The Thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland in the front of the neck. It only weighs about one ounce, yet it is one of the most important endocrine glands in the body. Its major function is to produce hormones which are responsible for metabolism in the body. In Ayurveda, this is related to “Agni” or metabolic “fire”, which is responsible for all activity in the body, down to the cellular level. It is how quickly or slowly the life-energy flows throughout the body.
The thyroid gland is extremely sensitive, and easily responds to stress and stimuli. The rate of metabolism depends on how much hormone Thyroxin is produced. When the agni is low or weak, a person experiences “hypo”thyroidism. The slow metabolic rate may result in kapha aggravated symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness, lethargy, cold intolerance, edema, depression, poor memory and concentration. All organ function is slowed down. The slowed metabolism may also result in Vata symptoms of constipation, dry skin, brittle hair, muscle stiffness and hoarse voice.
On the other hand, if the thyroid gland is overactive as in “hyper”thyroidism, the agni is just too high and metabolism takes place too fast. We see pitta/vata aggravated symptoms such as irritation, anger, over-anxiety, rapid heart rate, low weight, deep shallow respiration, diarrhea, heat intolerance, flushing, menstrual disturbance, fatigue and bulging of eyes. In this case, all organ function is sped up.
Ayurveda has certain herbs that can help balance the thyroid gland. “Kanchanara Guggulu” is the most potent herbal formula in the Indian pharmacopoeia for treating thyroid problems including tumors and goiters. It breaks down and removes stagnant kapha from the deep tissues. The Guggulu resin moves toxins out of the lymph system. The many pungent herbs inside this formula actually enkindle digestive fire, and speed up the metabolic activity. Other Ayurvedic herbs like Triphala, Shilajit, Punarnava, Gokshura and Brahmi are combined to treat symptoms such as edema, swelling, constipation and depression. For hyperthyroid activity the pitta reducing herb Kaishore Guggulu is helpful.
Yoga therapy for the Vishuddha or fifth throat chakra helps to heal the thyroid gland. Beneficial asanas are the shoulder stand, plough, fish, and lion poses. Ujjayi Pranayama should be practiced for hypothyroid, and cooling Shitali breath for hyperthyroid. Slowly chanting out loud the beej mantra “Hum” for the throat chakra, balances thyroid function. Wearing blue colored gemstones on the throat energizes the fifth chakra.
Nutritional recommendations for the thyroid would be to follow a dosha balancing diet for pitta (hyperthyroid) or kapha (hypothyroid). Foods and supplements with natural sources of iodine are watercress, sea weeds, nori, dulse, kelp, hijike, Irish moss, spirulina, chlorella, red marine and blue green algae. Other beneficial minerals are zinc, copper and calcium. Essential fatty acids, omega 3’s and 6’s are needed for glandular health. In India, Coconut oil is found to especially help in improve thyroid metabolism.
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