By E. Nora H. Amrani
No part of this article may be copied or reproduced
without my written permission.
No part of this article may be copied or reproduced
without my written permission.
Thyroid disease is more common and widespread than many people realize - it affects more than 11 million in America alone, 90% of them women! In fact, it is estimated that one woman in eight will develop a thyroid problem sometime during her lifetime. What is thyroid disease and can it be cured or regulated? Why do women have it more often than men? Is this a worldwide phenomenon? This article will offer facts about thyroid disease and discuss my personal story regarding my thyroid disease; specifically, how my spirituality and healing work has helped effect a postive change in the treatment of my thyroid condition; and how you can do likewise. At the end of this article is a list of places to contact for more information regarding thyroid disease.
I hope that my story will help you change the way you understand thyroid disease, the interrelationship we have to the gland and our body and how our attitudes, behavior and communications about life affects our thyroid, and more.
My story is not a "poor me" type of story; I went through all of that self-pity drama a long time ago and have gladly let that go. But this article can be seen as an education into how we are raised, what beliefs we take on and how to avoid harming ourselves and those we care about. And finally, my story shares how thyroid disease can be understood as being a divine messenger of love.
THE THYROID GLAND AND THYROID DISEASE
WHAT IS THE THYROID? The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, on either side of your windpipe, in the front of your neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, parathyroid gland, thyroid gland, thymus gland, adrenal gland, pancreas, and reproductive organs.
HOW DOES THE THYROID WORK?
The thyroid gland produces and secretes thyroid hormone. If the thyroid gland becomes diseased or harmed it may not work right. Causes of thyroid disease include heredity, nutritional and environmental factors. These, combined with growth and extreme physical or emotional stress, will cause the thyroid to react. Thyroid disease can occur at any age.
When the thyroid gland cannot produce enough hormone, it is called HYPOTHYROIDISM. When the thyroid glands produce too much hormone, are too active, they are HYPERTHYROID.
Thyroid hormone is carried through the bloodstream to every cell in the body. This hormone controls our metabolism. Our growth, fertility, how our muscles and reflexes operate, body temperature, cholesterol levels, moods, how the brain functions, appetite, reproduction, memory, vision, coordination, male impotency, and many other things are all affected by the thyroid hormone. All organs in the body depend upon the right amount of thyroid hormone in order to work properly.
SYMPTOMS OF THYROID DISEASE:
Some of the symptoms a thyroid gland is not working properly include: For hypothyroidism tiredness; depression; forgetfulness; dry; coarse hair; dry skin; loss of eyebrow hair; puffy face and eyes; goiter (swelling of the neck); slow heartbeat; weight gain; sensitivity to cold; heavy menstrual periods; constipation; brittle nails.
For hyperthyroidism: nervousness; irritability; difficulty sleeping or erratic sleep patterns; bulging eyes; staring; goiter; rapid heartbeat; increased sweating; sensitivity to heat; weight loss; scant menstrual periods; frequent bowel movements; warm, moist palms of the hands; fine tremor (shaking) of hands.
Pregnant women need to be especially aware of their thyroid levels, because if the gland is not producing the right amount of hormones, the fetus will be affected. The fetus can have low birth weight, or be miscarried, have a premature birth, and the hormones can affect the child's development after birth.
Graves' Disease was named for the doctor who described it. It is a disease in which the thyroid gland is being tricked by the immune system into overproducing thyroid hormone. The immune system attacks the thyroid cells, stimulating them. This means the person will develop hyperthyroidism because they will have too much hormone in their body. Graves' Disease can be serious, because if not properly treated can also effect the heart and vision.
SYMPTOMS OF GRAVES' DISEASE:
Nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances, fast and irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath (especially with exercise), heat intolerance and increased sweating, shaking hands, weight loss, changes in appetite, more frequent bowel movements, tiredness and muscle weakness, thyroid enlargement, menstrual problems, impaired fertility, and eye irritation (double vision, bulging eyes).
HOW TO TEST FOR GRAVES' DISEASE:
The best way to check for a thyroid deficiency is through a blood test (TSH), a Free T-4, which measures the thyroid hormone levels. An ultrasound is another test which shows what the thyroid gland looks like.
