614: Morley Robbins on Thyroid Health, Retinol, Magnesium, and the Real Story of Aging

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Morley Robbins on Thyroid Health, Retinol, Magnesium, and the Real Story of Aging
Wellness Mama » Episode » 614: Morley Robbins on Thyroid Health, Retinol, Magnesium, and the Real Story of Aging
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614: Morley Robbins on Thyroid Health, Retinol, Magnesium, and the Real Story of Aging
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I’m back again with Morley Robbins and I’m really excited to share this episode with you! Morley is one of the world’s leading experts on the role of magnesium in the body and the creator of The Root Cause Protocol. He has a medical background and knows more than anyone I’ve ever talked to on the topic of mineral balance in the body.

Many of us are told to supplement with Iron and vitamin D, but Morley delves into why that might not be a good idea. We expound on our conversation from last time and go even deeper on the importance of copper and vitamin A (plus other nutrients) for overall health and energy. We also talk about hair testing, and what to really look for when doing it (plus more to come on that in our next episode together!).

I’ve been really delving into Morley’s Root Cause Protocol and I’ve found the information really helpful. I always learn so much when I sit down and chat with Morley and I’m sure you will too!

Episode Highlights With Morley Robbins

  • What might be going on if you are told you have low iron or low ferritin
  • Why what’s going on in the blood isn’t always indicative of what’s going on in the tissue and what to know when looking at blood tests
  • The three things to understand when measuring iron: hemoglobin (70% of the body’s iron), ferritin (storage protein inside cells- 10% of the body’s iron), serum iron (less than a tenth of a percent which actually means copper isn’t doing its job)
  • What hepcidin is (peptide)
  • Katherine Philpott MD Ph.D. paper on how ferritin is storing excess iron in the body
  • Why the amount of iron you need is lower than you think.
  • The important part of this equation that is almost never tested by doctors and that can be shut down by Vitamin D
  • Why low ferritin is not an indication of iron deficiency and actually shows low copper and affects hepcidin
  • Dietary iron vs. recycling iron and why copper is important
  • What to know about Vitamin D and its relationship to retinol
  • The thyroid connection and why it is just a symptom of what’s going on in the body
  • Why low thyroid function can just be a symptom of low retinol
  • The thyroid doesn’t run the body – it responds to the body
  • What you don’t know about aging that is aging you much more rapidly
  • Why copper, magnesium, and retinol are the big players in the real story of aging
  • How hair testing shows us some things that blood tests don’t
  • 12 minerals and 8 metals that show up in hair tests (electrolytes, oxidation patterns, metals, etc)
  • Things we can take that mess up the way copper is used in the body (birth control, antibiotics, artificial vitamin C)

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the “Wellness Mama” Podcast. I’m Katie, from wellnessmama.com. And I absolutely loved recording this episode and I learned so much. I am back for round two with Morley Robbins. I will link to his first episode in the show notes. But he’s the creator of something called the Root Cause Protocol. He’s known as the magnesium man. And he’s one of the world’s foremost experts on magnesium’s role in the body, and the delicate dance it plays with iron, copper, and calcium. And this is sort of his life work and his research work. And he knows more than anybody I’ve ever talked to about these topics.
He founded the Magnesium Advocacy Group, and he remains the de facto leader of this, which has over 200,000 members. And he has a mainstream medical industry background, and now is educating about a lot of these topics in his Root Cause Protocol, which I’ve really been delving into and found extremely helpful. And in our next episode, which will be in a couple of months, I’m going to share my hair and blood test analysis, so he can point out common things that show up in these, and any issues that I have, even with trying to already live as healthy as possible.
But in this episode, we got to talk about what is actually going on in the body if you’re told you have low ferritin, and why it’s really important to understand. Why what’s going on in the blood isn’t always indicative of what’s going on in the tissue. And so what you need to know when you look at blood tests. The three things to understand when measuring iron. And the specific questions you need to ask if you are told that any of those are low.
We talk about hepcidin, which is a peptide. We talk about ferritin as a mechanism of storing excess iron in the body, and what that means for it as a metric. Why the amount of dietary iron you need is probably lower than you think. We talk about the vitamin D connection in this equation. We talk about copper again, because this is one topic he’s so knowledgeable about. And we talk about the relationship of vitamin D and retinol. Then we go deep on the topic of retinol in general, and what happens in the body when we are not getting enough retinol, copper, magnesium.
He also explains how the thyroid is connected to this, and how often thyroid problems are simply a symptom of something going on in the body and can resolve if we fix that underlying thing going on. He talks about why it’s a myth, the thyroid doesn’t run the body, it just responds to the body. We talk about what to know about aging, and what’s happening internally that’s essentially rusting us from the inside out.
And how copper, magnesium, and retinol are the big players in the real story of aging. We talk about hair testing and what it shows that blood tests don’t. We talk about things that can mess up the way copper is used in the body and lead to a lot of these cascades of problems. And then there are some resources to learn more about the Root Cause Protocol, including a free 50-page guide that you can access. And that will all be linked in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm.
I love talking to Morley because he’s able to explain extremely complex scientific topics in an easy-to-understand way. And more importantly, in a practical way that can relate to the results you may be getting on your labs and what to do about them. So, always a joy. I don’t want to waste any more time. Let’s jump straight in with Morley Robbins. Morley, welcome back.
Morley: Katie, it’s delightful to be here. Looking forward to our discussion.
Katie: Well, I always love our conversations. I’m glad we’re getting to have another one. And I feel like you were able to really dispel so much understanding of common advice from doctors, and really help a lot of women in our first episode. And I’m excited to build on that one today. For any of you who have not listened, I will link to the first episode in the show notes, at wellnessmama.fm. I would really recommend that as a foundational episode. And in that one, we talked a lot about iron, and what’s happening in the body, some of the myths surrounding iron. And when we’re told we’re anemic, what actually could be going on instead. And before we started recording, you mentioned, there’s also a piece of this connected to having low ferritin. And I think a lot of women do get told they’re anemic or have low markers in some of these areas. So can we build on the iron episode and explain to us what’s going on with low ferritin?
