Undiagnosed Distress? It Could Be a Nutritional Deficiency

Patrick Pomfrey, Psy.D., is a doctor of clinical psychology in Fairfield, Iowa. If you’d like to submit a question, please email drpomfrey@iowatelecom.net.

Dear Dr. Pomfrey,
I grew up with a good childhood, great parents, and a good vegetarian diet, with lots of raw food. When I moved to Iowa, everything was good for about three years. Then I began getting anxious, and within six months was having panic attacks. Therapy helped some, but the panic always came back. My spouse left, I got super depressed, and my hair started started falling out. Then came the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, tinnitus, headaches, and endless fatigue. I have sore breasts that hurt so badly it’s difficult to wear a shirt, weight gain (I’m fat), brain fog, and hypothyroid.

I have no friends left and my family is sick of me complaining. Please don’t tell me to see a doctor. They’re sick of me, too, and tell me it’s all in my head.

I hear you work with dead ends. Is there any hope for me?

Dear Hope,
You’ve been through the wringer. And what makes it worse is no one has been able to understand, or “hold” you through your suffering. If your friends fully understood, they would not desert you—nor would your family be “sick” of you voicing your frustration and agony. But don’t hold it against them. Nobody can understand the hopelessness this level of misery brings unless they have been through it themselves. Unfortunately, many have.

Hope, I need to remind you I’m not a medical doctor. My doctoral degree is in clinical psychology, not medicine. I address psychological issues, not medical. You asked me not to tell you to go to a doctor—I can’t agree to that. And while I’m an avid proponent of natural medicine, I have to tell you that for serious medical concerns, I have seen more miracles with modern medicine than all of natural medicine put together. Having said that, let me give you an angle on what could be a source of your psychological issues.

Many psychologists are aware that “mental illness” is a misnomer. The mind does not get sick, the brain does. Mental illness is a physiological imbalance.  Hope, you came from a healthy background. You ate good food and lived a clean lifestyle. Good for you. This reduces the odds that your current challenges are interpersonally induced. It increases the odds it is genetic—or that it may be caused by a nutritional or chemical imbalance.

It may seem farfetched to you after years of suffering that your problems and symptoms could be explained by a nutritional imbalance or the lack of a chemical element. Nevertheless, I suspect your problems may be due to the lack of essentially one chemical element. Why do I suspect this particular element? Three reasons. 1) You live in an area of the U.S. that has the lowest amount of that element in the soil. 2) You get very little in your vegetarian/raw diet. 3) Your symptoms match a deficiency. What is that element?

Drum roll, please . . . iodine! Yes, lowly iodine. The kind you find in seaweed, some seafoods, meats, spinach, eggs, beans, and iodized salt.

Lack of iodine has been directly and indirectly linked to (hold your breath and read fast) ADD/ADHD, atherosclerosis, breast diseases, fatigue, fibrocystic breast disease, hemorrhoids, fibromyalgia, hair loss, hoarseness, dry skin, constipation, cold intolerance, concentration difficulties, muscle cramps, menstrual problems, poor memory, inability to concentrate, weight gain, nervousness, infertility, irritability, migraine, high blood pressure, infection, liver disease, ovarian disease, prostate disorders, thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsonism, vaginal infections, psychosis, panic attacks, depression, insomnia, autism, and slowed brain functioning. The list goes on and on! Think of the misery a shortage of this one element can potentially cause.

So what are the steps to determine if iodine could help you? (Don’t just start swallowing iodine, please. Just as many problems are created by having too much of a nutrient as having too little.)

Step one. Educate yourself. Read Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, by David Brownstein, M.D. Another helpful read is The Iodine Crisis—What You Don’t Know about Iodine Can Wreck Your Life, by Lynne Farrow.

Step two. Go to YouTube and type in David Brownstein, MD, Iodine. (Be prepared to be bored but informed.)

Step three. If this area interests you and you’ve approved it with your health care provider, order the Iodine Loading test at Hakala Labs (www.hakalalabs.com).

While your symptoms may be related to iodine, don’t neglect testing for other nutrients (or biochemical activities) that are associated with mental health, such as B12, D3, iron/ferritin, sodium, homocysteine, histamine, blood sugars, copper, and thyroid.

And finally, Hope, remember a dead end is just a road that hasn’t been completed.  You’re still under construction. The hope of psychophysiological restoration lies ahead of you.  There is a Chinese proverb that says, “All things work out well in the end; if things aren’t well, then it’s not the end.”