Blog #61: Thyroid Imbalance: Holistic Medicine Can Help
Do you know what is the most frequently prescribed medication in the U.S. today? Synthroid, also known as levothyroxine, which treats hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) has been the most prescribed medication for several years. Sometimes Armour Thyroid hormone is used instead of Synthroid. Both medications supply some missing or insufficient thyroid hormones.
Most cases of hypothyroid are actually Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition, when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. In addition to hypothyroid, another condition, hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid), also plagues the U.S. population. Standard prescription treatments for hyperthyroid include the medications Tapazole (methimazole), propylthiouracil, and the use of radioactive iodine. These treatments suppress thyroid function, either temporarily, or in the case of radioactive iodine, permanently. Grave’s Disease, another autoimmune condition involving the eyes, frequently accompanies hyperthyroid. And goiter, a sign of thyroid distress, can arise due to Hashimoto’s, Graves Disease, or simply because of inadequate amounts of iodine, a mineral necessary for thyroid function. Treatment of goiter can be as simple as supplying more iodine in the diet or as complex as prescribing medications for hyper or hypothyroid. These medical treatments do not get to the root of the problem; instead, they cover up the imbalance by either supplementation or suppression.
Some people respond well to the above medications or therapies, especially in the case of iodine supplements for goiter, but others experience side effects ranging from decreased bone density, increased fractures, sleep disturbances and musculoskeletal pain to palpitations, mood swings and more. Some studies have found a correlation between the use of or exposure to radioactive iodine and later development of leukemia or thyroid cancer.
For some using conventional medication, symptoms of thyroid imbalance continue. They feel depressed, fatigued, struggle with cardiac palpitations, gain or lose weight, or suffer from digestive issues or hair loss despite medications. For these people, who do not respond as hoped to medical treatment, the use of lifestyle changes and holistic therapies can mean the difference between years of suffering and a good quality of life.
Chiropractic adjusting, especially of the neck and upper back, can help stabilize thyroid function. Acupuncture treatment can also help balance thyroid function, as well as help balance the whole body as it works to adapt to thyroid problems. The thyroid gland is very sensitive to stress, toxins, and inflammatory changes in the body. Sometimes nutritional changes are essential to stabilize thyroid function, particularly in cases where an autoimmune component is present. To start with, consider eliminating gluten, sugar, and dairy from the diet, and consume organically grown, pesticide-free, and grass-fed foods. It may be necessary to distill or otherwise purify drinking and cooking water in order to eliminate chlorine and fluoride, both of which compete with iodine for attachment sites on the thyroid gland. Eliminating environmental toxins, such as outgassing plastic products, toxic cleaning supplies, and hair dyes and cosmetics may also be necessary. Stress management, through approaches such as regular gentle exercise, self-hypnosis, and meditation may help improve thyroid function. For optimal health, it is important to get sufficient sleep, avoid toxic relationships, and find meaning in life.
Better self care equals better thyroid function. This blog does not suggest stopping medication and replacing it with holistic therapies. Often, both must be used together, and then sometimes the thyroid eventually finds its balance and prescription drugs no longer are necessary. For further reading material and guidance, I recommend Dr. Isabella Wentz’s two books: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis the Root Cause, and also Hashimoto’s Protocol.
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