In present day, thyroid problems are becoming very common. Normal functioning of thyroid gland helps to maintain proper metabolism. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism are two conditions where the thyroid hormones fail to maintain normal metabolism. The action of thyroid hormone can be correlated with the actions of Agni. Proper functioning of Agni helps to maintain normal metabolism of the body. Agni is of three types – Jataragni, Dhatvagni and Bhutagni. Jataragni (Digestive fire) is the main Agni responsible for digestion and absorption of food. Dhatvagni is responsible for tissue formation whereas Bhutagni is helps in transformation of heterogeneous substances into homogeneous substances. Metabolism is governed by Dhatvagni and Bhutagni. Agni is responsible for vital body functions. It is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, and lustre, Ojas (Essence of all tissues), Teja (Life force) and Prana (Subtle energy). Balanced Agni helps in maintaining good health and the person diets when the Agni stops functioning. When Agni is disturbed it leads to health problems. Pitta, Samana Vata and Kapha control the metabolic actions of Agni. Agni acts on each and every cell in the body just as the function of thyroid hormone is seen in each and every cell of the body.
The important functions of thyroid hormone in the body are regulating metabolism, increasing body heat and BMR, accelerating growth in children, maintaining body weight by decreasing fat storage, increasing heart rate and regulates blood pressure, regulating appetite and increasing movements in the Gastrointestinal tract, maintaining CNS functions, normal activity or proper functioning of the skeletal muscles, maintaining normal sleep pattern and normal sexual function. These can be attributed to the functions of Agni in the body.
Digestive fire is the controller of Dhatvagni and Bhutagni. If the digestive fire is high, it will lead to hyperactivity of Dhatvagni resulting in loss of nutrition. If the digestive fire is low, then the Dhatvagni is also hypoactive resulting in accumulation of improperly nourished tissues leading to over nourishment of the body. Decreased Agni causes hypo functioning of the thyroid gland leading to decreased production of thyroid hormone which compromises body metabolism. The symptoms thus occurring will be fatigue, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, etc. Increased Agni causes hyper functioning of thyroid gland leading to excess production of thyroid hormone thereby increasing metabolism. The symptoms thus occurring will be weight loss, anxiety, etc.
In Ayurveda, although direct references of term Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism are not available, however, several scattered referenced suggest that Avarana or occlusion of the Dosha has been explained as the causative factor for various hormonal disorders. Acharya Vagbhata says that naming of the disease is not important but understanding its cause and pathogenesis is important so that we can apply proper line of treatment. Thus, we can say that in Hypothyroidism, three Doshas with predominance of Kapha Dosha causes Avarana of Vata. Hence Vata Dosha is also vitiated.
वायोर्धातुक्षयात् कोपो मार्गस्यावरणेन च (वा)। वातपित्तकफा देहे सर्वस्त्रोतोऽनुसारिणः।। ५९।। वायुरेव हि सूक्ष्मत्वादधयोस्तत्राप्युदीरणः। कुपितस्तौ समुद्भूय तत्र तत्र क्षिपन् गदान्।। ६० ।। करोत्यावृतमार्गत्वाद्रसादींश्चोपशोषयेत् II
Vata Dosha gets aggravated in two different ways – diminution of the tissues and occlusion of its channel of circulation. In our body, Vata, Pitta and Kapha move through all channels of circulation. As Vata is the subtle energy, it impels Pitta and Kapha Dosha. The aggravated Vata Dosha provokes Pitta and Kapha Doshas and scatters them to different places of the body obstructing the channels of circulation leading to manifestation of various diseases including hypothyroidism.
Agni is an important factor for digestion and metabolism. Food is digested, absorbed and assimilated in the body with the help of Agni. When this Agni is compromised, it leads to derangement of metabolic fire which in turn causes Ama. This Ama enters into circulation and blocks the channels, affecting the quality of nutrients flowing through the channels leading to vitiation of Dhatus thus affecting the thyroid function. Also, Rasavaha (Lymph carrying channels), Mamsavaha (Channels of circulation of muscle tissue) and Medovaha srotas (Channels of circulation of fat tissue) are affected.
Occlusion of Vata Dosha by Kapha Dosha gives rise to symptoms such as feeling of cold, heaviness, lethargy, body ache, desire for hot and dry food articles and relief with intake of pungent foods. Thus, it can be correlated to hypothyroidism. (Sloka 2)
शैत्यगौरवशूलानि कट्वाद्युपशयोऽधिकम्।। ६२।। लङ्घनायासरूक्षोष्णकामिता च कफावृते।
Aharaja: Diet factors
Viharaja: Lifestyle factors
Also, Bijaswabhava or Hereditary factors can cause hypothyroidism.
