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Friday, May 7, 2010

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis


by Steven Horne, RH (AHG)
At one time many people in midwestern states developed goiters from a lack of iodine in their diets.  With the introduction of iodized table salt these problems largely disappeared.  
It's kind of odd that they had to add iodine to salt because natural salts, like the pink Redmond Salt (which is available from NSP) contain iodine.  It is only refined salt that lacks this nutrient. It's sort of like "enriched" white flour—you bleach out all the natural nutrients and then replace them with chemical nutrients.

When most thyroid problems were caused by a lack of iodine, herbs like kelp usually solved the problem.  However, there may be a different cause of many modern thyroid problems.  Especially when you consider that the main cause of low thyroid is now an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

In Hashimoto's, the body produces high levels of antibodies to the enzyme thyroid peroxidase. Thyroid peroxidase is used to synthesize the thyroid hormone, so the immune system is destroying the enzyme that utilizes the iodine.  Interestingly enough, Hashimoto's is more prevalent in the countries which rely heavily on chemical iodine like iodized salt.

Beyond Iodine
I recently acquired two new books written by my good friend and fellow AHG herbalist Matthew Wood, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants and The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.  In writing about kelp, a standard remedy for hypothyroid problems for many years, Matthew says, "it is likely to disappoint."  He recommends black walnut as a superior remedy.

Black walnut is one of the few inland plants that contains significant amounts of iodine.  In fact, it is the iodine in the hulls that makes the hulls stain things so easily.  I can attest the staining power of black walnut hulls because I remember helping my mom to hull, crack and pick the "meats" out of black walnuts.

But, I digress. Like Matthew, I've found black walnut, and especially the ATC Concentrate Black Walnut, to work where other thyroid remedies have failed. This may be due to the fact that black walnut is one of the remedies that seems to modulate the immune system.

I believe that autoimmune conditions are primarily the result of poor nutrition coupled with toxicity in the tissues. As mentioned last week, other halogens, like chlorine, fluorine and bromine, interferes with iodine metabolism.  So does mercury (and probably other heavy metals), soy and many drugs.

Black walnut is a traditional "blood purifier," meaning it is used to help the body clear toxic conditions.  It is a very effective single remedy in fibromyalgia, which seems to involve low levels and iodine and high levels of toxicity in the tissues.  

Matthew suggests that the thyroid plays a role in purifying the blood. The thyroid secretes into the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain.  Matthew says that this helps to purify the blood going to the brain, which helps the hypothalamus regulate metabolism better. He also says that this disinfecting of the blood going into the head helps treat sinus problems, too.

Emotional Issues and Hashimoto's
I wouldn't rule out emotional issues in Hashimoto's either,   especially when you consider that 90% of people with low thyroid are women. One out of five women (a whopping 20%) will develop Hashimoto's by age 75. That just can't be normal.

Years ago, when I was teaching Manager School for Nature's Sunshine, I observed an interesting phenomenon. The school was four days long, and sometimes, when I'd start to get a little tired, I noticed that I was mixing up some of my words.  If I took some thyroid herbs (like Thyroid Activator), I noticed that within minutes I was able to communicate clearly again.

The thyroid is located at the base of the throat, next to the voice box. Oriental cultures suggested that there is an energy center here that has been called the throat chakra, which deals with our ability to communicate.  It is also the link between our chest (home of our heart and emotions) and our head (home of our logic and thinking).  

If feeding and strengthening the thyroid can improve one's ability to communicate (as I experienced firsthand), it's possible that the reverse may be true.  Feeling you are unable to communicate, and more particularly that your feelings are not been listened to and acknowledged, may adversely affect your thyroid. I think many women, in particular, feel that their feelings are not being heard, cherished or appreciated.

Let's also remember that Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition where the immune system is attacking the thyroid.  To me, this means that Hashimoto's may be a subconscious "attack" on one's own voice.  These issues should be explored when treating this problem and flower essences may definitely be helpful.  I particularly find Larch flower essence and Trumpet Vine flower essence helpful for people who have a hard time expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Looking Beyond the Obvious
The standard NSP remedies for low thyroid, like Thyroid Activator and TS II with Hops are based primarily on the "old school" iodine deficiency issue.  Thyroid Support is a thyroid glandular, which can help rebuild the gland, but even that does not work in many cases.  So, it seems to me that maybe we need to expand our idea of what remedies can work.  

Some of the herbs that have a good long term effects on the thyroid and may be helpful for Hashimoto's thyroiditis are Ho Shou Wu, Saw Palmetto and Ashwaganda (found in Adaptamax and 5-HTP Power)  These herbs have a slow cummulative effect on thyroid function when taken for at least 3-6 months. 

Another remedy you might try is IF-C.  This is an anti-inflammatory remedy that can help cool down an irritated thyroid.  Adaptagens like eleuthero may also have a beneficial effect in this instance.

So, don't feel your options are limited to the "standard" thyroid formulas and remedies.  There are many herbs and formulas that can be used to remove underlying causes of low thyroid function and restore balance.  Consult with a qualified herbalist if you have questions.  

You can also learn more about the thyroid (and iodine) from two of Tree of Light's DVD programs, The Iodine Solution and When Your Thyroid Needs "Kelp."  


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