Updated: Oct 17
A common condition commonly overlooked
Prevention is the foundation of a holistic approach to health. When I think of a disease that could easily be prevented if screened for early, the thyroid immediately comes to mind. In fact, almost ten percent of the population is estimated to have some degree of thyroid imbalance, but only one percent is officially diagnosed. This means that nine out of ten people with early thyroid disease will likely not get the preventive help they need.
The thyroid gland can be thought of as a mirror of our personal lifestyle. As our environment changes, so does the thyroid. Its function is designed to be activated or suppressed in response to the daily stressors and metabolic demands we face.
Patients with imbalanced thyroid glands present with a variety of complaints. Some of them are:
• Mental or physical fatigue
• Unintentional weight gain or loss
• Insulin Resistance or Metabolic Syndrome
• High Cholesterol despite best dietary efforts
When holistic doctors consider a thyroid etiology for the patient’s presenting symptoms, they usually consider what kind of past or current stressors surround their patient. It is a well-known fact that stress suppresses thyroid function at multiple levels and should be considered right away. Additionally, when we consider the Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) view of the body chakras, thyroid function is intimately connected with blockages in the Throat Chakra.
In addition to stress, we should always consider what environmental triggers could the patient potentially have been exposed to. Could an infection or some sort of inflammation create a compromised milieu for the functioning of the thyroid gland? Many different viral, bacterial, fungal, and even parasitic infections can trigger autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland. Another consideration could be some sort of nutritional deficiency or a presence of food sensitivity, which could potentially compromise the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Getting checked for food sensitivities or Celiac Disease might get us some answers. The most common deficiencies identified in newly diagnosed thyroid patients are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Iron, Zinc, and B12. If any such deficiency is identified, prompt supplementation may lead to the correction of the imbalance.
A common dietary question I also get from patients is: how does Iodine fit into the picture of healthy thyroid?
In truth, there is no straightforward answer to this question. It seems like iodine deficiency as well as the excess of iodine in the diet or supplementation can cause disturbances in the thyroid. I typically recommend that the salt the patient consumes for cooking should be iodized. Interestingly, Iodine deficiency seems to be most prevalent in pregnant, vegetarian, and vegan patients. I do not recommend taking any iodine-containing supplements which have more than 150 micrograms of iodine (a recommended daily value, RDA). Food intake via seafood products is always more natural, in my humble opinion, than pushing high doses of supplements.
The takeaway message of this article is this: if you feel that your symptoms could be resulting from thyroid imbalance, get it checked out and consider how managing your stress, diet and lifestyle can help you heal this common condition.
Lifestyle interventions, however small, always improve thyroid function, and this is most likely thanks to the mitigation of an inflammatory state, which either directly or indirectly instigated the thyroid dysfunction in the first place.
Dr. Kogan is a Concierge Holistic Internal Medicine doctor in Naples.
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