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Human Health – Thyroid Imbalance - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

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The Thyroid is blamed for many maladies in our modern world- from anxiety to depression, weight gain and weight loss, and everything in-between.

I suspect that everyone has at some time in their life had an imbalance in the thyroid, because like any gland, organ or body system, it is subject to the emotional and environmental toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

It is perfectly natural for the glands, system or organ to fluctuate its functioning during homeostasis. Take a look at blood pressure- its perfectly natural for BP to skyrocket under stress, and to lower during times of relaxation.

Problems occur then, when these normal and everyday fluctuations become repeatedly extreme, until a clinical symptom appears.

It's important then to consider the early detection of imbalances, and to use a preventative approach, rather than wait for the most obvious clinical sign to appear.

From an herbalist's perspective, Phyto-prevention is the best.

What is the Thyroid responsible for?

The thyroid is a soft, butterfly-shaped gland that embraces the windpipe. The Thyroid secretes Thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (also referred to as T3) to regulate the metabolism .
Thyroid hormone regulates the metabolic rate of almost all the cells of the body, and influences the health of the heart, brain and bones. It is also needed for normal development of the brain in children and for normal reproductive functioning.

There is a link between the Thyroid, Pituitary and Hypothalamus, forming a trio of glands that work in synergy to support and regulate the endocrine system. (Called 'hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid-axis)
When looking at Thyroid functioning, Herbs that support the Thyroid may also assist the other glands, giving a far more comprehensive support than if you were just supporting the Thyroid alone.

A herb that does just this is Hawthorn- well-known for its heart health and circulation benefits, but also acts on supporting the Hypothalamus. When I prescribe herbs for the thyroid, I also look at other parts of the system that may be falling down ( like the heart strength) , and in prescribing the herb most appropriate, I am also supporting systems that may not be obviously affected, but need support non the less.

The Hypo-Thyroid:

Hyp thyroidism is the most talked about, as it is blamed for the obesity epidemic in the western world. There is no doubt that a poorly functioning thyroid will cause this effect, however, it needs to be remembered that this symptom is the last one to appear – so usually , if the thyroid is the problem of your weight issues, then the Thyroid, and possibly the Pituitary and Hypothalamus has been out of balance for a long time.

Other symptoms of Hypo-Thyroidism that may indicate an imbalance.

  • Brittle/flaky nails
  • Hair loss
  • Puffy face/fluid retention/poor circulation
  • Dry Skin
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual Weight Gain
  • Goiter

Hypothyroidism usually happens because the thyroid itself fails (primary hypothyroidism).

But it can also occur when the thyroid gland is healthy but the pituitary or hypothalamus fails to secrete enough hormones to keep the 'hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid-axis' working adequately.
If you suspect that you may have a combination of these symptoms, then taking dietary steps to support the trio of the axis is sensible.

Iodine- well known to be an essential support for Thyroid Function- and in Australia now there is a trend that Iodine is deficient. A good source of iodine is seaweed- or sea salt. Dairy is also a good source, so long as the cattle were raised on iodine rich feed.

Phyto-prevention of Thyroid Imbalance.

Iris versicolor (Blue flag iris root), Commiphora mukul (Guggul lipid),Fucus vesiculosis (Bladderwrack), and Phytolaccadecandra (Pokeweed) are all beneficial in supporting healthy thyroid activity.
Blue flag root was used as far back as 1898 as drug treatment for the cure of goiter (enlarged thyroid). It is known as a detoxifier of the thyroid gland (thyroid chemistry is disrupted by environmental toxins).

Guggullipid increases iodine uptake by the thyroid gland and promotes conversion of T4 to T3 (active thyroid hormone) in the liver.
Fucus/Bladderwrack (Seaweed of North Atlantic) has also been used historically in the treatment of goiter. It contains approximately 600mcg of iodine per gram. Fucus may also contain trace amounts of diiodotyrosine, T3, andT4.

Phytolacca increases circulation through the thyroid and improves lymphatic flow through the thyroid.

Do not diagnose yourself- its best to discuss these symptoms with your GP or Herbalist, and do not self prescribe these herbs.

I am happy to discuss your personal situation in detail, so please contact me directly.

The Hyper--Thyroid:

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Accelerated heart rate or palpitations
  • Muscle weakness and trembling
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness, agitation and anxiety
  • Changes in menstruation, including scantier flow and increased cycle length.

Graves' disease

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. In this case a malfunction of the immune system is the cause.. In a person with Graves' disease, the immune system manufactures antibodies which behave like TSH and stimulate the thyroid uncontrollably. Less than one per cent of the population has Graves' disease. Eight times more women than men have this condition. Children and adolescents can be affected, though Graves disease primarily affects people who are middle-aged.

Causes of Graves' disease

No one really knows what causes Graves' disease because the causes of autoimmune issues are not fully understood. Stress, both physical and emotional, is known to affect the responsiveness of the immune system and there appears to be some association between stress and the onset of autoimmune conditions - including Graves' disease

It is likely that some people's genetic inheritance could predispose them to Graves' disease. Another cause is excessive iodine intake..

Symptoms of Graves' disease

As well as the general symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a person with Graves' disease shows particular symptoms including:
Thyroid eye disease, causing inflammation and protruding eyes in 50 per cent of cases
Eye swelling (50 per cent of cases)
Coarsening and reddening of the skin on the shins

Phyto-Therapy

Treating the Thyroid that is "overactive" is not really that much more complicated than treating the under-active thyroid.

I still want to support the Thyroid by de-toxing with a herb like Blue Flag, and support the Axis. Clearly you don't give Kelp in this situation, so it's important for people with this condition to avoid foods like Sushi, which can provide too much Iodine rich food.

Hawthorn is an excellent herb to use in this situation, for the heart health and the axis support.

What is more difficult is settling the Auto-Immune system reaction such as in the case of Graves's disease.

Auto Immune conditions are very complex, and not much is understood about them. In a way you could describe the immune system as "attacking itself".

Please provide me with more personal information and I can make a specific mix for you.

Have a question? Contact McDowell's Herbal Treatments
Please make your enquiry as detailed as possible.

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02 6331 3937
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info@mcdowellsherbal.com

McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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