Thyroid Disease: A Natural Perspective
Mary Shomon: I’m pleased to be able to highlight you and our work at my Thyroid site for our thyroid patients and practitioners who frequent the site. First, I’d like to start out by just asking a bit about your philosophy on thyroid problems. As a natural healer, why do you think thyroid function becomes imbalanced, and why are we seeing more autoimmune thyroid disease here in the United States?
Shasta Tierra: The thyroid as we know it in western medicine is a master controlling gland having many different functions on the body. It is a part of the endocrine system, which in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the chakra system or the root or “essence” qi (Qi pronounced “Chee”). Therefore, if the thyroid is out of balance from a TCM perspective it can affect the different organs in many ways, a few examples are:
Liver: Controls the nervous and gynecological systems such as cysts, fibroids, infertility and houses the emotions of frustration anger and depression.
Heart: Too high or too low blood pressure, anxiety, palpitations, insomnia and the emotions of lack of joy and over emotionalism.
Spleen: Houses the emotions of worry and obsession while affecting the strength of the muscles and tissues of the body (fibromyalgia) and helps convert the food into strong blood (anemia/fatigue) as well as transforms “dampness” (fat).
Lung: Houses the emotions of grief and sadness and manifests as asthma, allergies, eczema, earaches and frequent colds and flus.
Kidney: Houses the emotions of fear and insecurity and is the root of all of the other organs, which includes the functions of what western medicine calls the adrenal gland – sex hormones, female and male reproduction, cortisone, melatonin, DHEA, etc. and if weak then will have the symptoms of low back and joint pain, coldness, severe fatigue (chronic fatigue), decrease immunity and much more.
TCM doesn’t have just one cause for the breakdown of the body’s functions, but many different factors ranging from lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, emotions, genetics and the environment. As you can see from above symptoms that the lack of thyroid hormone causes pathogenesis in every organ system in the TCM medicine model, and this is why I say it is similar to what TCM calls the “essence”.
Essence is what TCM calls pre-ancestral qi (what our parents genetically gave us). When we’re born we have the opportunity to preserve our essence by eating good “food qi” (healthy, unprocessed, organic, seasonal, body temperature and appropriate for our particular constitution and blood type) and breathe in good “air qi” (proper exercise, unbound breathable clothing, chemical-free perfumes, and cosmetics, clean air, etc.). Our “essence” mixed with “food qi” and “air qi” combine together to give us our “defensive qi” or immunity. If there is a breakdown in any of these factors either deficient “essence” (genetic problem), poor nutrition and/or inadequate oxygen, then we will see a breakdown in the immune system – autoimmune problems. In this fast paced, very “yang” society you can see where many breakdowns in the above theory happen and can see it is as individual a reason for the autoimmune problem as the person. Why are we seeing more autoimmune thyroid disease here in the United States?
I think that our particular culture – always on the run, eating fast empty calories such as cold raw foods (salads, fruits, yogurts, sugar, etc.) trying to stay skinny to fit into the Hollywood image (starving ourselves) along with nutritionless, pesticide covered foods are causing us as a culture to be malnourished. This combined with the many chemicals (fluoride), pollutants and lack of exercise along with getting overchilled by indoor air-conditioning for long periods of time, not to mention wearing too tight and constricting clothing (bras, pantyhose, etc.) that we have been killing off our vitality for years. Perhaps this American lifestyle, polluted environment and conditioned habits mixed with more genetic hypothyroid parents producing more offspring is all adding up.
What is at the root of the problem is the paradigm we live in (all yang) and we as a part of nature are just manifesting the results of this type of lifestyle either created or passed down. If we were to change our whole way of being (more yin – equal rest, play and work, let our bodies be their normal healthy size, eating nutritious food and living closer to nature) maybe we would preserve our essence which would increase our immunity. This is easy to say, but like swimming upstream in a fast current to do. I think the real cause of this paradigm we live in is a lack of view of what life is for. The American Indians have the medicine wheel paradigm which was said to believe that the ultimate duty of a life was to have a good lifestyle all to support the spirit so it could do the work it was meant to do here on earth. The Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have a similar philosophy, with health being an important component of the entire philosophy of life, with the ultimate goal to be the cultivation of the spirit – peace.
As a culture, we have not developed a paradigm such as this, as we are a young country, but it appears to be taking shape more and more as doctors and natural doctors begin to work together and yoga, tai chi, qigong (chi kung) and healthy foods are all being advocated. Ultimately, because the people want them.