In today’s post I am opening up the conversation to discuss thyroid disease – a holistic perspective. This is a really broad topic as the thyroid has many actions in the body. The thyroid when imbalanced also displays many different symptoms. Plus it can become imbalanced in a range of ways. Phew! This post is written from my experience as a registered and qualified naturopath and herbalist. I am also a reiki healer and tarot card reader. I will also share my experience on the energetics of thyroid disease.
*Disclaimer – All content provided by Sage Intuition is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about your health, please consult your doctor or another suitably qualified healthcare professional.
Thyroid Disease – Introduction
We have a beautiful butterfly shaped gland in our throat area called the thyroid. The thyroid takes care of many functions in the body. It produces thyroid hormones that aid in;
- Energy metabolism
When the thyroid becomes imbalanced, it can display in different ways:
- Under active or hypothyroidism
- Over active or hyperthyroidism
- Post natal or postpartum thyroiditis
- Thyroid nodules
- Autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Autoimmune Graves’ disease
- Goitre or an enlarged thyroid gland
- Thyroid cancer
Thyroid Disease; A Holistic Perspective
The issue with thyroid disease I have found as a natural health practitioner is that it is so common. It seems to affect women more commonly than men, however men still do get thyroid issues.
Not only this, but it is often sub-clinical. This means there may be thyroid imbalance but it doesn’t show on blood tests. This could be for a range of reasons like the reference ranges used and more.
For clients that may have subclinical thyroid imbalances, I hear you and I see you. I feel these clients can really suffer because it feels like they aren’t being heard when they talk about their symptoms. Further investigation is required. As a naturopath, I use additional clinical assessments along with blood work to see if a thyroid imbalance is part of the picture.
Another issue with thyroid disease I have seen is that it can be silent. Everyday symptoms are common, but easily mistaken for other issues. Or it’s only when thyroid disease progresses in severity that it gets picked up by the doctor, blood work or the client themselves.
By then it becomes a more difficult condition to manage and often medication is required. However, there are plenty of natural health solutions to support healing of thyroid imbalances.
Thyroid Disease – Symptoms
I will briefly outline the more common thyroid disease presentations and their symptoms. This is by no means a complete list. If you have concerns, speak to your medical team.
Hypothyroidism – Under Active
Common symptoms include:
- Brain fog, poor cognition, difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain, being overweight or hard to lose weight
- Hair loss
- Feeling tired
- Low mood or depression
- Puffy face
- Sensitive to the cold
- Heavy/irregular menstrual periods
Hyperthyroidism – Over Active
Common symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Racing heart beat, heart palpitations
- Feeling hot, sensitive to heat, sweating
- Frequent bowel movements
- Irritable, angry, high strung/anxious emotions
- Hair loss, thin hair
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tremor in hands
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- If autoimmune Graves’ disease: tired, itchy (feels like grains of sand in eyes), or bulging eyes.
Postpartum Thyroiditis – After Giving Birth
This is a temporary thyroid condition. It begins either in the last few weeks of pregnancy or soon after giving birth. Typically, it presents has an overactive thyroid before dropping to low thyroid function before normalising. However, some women may develop permanent hypothyroidism and require ongoing treatment.
- Over active thyroid symptoms at first. This can result in low breast milk supply due to increased metabolic demands.
- Hair loss is also common, along with mood imbalances.
- Under active thyroid symptoms may occur next.
- Typical symptoms include feeling tired, low mood, weight gain and changes in bowel movements.
Often this condition is not picked up initially. I believe this is because the symptoms mimic many of common ups and downs of being a new mother. If you think this could be happening to you, persist for blood tests with your medical team.
Drivers of Thyroid Disease – A Holistic Perspective
So I have outlined a brief introduction to thyroid disease. Now I want to discuss what drives thyroid disease from a holistic perspective.
What are the underlying causes of thyroid disease? What steps can we take to prevent thyroid disease from occurring in the first place?
Gut health is one of the biggest drivers of thyroid disease. This might come across as an unrelated issue, but in holistic health care we see everything linked together. All systems are connected. If one system like the digestive tract is out of balance then it may affect other systems like the endocrine system (thyroid).
