Natural Thyroid Care for Maintaining Your Health

Care for your thyroid (and treat its disorders) with helpful herbs and foods.

| January/February 2003

  • Swimming in clean salt water will benefit the thyroid gland.
  • Chard, onions, citrus fruits, pineapple, and asparagus are high-iodine foods that can improve thyroid function.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, positioned on the front of the neck, on either side of the windpipe, directly below the Adam’s apple. It is part of the endocrine system and one of the first organs to develop in a fetus. Among its many functions, the thyroid gland:

• Dictates the rate at which cells use oxygen
• Stores 25 percent of the body’s total iodine
• Produces hormones that affect metabolism and activity
• Allows for better muscle and cardiac activity
• Regulates growth in children
• Accelerates bone repair
• Helps convert beta-carotene into vitamin A
• Enhances secretions of gastric juices at an optimal rate
• Affects sex drive and menstrual regularity

The entire blood supply filters through the thyroid gland once every hour. Any iodine in the blood is used by the thyroid to manufacture hormones. The thyroid gland can easily be susceptible to imbalance because it attracts electropositive elements (that is, those that tend to release electrons) such as aluminum, arsenic, bromine, calcium, chlorine, fluorine, and thiocyanates. Liver stagnation can be a factor in thyroid gland function, as the liver also filters blood. In Oriental Medicine, low thyroid function is often related to a deficiency of kidney yang energy.

There are three known hormones secreted by the thyroid gland: thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and calcitonin. Heredity, viral infections, and many medications affect the thyroid adversely. Fluoride, in most drinking water, and thiocyanate, found in cigarettes, are thyroid inhibitors. Exposure to dyes, X-rays, and chemicals in the environment can also cause thyroid dysfunction. Although rare, an imbalance in the pituitary (the “master gland”) or in the hypothalamus gland (which sends messages to the pituitary) may cause the thyroid gland to function poorly. Both the hypothalamus and the pituitary can be adversely affected by cold exposure, stress, excitement, and emotional upheaval.

Possible thyroid problems

An underactive thyroid gland is called hypothyroidism and is often marked by low iodine levels. Fatigue, brittle hair and nails, hair loss, puffy eyes, poor skin tone, tingling hands, weight gain, constipation, poor sleep, flulike symptoms, hoarseness, hypersensitivity, low sex drive, depression, and fluid retention are all possible indicators of low thyroid secretions. Low thyroid function is five times more common in women than men and can manifest as a multitude of ailments and may be difficult to pinpoint. Low body temperature and low thyroid are almost synonymous and can cause the body’s surface to be deprived by some of its normal blood supply. Low body temperature can slow down the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, occurs when there is an excess of thyroid hormones causing one’s metabolism to race out of control. Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is confirmed by elevated levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced in the pituitary gland, causing the pituitary to work harder. Also, iodine levels in the thyroid gland are usually higher. Women between the ages of thirty and fifty-five are most often affected by hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include heart pounding, high blood pressure, feeling flushed, sweating, weight loss, overheating, inability of the eyes to focus, insomnia, nervousness, abnormally frequent bowel movements, anxiety, and diarrhea. This chemical imbalance can lead to heart failure if untreated. Sometimes hypothyroidism is accompanied by eye abnormalities, where the eyes protrude. This condition is called Graves’ disease. It causes painful eye pressure and if untreated can lead to impaired vision and perhaps blindness. In Oriental Medicine, hyperthyroidism involves a yin deficiency of the liver, kidneys, and sometimes heart systems. The disorder is most likely to worsen in the spring, and the body will need more moistening yin tonics.

7/29/2016 3:59:05 AM

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