Thyroid: Beyond the Basics

Thyroid: Beyond the Basics

by Dr. Erin Sharman

Conventional medicine largely does not know what causes thyroid pathology.  In a system where all parts of the body are connected, Naturopathic medicine believes that thyroid disorders are complex and multi-faceted.  This approach requires a closer look at each individual and an examination as to the cause of the disorder.  When a deeper understanding of each individual’s thyroid dysfunction is obtained, then an individualized treatment can ensue.  In our practice we see LOTS of patients improve with the use of alternative medicines, not just thyroid medication!  This fact demonstrates the complex nature of thyroid disorders.  The following is a brief summary of the most common causes that I have seen in practice.

Emotions.  Thyroid is a gland highly affected by emotions.  Located in the throat, the thyroid has a connection both to our ability to communicate our truth and to our expression of grief.  I like to think about the feeling of a "lump in your throat" when you may need to cry.  From an energetic standpoint, when you do not allow yourself to cry, the energy is blocked and left "stuck" in the thyroid.  This creates an imbalance and for some people, over time, may contribute to thyroid dysfunction. 

Stress.  Jeez, what isn't related to stress?  Our stressful non-stop lives taxes the adrenal glands, our organ that produces stress hormones (namely adrenaline and cortisol).  Over time, the adrenal glands struggle to produce the copious amounts of adrenaline and cortisol that a stressful life requires.  Just like a car that has been driven too far without maintenance, the adrenals start to malfunction unable to keep up with the demands.  Because both the adrenal and thyroid glands are the main "batteries" in our body, the thyroid gland begins to suffer once the adrenals have become fatigued.  When adrenal fatigue is the major cause of thyroid dysfunction it is imperative to treat the adrenals, not just the thyroid.

 Environmental toxicity.  There is no doubt that we live in a highly toxic world and that the thyroid is extremely vulnerable to these toxins.  A prime example of this is radiation and the Chernobyl disaster.  In a more insidious manner, the toxins that invade our everyday life wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.  Several studies have demonstrated a link between thyroid disorders and chemicals found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, non-stick cookware and even rocket fuel.  A great article that delves into this topic can be found here: http://www.nrdc.org/living/healthreports/thyroid.asp

Genetics.  You can't chalk it all up to genetics but you can't ignore it either!  Genetics can largely determine our tendency towards disease and is an important part of taking each patients history.  It is common for knowledge of ancestry to result in fear or ambivalence towards the future.  Instead, the knowledge of the past should help guide healthy proactive decisions.

In summary, the life of the average American is wrought with risk factors associated with thyroid dysfunction and it is no surprise that thyroid disorders are becoming more common.  Although this sounds dismal, have hope!  In taking universal health precautions like eating organic produce, minimizing chemicals in the home, maximizing communication, reducing stress, visiting with your Naturopathic doctor and so on, you are helping your thyroid to function optimally.  

Cheers to healthy and happy thyroids!!      

Andrea TelferThe Remedy