FTRC Home > Personal Stories > Aliss Terpstra

Personal Stories: Aliss Terpstra

"A sneaky additive was making me tired and foggy"

Based on an interview with Aliss Terpstra for an article published in FIRST for Women Magazine in June 13, 2005.

Q Tell me about yourself...

A I'm 53, from Dutch background, born 1952 in Grand Rapids, Michigan - the first city in the US to get fluoride added to the water, starting in 1945. I think it's possible that genetic susceptibility is involved, but my close relatives in Holland, where it's against the law to add fluoride to the water, don't have thyroid disease, and the relatives here who live in fluoridated cities do. My American relatives who stayed on the farm drinking well water lived into their nineties! Most of my mother's high school friends who stayed in Grand Rapids are either dead of cancer or have Alzheimer's. These are women who should be still healthy and functional in their seventies - nonsmokers, educated, involved in church and community, stable middle class incomes, not overweight.

Aliss Terpstra

Aliss Terpstra, Certified Nutritionist

The Great Lakes area is low in two nutrients, iodine and selenium, that are crucial for thyroid health, and fluoride readily displaces. And fluoride is in everything now - hundreds of drugs, virtually all processed foods, dairy, conventional produce and meats, dental care. Total overkill. Our thyroid glands don't stand a chance.

Thyroid problems in the family

I am told that my grandmother soon began to gain weight, grew a goitre on her neck (sign of low thyroid) and developed breast cancer a few years after fluoridation started. We now know there's a link between low thyroid and breast cancer. She died in 1953 at age 49. My mother had pregnancy problems. My older sister and I were both premature. We now know that fluoride can cause this by affecting the thyroid. My younger brothers were conceived and born in towns without fluoride and they were both full-term babies.

My sister and I both developed thyroid problems as adults, after moving to cities with fluoridated water. She developed the classic goitre and weight gain with constipation. She has calcification of ligaments since her teenage years too. I can't help wondering if being exposed to fluoride from conception onward put us at increased risk for this.

Q Can you talk a little about the history of your experience involving fluoride and its effects on your thyroid?

A At age 14 we moved to a new town. I left behind a best friend who was like my other half. I was lonely and anxious, and having trouble with panic attacks at the new high school. The local doctor prescribed a powerful fluorinated tranquilizer drug that made my periods become irregular, so I was also put on the birth control pill. Either one is now known to reduce the development of peak bone density and affect thyroid function. I weaned myself off the tranquilizers and Pill by age 17 but some damage had been done. I was diagnosed with osteopenia last year despite an excellent diet and active lifestyle.

At 18 I left home for university. At 21 I moved to Toronto which had fluoridated water. I met my husband through my job and we married when I was 28.

Well, family history repeated itself - my first baby was born three months premature, after my next door neighbour sprayed pesticides without warning. (There is much research to connect pesticides with thyroid suppression too.) During the labor I was given a fluorinated steroid drug to mature the baby's lungs, which suppressed both my immune system and thyroid, which set me up for debilitating post partum depression. I was 30.

Q  Can you share any anecdotes about the fatigue you experienced and comments from family and friends....

A I felt as though I had lost my health after the birth. Every day was a struggle, a fog of no sleep, constant breastfeeding; a low-energy mom trying to cope with a very high-needs premature baby. My mother scolded me for my poor housekeeping skills but honestly, I was so tired and depressed that if I walked five minutes to the grocery store, I would have to rest for half an hour. And that would be it for the day. My friends couldn't understand. I guess they thought I was lazy and neurotic. I was a mess. After a year the well-meaning doctor put me on the birth control pill again but that was about the coup de grace for my poor thyroid. I descended into hell - that's the only way I can put it. I developed irritable bowel, allergies to perfume and exhaust, chronic yeast infections, recurrent bronchitis and pneumonia, and fibromyalgia pain so severe that at times I thought I should end it all.

Q What about any misdiagnoses you were given by doctors and the things you tried to remedy your exhaustion?

A I didn't have pop-eyes or goitre, wasn't constipated or gaining weight or any of the obvious signs of thyroid malfunction. I was tired, I had fibrocystic breasts, disturbed sleep, lots of allergies, asthma, cold all the time but felt suffocated by summer heat, had heart palpitations and panic attacks, terrible PMS, migraines, frequent urination with terrible thirst (actually it was diabetes insipidus). I was experiencing what I now know as the symptoms of chronic fluoride poisoning. But the doctor said, "It's normal, you're over 30 and a tired first time mother." For three years we tried to have another baby but I seemed to be infertile. The doctor would do periodic thyroid blood tests but they were within normal lab range. So she ended up telling me I should get out more, go to movies, take some courses. Yeah, right. I did have some high levels of viral antibodies that indicated chronic fatigue syndrome, but basically there was no drug or treatment other than turning me into a zombie with antidepressants. The doctor was looking at my lab numbers instead of listening to what I was telling her, but our system trains and rewards doctors for behaving this way so I can't really blame her.

I started researching nutrition and natural medicine, switched to drinking bottled spring water and using nonfluoride toothpaste, and improved immediately, which should have been a giant clue. The next thing I did was start eating organic food, and eliminating processed grocery items. This lightened the fluoride load even more and I was finally able to conceive another baby at age 36. She was healthy and full term. However, I conceived again rather soon, and had another baby at age 38. Bottled water was too expensive so we were drinking filtered tap water. (Charcoal filters do not remove fluoride.) It took a long time to recover from the birth and my health began to spiral downward again. Cold, dull, slow, and frequently sick. But my thyroid blood tests were supposedly normal.