Hashimoto's Disease (named after the Japanese doctor who first described it) occurs when the thyroid gland is being attacked by the immune system. This can create hypothyroidism because there will not be enough normal thyroid cells left to make the amount of thyroid hormone that the body needs to work properly.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease include tiredness, weight gain, dry skin, often feeling cold, coarse, dry hair or hair loss, hoarseness, constipation, yellowish skin, enlarged thyroid, difficulty remembering things, decreased concentration, depression, irregular or heavy menstruation, infertility, muscle aches, lack of coordination, high cholesterol, slowed heartbeat, low body temperature.
There are many ways thyroid disease can be treated, depending upon the diagnosis. Thyroid hormone therapy (pills), radioactive iodine treatment (in which the person drinks a liquid that destroys a portion of the thyroid), surgery, holistic treatment (like acupuncture and nutrition which work in few cases). Even after radioactive iodine or surgery, people will need to remain on thyroid hormone replacement medication. There really is no cure for it, just ways in which to manage the disease.
President George Bush and his wife Barbara have Graves' Disease, and because of their diagnosis more attention was called to Grave's Disease.
MY PERSONAL THYROID STORY
I was prone to thyroid disease through heredity and nutritional factors (when my mother was pregnant with me). The water coming from the Rocky Mountains which went into homes in the Midwest, for example, had a low iodine content. That created a rise in thyroid disease. My parents came from Europe and went through WWII, and they were depirved of important nutrients. They were living in Illinois at the time of my birth - another place that had a huge rise in thyroid disease. Chances are that thyroid disease ran in the family line, as well. As I grew into adolescence, with major hormonal and emotional things exploding within me, my thyroid responded and went haywire. I have been told I have Graves' Disease - which sounds extremely serious just from the name. I wish this disease would be given a new name as it usually invokes fear because most people don't know what it is, and it sounds so terminal, hopeless.
How did I know something was amiss with my system? In the mid-1960's, when I reached the age of fourteen, I gained weight even when on a strict diet, my hair and eyebrows thinned, my skin became extremely dry, my emotions were extreme, my brain didn't seem to function up to par, my reflexes were off, my periods were a nightmare and my energy was down to zilch. ACCHHH!!! Sound like a living hell? It was.
If that wasn't enough, my parents blamed my weight gain on overeating when, in fact, I was starving. This put me through even more emotional turmoil and greatly lowered my self-confidence and esteem. Needless to say, having such a poor outlook didn't help my health.
A dear family friend (who feels more like a relative) is a renowned endocrinologist. Thankfully, due to his persistance (because for a long time I very stubbornly, and foolishly, resisted his explanations for my condition), I went for tests - the results of which proved I needed help. The good news was, I now had a real explanation why I was gaining weight!
Not only did I have a major goiter, but my thyroid was so messed up that part of it was overactive and another part was underactive; I had to take medication for both sides! This meant taking thyroid and anti-thyroid drugs. This combination was potentially toxic and had to be closely regulated.
When I began the hormone therapy doctor told me that we would try the medication and see how it worked...no promises. He actually told me that I would most likely need surgery to remove at least part of my thyroid gland, as my condition is not easily repaired through medication. This news did not thrill me one bit and I refused to believe that surgery was my only alternative. No one, unless it was a real matter of life or death, was going to cut into my throat and leave a scar forever there!
Well, a miracle occured - within a month after starting the medication, my body began to change, regulate, began to lose weight and I felt so much better. My energy returned and my whole outlook on life began to change, albeit slowly.
But I still had a dilemma. I could buy into the fact that maybe the medication's effects wouldn't be long lasting and that surgery was just about my only option. Or, I could delve into the matter and find out what caused my thyroid to flip out. Could I heal it? How could I help myself and be even less drug-dependent? Was I ready to undertake this task? Not quite yet.
About eight years went by, with me still taking the medication (12 pills a day), and occasionally pondering on getting more involved in my healing process. Marriage, childbirth, illness and death of my father and other relatives, even work added stresses to my disease still triggered my thyroid to grow. There HAD to be another answer to healing, or at least regulating this dis-ease. Something within me had to change. I had to find a way, and that meant feeling compassion for myself and then taking more responsibility. Not blame, but responsibility - having the ability to respond.
