The thyroid gland affects every cell in the body because thyroid hormone affects the metabolism of all body tissues. An overactive thyroid, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, is manifested by an increase in body temperature and pulse, occasional bouts of diarrhea, fatigue, a large appetite in the presence of a loss of weight, and often a mental state resembling mania. Under-function of the gland, called hypothyroidism, affects about ten percent of women sometime in their lives, most commonly after the age of 50. Signs include any of the following: mental sluggishness, poor memory, weakness, coarse and dry skin and hair, brittle nails, thinning of the hair, intolerance of cold, puffiness of the face and extremities from fluid retention, and decreased sweating. Such persons may gain weight, talk and move more slowly, and have slow reflexes and a slow pulse. Constipation and muscle cramping are common. Hoarseness may occur, and they may suffer from depression. Young women with this condition may develop menstrual irregularities.
Less common causes of hyperthyroidism include a focus of overgrowth of the thyroid called adenoma, the hyperthyroid phase of acute thyroiditis, and hyperthyroidism due to hydatidiform moles (tumors of a retained placenta) or choriocarcinoma. Rare causes are excess TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone from the pituitary) and excessive intake of thyroid hormone supplements. Hyperthyroidism should not be regarded as irreversible, as many cases can be treated with non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical remedies.
Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid and produces a swelling in the neck. It may cause too much or too little hormone to be produced. An inadequate intake of iodine may cause goiter. The swelling associated with goiter may reduce in summer, as iodine in the diet goes up when fresh vegetables are eaten.
The most common cause of excess production of thyroid hormones is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease, due to a goiter producing too much thyroid hormone, may also cause an abnormal protrusion of the eyeballs known as exophthalmos. It is five times more common in women than in men. Graves’ disease tends to be hereditary and occurs most frequently between the ages of 20 and 40 years. It often arises after an infection or emotional stress.
Graves’ disease is felt by many to be an autoimmune disorder, since an increased production of immune globulins is found in more than 60 percent of cases. Certain lymphocytes that should normally be suppressed following an infection, survive because of breakdown in one aspect of immune watchfulness. The lymphocytes interact with an antigen on the thyroid cells producing a thyroid stimulating immune globulin, simulating the action of TSH. Denaturing the immune globulins in the intestinal tract can help control the hyperthyroidism. Therefore one must pay attention to any bowel toxicity and encourage good bowel function in hyperthyroidism. Bacterium Yersinia, a germ growing in the intestines, has been associated with hyperthyroidism as Yersinia suppresses the proper functioning of T-lymphocytes and the overall effect is to give a TSH-like stimulus to the thyroid.
Persons with an overactive thyroid should recognize that a strain is put on the body. Sometimes the heart rate goes above 100, or even above 120. The blood pressure may be elevated, and the mouth temperature may be above 100.
Treatment for Hyperthyroidism – Overactive Thyroid
Bugleweed inhibits iodine metabolism. It also inhibits thyroxin and some of the other hormones in the body. Use one-half teaspoon of the tincture three times a day, building up to one teaspoon three times a day in about four days. If the tincture cannot be obtained, the tea may be used, taking one cupful four times a day.
A tincture of motherwort is helpful for palpitations and tachycardia. Start with one-half teaspoon of the tincture, three times a day, and build up to one teaspoon three times a day. Hawthorn berry tea may be used instead, if preferred, four to six cups daily.
We suggest one to two tablespoons daily of echinacea and one tablespoon daily of golden seal powder for Yersinia. Boil them for 20 minutes in one quart of water. The entire amount should be taken daily for 30 days. Other herbs can be mixed in the same formula. Make up fresh daily.
Use sedative herbs such as catnip, valerian, passion flower, and skullcap as needed. A good herbal formula is 1-1/2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons powdered hawthorn berries boiled gently for 25 minutes. Remove from the stove, add 2 tablespoons of bugleweed, 2 tablespoons of skullcap, and 1 tablespoon each of valerian, passion flower, or catnip if you need extra sedation. Up to seven herbs can be mixed in one formula. Cover and steep for half an hour.
Quercetin, 1,000 milligrams twice a day in capsules, can help to reduce inflammation in the thyroid, as well as in the gastrointestinal tract. Other anti-inflammatory agents are hawthorn berry, licorice root, flaxseed oil (one teaspoonful three times a day), and feverfew. Use the herbs in standard quantities, one teaspoonful per cup of water. All roots, barks, berries, etc., are boiled gently for 20 minutes; whereas all leaves and flowers are merely steeped in freshly boiled water for 30 minutes.
A person with hyperthyroidism should put kelp in their food generously. It is high in iodine and can suppress the function of the thyroid. It is well for them to use iodized salt and eat seaweed as much as tolerated. Iodine in pharmacologic doses (as compared to nutritive or homeopathic doses) inhibits the release of T3 and T4. Iodine can be obtained from a pharmacy. Ask the pharmacist for the therapeutic dose of the preparation you find. (Gree, W.L., and Ingbar, S.H., The Thyroid, third edition, New York: Harper and Rowe, 1971, p.41)
Other important guidance
Get as much outdoor exercise as you deem appropriate in order to use up excess thyroid hormone. Take the exercise in the cool of the day, being careful not to overdo.
Apply alternating hot and cold compresses to the thyroid area. This includes hot compresses molded to the neck and upper chest and maintained for six minutes, alternating with ice cold compresses for 45 seconds. Have three to five changes. Do this treatment twice daily for seven days, then once in the morning for 30 days. If there is inflammation in the gland causing it to be hyperactive, this treatment will be helpful.
While there are certain foods that have a tendency to lower thyroid function, tofu and other soy products can mildly stimulate thyroid function. If a person has an overactive gland, they should avoid the soy products, whereas those with underactive glands should concentrate on eating them. Avoid certain foods which contain pressor amines which may stimulate the thyroid. Sauerkraut (histamine), cheese (tyramine, tryptamine, and phenyl ethylamine), bananas (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin), and wine (histamine).
“Healthy Lifestyle Matters in Prevention of Diseases”
For more information contact:
Amazing Natural Medicine
Phone: 44- 756 24 25 749
Silvia Rojas Reyes, N.D., Health & Life Couch
(Specialist in Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard)