Addressing thyroid problems
We all start life with one. It is located in the front of neck and on either side of the Adam's apple with the left side usually being smaller than the right side. Normally, it can't be seen or even felt so it is easy to take this second most important gland in the body for granted. That is, until the thyroid starts to falter. When the thyroid starts to act up, the cause can be because it has slowed down, sped up, lumps emerge, enlargement or irritation happens. Symptoms can and do overlap with its own disorders but also with many other ailments like obesity, heart disease, digestive disorders, immune disorders ... the list is seemingly endless. Thyroid disease is perplexing and common.
It does seem there is more thyroid disorder now than ever before, but is this true? The pituitary gland is the one in charge of the thyroid making it number one and the thyroid number two. It makes sense, then, that the second most powerful gland in the body will influence every system of the body. Sometimes, other parts of the body impact the thyroid, as well. So figuring out which is chicken and egg is difficult. For instance, irritable bowel disease has been linked to thyroid dysfunction but which came first? The same is for high cholesterol. Inflammatory disorders like Hepatitis C can often be linked, but where do you start? We live in an increasingly polluted world and, of course, from a holistic point of view this has to be considered.
How does the ailment show up? The most common is a low functioning gland called hypothyroidism. This can be easily corrected if it is uncomplicated. Many other chronic ailments are directly linked to a low functioning gland. A natural approach often is enough but can be done along with the medical approach. The opposite is a high functioning state called hyperthyroidism and is a dangerous condition. This must be attended to medically as soon as possible. A natural approach can be used temporarily but only until proper medical care can be had. A wise person would not fiddle around with hyperthyroidism. Thyroid enlargement can have mixed symptoms or none. This can be called goiter, Hashimoto's or Grave's disease, all different ailments. In some, the immune system targets the thyroid greatly inflaming the tissue. Sometimes, lumps occur which can be felt by a clinician. Some lumps are called nodules which can be overactive or under active thyroid tissue. Nodules are very common but need to be sorted out between benign or cancerous. Most are benign. Testing should be done to help sort this out. What can be done from a natural health point of view? Here in the Midwest, far from the coasts, we have more goiter due to lack of iodine in our food. So, I'm going to add a primer on salt selection.
Regular salt is a cooking salt, as is most sea salt, though some sea salt can be used as a finishing salt added at the time of serving. The difference between these two is that regular salt doesn't have the full list of minerals/trace elements that sea salt contains. For that reason, sea salt is thought to be more healthful but sea salt often contains no iodine. Both can have been fortified with iodide, a nutrient our bodies require, especially the thyroid gland. If, you use only salt without iodide, I suggest supplementing with an inexpensive kelp tablet everyday. Some are allergic to iodine but the amount in salt or the kelp is so low little trouble is expected. If you're a cardiac patient, then choosing an iodized salt that is half sodium and half potassium is good. This is often called "lite" salt and can be found in the grocery store. Remember, for thyroid health you need a small amount of iodine in your diet. What about a natural approach and supplements?
For ordinary hypothyroidism, I like kelp yielding 150-300mcg/day iodine but it has to be administered with selenium (as methionine). L-tyrosine can be beneficial taken on an empty stomach. In a professional Thyroid Support supplement, look for specific vitamins as well as minerals such as magnesium, zinc, selenium and copper. Inclusion of synergistic herbals green tea, gugulipid, bacopin and ashwaganda for Adrenal Support round out a quality product.
For hypothyroidism with any autoimmune component like Hashimoto's, I avoid the kelp and selenium (iodized table salt is OK) and use pycnogenol (Maritime Pine Bark) each day. I also assess for Candida (yeast) as studies show 15-20 percent of autoimmune disordered thyroids can be caused by yeast ( Proteo-Zimes). I'll often suggest Adrenal Support for its calming and corrective benefit. For nodules, I modify as to whether they are hyperactive or low active and always consider lab values.
For hyperthyroidism, no kelp/iodine, ever. Adrenal support and lithium aspartate is helpful but I always use this as a stopgap until proper medical care is available.
With any ailment, it is time to clean up your life and diet/digestion is foremost. My dietary preferences are always based upon the glycemic index along with fresh, local and unprocessed food choices.
Thyroid disease is perplexing and common. While there is a role for natural health, to me it is crucial to have the care and support of a medical doctor. Blood testing has to be done and there are a number of lab tests that have to be done. Other diagnostic testing like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies like iodine uptake and biopsies can be crucial. Sometimes, though it is very unusual, the thyroid disease can be caused by the number one gland, the pituitary. This gets so complex a medical specialist has to be called upon.
Still, the natural approach is helpful, especially if there is cooperation between the differing health providers.