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Thyroid Awareness Month: Expert Advice On Thyroid Disease Management Through Ayurveda

The thyroid is the first gland identified by mankind. It is important for regulating and controlling metabolic processes of the body. It synthesises and secretes a chemical compound known as hormones. These chemical compounds are directly secreted into the bloodstream and perform their functions at a distant place.

The thyroid gland is situated in the neck behind the trachea and covered by cartilage (known as thyroid cartilage). It measures a 4 to 6 cm and butterfly-shaped gland with two halves connected by isthmus, i.e. bridge. In its normal stage, it is covered by prominence in the neck, i.e. Adams' apple and te, and the gland is not palped in normal stateable.

The thyroid gland performs a vital function of control and coordination of functions; it regulates various metabolic processes of growth, development, brain development in infancy and early childhood. It synthesises chiefly two hormones viz-Triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormone.

Thyroid functions were regulated by the gland named the Pituitary that is situated in the brain. It secretes hormone thyroid-stimulating hormone that stimulates the thyroid to synthesise hormone.

Thyroid Gland Disease Awareness Month

According to the thyroid association, January is considered as thyroid gland disease awareness. As per the thyroid association, 1 out of 10 people suffers from thyroid problems. Increasing awareness about the availability of Medicinal care and increasing awareness about thyroid disease is the objective of observing the awareness month. Ayurveda, the Indian medical wisdom, offers holistic care of the management, and it may be employed as an adjuvant, complementary or parallel medicinal management of thyroid diseases.

In Ayurveda, hormones functions were dealt with the physiological regulations of Pitta. Pitta is also referred to as Agni. Agni is the metabolic fire that digests, metabolises and assimilates food. Agni is considered as three types viz. Jathragni - that digest the ingested food and regulates other agnis, the other Agni is Bhootagni, and the other is Dhatvagni that performs the function of assimilation of food and formation of the formation of body tissues i..e. Dhatus. The Agni is further classified into five types by their specific functions. The Agni regulates all the bio-transformations in the body.

Functions of Agni

Agni is considered a vital essence of human life, and health and disease are based on the functioning of Agni. Kayachikitsa (the system of Ayurveda medicine) means treatment of Kaya (i.e. Agni); it is believed that the disease is the result of a derangement in Agni (metabolic fire). In the pathologic process (the process that occurs in the body that leads to the normal status of the tissues to abnormal status), mitochondria (the powerhouse of cell place of Agni in the body cells). This occurs first, and when the body tissues fail to achieve homeostasis, a series of changes occur within the cells, and when mitochondrial function deranges, cells get the characteristics of the disease.

Thyroid Hormone Synthesis

Synthesis of hormone occurs in the thyroid gland in the following manner iodine is the primary material; the iodine is trapped by thyroid follicular cells, then the iodine diffuse into the apex cells; this is further converted into colloid which later oxidises into tyrosine that eventually processed into thyroid hormones.

Regulation of Thyroid hormone

Thyroid hormone regulation is made as a negative feedback mechanism. The pituitary gland secretes TSH; which stimulates thyroid formation; thus, there is increased synthesis & secretion of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream, and when the body is at rest, the metabolic requirement reduces and when there is excessive thyroid hormone brain releases peptides that reduce the secretion of TSH from the pituitary gland that suppresses the secretion of thyroid hormone.

Diseases of the Thyroid gland

There are different types of thyroid diseases. They may be grouped into nutritional deficiency disease, inflammatory, autoimmune, endocrinal, functional, organic, malignant etc.

The common diseases of thyroid are as follows:

