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Holistic Treatment for the Thyroid: Natural Healing or Dangerous Diversion?
Holistic medicine has a rich history that predates the current system of science-based Western medicine by thousands of years. Long before the scientific method was first developed, people were developing herbal cures for common illnesses and ailments through a process of trial and error.
Today, holistic healing is making a major comeback. Even in an era distinguished by unprecedented advances in medical science, growing numbers of people are drawn to the idea of treatments drawn from the wisdom of centuries-old healing traditions. In the last year alone, Americans spent $75 billion on alternative therapies.
The area of thyroid health has also been influenced by the increasing popularity of holistic treatment. Today, patients with thyroid problems can choose from an array of natural therapies, including homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, dietary supplements, hydrotherapy, and many more.
However, these treatments are at the center of an intense debate. Researchers point out that little scientific evidence exists to verify the claims of most holistic practitioners, and physicians emphasize the critical importance of traditional forms of treatment to ensure successful outcomes for patients with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other common thyroid problems. These stark differences of opinion have caused confusion for thyroid patients interested in exploring the possibility of a more natural approach to treatment of their condition.
The Holistic View of Thyroid Health
Like their counterparts in traditional Western medicine, holistic health care practitioners regard thyroid function as a vitally important aspect of overall well-being. However, holistic practitioners differ significantly from their more mainstream counterparts in the causes to which they attribute the recent increase in thyroid diseases, as well as the treatments that they prescribe for these health problems.
To many holistic practitioners, skyrocketing rates of thyroid cancer and some forms of thyroid disease are indications that environmental factors may cause or complicate these conditions. They contend that recent changes in the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystem may impact thyroid health.
Some of the chief environmental culprits that holistic health specialists blame for the increasing prevalence of thyroid problems are chemical pesticides, hormone-based food additives, the depletion of selenium and other key minerals in the soil supply, and finally, the release of large quantities of radioactive iodine, a byproduct of nuclear energy production, into the environment.
Holistic Treatments for Thyroid Diseases
As its name suggests, holistic medicine seeks to take a “whole-body” approach to health care. Rather than focusing on just the thyroid, for example, the holistic practitioner attempts to understand the symptoms from a broader perspective, relating the thyroid to its role in the body’s system.
Treatments are devised by identifying imbalances, deficiencies, and other abnormalities and developing therapies to counteract them. Some of the most common holistic treatments for thyroid conditions include:
- Herbal Regimens - In the homeopathic tradition, many herbs are believed to imbued with healing properties. Herbs and plant products commonly prescribed for hypothyroidism include bladderwrack seaweed, which is often supplemented by “warming” herbs such as turmeric and ginger.
- Yoga and Meditation - These increasingly popular practices can improve overall health and well-being. Several specific yoga poses are thought to be particularly beneficial for those with thyroid problems, including fish pose, cobra pose, and plough pose. Targeted breathing work is also thought to enhance thyroid function.
- Dietary Supplements - Holistic health practitioners typically recommend an array of vitamin, mineral, and other dietary supplements to enhance thyroid function. Selenium, L-tyrosine, and vitamins B and C are all commonly prescribed for improved thyroid health.
- Nutritional Therapy - Holistic nutritional experts often recommend detoxifying fasts for patients with thyroid problems, in order to rid the body of accumulated toxins that may be impeding thyroid function. It is also recommended that thyroid patients limit or avoid foods such as broccoli, soy products, and meats with hormone additives.
- Hydrotherapy - This approach draws on the theory that systematic exposure to hot and cold jets of clean, pure water can trigger an immune system response and improve thyroid function. Although the services of an experienced hydrotherapist will be most beneficial, some report that alternating bursts of hot and cold water in the shower offers some of the same health advantages.
A Hybrid Approach for Optimal Health
Although there are many holistic thyroid treatments available, most experts recommend that they should be used to supplement, rather than replace, conventional treatments, such as thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Even the most dedicated proponents of holistic medicine admit that alternative treatments typically are not effective alone.
Indeed, most agree that a combined approach that relies on both conventional and holistic methods is most effective. If you are interested in incorporating holistic therapies into your thyroid health program, a licensed physician can help you integrate the conventional and natural treatments seamlessly.
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