The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in the neck, consisting of two lobes connected by an isthmus. It is found at the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormones, which primarily influence the metabolic rate and protein synthesis. The hormones also have many other effects including those on development. The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are created from iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces the hormone calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.
Hormonal output from the thyroid is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secreted from the anterior pituitary gland, which itself is regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) produced by the hypothalamus.
Thyroid disease are very common such as:
- Hyperthyroidism (excess amounts of thyroid hormones are produced)
- Graves disease
- Hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormone production), this can be due to Iodine deficiency and is preventable
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Nodules on the thyroid
- Thyroid cancer
The thyroid is one of the most important endocrine glands in the body. Until the 17th century, it was believed to have nothing more than the cosmetic role of making the neck more beautiful giving it a more rounded contour. Now we know what an incredible gland they thyroid is and I am sure anyone who suffered from a Thyroid disease would agree it can make you feel very unbalanced and it presents with multiple symptoms.
The thyroid/ thyroid hormones have an effect on so many vital functions such as
- Cardiovascular system- thyroid hormone increases the heart rate, they also promote vasodilatation leading to enhanced blood flow to many organs.
- Central nervous system – too little thyroid hormone tends to make the individual feel mentally sluggish while too much induces anxiety and nervousness.
- Kidney function
- Gastro intestinal system – thyroid hormone stimulates gut motility
- Reproductive system – promotes normal female reproductive ability and lactation.
How can a disease of the endocrine system be explained in Ayurveda.
The main function of thyroid hormones is to increase metabolic activities.
In Ayurveda, metabolic processes are controlled and regulated by Agni.
Agni can be literally be translated as fire. This Agni/ fire is responsible for digestion and metabolism. There are 13 Agni mentioned in Ayurveda they are one Jatharagni, 5 Bhutagni and 7 Dhatwagni.
The doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) along with Agni maintain the homeostasis of the body. So when we look at endocrine disorder and disease it can be understood as the combined effects of tridosha and Agni imbalance. The Agni imbalance often affects Jatharagni, Bhutagni and Dhatwagni.
The imbalance of the doshas and the Agni will have an effect on the srotas/ bodily channels.
The channels Srotas is another crucial part of the Ayurvedic understanding.
The srotas/ channels are through which life, dosas, tissues, wastes, and toxins flow.
They link the whole body and mind through an intricate network of channels.
The understanding of the doshas, Agni and srotas is very important for planning the treatment to apply the Ayurvedic treatment principles.
The line of management is
- Nidana Parivarjana/ eliminating the cause. If we know the cause we need to eliminate it. For example Iodine deficiency can be a cause so Iodine should be substituted.
- Dhatu Agni Deepana / improving the tissue agni/fire
- Pathya/Apathya ahara vihara/ suitable diet and lifestyle
- Shamana – Ayurvedic medicines
- Srothoshodhana/ cleansing the bodily channels. Panchakarma body purification treatment such as Vaman, Virechana, Basti, Nasya .
- External treatments such as Shirolepana, Takradhara, Ksheeradhara, Shirodhara, Udwarthana (this are ayurvedic body treatments)
- Rasayana/ Rejuvenation treatment.
Alongside this treatment a suitable diet, lifestyle, yoga, nadi shodhana pranayama and meditation is adopted. It always amazes me what Ayurveda has to offer in comparison with western medicine where most thyroid disease are treated with medication, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
There are also certain emotions linked to the thyroid disease such as lack of communication, guilt, abandonment, undeceived love and betrayal.
Marma points to ease the emotional issues are Kantha Marma, Kanthanadi, Kurcha and Jatru.
Ayurvedic home remedies for Thyroid
- Avoid iced water and start drinking warm water
- Head and foot massage with Brahmi thailam
- Home nasya (infusion of oil into the nostrils)
- Sattvic fresh and organic diet and less sugar, deep fried and processed food
- Exercise, Yoga, Meditation, Pranayama