  1. Goitre - the disease is caused due to deficiency of intake of iodine in food. The deficiency is more common in vegans. The nutritional deficiency leads to swelling of the neck region, lack of physical and mental abilities, etc. the disease can be managed with dietary supplementation of iodine as iodised salts.
  2. Thyroiditis - the disease is an inflammation of the thyroid that may be due to an autoimmune response. This is characterised by the depletion of thyroid hormones. The condition is often managed with supplementation of the thyroid, but immuno-modulatory medicine may be used for the management. Ayurveda may be used to treat the cases and may offer a better quality of life.
  3. Hypothyroidism - the disease is the result of low synthesis, low secretion of thyroid hormone. Patients suffering from the disease would have characteristic features of weight gain, altered mental abilities (especially in childhood), dry, rough and lustreless skin, swelling, loss of enthusiasm, easy fatigability, etc. Diagnosis is established by performing thyroid function tests, especially thyroid-stimulating hormone. The normal value of TSH is 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L. When the values of TSH is higher than the normal upper limit, it is suggestive of hypothyroidism. This may require medicinal management.
  4. Hyperthyroidism - the disease is the result of excessive synthesis, excessive secretion of thyroid hormone. The clinical condition is characterised by weight loss (even patients eats a lot), appetite is usually more, there is characteristic swelling of eyes, and throat, the patient is lean & thin, characteristic anxious face, when the pulse is examined patient would have increased pulse rate and pulse were observed to be thready.
  5. Euthyroid - the disease is observed in approx. 5 to 20 per cent of females of childbearing age. The thyroid markers, i.e. thyroid hormones and TSH, were in the normal range, but a patient may have chronic inflammation of the thyroid that may present with the classic symptoms of thyroid disease.
  6. Thyroid tumours - Thyroid tumours may be characterised by nodular formation within the thyroid gland. This is characterised by lump formation visible like prominent adam's apple or nodular enlargement in the neck region. There is increased function of the thyroid gland or an overactive thyroid gland. This may present with the symptom of difficulty in breathing or eating, changes in voice, pain, etc. This tumour may be benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous. Typically the tumours of the thyroid are classified into five types colloid nodules (non-cancerous - an overgrowth of normal thyroid tissues), cyst (fluid-filled nodules - usually non-cancerous), inflammatory nodules, multinodular thyroid nodules and thyroid carcinoma.

Ayurveda Management Of Thyroid Diseases

Ayurveda offers comprehensive management of thyroid viz. medicinal management & therapeutic purification, surgical management, lifestyle management. For all clinical purposes, thyroid disease may be classified into hormonal and structural deformity.

Disease like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is basically a functional disease, and correction of hormone function would be the goal of management. At the same time, the other group is structural changes, i.e. inflammatory, nodular or malignant, which occurs with specific changes in organic changes of the thyroid gland. Later is comparable with the Galaganda, and the former may be compared with the derangement of Dhatvagni functions.

Management of thyroid diseases (hormonal changes):

The management goals for managing such disease were to normalise thyroid hormone, emphasis on the establishment of natural host response, i.e. normal feedback to stimulate normal functioning, i.e. synthesis, secretion of thyroid hormone, reduction in symptom, weight management, and controlling or delaying possible complications or sequel that may occur.

Ayurveda medical condition includes medicinal management with herbal and polyherbal medications (including herbomineral compounds) to improve Agni functioning (Dhatvagni). Vidang (Embelia ribes) and Pippli (piper longum) were chiefly used for the management of hypothyroidism, and shatavari (asparagus), ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), Brahmi were used for the management of hyperthyroidism.

Management of thyroid diseases (organic diseases):

Thyroiditis, thyroid nodule and thyroid cancer need other means for management. These diseases have specific organic changes in the thyroid gland. This is narrated as Galagnada in ancient Ayurveda classics. This glandular growth in the neck region is called Galaganda. The medicinal herb is usually used for the guggul (a variety of resin), specifically Kanchanar Gugglu.

The inflammatory cause needs anti-inflammatory measures for its management. Nodule and cysts are managed with Gugglu and anti-cyst measures. Anti-cancerous medicine may be employed for managing thyroid cancers (would be dealt with in future articles).

Merit Of Ayurveda: Why Select Ayurveda For Thyroid Disease

Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to disease management. The primary goal of management of Ayurveda management is to restore normal homeostasis the word used as a synonym of medicine and is objected to achieve total health is - Prakruti Sthapana. In context to thyroid disease (especially hormonal derangements, i.e. hypothyroidism & hyperthyroidism) thyroid gland ought to synthesis, secrete and regulate thyroid hormone naturally as per the needs of the body. The conventional management uses supplementation of hormone (if the body is not able to produce on its own).

The body tissues have some vital strength to restore normal functions. There may be a possibility that the body organ fails to synthesis if supplied externally. It has been observed that Vidang has been observed to be effective in managing thyroid functions and not masking TSH. The medicine may be used as per individual constitution and disease. It has been observed that holistic Ayurveda care ensures a better quality of life in cancer (this may be used as adjuvant and essential co-medicine for better care).

For more details and management, please consult an Ayurveda physician or contact Ayurveda hospital.

Story first published: Monday, January 3, 2022, 20:08 [IST]