As Agni is low in Hypothyroidism, most of the Dhatu or tissues in the body are under-nourished. Hence the symptoms pertaining to various organs are noticed in hypothyroidism. Ayurveda believes that all individuals are different; hence the symptoms noticed will also be different based on the extent of affliction of Agni and the Doshas. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism according to Ayurveda are -
The above three symptoms occur due to improper metabolism of fast tissue and increase of the unctuousness and heaviness qualities of Kapha Dosha which leads to obstruction in the movement of Vata Dosha.
As Kapha Dosha occludes Vata, first aim of treatment should be to balance Kapha Dosha. Also, as both Kapha and Vata are out of balance, hot potency herbs by virtue of its nature help in balancing Kapha and Vata. Ayurveda approach to treatment includes administration of herbs and therapies having the following functions.
Herbs that are Lekhana (possess property to scrap out toxins and excess Kapha Dosha), Kapha – Vatahara (Balancing Kapha and Vata) and Ushna (hot in potency) are beneficial in achieving the above functions thus helping in the management of Hypothyroidism.
Ayurveda herbs having immune promoting, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic property and that are glandular and endocrine tonics may be useful. Some of the herbs beneficial in hypothyroidism are -
Panchakarma procedures help in cleaning the body, thereby removing the Ama, restoring balance of the Doshas and improving nutrition supply to the tissues. Panchakarma helps to treat and prevent Dosha imbalances. Mainly Vamana and Virechana are beneficial in hypothyroidism.
Vamana: Therapeutic emesis is the best treatment for correcting Kapha vitiation hence suitable for the treatment of Hypothyroidism. Ayurveda formulations to improve digestion and absorption are administered for 3 days to prepare the body to receive Panchakarma. Then therapeutic massage, sudation and administration of Ayurveda ghee such as Mahatiktaka ghrita for 5 to 7 days is done based on one’s Agni and health status. On the last day, following massage and sudation, sweetened milk, liquorice decoction, paste of Madanaphala and other herbs are administered to induce therapeutic vomiting. Specific diet and lifestyle are followed for one to two weeks post Vamana therapy after which suitable herbs are administered for better outcome of treatment.
Virechana: Therapeutic purgation helps to correct Agni at the digestive and cellular level thereby helping to eliminate Ama or endotoxins. When Ama is eliminated from the body, the equilibrium of Doshas is restored. The preparatory procedure is similar to that of Vamana, but on the last day, Ayurveda formulations to induce purgation such as Trivrit Lehya or Abhayadi modaka or castor oil is administered. As Ama is removed from the body through Virechana, the herbs, diet and lifestyle suggested will give enhanced results as the channels of circulation are cleansed of toxins, hence improved nutrient supply to the tissues leading to better health of all the tissues and equilibrium of Doshas.
Udwartana: Herbal powder scrub using herbs such as Triphala, Lodhra, Chickpea, etc following lukewarm Karpuradi oil application in the body helps in removing the Kapha Dosha which is occluding Vata Dosha. Also, it improves circulation and generates heat in the body, thereby correcting Agni and reducing symptoms such as intolerance to cold, etc.
Vashpa Swedana: Steam bath following Udwartana helps to liquify and scrap out the toxins, excess Kapha Dosha and fat from the body thus helping in hypothyroidism. It also brings equilibrium of Vata Dosha.
Food articles that are dry and hot potency are suggested. Flaxseed, ginger, coconut oil, green gram, bottle gourd, barley, old rice, ghee, moringa (drumstick) should be included in diet. Avoid pastries, meat and heavy to digest food. Reduce intake of raw cruciferous vegetables too as they interfere with thyroid function. Use sufficient amount of salt in diet. Digestive spices correct Agni, hence should be included in diet. Especially turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, garlic and black pepper are suggested as they have Pachana (Digestive) and Lekhana (Scraping out toxins and excess Kapha) property.
Improving stress tolerance, regular exercise, yoga and exposure to morning or evening rays of the sun are beneficial in hypothyroidism.
Yogasana mainly Halasana (Plough pose), Paschimothanasana (Seated forward bend), Matsyasana (Fish pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand), Pavanamuktasana (Wind relieving pose), Surya Namaskar (Sun salute), Sinhagarjanasanam (Lion roaring pose), Kandarasanam (Shoulder pose) and Pranayama or breathing techniques such as Sheetali (Cooling breath), Seethkari (Hissing breath), Bhastrika (Bellows breath), Anuloma – Viloma (Alternate nostril breathing), Ujjayi (Ocean breath) are beneficial in hypothyroidism as it stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine.
If you wish to consult Ayurveda, you may choose to contact one of our Ayurveda Practitioners Gurnam Saini or Pooja Saini in Melbourne. Both of our practitioners are Qualfied Ayurveda Doctors from India. You may contact us at "Pure Herbal Ayurved Clinic". People who can't reach us personally, may choose for online Ayurveda consultation.
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Ayurveda stads for extensive and elaborate clinical examination to understand thenature of the disease