Morley: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s take a step back and just reinforce the fact that on a blood test, we’re measuring what’s showing up in the blood, what markers are showing up in the blood, the minerals or whatever it happens to be. And we’ve always assumed that whatever’s in the blood is perfectly representative of what’s in the tissue. And that’s just not true. And I think we did discuss the fact that Bruce Ames revealed in 2004, that iron in the tissue can be 10 times what shows up in the blood. And that’s a paradigm-busting piece of research that I don’t think many practitioners are aware of, and probably many of your followers aren’t aware of it either. But again, we have to be mindful that the blood test is not perfectly representative of the tissue. There is a difference. Blood is extracellular, outside the cell. The tissue is intracellular, inside the cell. Big difference.
And when it comes to measuring iron, there’s three containers that we need to be thinking about. The first container is a bucket. It’s a big bolus of iron, and it’s called hemoglobin. And the red blood cells carry hemoglobin, is carrying the oxygen. Seventy percent of the iron in the body is tied up in that bucket of iron. And so, historically and clinically, when people talk about anemia, the most accurate understanding of that condition is that, it means there aren’t enough red blood cells, or there isn’t enough hemoglobin in that bucket of iron to support the oxygenation of the tissue. I don’t think a lot of people know that. They just hear that they’re anemic, but anemia specifically refers to hemoglobin and red blood cells. The second container for iron is a teacup. Teacups are smaller than buckets, right? And the teacup of iron is called ferritin, which is a storage protein found inside the cell. And what I learned recently, there’s a world-renowned hematologist at NIH. Her name is Katherine Philpott. , P-H-I-L-P-O-T-T, MD, PhD. She has tremendous understanding of what’s going on in the body, particularly as it relates to iron.
And in 2008, she wrote a very important article that essentially established the fact that ferritin, the storage protein that we’re all familiar with, ferritin is storing excess iron. Emphasis on the word excess. That’s not how it’s built. And there’s all this concern and foaming about, do you have enough storage of iron? Well, here’s the distinction. First of all, it’s a teacup. It’s about 10% of the iron in the body is found in the ferritin protein. And we won’t have the opportunity to get into the absolute insanity of ferritin, because it’s a spectrum protein, and it has very wild properties. But the point is, the folks that follow you have been taught to focus on what’s the ferritin in their serum, their serum ferritin. Again, they think that if it’s showing up in the blood, that it’s perfectly accurate for the tissue. And it’s not. And it turns out that the ferritin that’s showing up in the blood, the serum ferritin, empty shotgun shells. The iron is not in that protein that’s showing up in the blood. It’s been discharged. And yeah, it gets really confusing. I’ve done my level best to make sure people really understand, we get this bucket and a teacup, but the teacup is not perfectly representative of what’s going on in the tissue, inside the cell.
And here’s where it’s really important. A lot of folks, particularly women, are told that they have low ferritin, less than 20. And that they need to be taking iron supplements, or worse yet, an iron infusion. I have two clients, both who were pregnant. A week before delivery, were both told they had low ferritin. Both received iron infusions. Both almost died, and the babies almost died. Because the doctors don’t understand what low ferritin means.
And so, when the ferritin gets low, it’s a safe bet that the recycling macrophages, and those are the Pac-Man that gobble up dying red blood cells, and provide iron so that it can be made into new red blood cells. And we’re doing that at a rate of two and a half million per second. We have to replace two and a half million red blood cells every second. It’s an enormous requirement of the body. And it needs a supply of iron. And that supply of iron is 25 milligrams a day, is all that’s needed to replace 24 hours’ worth of hemoglobin, which is like 2 billion red blood cells. And 24 of those 25 milligrams of iron are coming from a recycling system. One milligram is coming from our diet.
And what people have been trained to believe is that they need to be eating, you know, between 18 and 24 milligrams of iron every day. That’s not true. You need one, one milligram because the bolus of iron that’s needed every day to replace this bucket of red blood cells is only 24 milligrams. A very small percentage. The average adult has about 4000 to 5000 milligrams of iron. So 25 milligrams, it’s a real small amount. But here’s where it gets confusing. And I apologize for going into all this, but I think it’s important for people to know there’s more to the story. There’s a iron peptide, and it’s called hepcidin. And hepcidin has the ability to shut down the recycling program. And this iron peptide is influenced by estrogen. It’s influenced by high fructose corn syrup. It’s influenced by stress. You know, it’s a very important peptide, but it’s never measured by doctors. It’s a really big deal. And so they’re quick to measure ferritin, but slow to measure hepcidin. And I think the most important thing for people to realize is that, vitamin D can shut down hepcidin. That’s not a good thing.
Again, we’re sending these signals to this iron peptide that is affecting the iron egress doorway for the recycling program. I know that’s a lot of terminology, but the point is, low ferritin is not an indication of iron deficiency. And in the parlance of the Root Cause Protocol, it’s a clinical sign of low bioavailable copper, which affects the level of hepcidin, which affects the ability of iron to get out the back door of the recycling program. And so, what people need to be thinking about is, it isn’t dietary iron I need to be focusing on, it’s the recycling iron. And if I’m focusing on recycling iron, then I got to make sure there’s a copper doorman to open up that iron egress door, to make sure that the recycling system is working. The most important thing that can be done in the body is to make sure that there’s adequate levels of copper.
And when someone is told that they have low ferritin, they need to say, “Hold on, timeout. Let’s make sure we rule out anemia of chronic inflammation, doctor.” And that would mean, you’d want to get a test for serum copper, serum ceruloplasmin, and serum hepcidin. And find out what’s going on there. Because the chances of someone in this day and age, in this continent, having low iron in their body is next to impossible because of all the iron fortification that’s done. And what happens is, iron gets stuck. And if the iron gets stuck in the recycling system, because the copper doormen’s not there, that will create the illusion of low ferritin, which further creates the illusion of anemia. And so I think it’s important for people to know about that distinction.