My inquiries began around the mid-1970s and holistic healing was brand new. People still ridiculed anything that was not completely western-medicine oriented. Even going to a chiropractor was considered extreme. So, I was in new territory. When I shared my vision of healing myself with my doctor, he said "good luck", and that if I could make a positive change in my thyroid, I would be in the 1% miracle category he's seen in his career. Oh great - even he didn't have faith in this! The medical odds were hardly on my side. In retrospect, I think that news inspired me even more to prove that I could be in that 1%.
To cut to the chase, I investigated just about everything out there from acupuncture to herbs, radiation therapy to chiropractics. While these offered some alternatives they weren't complete for me, nor did they offer a cure. My doctor says there is no cure for thyroid disease: all we can do is treat it. I believe if we look at thyroid disease more holistically, on all levels, we can find many ways to treat it and perhaps eradicate it in future generations. Psychotherapy and meditation did reveal some gems: I remembered my childhood. My parents came from Europe and still followed many old views in child-rearing, which included prejudice based on gender. Girls were to grow up one way, and boys another. Parents of the 1950's even in America had the belief that kids should be seen and not heard and certainly not offered many positive comments for fear of spoiling them!
Now, my parents were wonderful people. I know they loved me, even though they might have had strange ways of showing it. I know they did what they felt was best - what they learned from their parents. However, I was stifled by my parents in my expression and creativity. My very voice, was stilled due to strict parental demands. I could not speak out, could not say what I felt and the few times I could, I was told to be quiet - my opinion or feelings didn't count. And, as most children would have done, I obeyed my parents, believing they would begin to accept and love me more. My brother, on the other hand, was not told to be quiet. His expression was more valued simply because he's a male.
Tragically, as a result of my reaction to my parents' behavior, this began a literal shut down of my throat chaka, the body's center for the true self's free, creative expression. And remember, I was predisposed to thyroid disease, but no one knew it at the time. I felt completely humiliated, not allowed to express myself, let alone feel valued for who I was and what I could create. My own feelings of who I was and what I could do were utterly shattered.
Children are especially vulnerable to criticism and complying with an authority's demands. Children look to the outside world, their family, for their identity. When people shout "be quiet" or "shut up", these words have very deep effects within the receiver that work on a cellular level; our cells can take on a new belief that our voice or expression, just who we are, is not worth a damn. It can destroy a life.
In the first paragraph of this article statistics were given regarding the high numbers of women with thyroid disease. Why do YOU think this is so? What is the connection between being female and having thyroid dis-ease? I believe behavior, environmental atmospheres, can aggrevate the thyroid gland.
I feel it might be beneficial to conduct studies with young children born with thyroid disease, or those with a higher potential of developing it, and following these children into adulthood, watching the family dynamics, and the child's image of hirself (him/her). Would the studies reveal that children with lower self-esteem and more volatile environments develop full on thyroid disease, develop it earlier, or in more severe forms than with children who were given a healthy self-esteem and lived in a more harmonious environment? Would there be any difference at all?
I'm not saying that my experience holds true for all people with thyroid disease. But, I am 46 years old now and when I was growing up, generally-speaking, girls were raised to be "ladylike" and quiet; not to be loud, or attract lots of attention, even in school. Girls were taught that we weren't as smart as boys, nor as valuable. We were taught that we are mostly empty-headed chatterboxes, emotional fools, and that our hormones dictate our behavior. Not to be taken as serious folks. That was pretty much a fact for my generation and our predecessors. Of course, growing up feeling second-class affects a person. Since the mind, body and spirit are interrelated, can there be little doubt that this frustration and anger at feeling less than equal affect the body?
Today's generation of women do not have a lesser incidence of thyroid disease. This is partly due to the fact that more doctors and their patients are more aware of the thyroid and being tested for thyroid levels. More people are being treated for it.
Looking at this condition from a behavioral and emotional standpoint, have things changed for the better in terms of valuing ourselves, our expression, or contributions as women? What are our attitudes? Our communication methods help shape our lives. Are we repeating what was taught to us by our parents and telling our kids to "shut up" or "be quiet", without thinking of the potential harmful, snowball effects? What are the messages we are now receiving about ourselves from others? What messages are we giving others about ourselves as females? No matter which gender we are - are we using our creativity and expressing our truths?
