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Ayurveda for the Thyroid

Post Published: 09 September 2011
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Category: Guest Bloggers
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How We Boss Around the Boss of You

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the thyroid is the masta of metabolism.

So your thyroid is the boss of you…or, because it produces the hormones T1, T2, T3 and T4 (which in turn control metabolism, body temperature, immune strength, and hormonal balance) your thyroid is the boss of your weight and energy.

Translation: when your thyroid is under-performing, you’ll probably feel tired, lazy and you’ll gain weight.

Not. Hot.

So. Now you know that your thyroid regulates metabolism. But did you also know that it lifts your mood and boosts your libido? And, when your thyroid is working within the normal range, that it also keeps your skin and hair nourished and supple?

That’s right: your thyroid keeps your weight stable, ensures you feel sparkly and sexy and makes your hair and skin shine. That bossy, roaring thyroid of yours is responsible for the quality of your skin, hair, and overall vitality.

Happy thyroid = Happy woman.

An unhappy, sluggish, under-performing or overactive thyroid, however, will mess with you.

Sound familiar?

It does to me. From what I see in my practice and amongst my posse o’ peeps, there is an epidemic of thyroid ISSUES at hand. If you are not feeling juicy, sexy and delicious, it might not be you. It might be your thyroid.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Thyroid

I’m a Harvard-trained MD, so I do a lot of the usual stuff with the thyroid, but here’s where I veer off from the conventional.

My goal, however, isn’t for you to feel “normal”. Instead, I like you to feel immensely good…and to make that happen, we start by making your thyroid numbers look immensely good.

Novel – and Effective – Thyroid Treatments

Here’s another place, besides the thyroid numbers that I like to earn, I depart again from convention when it comes to thyroid function: treatment.

Most of the time I use glandular thyroid medication, typically Armour Dessicated Thyroid or Naturethroid. Occasionally I use synthetic thyroid medication such as Levo-thyroxine and Synthroid.

But my doctorly tool-box is wider and deeper than that. What I offer is a completely original strategy for thinking about and unpacking your health, one that puts you, the patient, front and center. My method is based on root cause analysis combined with deep patient engagement, and data shows that when individuals engage more fully in their health decisions, the outcomes are significantly improved.

And it’s all about outcomes, Baby. I meet women where they are and coach them into breakthroughs.

Cue a little Madonna: I’ll take you there. Or, more accurately, we’ll get there together.

And there, in this case, is a happy, healthy thyroid doing its job to make you happy and healthy.

And the way we get there – to a happy, healthy thyroid and a happier, healthier you – is by braiding together ancient medical methodology with state-of-the-art women’s health practices. We’re talking Ayurveda and personal genomics, Yoga and predictive medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and organizing your hormones, all based on your symptoms and other metrics.

And that’s how you know this isn’t just woo woo: in highly technical language, we measure this stuff. I measure your thyroid levels, set tight targets, practice interventions, and assess the new numbers. So while I prescribe treatments that might seem unorthodox coming from a Harvard-trained MD, they work. The numbers prove it. I give good…numbers.

Now, back to our regularly schedule programming, which is to say, The Thyroid and How We Boss Around the Boss of You.

And the way we – as in you and me, baby – reprogram and reset your thyroid might seem novel, but this practice is old. Older than yo’ mama. Older than trees old. Ancient.

Because as long as there have been humans, there have been thyroids. And as long as there have been thyroids, there have been thyroid problems – and treatments.

The usual North American go-to – prescription pills – are often shortcuts. They deliver synthetic versions of natural substances so that you pop that pill rather than change your diet to include supplements and elements that address the same problem.

The problem is that those synthetic compounds often solve one problem while creating others…that’s why all those ads on TV for new medications have a long, scrolling, terrifying list of side-effects.

And so I like to go to the source: the natural source. When you use natural supplements rather than prescription pills, you can get the healing benefit of the active substances without the nasty side effects of the synthetic compounds.

And going to the source often means going to older sources of medical wisdom.

Like Ayurveda.

Ayurveda

Modern medicine has several approaches to thyroid health, but many contemporary practitioners – including me – are tapping some very old remedies.

Ayurvedic medicine can be traced back in time and place to 1500 BC India. Ayurvedic theory suggests that health is a result of balance between the three elemental energies of “vata” (air and space-wind), “pittha” (fire and water-bile), and “kapha” (water and earth- phlegm). Ayurvedic medical practice, then, focuses on regulating these elements for optimal health.