When I say gut health I’m talking about the following components:
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Undiagnosed coeliac disease
- Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities
- Alcohol consumption
- Gut microbiome imbalances
- Weak digestion from low gastric secretions, impaired nutrient absorption, slow motility and elimination
- Additives in food, processed foods and chemical exposure from food contributing to the above points
So what is the connection between gut health and thyroid health?
Let’s say we have an impaired digestive tract like leaky gut. Leaky gut is where the small intestine lining is damaged due to food intolerances, allergies and other factors. When the lining is damaged it creates hyper-permeability.
This means toxins and other particles pass through into the bloodstream, fuelling systemic inflammation. Normally toxins are filtered out by the small intestine and only nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Balanced thyroid function is highly dependant on nutrient availability. If there is nutrient depletion from inflammation, the thyroid may suffer.
Specific nutrients are required to make thyroid hormones. Without nutrients from diet and good absorption, the thyroid may be impacted. I will detail nutrients for thyroid function further below.
The essential takeaway here is this: If the body is in a state of inflammation and has impaired nutrient absorption, it can really affect optimal thyroid function.
Another issue with gut health fuelling thyroid imbalances is undiagnosed coeliac disease.
Again coming back to the point detailed above of nutrient absorption and inflammation. Coeliac disease affects the small intestine. It is an autoimmune disease where gluten is the trigger for the body to attack itself.
The villi (small finger-like projections) in the small intestine flatten and atrophy due to the autoimmune attack. This significantly impairs nutrient absorption, but also leads to high levels of inflammation.
If you suspect or have been diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, I suggest to seek advice from your doctor to test for coeliac disease also.
Food Intolerances, Allergies and Sensitivities
Similar to the point above regarding leaky gut and coeliac disease. Consuming foods that we may knowingly or unknowingly be allergic to or have a sensitivity/intolerance to will trigger an inflammation reaction.
Chronic inflammation will deplete the body of vital nutrients. Nutrient stores are required to bring the body into balance after an inflammatory response. Think of anti-oxidants to combat free radicals.
If we have impaired digestion, food intolerances and on top of that taking in a high chemical load with poor nutrition, it’s no wonder things can become imbalanced!
In autoimmune thyroid disease foods can be triggers for flare ups. It may be best to have food sensitivity testing done and eliminate trigger foods.
High Chemical Load
Eating fruits and vegetables is essential for health! But if possible, I suggest to grow your own produce. Or if that isn’t an option, source from organic stores or farmers markets. Support growers who use spray free or organic growing methods.
Why is this important? If we are ingesting a high chemical load through our food, our body has to use nutrients and energy to detoxify and eliminate these chemicals. We overload the body with chemicals through food (pesticides) and environmental toxins like plastics, household cleaners and beauty products.
Further, environmental toxins interfere with the thyroid and endocrine system directly. They can block iodine uptake which inhibits thyroid hormone production. Other heavy metals may trigger goitre and even thyroid nodules.
It is really worthwhile to minimise your chemical exposure wherever possible:
- Use natural cleaning products for the home
- Use natural beauty products for skin, hair and nails
- Support local organic growers by purchasing their fresh produce
- Choose organic food at the store for cooking whole foods meals
- No processed food! Sorry, but I have to be harsh here. Processed food like prepackaged cakes, breads, frozen meals and more are not going to benefit you. It will increase your chemical exposure and just isn’t worth it.
Stress is another big factor in thyroid disease. In my time of taking client case histories I have noticed a pattern. Thyroid disease tends towards the common factor of stress.
Either the client has had chronic stress for some time, or they had a stressful event which coincided with the beginning of a thyroid issue.
The relationship between stress and thyroid disease, especially autoimmune thyroid issues is simple:
- Stress hormones are released in response to a stressor
- Chronic stress changes the immune system
- Immune system changes may contribute to autoimmune thyroid disease
I feel it is also important to mention the adrenal glands. The thyroid work in connection with the adrenal glands in the body. The adrenals help buffer stress responses.