And then the third container is a thimble. Thimbles are very different than teacups, teacups are very different than buckets. A thimble of iron is called serum iron. And it’s less than one tenth of 1% of the iron. And if that number is low, if the doctor says, “Your serum iron is low,” that means that your copper doormen are not doing their job. And so, what I would really encourage your listeners to take heed of, when the doctor says, “You’re anemic.” The first question is, “What iron marker is low, doctor? Is it the bucket? Is it the teacup? Is it the thimble?” Which will throw them into a tizzy. And then go into the, “Timeout, let’s check for anemia of chronic inflammation. Because the chances of me being iron deficient are very, very low.” So that’s a lot of mumbo jumbo. But hopefully, people will be able to understand that. And maybe when we do your hair test and blood test, Katie, we can show people, particularly in the blood test, we can reinforce these points. Because I think to me, it’s the greatest gap in clinical medicine, is understanding the nuance of what low ferritin really means. And it’s an indication of iron dysregulation, caused by a lack of bioavailable copper.
Katie: That makes sense. And you’re right, this is not talked about by doctors. I’ve been through six pregnancies, and they only look at iron anemia. And that’s the only one they talk about. But it seems like you make a really strong case for just having low “iron” on those tests, definitely does not mean and often means you don’t need more dietary iron. You need to look deeper at what’s actually going on in that chronic inflammation level. I’d love to talk more about that, especially because you mentioned that vitamin D can shut down that recycling program. And I feel like we live in a time where people are also sunlight deficient in a lot of ways. I don’t want to, like, scare people from being outside. But what does that mean? And what are some general things people can do? Like, should they then be avoiding… We talked about this a little bit, but avoiding dietary sources of iron, like liver, and, like, oysters? I know there’s more to that story. So I wanted to just kind of…
Morley: Absolutely. So, again, we’re led to believe that the sun only has a connection to vitamin D. That’s not true. The sun is incredibly important. And we know that. And yes, we probably are sunlight deprived. But our ancestors were sunlight deprived too, especially our ancestors who lived in the northern hemisphere. Particularly as you get closer to the poles, they don’t have the sunlight. So what did they do? They ate foods that were kissed by the sunlight. I mean, the life forms on the planet had been dealing with this for a long time. And so, we’re putting undue emphasis on vitamin D. And we’re ignoring its partner called vitamin A, you know. I mean, Fred Astaire was a great dancer, but I think he was really better when he was with a partner. Right? And so, it’s vitamin A and vitamin D that need to work together. And what’s particularly important for people to understand is that, the attributes of vitamin D that they’re so preoccupied with, the ability to influence the immune system. It isn’t the storage D that’s doing it, it’s the active D. And the active D is a constant in our body. It doesn’t fluctuate the way the storage D does during the seasons.
And the real important point here is that, storage D is a parked car, active D is a car on the autobahn. It’s moving, it’s got action behind it. But cars on the autobahn need a driver, that’s called VDR, vitamin D receptor, is the driver. And they need a navigator, and it’s called RXR. It stands for retinoid X receptor, which is a very powerful nuclear receptor that’s very important for activating the actions of active D. It’s also important for thyroid function, which we’ll come back to in a minute. If you don’t have RXR, you’re in trouble. And where do you get RXR? From vitamin A. And we live in a world where people are afraid of that. And they are being trained to be afraid of vitamin A. Oh, you don’t want to become vitamin A toxic. And again, the narrative is just endless. As soon as you hear, “Oh, you’re copper toxic and you’re vitamin A toxic.” You gotta say, “Wait a minute, that sounds like that’s coming from this side. And the truth seems like it’s over here.” And so, people gotta be a lot more patient by responding to these declarations, and learn to ask better questions, and demand better answers.
And so, the issue with the vitamin D is, we’re being sold a bill of goods. I never imagined I would be spending the remaining years of my life challenging the public narrative around vitamin D. I just got contacted by some big doctor who’s a big vitamin D guy. “I want to talk to you on my podcast.” I said, “Bring it on. I can’t wait.” And so, a lot of confusion around there, particularly because of the excitement in the last couple of years. And people don’t understand how important vitamin A is to the immune system. And that if I had to choose a metabolite that I wanted to really focus on to stay healthy, it’s retinol, it’s vitamin A. And our ancestors knew that. And their ancestors knew that. And so, it’s just, we live in an era where we’re being programmed to think a certain way. And so we’re being told, “Oh, you need ascorbic acid, you need vitamin D, and you need zinc in order to avoid getting sick.” And that is a narrative. It’s called a cocktail. And it’s a perfect way to shut down the bioavailability of copper. And people, they don’t have the full awareness of copper that they should have. But I’m doing my level best to appreciate your being so interested in these conversations.
But the thing is, the body and the immune system runs on energy and intelligence. And that’s what copper and retinol bring to the party. And I think people need to be very cautious about vitamin D. If you want vitamin D, get it in cod liver oil, get it in Rositas, get it in Jigsaw, get it in Formula IQ. Those are three great brands of cod liver oil. And the reason why it’s important in that form is that there’s 10 times more retinol than there is vitamin D. And the body really runs on retinol. Most people don’t know that. It’s not taught that way. And so we’re in an era where we really need to begin to challenge significantly, the public narrative. And say, “Is there more to the story?” And that’s been the mainstay of my whole focus for the last 14 years, is to get people to realize that there is more to the story. So hopefully, that gives you and your listeners a little bit more to work with.
Katie: Yeah. I think you do such a great job of explaining this, really boiling it down to first principles. And not just saying, this story is bad, that we’re getting from the mainstream. You’re saying there’s more to this story that is not understood. And these things seem especially relevant, I think, to moms, because things like iron is tested during pregnancy. And women are often, like you said, given supplements of vitamin D and iron, without understanding this whole story. And I think the thyroid component, you mentioned it in passing, is also a really important part of this story for women. I would love to talk a little bit more about, how do we optimize retinol? Is it as simple as cod liver oil? I know there’s a testing component probably here as well. And then also talk about the thyroid connection, because that’s probably the most common complaint I hear from listeners.
