Thyroid problems

‘I can’t keep still,’ my patient said. ‘Cant’ sleep, can’t eat, can’t concentrate!’ Her thyroid gland was overactive, and everything was speeding up. It can be dangerous if you let it go on too long, and her doctor wanted her to have surgery to remove part of the gland. After that, lifelong thyroxine supplements would be needed.
It’s not uncommon for the thyroid gland to become either over- or underactive. There are plenty of possible reasons for this, but most often there is no obvious primary cause, other than stress or ‘it just happens sometimes as you get older’. But thyroxine has an effect on most of the functions of the body. Too much, and you’ll be full of nervous energy; too little, and you’ll slow right down, with all the opposite effects. It’s a condition that needs treating.
Once you’re on thyroxine, it’s very difficult to come off, because you stop producing it yourself. But unless the condition is severe, it’s worth trying other measures before going down the one-way thyroxine road.
From a herbal perspective, rather than simply tinkering with the level of thyroxine, it’s worth looking at how else you may be in need of support. A trauma, such as a serious illness, accident or emotional upset, can affect thyroid function. The menopause can be a trigger, and so can some medical interventions. Very often, if these issues are addressed, the thyroid function will right itself. It can take some months, and it’s worth monitoring regularly, but simply adjusting thyroxine won’t ‘cure’ the problem.
You might have heard of kelp as a useful thyroid supporter. That’s because kelp is rich in iodine, which the thyroid gland needs. It’s said to help normalise function, but in my experience in treating overactive thyroid, it can make the symptoms worse before they improve. It’s always wiser to go to a qualified practitioner rather than trying to treat yourself, and keep your doctor informed so that you can be monitored.
My patient wanted to avoid surgery if she possibly could. I put her on a prescription that supported her nervous system, and things calmed down almost straight away. She came off the herbs after a couple of months, and when the symptoms started to return, she took herbs again. This time, after three months with no problems, we reduced the dose very slowly, and she has stayed well.
It’s not always so straightforward, but if the problem is new or relatively mild, it’s well worth trying a herbal prescription – not just kelp on its own – before taking steps that can’t be undone.

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