Chronic or acute stress may alter thyroid hormone production and lead to imbalances in the thyroid. High glucocorticoids levels cause a decrease of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This is commonly seen in hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Disease – Holistic Solutions
I have briefly covered the symptoms of common thyroid diseases. I have also explained in depth what drives thyroid disease from a holistic perspective. Now I want to discuss holistic solutions!
As a qualified naturopath, I have holistic solutions to support clients with thyroid disease, or suspected thyroid imbalances. First I begin with taking a full case history. I look to see areas of health that may be impacting upon the thyroid.
For example, looking at gut health, lifestyle, stress and diet. These factors all play a role in overall thyroid health. I also look at previous antibiotic use (gut health), stressful life events in the past and more.
The type of Wellness Plan I provide will depend on the individual. If they have suspected thyroid disease, I may refer them for blood tests from their doctor. Their unique case history will also give clues as to the best direction to take.
Client F – Wellness Plan Example
For example, Client F (fictional) has been through a difficult time recently. She has recently lost her job and has struggled to find a new one. She has been questioning the big changes in her life and her way forward. Client F feels overwhelmed at the turn of events.
During the time of her job loss, she initially felt panicked and scared. It took her a few days of shock for the news to fully sink in. Not long after she has had a low mood, experienced some weight gain and feels tired all the time.
Client F has been to her doctor for blood tests, but they have come back normal. Client F does not have clinical thyroid disease, but from her case history I may suspect a thyroid imbalance due to her stress.
She is seeking natural health support to feel better so she can move forward in life. As a naturopath, I don’t diagnose diseases, but I look at overall health to find holistic solutions.
For Client F, I may suggest the following recommendations:
- Unique flower essence formula for emotional support
- Dietary assessment with a focus on increasing B vitamins and antioxidants
- Reduce stress levels through exercise and meditation
- Affirmations and journalling for emotional expression and release
- Herbal medicine formula based on her unique case history
These are but a few of the ideas which come to mind. It really is dependant on the exact type of thyroid disease and possible factors driving the imbalance, along with the client’s goals they have in mind.
Nutrients and Nutrition for Thyroid Disease
I previously mentioned how thyroid function is dependant on nutrients. I will go into further detail about this now.
Nutrients help produce thyroid hormones. In addition to this, when the metabolism is increased in autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’ for example), oxidative stress occurs at a higher rate. To combat this, we need high levels of anti-oxidants.
Further nutrients required for general optimal thyroid function include:
- Essential fatty acids – Omega-3 from oily fish like salmon, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hemp and chia seeds or supplements.
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- Vitamins A, B complex, C, D and E
- Iodine – A controversial nutrient to suggest as excessive supplementation is suggested to trigger onset of thyroid issues. However, iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid imbalances. Check with your medical team first before supplementing.
Nutrition recommendations for thyroid disease will depend on the type of thyroid disease at hand.
For example, for autoimmune thyroid disease a focus on foods rich in anti-oxidants are key. Colourful fruits and vegetables, oily fish, cold pressed oils, whole foods and whole grains with nuts and seeds.
It is also important to eliminate any foods which may be triggering an immune response, fuelling thyroid symptoms. Common food triggers in autoimmune thyroid disease are wheat and dairy, along with caffeine from coffee and even eggs.
A food sensitivity test can determine which foods may need to be eliminated temporarily until symptoms subside.
In hypothyroidism, it is important to limit raw foods from the Brassica family and soy as these may inhibit thyroid hormone production. These foods are known as goitrogens.
For hyperthyroidism, it is particularly important to avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and other foods which trigger inflammation. Inflammation in hyperthyroidism is already high and needs high levels of anti-oxidants to prevent cell damage.
Hyperthyroid clients need to keep iodine consumption to a minimum, while goitrogen foods are encouraged. It is also important for them to focus on higher protein intake to minimise weight loss and keep hunger at bay.
General Recommendations for Thyroid Disease
For general support of thyroid health, I suggest the following:
- Mediterranean diet. Whole foods, plant based with a high intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Minimal refined carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol and caffeine.