Morley: Absolutely. And before I respond to that, let me just real quick… You made the comment about a pregnancy. To me, it is unconscionable that the birthing practitioner community doesn’t focus on magnesium, copper, and retinol. Those three metabolites do more to ensure a healthy happy mom, and a healthy happy baby. And this contemporary narrative that we need to focus on vitamin D and iron is completely demotic. And I can’t say it any more succinctly. People need to really question what’s going on when there’s no testing of magnesium status, copper status, ceruloplasmin, which was a copper protein, nor retinol status in the mom, throughout the pregnancy. I think, to me, it is the most offensive part of medicine as it exists today. And I know, I shouldn’t feel so strongly, but I do. You know, why don’t I tell you how I really feel, right?
So let’s come back to the thyroid. Again, we live in the modern era, so called modern era, where we’re taught that the thyroid runs the body, right? I mean, you know that, right? This little butterfly here runs the whole body. You know that, right? And if you believe that, I’ve got a used BMW and a bridge I’d love to sell you. The thyroid is responding to the body’s mineral status. That’s really what it’s doing. And it’s gonna get into course correction, but it doesn’t run the body. And I’m sure the listeners will be shocked to find out that it’s actually copper status that runs the thyroid. And there’s amazing research by Jens Mittag, M-I-T-T-A-G, out of Germany. 2012 was a really particularly important study that he did on copper status and thyroid function. And the thing is, in Europe, they have endocrinologists. In North America, we have endocriminologists. Very different. Very similar training, but they have a very different series of outcomes. But the thing is, the biggest confusion around thyroid function is not understanding the RXR enabling the thyroid receptor to work. And if the thyroid receptor can work, then it can produce a hormone.
The biggest surprise for me, Katie, when I really launched the magnesium advocacy group. You know, it actually seems like 14 lifetimes ago. But the biggest surprise is people started really focusing on the minerals, especially magnesium, got into copper, really began to understand what that was all about, the importance of retinol to activating the copper. Were the number of people who realized they didn’t need as much thyroid medication, or they didn’t need their thyroid medication. And that really… I mean, I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would be getting into those types of issues. I was just trying to help people deal with their stress. And then sort of, you know, over the years, it’s gotten bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But the thing is, hypothyroidism, low thyroid function, it’s a clinical sign of low retinol. And if the retinol is low, the RXR is going to be low. And if RXR is low, you’re not going to have proper metabolic function to produce the T4 metabolite. Again, what does T4 stands for? Well, it’s those tyrosines, those four tyrosines need to be converted. Ninety percent of the conversion of T4 to T3, where is it happening? In the liver. It’s not happening here. It’s happening down here. Trio Deiodinase enzyme, whatever it’s called.
And people worry about the conversion, they worry about reverse T3. Well, when the liver starts to fill up with iron because there’s not enough bioavailable copper in the body, because there’s not enough copper and retinol in the diet. Well, that iron goes straight to the liver. That’s an established scientific fact, that was first identified by a team of scientists at University of Wisconsin in 1928. And updated about every 20 years. And the most stunning update was 2021, by Kim and Gonzalez, who proved it genetically, that you denied an animal copper, and the ferritin protein takes off like a rocket in the liver. And that’s not a good thing for our metabolism. And so, thyroid function, the worshipped T3, the active form of the hormone, turns out it’s an oxygen sensor. It’s trying to pick up what’s going on with. And where’s it hanging out? T3 hangs out in the mitochondria, a complex four. So there’s five complexes in the mitochondria. Complex four is where oxygen gets turned into water. The most important chemical reaction on the planet, oxygen becomes two molecules of water. It’s a copper-dependent enzyme. And when that happens, three energy molecules go over to become 3ATP. It’s a big deal.
And this is happening… This part five of the complex, it’s spinning it 9000 revolutions per minute. Means, it’s making 27,000 ATP per minute, which is pretty fast. And there’s lots of those complexes throughout our body. The point is, the importance of making that happen by having bioavailable copper, it can only happen if you have adequate levels of retinol in the diet and copper in the diet. But the T3 is hanging out, making sure that the oxygen is becoming water. And if it doesn’t become water, it’s going to become exhaust. And it’s not going to turn… O2 is not going to become two H2O. It’s gonna become superoxide, or hydrogen peroxide, or worse yet, the hydroxyl radical. And all hormones, especially in their active state, are signaling molecules. They have a location for working, T3’s hanging out in the mitochondria. It’s been billed as the sparkplug for the mitochondria. That’s not true. It’s sensing oxygen status. And if the oxygen is not burning right, it sends a signal back to our liver. And it says, “Hey, we need more that ceruloplasmin thing, the protein that that works with copper.” And what is ceruloplasmin doing? It does many different things in the body. But one of the most important is, it’s a supply line for copper to reinforce the need for more copper in the mitochondria.
We have 40 quadrillion mitochondria in our body, that’s 15 zeros. It’s a big number. We have 100 trillion cells in our body. So what does that mean? It means we have 500 mitochondria per cell. That’s not how it’s billed in our high school biology textbook. It might have had one or two. But the thing is, lots and lots of mitochondria, lots and lots of oxygen that needs to be converted. And the T3 is monitoring that. And each of those mitochondria need to have 50,000 atoms of copper inside them. And that’s the pioneering work of Paul Cobine at Auburn University, in 2004 and 2006. Absolute genius when it comes to understanding true copper status in the body. And so, how could copper be toxic if each of our mitochondria need 50,000 atoms of copper? That’s the part that the average practitioner doesn’t understand, and your patients have no understanding of it either. But the thing is, the reason why we’re here on the planet, hanging out on these fancy devices, is, copper was able to turn oxygen into water. Copper is also able to keep iron from interacting with oxygen. Two most important things a copper does, really profound, that just gets lost in the mainstream narrative.
