulate peripheral tissues due to its partial resistance. Most individuals have normal metabolism and do not feel any thyroid related symptoms despite having fairly high TSH and thyroid hormone levels.
- Peripheral thyroid hormone resistance occurs when most of the tissues of the body and/or brain are partially resistant to thyroid hormone. Dr. Lowe suggested that about 40% of fibromyalgia patients have peripheral tissue resistance to thyroid hormone and not the general or pituitary resistance.
In the peripheral resistance to thyroid hormone, all the glands of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis function and release hormones properly and the standard thyroid tests for TSH, free T3 and free T4 show normal, however the metabolism in the peripheral tissues is low. To increase the metabolism the patient with peripheral resistance requires high doses of thyroid hormone that will result in the suppression of TSH and often bringing TSH to the extremely low levels.
Standard thyroid tests are not useful in confirming the diagnosis of peripheral thyroid hormone resistance in a majority of fibromyalgia patients even when typical hypothyroid symptoms are present. Dr. Lowe noticed that patients with fibromyalgia have abnormally low metabolic rates and body temperatures and had used it as markers to establish peripheral thyroid hormone resistance.
Dr. Lowe suggested to use a high or supra-physiological doses of T3 medication to treat patients with peripheral resistance in order to improve their metabolism. He developed a three part evaluation of the treatment outcome that can also confirm the diagnosis of peripheral resistance:
- Only supra-physiological doses of T3 help patients with peripheral resistance to completely alleviate their hypothyroid symptoms.
- Based on physical exams, series of ECGs, Achilles reflex and different biochemical tests, the patients do not show any overstimulation being on the high dose of T3 that would be dangerous for any other euthyroid individuals.
- Blood lab test results indicate extremely high levels of free T3 without accompanying hyperthyroid symptoms or signs of thyrotoxicosis.
What Is Metabolic Rehabilitation?
Dr. Lowe introduced a metabolic integrative therapy or how he calls it “metabolic rehabilitation” for treatment of fibromyalgia. This treatment is based on a few fundamental principles that apply to a successful healing of practically ALL diseases and includes the following steps:
- Addressing nutritional deficiencies
- Anti-inflammatory diet (see lesson 10 of FREE Nutritional guide for Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism)
- Regular exercise to your personal tolerance level. The intensity of physical activity should be below the level that would worsen the symptoms
- Getting off all medications that impair metabolism, cause any side effects, create more imbalances and result in further deterioration of your health
- Treating adrenal fatigue (low cortisol levels)
- Balancing sex hormones
- Using effective thyroid hormone therapy
- Erradicating of infections, candida overgrowth and replenishing good bacteria
This treatment is a systematic approach to methodically eliminate or control the perpetuating factors that affect metabolism in people with fibromyalgia. Up to 85% of patients who follow his complete treatment program fully recover from fibromyalgia and achieve long lasting results.
According to Dr. Lowe, the majority of patients do not do well on Synthroid or any other brand of T4-only medication. To improve or completely recover, fibromyalgia patients have to use the proper form and dosage of thyroid hormone. Natural compounds such as Armour or OCT desiccated thyroid product (Thyroid-S, etc.) are more effective if combined with other metabolism regulating therapies and lifestyle practices that Dr. Lowe describes in his book Your Guide to Metabolic Health.
However, it is not enough simply taking thyroid hormone to get the optimal results and symptoms relief. Each patient also has to follow a special diet, exercise to personal tolerance level and take therapeutic dosages of nutritional supplements to combat nutritional deficiencies. Some patients have to review their medication and stop using drugs that interfere with the restoring of normal metabolism.
In this video, Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. John C. Lowe about hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone resistance, connection between thyroid disease and fibromyalgia and how to properly use T3 hormone to get better.
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The Guide to Metabolic Health by Dr. J.C. Lowe, Dr. G. Honeyman-Lowe, McDowell Publishing Co, 2003. This book is a self-treatment guide on how to safely and effectively use thyroid hormone to improve your metabolism.
Your Thyroid and How to Keep It Healthy by Dr. Barry Durrant-Peatfield, Hammersmith Press Limited, 2006. It is a second revised edition of his book The Great Thyroid Scandal and How to Survive It that was recommended by Dr. Lowe to patients who need a guidance for metabolic treatment using a natural desiccated thyroid.
In this book you will learn about the natural approach to treatment of thyroid and adrenal problems, how it is connected to digestive and nutritional issues, including food intolerance and candida infection and why thyroid blood tests can be unreliable.