- Reduce stress, increase relaxation
- Sleep at least 8 hours per night
- Regular movement and fresh air with natural sunlight
- Hydration – 2L of pure drinking water per day
- Reduce chemical load from food, pesticides, household cleaning products etc.
Energetics of Thyroid Disease; A Holistic Perspective
So far I have discussed thyroid disease from a holistic perspective with a focus on the physical body. Now I want to talk about the energetics of thyroid disease. I feel this is one of the biggest factors about thyroid disease which is not given enough attention.
The throat chakra is all about expression and communication. I feel on an intuitive level that if we are unable to express our emotions they can get caught in our throat. This creates a blockage in the energy flow of the throat chakra.
Have you ever had that feeling where there is a tight lump in your throat when you wanted to cry but couldn’t? This is exactly the feeling that describes a blocked throat chakra.
My belief about physical disease is that it all starts on the level of thought and emotions. The thoughts we think over and over again, for years eventually manifest as physical ailments or symptoms.
What kinds of thoughts would reinforce a blocked throat chakra? How would this relate to thyroid disease?
Perhaps you were raised in a home where emotions were not freely expressed. Or if you tried to say how you were feeling, you were shut down.
This type of emotional stagnation can really affect the throat chakra. The thoughts that go through the mind when these situations happen are ‘I don’t deserve to express myself, my emotions don’t matter’.
Imagine these thoughts being reinforced on a daily basis by others, and ourselves for years. I feel this is a big factor in the physical manifestation of thyroid disease.
Ignoring our emotional expression doesn’t make the emotions go away. In fact, emotional expression in a healthy way is the best method for processing emotions. Processing emotions allows them to be released. When emotions are released we are kept in tune with the flow of life.
If we are unable to express our emotions through speech, journalling, or creative outlets they can get stuck in the throat. Over time, the negative energy put into this area accumulates into disease.
Because the thyroid is located in the throat, it relates to the throat chakra. The thyroid governs energy metabolism in the body. I feel that the thyroid gland helps us connect with and be in tune with the flow of life.
Affirmations – Hypothyroidism
For hypothyroidism (under active), there is a reduced level of energetic input into life. Perhaps there is a sense of not wanting to participate in life. This may come from fear of being rejected and being seen.
I feel this also relates to feeling deserving of good things and asking for what is needed. Keeping oneself small is a protective mechanism from being rejected. Why does this happen?
Perhaps as a child you were scolded or shamed for asking for something. This could have occurred in adult years also. Louise Hay suggests that thyroid issues relate to humiliation.
Shutting yourself down from the flow of life due to fear only limits your interactions to what is ‘safe’. But this is a closed off energy and doesn’t allow good things to flow your way.
The following affirmations may help you learn to trust the flow of life again:
- I am safe to express my emotions. I express my emotions with ease.
- Life sends good things my way and I receive openly. I am open to the flow of life.
- I release the fear of being seen and warmly welcome new energy into my life.
Affirmations – Hyperthyroidism
For hyperthyroidism (over active), there is too much energy being forced into life. I feel this relates to being desperate to prove yourself in a situation. Perhaps there is an element of seeking validation others too.
Life may be demanding too much from you. You may be busy with many different high priority tasks. It becomes difficult for you to balance it all.
As a result, the body speeds up the metabolism by manifesting an over active thyroid. Forcing ourselves to over expend our energy to keep up with everyone else’s expectations is harmful. We can only live life at the right pace for us.
The following affirmations may help you find peace within yourself and find your own pace again:
- I lovingly release all expectations of myself. I am good enough just as I am right now.
- My own pace of life is right for me. I love myself unconditionally.
- I set my own positive and realistic expectations of myself.
This was a really big article! If you’ve made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. I hope what I shared here today was helpful for your situation.
If you feel you would like additional support for your health, visit my bookings page. I offer a free 15 minute discovery call to discuss your health journey.
This article covered thyroid disease from a holistic perspective. If you have any questions from this post, please comment below or send me a message on my contact page. I would love to hear from you!
Love and light to you on your healing journey,