But the thyroid is really important to make sure that copper is being kept adequate inside our tissue. And it’s a fascinating field of medicine, as you probably know. And I’m sure there are many people who have complaints about it. But it’s based on the fact that people are taught to believe that this butterfly runs the body, and it doesn’t. It responds to the body. And this butterfly is really affected by our diet, things like high fructose corn syrup. If we don’t have enough protein in our diet, if we don’t have enough real vitamin C, as opposed to ascorbic acid. I think we spent a fair amount of time on that in the first conversation. And so, what’s in real vitamin C? An enzyme called tyrosinase. Well, tyrosinase, what’s its substrate? What does it like to work with? Tyrosine. Oh, you think the tyrosinase might be really important for the thyroid function? Yeah, me too. And so, that’s where a lot of the confusion is, is not understanding what the true metabolites are.
Everyone says, “Oh, I’ve got to have selenium.” Right? We know that. Especially for this enzyme down here, to cleave off a tyrosine. Well, that’s solennelle enzyme. It doesn’t work without copper. So is it really a selenium enzyme? Selenium is there, but copper is the catalytic agent. So, again, there’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation, from my standpoint, as it relates to the body.
And my proof positive isn’t just the research, it’s the thousands of members of the magnesium advocacy group in the RCP community that… I don’t need my thyroid meds the way I used to. In fact, I don’t even need my thyroid meds now, because I’ve got so much energy. So I think people need to get outside the mainstream narrative, and begin to adopt a more natural diet, a more ancestral diet, and a more foundational belief in their body’s ability to heal itself.
Katie: This is why I love talking to you. Because you’re able to break this down to understandable building blocks, even though we’re talking about such complex things. And I wish I could just let you be my kids’ homeschool science teacher on all this. But on a personal level, I think back to when my thyroid got better, and I didn’t need medication anymore. I had increased my dietary consumption of protein, food-based vitamin C, retinol, magnesium, and my numbers all corrected. And also when you mentioned the oxides part, like hydrogen peroxide and those things happening. It makes me wonder, is this the real story of aging as well, magnesium, copper, and retinol? And is this connected, do you think, to this drastic increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver that we’re seeing, for instance? I know I see headlines about this.
Morley: Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t know she was going to talk about this. But I just happen to have a picture here. I hope you can actually see it. In the center, is iron. And you can see all the different conditions that a buildup of iron is causing around the body. And this is from a study Zeidan, Z-E-I-D-A-N et al, 2021. “Iron Homeostasis in Organismal Aging.” You want to understand aging? Learn iron homeostasis. Every facet of aging, Katie, is caused by iron accumulation in the tissue, 100% of it. You know, what I get a kick out of is really highbrow articles on aging research, and they blow past iron. It’s like, oh, my God. And so the field of aging was, I think, really established by a former engineer. His name was Denham Harmon. And in 1956, he wrote an article… He had a PhD in engineering. And then he decided to go to medical school. Well, he didn’t go to medical school, he went to Stanford. It’s like, oh, my gosh, the guy must have been brilliant. But in 1956, when he was just a few years out of medical school, he writes an article, “The Free Radical Theory of Aging.” It was a blockbuster article. It turned medicine on its ear because no one was thinking about free radicals being a problem. And how do you create a free radical? And that’s referring to oxygen free radicals.
And I always like to tease people, well, they’re free, so take as many as you want. No, you don’t want free radicals. They’re very reactive. And how do they get reacted? Oxygen mixes with iron because there’s not enough bioavailable copper. And when oxygen and iron come together, boom, you get an exhaust, you get free radicals. Or they’re also called reactive oxygen species. And Denham Harman, brilliant guy, in 2006, when he was 90 years old, he updates his research after 50 years. And it’s now the most accepted theory of aging, is the free radical theory of aging.
And there’s two things you gotta focus on. You got to make sure your iron doesn’t get dysregulated. And make sure you’ve got bioavailable copper, to keep oxygen and iron from playing with each other. And it’s so basic to our physiology. And the tragedy is, it’s not taught this way in doctor school. I really think it needs to be, to simplify it, not only that the doctors understand it, so that their patients understand it. Because it is not that complicated. We recognize a rusty nail, and a rusty pipe, and a rusty car, right? We know what that looks like. And the rust on the nail and the pipe in the car are not different forms of rust. Rust is rust. Well, guess what’s happening inside our body? It’s rusting.
And the beauty of this diagram is the rusting is happening in the lungs, in the thyroid, in the muscles, in the bones, liver. It’s agnostic. And when we’re under stress… Know anybody under stress, Katie? So when we’re under stress, we lose minerals, especially magnesium and copper. And when we lose those, that sets the stage for what’s called oxidative stress. And what’s oxidative stress? It’s another way of saying free radicals. And we’ve all had experience driving cars or at least riding in cars. And every car produces energy, but it also produces exhaust. Right? You can’t go forward without some price you pay for it. Our body works the exact same way. There’s always a balance between energy production and exhaust production. And that’s called metabolic homeostasis.
Now, the part that’s amazing is that, copper, bioavailable copper, critical for making the energy, critical for clearing the exhaust. Wow, this really intricate system, it’s dependent on one metal, one metal. But what happens is as that metal fall, if it’s not sufficient in your diet, if it’s getting burned up because of stress, energy production goes down, and our exhaust production goes up. When it looks like this, it’s called balanced, homeostasis. When it looks like this, it’s called oxidative stress. And the oxidative stress changes gene function, changes metabolic function. And then there’s suddenly a flurry of symptoms that follow. That is the aging process.
Katie: And the beautiful part, I feel like, of understanding this, is even just understanding at a high level, like, when these things are out of balance, our body is oversimplified, but essentially rusting on the inside. But understanding these building blocks lets us sort of reverse that process. And it seems like your Root Cause Protocol work shows that getting the body back in homeostasis really does help reverse a lot of these things that people struggle with. And I feel like you explained it so well because many women perhaps have heard of retinol, but only in this anti-aging skincare context. But it turns out the internal probably is equally or more important for anti-aging from the inside out.
