THE FOUR PILLARS OF WELLNESS
"There are four basic concepts that underpin and support real health.
I call them the Four Pillars of Wellness." Dr. Tony Vendryes
Click on a pillar to learn more...
The thyroid gland is an important butterfly shaped organ located at the front of the neck, on both sides of the voice box or larynx. It produces several thyroid hormones that serve many important functions including the control of metabolism, body temperature, and energy production. An under active thyroid or hypothyroidism is a very common problem and millions of people worldwide with the disorder are either undiagnosed or inadequately treated.
Photo capton: Rt Thyroid.; Lf Thyroid, Top - Larynx
Women are seven times more likely to have this problem than men and although it can occur at any time, some situations put women at risk: Just after having a baby or a miscarriage, when over the age of 65 or following severe stress.
Low thyroid function creates many symptoms that include low energy, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, hair loss, brittle nails, depression, irritability, decreased sweating, fluid retention and intolerance to cold. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, high blood cholesterol, osteoporosis, infertility, anaemia and recurrent infections.
Anyone having the above symptoms should have an assessment of their thyroid function done. Conventional medicine tends to depend solely on the results of blood tests to diagnose low thyroid activity although experts agree that blood tests alone are often misleading. A careful evaluation by your doctor including a detailed questioning and examination of the patient is most important. If this is not done, many cases will go undiagnosed. The blood tests may then assist in confirming the doctor’s suspicion, but by themselves can be inconclusive.
SELF-TESTING YOUR THYROID
An at home test called the Barnes Test is a useful tool for evaluation your thyroid function. It tests your resting body temperature that reflects your metabolic rate, which in turn is largely influenced by thyroid hormones. This test is done while you are still lying in bed first thing in the morning before getting up and moving around. The details for conducting the test is available in my book ‘An Ounce of Prevention – Especially for Women”
IMMUNE SYSTEM IMBALANCE
Probably the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism today is an autoimmune disturbance of the immune system called Hashimoto’s disease, named after the Japanese doctor who first described it. Here the body’s own immune system attacks it’s own thyroid gland and starts to destroy it. I strongly suspect that stressful situations like pregnancy and the menopause as well as infections, environmental chemicals and certain food additives may contribute to this disorder and a special blood test can be done to diagnose the condition.
There is increasing concern worldwide about the levels of radioactive iodine in our air and water. The recent leaks of radioactive material following the tsunami in Japan had heightened those concerns. The thyroid gland rapidly grabs hold of any iodine it can and cannot discriminate between good natural iodine and radioactive iodine.
Radioactive iodine can thus concentrate in the thyroid and does severe and permanent damage to the gland making it inactive. Taking optimal doses of healthy iodine will protect the organ from being poisoned.
A deficiency of iodine in the diet can lead to an enlarged but often underactive thyroid gland called a goiter. People who have a goiter may require more iodine that others and often benefit from supplementing with higher than usual amounts of iodine. Rarely they may be consuming too much of certain foods that may affect how the body uses iodine. These foods, known as goitrogens include turnips, cabbage, mustard, cassava root, soybeans, peanuts, pine nuts and millet. Cooking these foods usually renders them harmless and in my experience rarely creates a problem. A wide variety of many vitamins and minerals are also necessary for good thyroid function so good balanced nutrition is vital. Iodine containing food such as the sea vegetables kelp and dulce provide great nutritional thyroid support.
Many people are hypothyroid because of treatments administered by their doctors for an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). These treatments include surgical removal of the thyroid, thyroid suppressing drugs or destruction of the gland by radiation. The damage to the gland that results is often irreversible thus creating permanent hypothyroidism. An approach that looks for and naturally deals with the underlying cause of the hyperactive condition can often prevent the necessity for these severe treatments.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
BALANCED NUTRITION is most essential. Ensure optimal intake of iodine, zinc, vitamins C, E and B complex. Ensure good dietary levels of healthy protein while minimizing starch and sugar in the diet. I recommend a program of supplements called ‘the Cellular Nutritional Program’. It contains special supplement blend called Cell Activator that improves the slow metabolism found in this condition.
IMMUNE SYSTEM CARE: Individuals with immune dysfunction will benefit from supplementing with high dosages of anti-oxidants like vitamins A, C, E, selenium, the herbs schizandra, rosemary, pycnogenol, reishi mushrooms garlic and ginger, Large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (3 or more grams) also helps in correcting any inflammation of the thyroid gland. Vitamin D supplements (5000 IU or more daily) plus regular sunshine powerfully enhances immune function.
MANAGE STRESS: Low thyroid function is often triggered off by stress and learning to handle stress in a healthy way is most important and beneficial. The regular use of relaxation techniques (like my time to relax CD) can be most useful.
EXERCISE increases the metabolism and has many other beneficial effects. Some inverted yoga postures like the shoulder stand are particularly helpful as they stimulate, massage and increase the blood flow to the thyroid.
MEDICATION is the standard medical answer to the underactive thyroid and a variety of synthetic drugs are used to replace one of the lacking thyroid hormone (T3). These are often necessary and very helpful.
However many holistic physicians, use natural thyroid hormone replacement instead. These are also prescription medicines but are made from animal thyroid glands (glandular extracts). They contain a balance of all the thyroid hormones (not only T3) and often in my experience produce a better response. You may wish to discuss this option with your doctor. Changes in your basal body temperature readings (the Barnes Test) after taking the medication can be used as a guide in determining the appropriate dosage for you.
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