And that approach fits with my medical training, experience and practice, a significant portion of which includes balancing hormones so that each woman can achieve her optimal state of health.

Panchakarma

And so when it comes to balancing the functions of the thyroid, one effective Ayurvedic practice worth mentioning – and implemeting! – is Panchakarma.

Panchakarma is a therapy that nurtures and enhances a healthy metabolic system by intervening at the level of digestion and excretion. The idea – and practice – is that the entire metabolic system of the body will be improved if the most basic processes of digestion and excretion are working properly.

Panchakarma uses diet (adding certain foods) and herbal supplements to purify metabolic processes, therefore naturally balancing hormone levels.

Practically speaking, Panchakarma is about ridding the body of toxins that interfere with digestion and metabolic function. Intervention and practice, then, includes regular cleansing and detoxifying of the body. The idea – and result! – is that as wastes are eliminated, the body’s chemical elements become balanced and ideal conditions remain.

To enhance cleansing and detoxing, modern Ayurvedic practice recommends two excellent supplement additions, bladderwrack and kanchanar guggulu. Adding supplements containing these substances can make the world of difference for thyroid health.

Bladderwrack

An awesome supplement to add to your diet is bladderwrack, a sea weed supplement also known as black tang, rockweed, bladder fucus, sea oak, black tany, cut weed, dyers fucus, red fucus, and rock wrack. (Although it is often called “brown kelp” it is not the same as the more common “kelp.”)

In the western world, bladderwrack’s first recorded use was in the early 1800s, when it was employed to reduce the swelling of the thyroid gland (goitre). Since then, its uses have expanded to include treatments for hypothyroidism, weight-loss, skin-care, fatigue and abnormal menstrual cycles in women.

Bladderwrack is used in numerous food products in Europe; however, luckily, it is also available in supplement form of powders or tablets. Some of the chemicals found in bladder wrack are mucilage, beta-carotene, natural iodine, bromine, potassium, algin, mannitol, bromine, and zeaxanthin. Most commonly used as a source of iodine for underactive thyroid, bladderwrack has proven over time its lasting benefit to our health.

But be careful with bladderwrack. It’s best used under the caring gaze of a knowledgeable doctor who can make sure you don’t get too much iodine, which can trigger a whole other set of problems for your thyroid as well as cause rosacea and acne. Not. Hot.

Kanchanar Guggulu

You can also kick-start your thyroid health with another supplement called kanchanar gugulu, a traditional Ayurvedic supplement also used to treat gland enlargements and thyroid abnormalities. Staying true the Ayurvedic practice of cleansing and balancing, kanchanar is a great choice since it flushes the lymphatic system and balances the production of thyroxine. It is also used to treat enlarged thyroid glands and has proven to be a strong decongestant.

Kanchanar can also be used regularly to treat allergies. Since kanchanar is really a balancer of thyroid hormone in the blood, it is beneficial for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Iodine

Additionally, iodine is a trace element used by the thyroid as one of the critical ingredients for the productions of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Natural health practitioners advocate the use of natural sea salt in food instead of iodized salt because unlike iodized salt, sea salt does not contain added unnatural iodine. And so, to support thyroid function, I recommend that you use a natural iodine supplement, but cautiously. My preference is that you use iodine under the direction of a knowledgeable doctor with both the time and the interest in the subject. Too much iodine can cause a whole other set of problems for you such as skin inflammation – it’s best to be checking your levels and adjusting accordingly.

Written by, Dr. Sara Gottfried

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4 Responses to “Ayurveda for the Thyroid”

  1. Jenny says:

    Not easy to find Ayurveda on the shelves in the UK- looks like hit and miss internet shopping for me…. But I will try it, thank you 🙂 x

  2. we’d all to better in india where it is “conventional medicine.” it’s not easy to find it here on the shelves in the US either!

    • NB says:

      Sara, I generally buy my ayurvedic herbs online from Banyan Botanicals. I have used them for last 4 years and no complaints so far. They are tad expensive but I like their quality. Please note that I am not their PR person just a regular buyer.

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Sara, I am interested in trying Kanchanar Guggulu for thyroid and uterine health. Im curious if it will interfere with my current thyroid meds. Ido not have access to an Ayurvedic counselor.
    Thank you!

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