An Interview with Dr. Elie Klein, ND
By Jason Sebeslav
Dr. Elie Klein is a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, author of Read This If You Have A Heart – The Book on Lowering High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Naturally, as well as co-owner and formulator of natural health products with My Health Supplements and Nanton Nutraceuticals.
Jason Sebeslav: Dr. Klein, we’re having more women come to the store who complain of hair that’s thinning or falling out, and brittle nails that break easily. Why could this be happening to some women as they age?
Elie Klein: All body systems are connected, meaning that the health of hair and nails often reflects what’s going on inside. Hair, as with almost all cells and tissues in the body, goes through a normal cycle of growth and breakdown. But if growth is slower than the rate at which it falls out, we start noticing thinning hair. The same goes for brittle nails that break easily. As women age, thinning hair and brittle nails can be attributed to thyroid imbalance, stress or poor nutrition – and often a combination of all three!
JS: So what does the thyroid do and how can we support it?
EK: The thyroid gland creates and regulates hormones, and it has a huge impact on most body systems. But the thyroid gets tired when it’s not getting enough nutritional support, and that’s when we notice symptoms like thinning hair and brittle nails. We need iodine to produce the thyroid hormone thyroxine, or T4. Iodine is found in all foods from the sea, but the richest source is brown kelp, a type of seaweed. We also need selenium, as it’s required to convert T4 into the active form triiodothyronine, or T3. One of the richest sources of selenium is brazil nuts – only 2 to 3 of these nuts meets the daily requirement!
JS: Is it usually women who have thyroid problems?
EK: While impaired thyroid function is more prevalent in women, men and teens can also have trouble. In this case, stress is a likely contributor.
JS: So anyone undergoing stress could have difficulty with their thyroid?
EK: Yes. High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) interfere with the production and uptake of T3. Basically, T3 is supposed to tell the cells to increase their use of glucose for energy. But when stress comes into play, T3 isn’t effective and cells get tired as a result. Even when the thyroid is healthy, chronic stress can weaken several aspects of health and put the body into “survival mode.” That means more energy is spent on preserving vital organs like the heart and brain, but less on tasks like growing strong hair and nails.
JS: How can we relieve stress throughout the day?
EK: Try diaphragmatic breathing: take a long, gentle breath deep into the diaphragm, followed by a long, gentle exhalation. Pause for a few seconds before your next inhale, to create “breath hunger.” This helps relax the nervous system and lower cortisol. If stress is prolonged and severe, consider taking Canadian Rhodiola rosea, an herb that lowers cortisol, resulting in reduced stress and depression and improved relaxation and vitality.
JS: OK. If stress is at bay and the thyroid is healthy, what else can women do as far as dietary choices?
EK: Get enough protein by eating 1–1.2g of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. Meats, tofu, legumes, and nuts provide the raw material to build strong hair and nails. Eating organic beef liver once or twice a week may also help, as its high content of vitamin A aids in the formation of a connective tissue protein in hair, nails and skin.
JS: Are there other key nutrients?
EK: Biotin and niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) help improve glucose metabolism, which is crucial for the functioning of the thyroid and its effect on cellular energy. Biotin can be found in eggs and nuts, and niacinamide is found in chicken breast and mushrooms.
JS: You formulated a product called Nourishing Waves Plus specifically to support full hair and strong nails. How does it work?
EK: Short of providing actual protein, Nourishing Waves Plus contains all the other nutrients that are needed for regenerating growth and restoring full hair, including silica, vitamin C, biotin, iodine, selenium, magnesium, niacinamide and vitamin B6. The nutrients are dissolved in a liquid brown kelp extract, rich in iodine and trace amounts of more than 60 naturally occurring nutrients. It tastes neutral in water and slightly “citrusy” on its own. Its liquid form makes it easy to absorb, and it’s an economical way to get everything in one place.
JS: Can this supplement be taken by those who are already on thyroid medications as further support?
EK: Yes – just take it 2 hours away from your thyroid medication. Consider taking the supplement at night for improved sleep, due to the relaxing effects of the magnesium and vitamin B6.