At age 45 or 46 I learned about natural progesterone cream from a book by the late Dr. John Lee. It was a godsend - because progesterone stimulates the thyroid, it warmed me up, helped me sleep, stopped the frequent urination, eliminated PMS and improved my mental function. However, it was a bit too late. I had already developed breast cancer - I believe this was from years of subnormal thyroid function.

My new doctor didn't want to believe me when I said I knew my lump was malignant. "Your lifestyle is just too healthy for this to be cancer," he told me. (I got regular exercise and ate mostly vegetarian.) But I was firm. I wanted excision biopsy immediately. However, the surgeon insisted on partial mastectomy under general anesthesia. This nearly cost my life. General anesthesia uses fluorinated drugs that affect thyroid, liver, kidney and bowel. Within weeks of surgery the diabetes insipidus was back, I developed malabsorption syndrome and wasting diarrhea and was thrust into menopause cold turkey by the rapid weight loss. I was very, very ill and could have died. But did the blood tests show abnormal thyroid? No!

Q How did you finally get the correct diagnosis and treatment?

A I was referred by another breast cancer survivor to a wonderful Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who used acupuncture and herbs to stop the wasting, balance my thyroid and adrenal glands, and ease the menopause symptoms. I changed my diet to include more organic animal proteins and healthy fats based on what I learned from Dr. Mercola's website and books. But I still suffered from low basal body temperature, frequent urination, insomnia, lack of sex drive and fibromyalgia. It took 18 months to recover the weight that I had lost after breast cancer surgery but I can't replace the bone mass.

At age 49 I went back to college and graduated at 51 with a diploma as a nutritionist. School was where I finally figured everything out and connected the dots. When classes ended I immediately made an appointment to have specific thyroid tests and kept a three-week basal temperature log. It was consistently a full degree or more below normal. Along with all my other symptoms, the evidence was pretty clear. New guidelines for interpreting thyroid blood tests indicated that I had been hypothyroid for years. Our new dentist found that all three of my children had moderate to severe dental fluorosis, and I had brittle tooth enamel from too much fluoride. Two of my children have evidence of joint and connective tissue damage from fluoride. I have Xray and MRI evidence of skeletal fluorosis in my thirties. Xrays from when I was a teenager show abnormal calcification!

My doctor wanted me to take Synthroid, but I insisted on a prescription for desiccated thyroid hormone as it contains all the components that the body uses in thyroid metabolism and the synthetic hormone is only T4. Within two weeks I was sleeping better, could tolerate heat or cold better, felt more cheerful and alert, and had marked reduction in fibromyalgia pain and irritable bowel symptoms. I felt capable of exercising again, and looked forward to launching my new business. I couldn't believe a little bit of thyroid hormone could do so much!

Q How do you feel now and how has your life has improved?

A To embark on a new career when you're over 50, with a breast cancer history and chronic health problems, takes some courage, faith, and a bit of luck. Most days, I feel like I have all those things. I just wish I'd known twenty years ago what I know now about fluoride and hypothyroid disease.

I drink and cook with distilled water now because tap water just brings on the fibromyalgia and hypothyroid symptoms. (So much for the Brita On Tap claim that it "keeps a healthy amount of fluoride.") I take my thyroid medicine with meals and mineral supplements, especially selenium and magnesium, daily. I follow a careful protocol of cancer recurrence prevention - and I believe keeping my thyroid hormones in balance is a crucial part of this.

Fluoride in tea

Goodness - I totally forgot - yes I was a total tea grannie, drinking it several times a week since childhood, used to have a cupboard full of specialty teas from Earl Grey to White Peony (the really expensive green tea), and prided myself on knowing how to brew it perfectly from loose leaves. But I liked it weak, with milk if the blend was compatible. After the premature birth of my son 22 years ago, when I got the whopping dose of pesticides and fluorinated cortisone that destroyed my immune system, I found it bothered me so my consumption went way down, I would have a cup socially to be polite but rarely made it at home. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everyone said, Oh, you've got to drink Green Tea, it's anti-cancer, lots of studies. But I couldn't - it would make me feel awful, nearly instant joint pain, heart palpitations, shaky-buzzed feeling and gastric upset, and I would feel so cold. Well, fluoride to the thyroid is like turning off your body's furnace - no fuel gets burned at the cellular level and you can't keep yourself warm. I thought it was the caffeine-like compounds I was reacting to. I didn't know about the tea-fluoride connection until recently. I tried drinking South African Rooibos tea but it gave me the same symptoms, despite having no caffeine at all. Now I know why - the Rooibos plant stores fluoride in its leaves just like the regular tea plant.

I can drink organic shade grown espresso coffee! but not instant - way too much fluoride in instant coffee.

Because fluoride accumulates, my exposure threshold is very low and I am more sensitive now than I was twenty years ago when my consumption was higher. But at least now I know what the problem is, and can sometimes improve the symptoms with high doses of calcium, vitamin C and other minerals.

Although fluoride blocks iodine, I do not find that adding iodine helps me.