Morley: A great resource for people to turn to, a famous copper expert named Loren, L-O-R-E-N, Pickart, P-I-C-K-A-R-T, genius in the 70s, discovered a copper peptide, GHK copper. And he originally wanted to develop a supplement. And the FDA said, “No, you can’t do that.” So he came back and he said, “What if I make it a form of a cream?” And they went, “That’s great. Good idea.” Thinking that it wouldn’t work. And when you go to… The website is called reverseskinaging.com. Tremendous articles that people can tap into, to understanding that copper is critical for reversing skin aging. Well, you think it stops in the skin? Of course not. And so, that’s why copper is so important for pregnancy and the fetuses inside the growing mom. It’s like, it’s so basic. All of the primal energy of new life is dependent upon the vitality of copper. And it’s not taught that way. But it’s in the literature. I don’t think people realize how many hours a day I spend combing the research, trying to piece it together. And it’s become an absolute fascination and passion of mine. But it absolutely is in the literature. It’s just not being taught in the classroom, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
And I think we’re all witnessing changes in our mental construct of, wow, there really is a narrative. And maybe that narrative isn’t in my best interest. And we just need to play along with that, and be willing to bob and weave with the information we’re given, and be able to be better at sorting out what’s the wheat here, what’s the chaff? What do I need to throw away? And just feel more comfortable knowing that mother nature and our maker would not design us to break down. What we didn’t know is, they weren’t allowing the nutrients to stay in the food that we were eating. The critical nutrients, like the minerals, and the vitamins that are so essential for our health and well-being. We didn’t know they were being stripped out of the food. I had no idea. If you saw my diet when I was five years old, you’d pass out. And, you know, learn more, do better. But the thing is, people need to really question this official narrative, because I’m not convinced it’s in our best interest.
Katie: Well, and there’s a long-standing theme on this podcast that I say a lot, which is that we are each our own primary health care provider. And hopefully, we do find amazing people to work with. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with us, and the responsibility lies with us to optimize these things.
This episode is brought to you by BON CHARGE… a holistic wellness brand with a huge range of evidence-based products to optimize your life in every way. Founded on science and inspired by nature, their products adopt ancestral ways of living in our modern-day world. From blue light glasses to red light therapy, to EMF management and circadian friendly lighting, BON CHARGE products help you naturally address the issues of our modern-day way of life effortlessly and with maximum impact.
My favorite products from that they have are their Anti-radiation and EMF Protection products. And their lighting solutions. I use their laptop mat when working on my computer to protect my body from the EMFs from my computer, and their blanket is great for curling up and watching a movie or using when traveling. I’m also a big fan of their lighting. Junk lighting has been a problem for a long time, and I hadn’t found a great solution until now. They have red light bulbs that have zero blue and green light, designed and tested not to disrupt melatonin production, and they also have full spectrum bulbs that have settings for morning, afternoon and evening. The daytime settings mimic the full spectrum light from the sun and the evening setting mimics a campfire to help promote restful sleep. At my house, I love using their full spectrum bulbs in ceiling lighting, which is also the angle we get light from the sun, and using the red light bulbs in lamps, as some evidence shows red light is experienced from eye level or below in nature. Now, I can just switch from overhead light to lamps at sunset and help my family be calm and relaxed before bed. They are also energy saving and low/no EMF! Check them out at boncharge.com/wellnessmama and use coupon code wellnessmama to save 20%.

This episode is sponsored by Wellnesse (wellness with an e on the end)… the personal care company I co-founded when I couldn’t find products I felt comfortable using on my family that worked as well as conventional alternatives. My focus was figuring out the 80/20 of products that account for the most harmful chemical exposure and making safer alternatives that worked just as well. We started out with oral care and haircare and now also have a safe natural deodorant that actually works. By changing out just these products in your routine, you can reduce your chemical exposure by as much as 80% and these products are safe for the whole family. Wellnesse has three types of remineralizing toothpaste, original whitening mint, whitening charcoal and natural strawberry for kids. The deodorant has a neutral scent and is designed to work without causing irritation like many natural deodorants do. And the haircare is designed as a hair food… focused on nourishing your hair and scalp for healthier and healthier hair the longer you use it. Check out these all the Wellnesse products at Wellnesse.com.

And I would love to also talk a little bit about… I know we’re gonna, in a future episode, look at…and I’ll let people see my results on blood testing and hair testing. But I know hair testing is a piece of this. So I would love for you to explain what we can learn on a general sense from hair testing. And, like, what are some of the things that show up there? And what do they tell you about what’s going on, on the inside?
Morley: You know, the beauty of the hair test is… It isn’t a definitive test. I refer to it as a directional test. There are really two questions that we’re trying to answer, you know, in a hair test. And this was taught to me by my mentor, Rick Malter. Great guy. And I think he’s mastered the interpretation of the hair test. But the thing is, what the hair test is telling us answers the two questions. Is this client under stress? Yes or no? And second question, are they able to mobilize energy in the face of that stress? There are a lot of practitioners out there that love to get into all these different ratios. And is it a hill pattern and a bowl pattern? And it’s like, I don’t play into all that. What I’m most interested in seeing, there’s 12 minerals that will show up in the hair test, standard hair test, there’s 8 heavy metals. And then I think there’s, like, 10 to 12 other elements. What I’ve found over the years, Katie, is that when you focus on the first nine bars of the hair test, the first four are the electrolytes. So, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
Those electrolytes tell us a lot about what the oxidation pattern is, which we’ll come back to in a minute. It’s very, very important to have a sense of whether someone is a fast oxidizer, or a slow oxidizer. It’s not good or bad, it’s not right or wrong. It’s just different. It’s like, I’m left-handed, I don’t know whether you are, but 20% of society uses the left hand. And even though it shows up on my right side in the image that I’m looking at, I’m left-handed. But the thing is, the electrolyte pattern is very revealing. And the bar next to that is called phosphorus. And phosphorus is given off when we eat protein. So if you have a healthy level of protein in your diet, you’ll have a healthy level of phosphorus. That’s a good thing. Most of the people I work with have decent and healthy phosphorus. Occasionally, it’ll be below the ideal or above the ideal. Below the ideal means they’re not eating enough protein. Above the ideal usually means there’s an iron issue causing it. And that’s a nuance that we can go to when we get to your actual results. And then the next four bars are the metals, copper, zinc, iron, and manganese.
And those four metals are especially important for running the liver. There’s 500 enzymes that are the responsibility of the liver. And the way that they express on the hair test will tell us whether someone has liver vitality or not. And most people don’t.
The metal that’s going to show the best consistently across hair tests is zinc. The zinc mineral seems to be ideally represented in the hair tissue. I’m not entirely sure why. But consistently, zinc will be the strongest of the four. And on occasion, people will come back with what’s called a high copper. And they’re told that they are copper toxic, which is a misnomer. Again, we have to keep in mind that the two largest containers of copper are our bone marrow and our muscles. Bone marrow, 46% of the copper in the body is in the bone marrow, 26% is in the muscle. And 25% is in the organs. Again, brain, heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, they don’t work without copper, because they’re incredibly involved in making energy.
And when someone comes with a hair test with elevated copper, and they’re told that they’re copper toxic, again, then you say, “Timeout, practitioner, maybe I’ve been taking something that’s causing the copper to become unbound from ceruloplasmin. Like, maybe I’m taking birth control pills, or maybe I’m taking antibiotics, or maybe I’m taking ascorbic acid, or any number of pain meds.” They will blow up the ceruloplasmin protein, the copper becomes unbound. It shows elevated on the hair test, but it is not a sign of toxicity. The reason why we’re on the planet, folks, is the actions of bioavailable copper. And that’s well established by Robert Crichton, Dr. Knowles. Svetlana Lutsenko at Hopkins. I mean, these are preeminent copper scientists who agree on the fact that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for copper. So the thing is, the hair test, it’s an important test because it gives us a broad spectrum of mineral activity. It gives us kind of the feel of what’s taking place. And the reason why I love the blood test is we can begin to zero in on particularly, what’s going on with copper? What’s going on with iron? What’s going on with zinc? Because the media, hair versus blood, are very different. They express different information.
And the hair test, it’s a very useful tool. But like I said, it’s not definitive, but I think it’s directional, particularly because it will help us understand, is this person under stress? And are they able to mobilize energy in the face of that stress? And there are a series of ratios that are done in a hair test. There is particularly a thyroid ratio, which is a function of calcium interacting with potassium. And there’s a adrenal ratio, which is a function of sodium interacting with magnesium. And when you multiply those two ratios times themselves, they’ll tell you how much energy has been lost in the system. Again, it’s more directional, but it’s an indication of, how is this person responding to the stress of their life? And really, the reason why we use these tests, the hair test and the blood test in the Root Cause Protocol consults, it isn’t to diagnose anything, and we don’t treat anything from those results. What we do is use those results as a springboard to have a conversation with the client, to find out, what’s their stress pattern? What’s going on in their world? When did they first notice their symptoms? What was the stressor at that particular point?
And I’ve heard some of the most amazing stories over the last 12 years I’ve been doing these tests. And that’s the whole basis of the protocol. Stress-induced mineral dysregulation that causes metabolic dysfunction, which causes energy loss, which causes symptoms to appear. There is no disease. Disease is a mental construct of the modern era. Our ancestors and their ancestors knew how important diet, stress management, and especially dealing with emotional trauma, was. And I would have to emphasize that last point, is, the greatest a barrier for people to recover is their inability to get past their emotional traumas. And we’re all guilty of it. We’ve all experienced significant events in our life. But as long as we carry a fear, which many of us do, about what happened, it’s going to create a block of energy, and a block of proper mineral circulation in the body. And the pivot point for recovery is dealing with those emotions, and realizing that that event, triggered by stress, it created oxidative stress. Anytime you have stress in your world, you’re gonna have oxidative stress in your body. And once that oxidative stress starts to build, then you’ve got energy loss, and then you’ve got symptoms.
Katie: Yeah, I’m so glad you said that part. And that seems like a very obvious downward spiral. Because then now you’re gonna have lower resilience to stress because those things are depleted, and down it goes. And I’ve shared this story before, so I won’t repeat it. But dealing with emotional trauma was probably the most pivotal thing I’ve done in the last five years for my health. And so when people ask them, I’m like, I can talk about supplements and that, but I think the reality was, I dealt with the internal thing that was keeping me in sympathetic nervous system all the time. And I’m going to make sure we link to where people can find out about the Root Cause Protocol and get this testing, because I think a lot of people will be interested. But are there any ways for people who may be wondering, how do we support the body if we’re having optimal amounts of copper and retinol? Are there any kind of general things that everyone can look at there?
Morley: Sure. I would encourage people to go to the main website, rcp123.org. Or if you want to do more follow up, go to the rootcauseprotocol.com, all spelled out. But rcp123.org. And if you will donate your email address, which we will respect, we’ll send you a 50-page document. It’s the Root Cause Protocol handbook. And it will give you a lot of information about stops and starts. What do I stop doing? What do I start doing? We have recommended dosing throughout the day. And the thing is, and this is hard for some people to really process right away. There is no Katie Wells protocol. There’s no Morley Robbins protocol. You and I are humans. And this protocol is designed for humans dealing with the two biggest sources of stress on the planet. Oxygen, 21% of the air we breathe is oxygen. It’s a poison, folks. Can’t live without it, but we can’t age without it either. And iron, number one element on planet earth, 34%, 35% of the earth’s composition is iron.
And back to our earlier discussion about so-called anemia. In order for people to believe anemia, what they have to believe is that the most evolved species on the planet, that would be humans, the most evolved species on the planet has lost the natural ability to regulate and metabolize the number one element. It absolutely makes no sense. Makes no sense. And so we’ve got to challenge the insanity of this label, anemia, and say, what is missing in our understanding? And invariably, it’s bioavailable copper, the general, copper is the general, iron’s the foot soldier. Now, picture the Battle of the Bulge without Patton. It’s a very different story. And so our bodies are the Battle of the Bulge now, not enough Pattons, too much iron, and it’s out of control.
