Ayurvedic Treatment for Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped structure located at the front of the neck. Your thyroid typically makes hormones that keep your body functioning normally. Thyroid problems are a general term for a medical condition that keeps your thyroid gland from making the right amount of hormones. When the thyroid gland makes too little thyroid hormone, it is called hypothyroidism. When the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone, your body uses energy too quickly. This is called hyperthyroidism.
Here, we will discuss the two common thyroid problems prevalent. One is hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. There is no direct reference available for thyroid disorders in Ayurveda, but in such contexts, such diseases can be placed under Anukta Vyadhi (unexplained diseases). Such Anukta Vyadhi can be understood by the genetic constitution of an individual, the site of occurrence, and the imbalance among the dosha and dhatu. With the consideration of the principle of Anukta Vyadhi, Hypothyroidism is a disease that can be correlated with Galaganda, and Bhasmaka roga can be compared with hyperthyroidism in Ayurveda.
Discussion on thyroid problems as per Ayurveda
Galaganda is a clinical condition occurring due to an imbalance in vata and kapha dosha. The impairment in metabolic activity results in hypothyroidism. The sedentary lifestyle like no physical activity, sleeping during the daytime, sleeping immediately after meals, over-eating, and skipping meals, diet includes having excess food that is guru (heavy), sheeta (cold), ruksha (dry), snigdha (deep-fried) increases kapha and vata dosha abnormally.
This in turn will impair the Jatharagni (digestive fire / digestive enzymes). This further leads to Ama (improperly digested food) and this is carried to every dhatu (tissue) and thus vitiates all dhatu from rasa dhatu to shukra dhatu. Thus, both Jatharagni and Dhatvagni are disturbed and those vitiate Vata and Kapha dosha.
The pathogenesis occurs in the thyroid gland. The clinical manifestation of Galaganda relates to the symptoms of hypothyroidism like Gauravata (heaviness of the body), Aruchi (anorexia), Ashraddha (loss of desire for food), Agnimandya (impaired digestion), Tandra (stupor), Angamarda (malaise), Panduroga (anemia), Srotorodha (obstruction to channels), Klaibya (impotency), fatigue, sleep disturbances, increased weight, less perspiration, constipation, decreased heart rate, brittle and easily chipped nails, sensitivity to cold, puffy face.
Bhasmaka roga or Atyagni is correlated with the hyperthyroidism condition since both have similar pathogenesis. Bhasmaka roga is caused due to Teekshnagni (teekshanata in Agni), which is caused in turn due to increased Pitta dosha, and decreased Kapha dosha. With this increased Pitta and Teekshnagni, dhatu paka which means there is abnormally increased metabolic activity in dhatu.
The symptoms of Bhasmaka roga or Atyagni symptoms very closely resembling hyperthyroidism explained are Hridi Stambha (here it refers to increased heart rate), Vishtambha (constipation), Balahani (loss of strength), Ksudha vriddhi (increased appetite), Trishna (excess thirst), Sweda ( excess perspiration), Kasa (cough), Shwasa (breathlessness), Murcha (dizziness), fatigue, sleep disturbances, increase or decrease weight, thickened and flaky nails, sensitivity to heat.
From the above discussion, in hypothyroidism there is Agnimandya, and hence kapha dosha increases while Teekshnagni is the main pathology in hyperthyroidism with pitta dosha being aggravated.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Thyroid Problems
In hypothyroidism, there is kapaha–vata aggravation and hence the restriction or avoiding the etiology that causes an increase in these two is the first preference while treating hypothyroidism and this is called Nidana parivarjana (avoiding etiology).
As described kapha dosha is the predominant dosha in the disease, and Vamana karma (emesis therapy) is the prime treatment advised. In case, there is shotha (edema), Virechana (purgation therapy) can be given. Basti karma (enema therapy) holds good since there is constipation and Vata dosha vitiation. Niruha basti (decoction enema) and Lekhana basti (enema which primarily focuses on scraping the medo dhatu – fat) are helpful since there is obesity.
Since Agnimandya is the main factor in hypothyroidism, Agni Deepana (appetizers) becomes important. The other properties of drugs that are necessary for treating hypothyroidism are Anulomana (which releases the flatus and corrects the Apana vata), Ama pachana (digestives), Srotoshodhana (cleansing the channels), Medohara (anti-dyslipidemic). So, the medicines comprising of all the above pharmacological properties act in hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is mainly due to Teekshnagni and pitta dosha aggravation along with vata dosha and therefore avoiding the food and lifestyle that causes an increase in pitta dosha is the first preferred measure. Virechana karma (purgation therapy) and Basti karma (enema therapy) are beneficial.
Pittahara (that which pacifies pitta dosha), and Vatahara (which pacifies vata dosha) should be the choice of drugs in treating hyperthyroidism.
Diet and Lifestyle for Thyroid Problems
Iodine-rich foods such as fish, seafood, oatmeals, beetroots, high fibre-containing foods, low-calorie diet, salt-restricted diet, sugar-free diet, plenty of water and other fluids, and whole fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, papaya, ginger, almonds, coconut oil are helpful in hypothyroidism.
Physical exercise, Physical exercise, yoga, and pranayama are lifestyle modifications to be made if a person has hypothyroidism.
In hypothyroidism, one must avoid goitrogenic foods such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes, cabbage, maize, soybean and its products, turnips, and broccoli, avoid heavy foods, deep fried foods, caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and emotional stress.
In hyperthyroidism, milk pudding, the thick gruel of rice and lentils, thick gruel with beeswax and ghee, the meat of aquatic animals or marshy areas, fish that is not salted, meat soup with ghee, roasted meat of sheep, jaggery products, wheat flour or the paste of wheat flour mixed with milk, curds and ghee, cold water, foods that soothe the increased Agni is advisable.
Yoga and Pranayama that reduce the heat of the body, meditation, breathing exercises that have cooling and soothing effects, avoiding emotional stress, and staying in cool places are some of the lifestyle modifications in hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid disorders do not have direct references in the classics of Ayurveda but are explained under the title of Anukta Vyadhi. Galaganda has many symptoms resembling hypothyroidism whereas Bhasmaka roga can be correlated with hyperthyroidism. Galaganda is predominant in Kapha–Vata dosha and there is agnimandya while in Bhasmaka roga teekshanagni increases pitta dosha along with vata. There is variation in etiopathogenesis in both the conditions and the symptoms. The line of treatment depends on the involvement of dosha in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The common being in both treatments is nidana parivarjana. Vamana, Basti, especially lekhana basti is ideal for hypothyroidism. Pittahara chikitsa and the treatment that pacifies teekshnagni is beneficial while treating hyperthyroidism.