About Dr. Erica Peirson
Dr. Erica Peirson is a licensed Naturopathic Physician who specializes in helping children with Down Syndrome, Autism and special needs. In this podcast Dr. Peirson shares cutting edge researching linking thyroid hormone imbalances to develop mental delays in children. She also discusses how to help children with special needs by reducing free radical stress with nutrition and addressing MTHFR and gene-environment interactions.
Dr. Peirson moved to Portland, Oregon 17 years ago with the dream of becoming a Naturopathic Physician. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Biology from Portland State University and achieved a place in the Gold Key International Honour Society.
Dr. Peirson earned her doctorate degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She is a licensed physician in the state of Oregon, having passed the Naturopathic Licensing Exams.
She currently lives in Portland with her husband, Stephen, and their 5 year old son, Miles. They all enjoy being outside (when it's not raining) hiking, biking, and working in the garden. Erica also enjoys crafting, cooking and sharing healthy and delicious recipes with her patients. Erica plays piano and her husband teaches piano and guitar. Their son enjoys the music that almost always fills their home.
Books Discussed in this Episode
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02:34 Dr. Peirson’s Journey: Dr. Peirson’s son has Down syndrome. She was dissatisfied with conventional Down syndrome clinics. By learning what would help him, she then started treating others.
03:28 Genetic and Environmental Influences: The initial cell division at conception does not always happen properly. There is evidence that MTHFR and improper processing of folate in the methylation cycle can predispose a mother to having a child with Down syndrome. Sub-clinical or overt hypothyroidism in the mother can also create an increased risk of having a child with Down syndrome.
04:39 Children with Thyroid Issues: The symptoms of Down syndrome and the symptoms of hypothyroidism in infancy match almost exactly. Early intervention to optimize their thyroid function, it can make a huge difference.
05:37 Preconception Planning: If there is a personal or family history of genetic issues, miscarriage or infertility, work with a physician who is willing to look in depth at endocrine, adrenal, and thyroid function, as well as progesterone levels in a mother. Address nutrient deficiencies. If there is iron deficiency, there will be thyroid dysfunction. Proper level of folate are also important.
07:10 Stress and Detox: Dr. Peirson starts with diet. Eat organic, whole foods, made by you as much as possible. Avoid processed foods and pesticides. Use clean products in your home and on your body. Liver support helps with detox. Dr. Peirson uses baking soda and vinegar to wash her hair. What you put on your skin goes into your body. Ignore marketing and read the labels.
11:28 Thyroid Issues with Down Syndrome: Recognize the symptoms of hypothyroidism in children. Proper thyroid hormone affects every cell in our body. When thyroid hormone is not optimal, everyone is affected differently. Do thorough labs on the child, not just a TSH. Look at free T4 to assess the function of the thyroid. Look at free T3, the bioavailable hormone in the blood. Look at reverse T3. It is elevated, it blocks the active hormone from being used. It is a sign that there is a problem to be addressed. Test for thyroid antibodies in the mother.
14:03 Reverse T3 in Infants: There is one study of reverse T3 in infants. It was done in 1975. The study found that children in utero have elevated reverse T3 levels to protect them the large amount of T3 that the mother’s body is producing. At 9 to 11 days, reverse T3 should be lowered to the range of a normal adult. In children with Down syndrome, their reverse T3 levels stay elevated longer than they should, even to 12 months of age. When an infant’s reverse T3 is elevated, Dr. Peirson addressed underlying causes and immediately lowers T3 with T3 only medication, Liothyronine or Cytomel. She may also use natural desiccated thyroid hormone, if labs show that it is warranted.
17:11 Treatment Results: She found that thyroid hormone can remedy acid reflux and resulting constipation/diarrhea can be remedied in a day. Increased muscle tone, gross motor development can be a result. Convincing pediatricians to get on board can be impossible. Some are.
21:01 Testing: If you have a doctor who is unwilling to do the recommended labs, you can order your own labs on line from labs like Direct Labs. It can be cheaper, with insurance, to pay cash with labs.
23:05 Genetic Testing: Know your MTHFR status. It is one of many SNPs involved in methylation. MTR and MTRR are related to methylation of B12.
24:31 Methylation Supplementation: Generally, in children with Down syndrome, there is tendency toward under-methylation. The methylation cycle is being stressed and pulled by CBS and DNMT3L, both on chromosome 21 that use up methylation intermediates within the cycle. We want to feed the methylation cycle with methylfolate. Methyl B12 may make kids hyper. If that is the case, Dr. Peirson may use adenosyl or hydroxyl B12. Methionine can also feed the methylation cycle. Reduce the draw on the methylation cycle by reducing toxins.
26:43 Oxidative Stress: It is a complicated process that we all experience. It ages us. Children with Down syndrome experience higher levels of it because of the genetic over expression. Glutathione is one of our most important antioxidant enzymes. It works together with SOD1. They take free radicals and convert them to water. SOD1 is on chromosome 21. SOD1 converts free radicals to hydrogen peroxide. Glutathione converts hydrogen peroxide to water. We have too much SOD1 and not enough glutathione. The excess hydrogen peroxide is converted to hydroxyl free radicals. They are the most damaging free radicals in the body. We prevent free radicals with a healthy diet, vitamin E and vitamin C. A study of Down syndrome children showed that vitamin E and vitamin C lowered markers for oxidative stress. We support glutathione levels. Tylenol lowers glutathione levels. Supporting the methylation cycle naturally support glutathione production.
30:03 Glutathione: Studies show that oral glutathione supplementation can raise cellular levels of glutathione. It does not taste good, so getting kids to take it is challenging. By giving just the end product, we may be exacerbating the imbalance in the pathways. Folinic acid, methyl B12, methionine (though it oxidizes quickly) in a study of Down syndrome children, were found to raise glutathione levels in a study by Dr. Jill James.
32:38 Cell Membranes and Phospholipids: Oxidative damage occurs in DNA and cell membranes. Cell membranes are what controls our cells. DNA is a blueprint waiting for action. If cell membrane is not healthy, it won’t function well and the cell won’t function well. Within the core of the cell membrane are easily oxidized fats. Should damage occur, our body can repair the cell membrane and our DNA. We can eat phospholipids in the form of phosphatidylcholine and lecithin. Egg yolks are high in phospholipids. Dr. Peirson likes to support all phospholipids using sunflower lecithin granules.
37:13 Downsyndromeoptions.org: Dr. Peirson is executive director of this non-profit. Her practice is now called The Peirson Center for Children (Peirsoncenter.com). Much of what can be done for Down syndrome can be done for autism as well. She also provides resources at downsyndrome.net.
40:13 Dr. Peirson’s Favorite Nutrient: Thyroid hormone is her choice. Fixing hypothyroidism improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as better overall growth and development. Every cell in the body has a receptor for T3.
41:20 Dr. Peirson’s Elevator Pitch: Get your thyroid checked. As we age, our thyroid hormone function declines. Optimizing thyroid function throughout life helps prevent Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.