Katie: I just put the link in the show notes for all you guys listening to download the handbook. I highly recommend it. It’s much like this interview, extremely clear and walks you through understanding truly what’s going on in the body. And I think anytime we can gain that understanding in any way, we then gain so much more power over our own physiology. And that’s why I’m so grateful for the work that you do. I know we’re getting toward the end of our time, but I really just want to ask, are there any other ways we can support the liver in particular, since that was a common theme in this episode?
Morley: Yeah. Probably the most gentle thing you can do… Well, let’s deal with emotions, most important thing. Where is anger stored? In the liver. You know, so if you’re upset about life, that’s a good place to start. But deal with the emotional dynamic. I’m a huge fan of castor oil packs. And there’s a website called Queen of Thrones, a lot of people are very excited about it. It’s a more user-friendly way to do castor oil application. But our ancestors used it for hundreds of years. And the castor oil has a metabolite in it called quercetin. Quercetin, some people may be familiar with it over the last couple of years, but it’s an iron chelator. It activates a metabolic pathway called AMPK, which is the most misunderstood pathway on the planet. But it’s what keeps us going. And, of course, it’s very richly found in the castor oil.
And so those would be two strong recommendations. I am not a firm believer in liver detoxes because you need to have energy to do a detox. And most people don’t have enough energy to get through the day. So don’t throw a bunch of stuff in your system expecting a miracle. Because if you don’t have the ability to make energy, because you don’t have enough magnesium and bioavailable copper, then it’s going to backfire. So, invariably, people are trying to force something, when in fact, mother nature really knows how to revitalize the body. It just needs the right nutrients, which are spelled out in the protocol.
Katie: Awesome. Well, while I could talk to you all day, I think we’ll wrap up there for this episode. And with the caveat that we’ll do another episode that goes deep on my own blood test results. And I’ll let people know fully what’s going on with my body as an example. So we can talk through some of these finer points of what you look at. But in the meantime, if you found this episode as fascinating as I did, the links are in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm, to learn more about the Root Cause Protocol. And I know you have resources there for people to actually connect with practitioners and work through their own results. Is that right?
Morley: Absolutely right. And I encourage the listeners, if you have questions… I don’t know what your funnel is on that side. But if people have questions, I would encourage them to pose them to your community, and we can work our way through some of those questions. Because these are very countercultural ideas that we’re talking about. And you’re very comfortable with them because you’ve been at this for years, and years, and years. And you’ve had breakthrough recovery. And that’s beautiful. But not everyone following you is where we are. And I appreciate the fact that we can have a really lucid conversation. I don’t want to leave people in the dust. So if people do have questions, I would encourage them to ask them. I’ve never met a question I didn’t enjoy. So I just want to make sure people know that they’ll have that opportunity going forward as well.
Katie: Amazing. Well, I will put the links, like I said, to all of your work so that people can find it. And if you guys want to leave questions in this post at wellnessmama.fm, we can answer those in the next episode as well. And I know you have a host of resources, so I will make sure all of that is compiled in the show notes. You guys can check that out, especially if you’re on the go while you’re listening. But Morley, until we get to round three, thank you so much for your time today. I always love these conversations, and I always learn so much.
Morley: Well, thank you for the opportunity. And enjoy the slide into the holidays. And we’ll pick it up probably in the new year.
Katie: Amazing. And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama” podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This episode is brought to you by BON CHARGE… a holistic wellness brand with a huge range of evidence-based products to optimize your life in every way. Founded on science and inspired by nature, all BON CHARGE products adopt ancestral ways of living in our modern-day world. From blue light glasses to red light therapy, to EMF management and circadian friendly lighting, BON CHARGE products help you naturally address the issues of our modern-day way of life effortlessly and with maximum impact.

My favorite products from BON CHARGE are their Anti-radiation and EMF Protection products…. And their lighting solutions. I use their laptop mat when working on my computer to protect my body from the EMFs from my computer, and their blanket is great for curling up and watching a movie or using when traveling. I’m also a big fan of their lighting. Junk lighting has been a problem for a long time, and I hadn’t found a great solution until now. They have red light bulbs that have zero blue and green light, designed and tested not to disrupt melatonin production, as well as full spectrum bulbs that have settings for morning, afternoon and evening. The daytime settings mimic the full spectrum light from the sun and the evening setting mimics a campfire to help promote restful sleep. At my house, I love using their full spectrum bulbs in ceiling lighting, which is also the angle we get light from the sun, and using the red light bulbs in lamps, as some evidence shows red light is experienced from eye level or below in nature. Now, I can just switch from overhead light to lamps at sunset and help my family be calm and relaxed before bed. They are also energy saving and low/no EMF!
Check them out at boncharge.com/wellnessmama and use coupon code wellnessmama to save 20%.

This episode is sponsored by Wellnesse, the personal care company I co-founded when I couldn’t find products I felt comfortable using on my family that worked as well as conventional alternatives. My focus was figuring out the 80/20 of products that account for the most harmful chemical exposure and making safer alternatives that worked just as well. We started out with oral care and haircare and now also have a safe natural deodorant that actually works. By changing out just these products in your routine, you can reduce your chemical exposure by as much as 80% and these products are safe for the whole family. Wellnesse has three types of remineralizing toothpaste, original whitening mint, whitening charcoal and natural strawberry for kids. The deodorant has a neutral scent and is designed to work without causing irritation like many natural deodorants do. And the haircare is designed as a hair food… focused on nourishing your hair and scalp for healthier and healthier hair the longer you use it. Check out these all the Wellnesse products at Wellnesse.com.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

One response to “614: Morley Robbins on Thyroid Health, Retinol, Magnesium, and the Real Story of Aging”

  1. QA Avatar

    Katie, this episode made me cry. It sums up my last 12 years. Thank you so much for the reminder about these important minerals and the balances that they create. Thank you to the doctor for his passion on the subject and explaining things so succinctly. Thank you for the reminder to let let myself be healthy.

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