Changing our communication or self-image may not cure thyroid disease right now, but it can help us read our body signals better, practice methods that enable us as empowered individuals to love ourselves and balance our body much better.
A MESSENGER OF LOVE
Disease is exactly what it says it is - not being in a state of ease. Our heredity, environment, emotions, our soul's choice to grow or to be of service to others about learning through pain, the value of loving the self or others, perhaps emotional traumas from past lives that became infused within our cellular memory that needs healing - many things are involved in this place of disease. Life itself may be a struggle because we are resisting something. We are not fully accepting who we are, not taking some responsibility, not being fully present and within our personal power, not completely loving ourselves just as we are, not being true to who we are.
Disease, in any form, is a teacher. One message we send to ourselves is: "Hey, you're forgetting to love and accept all of who you are. Do what you love doing! Love what you do because you are choosing to do it. Be true to yourself!"
When I became much more involved in my own healing process with my thyroid, I had to find out more of who I am and what I want to do with my life for myself, what gives me joy and what energizes me.
Many years ago I began meditating and learned how to relax. Now when I feel stressed and know that it can reactivate my thyroid , I can go into the quiet space within and rebalance, revitalize myself. This can take place almost anywhere within seconds....just closing the eyes and focusing on rhythmic breathing, relaxation, centering.
I focus on a cobalt blue light in my thyroid gland, shrinking the disease, disintegrating the nodules. This feels like it's heating up my chakra for a few minutes a day from the blue light. I will also include all my chakras in the meditations,bringing them into balance (see my chakra meditation article for more information on this). Additionally, I confront my fears about speaking my truth, letting go of the fears about how my truth will be received or judged by others, and trusting myself more.
Our attitude in the healing process is vital in order to have positive results - we can take the stance of the victim, or creator. If we choose the creator role, we are taking responsibility for our condition, educating ourselves on what is available to us in order to heal, accepting we are going through a change, and taking the desired action.
Within a year of practicing meditation my thyroid nodules disappeared completely and have never resurfaced. My goiter shrank, my neck decreased about two inches in diameter and my medication decreased from 12 pills a day to two, alternating with two and-a-half: a significant change. I made the 1%.
And it's not over. I will practice these techniques for as long as I need to because I want to be as healthy as I can be. Cellular change doesn't happen overnight. Even after healing, the cells may revert back to the old beliefs within ourselves, and we need to gently remind ourselves of our change.
I cannot blame myself for having this condition: I can examine what the message in the disease is for me and take responsibility for my response to it; and the response can be positive or negative. I am in charge of my body and my body is language sensitive - it listens to what I say to it and about it. If I continually complain or criticize myself, my body will hate and destroy itself. If I accept, value and love all of who I am, my body will love me and want to live. If I do what I love doing, it will produce more antibodies that fight illness.
When I shared what I practiced with my endocrinologist, he confessed to me that loving the self and doing what we love is the key to healing, and I had to learn it all by myself. At my annual check-ups, to this day, he always asks me if I love what I'm doing. I do.
So, disease is divine messenger reminding us to love ourselves, speak our truth, love our creations and to do what we love, right here and now; for all we have is the here and now. We can even be grateful for having the dis-ease for teaching us this most important lesson. If we can help our children, friends, and loved ones understand the power of love for who we are and what we create, all of our lives can be much more joyful and harmonious. And, we may no longer need disease to remind us.
Thank you, Dr. Boris Catz!
For information and help about thyroid disease, ask your doctor or contact: This site is giving away a free e-book covering Thyroid at peri menopause and menopause.
The American Thyroid Association
Montefiore Medical Center
111 E. 210th St.
New York, NY 10467
phone: (800) 542-6687
The Thyroid Foundation of America
Ruth Sleeper Hall, RSL 350
40 Parkman St.
Boston, MA 022114-2698
(send self-addressed, stamped envelope)
The Thyroid Society for Education & Research
7515 S. Main St., Suite 545
Houston, TX 77030
phone: (800) THYROID
National Graves' Disease Foundation
320 Arlington Rd.
Jacksonville, FL 32211
© Copyright, 1998, 2002, Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani