Published on June 1st, 2013 | by Michael Graff0
Natural Remedies for Thyroid Dysfunction
Symptoms that include fatigue, muscle aches and a general feeling of malaise are sometimes tricky for Western doctors to diagnose, but they are all hallmark features of hypothyroidism, a disease that results from an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, plays an important role in the body’s endocrine system, assisting in both the management of metabolism and the production of energy. Though the gland may be small, its proper functioning is crucial to overall health and well-being.
For many people, this important regulatory function goes haywire, resulting in an estimated 15 million Americans suffering from undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Sufferers of this disease may also experience sleeplessness, headaches, sensitivity to cold, chills in the extremities, tough or dry skin, weight gain, constipation and dizziness.
To confirm hypothyroidism, doctors measure the level of TSH, a thyroid-stimulating hormone found in the blood. For Western doctors, the most common treatment for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone that replaces one of several thyroid hormones, known as T4. But because this treatment often results in incomplete symptom resolution due to the absence of naturally occurring T3 and other important thyroid hormones and unpleasant side effects, many hypothyroidism sufferers also seek out natural remedies to manage their illness.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid tissue as if it were a foreign invader, leading to many symptoms. The molecular composition of the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye products is nearly identical to the structure of human thyroid tissue. As a result, an immune system that is already attacking its own thyroid tissue may be provoked into more severe or prolonged attacks in the presence of the gluten molecule, making it a good strategy for hypothyroidism sufferers to abstain from this nutrient entirely.
Although fats and cholesterols often get a bad rap from the medical industry, these two important compounds are the building blocks of hormonal pathways. Given that thyroid conditions are basically issues that arise within the endocrine (hormonal) system, supplementing the diet with good sources of healthy fats can provide the raw materials needed to encourage the body to repair itself. For best results, seek out healthy fats such as coconut oil and other coconut products, ghee (clarified butter), avocados, nuts and nut butters, flax seeds and full-fat, antibiotic and hormone-free dairy.
As as much as 80 percent of our immune systems are controlled from the digestive system, making gut health a top priority for those concerned about hypothyroidism, especially in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other autoimmune thyroid conditions, because a healthier balance of digestive flora may help quell the body’s attack on the thyroid gland. To improve digestive health, add a daily probiotic supplement.
Yoga and Meditation
The sustained practice of yoga and meditation can go a long way towards helping cope with a variety of chronic ailments, including thyroid dysfunction. Together, these practices create a deep sense of relaxation in the body and mind, thereby helping to relieve a number of different health issues.
Yogi and mystic Sadhguru Vasudev, founder of the Isha Foundation, says, “When you meditate, your whole system functions with ease, and you are restful all the time. There is no such thing as stress and chronic ailments can be easily relieved. If your system is properly balanced and kept in full vibrance, psychological and physiological ailments cannot exist.”
For evidence of how beneficial yoga and meditation can be to improving thyroid conditions, consider the results of a survey conducted last year by Dr. Raj Maturi that looked at the impact of Isha Yoga, a series of yoga programs conducted by the Isha Foundation on overall health. Throughout the study, 51 percent of surveyed participants reported improvement in their thyroid condition. Of the 35 participants that showed improvement in their disease condition, 16 experienced a reduction in their medication requirement, while three were able to completely stop medication.
Keep in mind that while these changes can play an important role in improving thyroid function naturally, it’s still important to work with a medical practitioner in order to monitor TSH levels and overall improvement. If the condition is severe, natural remedies alone may not initiate a sufficient response to alleviate symptoms until the disease is under better control. As always, proper medical management of any condition is vital to allowing these natural remedies to flourish in the system.