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Thyroid Disease: A Natural/Herbal Perspective
Interview with Shasta Tierra-Tayam, L.Ac.

by Mary Shomon

Shasta Tierra-Tayam is a popular natural medicine practitioner who is a licensed primary health care provider. Shasta uses Acupuncture, Clinical Herbology, Nutrition and Acupressure for the treatment of a broad range of common ailments. Having grown up surrounded by the healing arts, Shasta had the rare opportunity to study under the tutelage of her father, Dr. Michael Tierra O.M.D. L.Ac. author of many books including the best selling book, The Way of Herbs. With over ten years as a health care provider, Shasta specializes and teaches on hypothyroidism, women's health care, pain management and whole body and facial rejuvenation. Shasta has lectured and practiced Chinese Medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine at O'Connor Hospital, as well as taught at the American School of Herbalism. Her unique approach incorporates a total health program aimed at achieving whole life enrichment. Here, Shasta shares her insights and perspective on thyroid disease and herbal medicine.

Mary Shomon: I'm pleased to be able to highlight you and our work here at my Thyroid site for our thyroid patients and practitioners who frequent the site. First, I'd like to start out by just asking a bit about your philosophy on thyroid problems. As a natural healer, why do you think thyroid function becomes imbalanced, and why are we seeing more autoimmune thyroid disease here in the United States?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam: The thyroid as we know it in western medicine is a master-controlling gland having many different functions on the body. It is a part of the endocrine system, which in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is like the chakra system or the root or "essence" qi. Therefore, if the thyroid is out of balance from a TCM perspective it can effect the different organs in many ways, a few examples are: the Liver -controls the nervous and gynecological system such as cysts, fibroids, infertility and houses the emotions of frustration anger and depression; the Heart-too high or too low blood pressure, anxiety, palpitations, insomnia and the emotions of lack of joy and over emotionalism; the Spleen- which houses the emotions of worry and obsession while affecting the strength of the muscles and tissues of the body (fibromyalgia) and helps convert the food into strong blood (anemia/fatigue) as well as transforms "dampness" (fat); the Lung- which houses the emotions of grief and sadness and manifests as asthma, allergies, eczema, earaches and frequent colds and flu's: the Kidney- which houses the emotions of fear and insecurity and is the root of all of the other organs, which includes the functions of what western medicine calls the adrenal gland - sex hormones, female and male reproduction, cortisone, melatonin, DHEA, etc. and if weak then will have the symptoms of low back and joint pain, coldness, severe fatigue (chronic fatigue), decrease immunity and much more.

TCM doesn't have just one cause for the breakdown of the body's functions, but many different factors ranging from lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, emotions, genetics and the environment. As you can see from above symptoms that the lack of thyroid hormone causes pathogenesis in every organ system in the TCM medicine model, and this is why I say it is similar to what TCM calls the "essence".

Essence is what TCM calls pre ancestral qi (what our parents genetically gave us). When we're born we have the opportunity to preserve our essence by eating good "food qi" (healthy, unprocessed, organic, seasonal, body temperature and for appropriate for our particular constitution and blood type) and breath in good "air qi" (proper exercise, unbound breathable clothing, chemical free perfumes and cosmetics, clean air, etc.). Our "essence" mixed with "food qi" and "air qi" combine together to give us our "defensive qi" or immunity. If there is a breakdown in any of these factors either deficient "essence" (genetic problem), poor nutrition and/or inadequate oxygen, then we will see a breakdown in the immune system - autoimmune problems. In this fast paced, very "yang" society you can see where many breakdowns in the above theory happen and can see it is as individual a reason for the autoimmune problem as the person. Why are we seeing more autoimmune thyroid disease here in the United States? I think that our particular culture - always on the run, eating fast empty calories such as cold raw foods (salads, fruits, yogurts, sugar, etc.) trying to stay skinny to fit into the Hollywood image (starving ourselves) along with nutritionless, pesticide covered foods are causing us as a culture to be malnourished. This combined with the many chemicals (fluoride), pollutants and lack of exercise along with getting overchilled by indoor air-conditioning for long periods of time, not to mention wearing too tight and constricting clothing (bras, pantyhose, etc.) that we have been killing off our vitality for years. Perhaps this American lifestyle, polluted environment and conditioned habits mixed with more genetic hypothyroid parents producing more offspring is all adding up.

What I think is at the root of the problem is the paradigm we live in (all yang) and we as a part of nature are just manifesting the results of this type of lifestyle either created or passed down. If we were to change our whole way of being (more yin - equal rest, play and work, let our bodies be their normal healthy size, eating nutritious food and living closer to nature) maybe we would preserve our essence which would increase our immunity. This is easy to say, but like swimming upstream in a fast current to do. I think the real cause of this paradigm we live in is a lack of view of what life is for. The American Indians have the medicine wheel paradigm which was said to believe that the ultimate duty of a life was to have a good lifestyle all to support the spirit so it could do the work it was meant to do here on earth. The Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have a similar philosophy, with health being an important component of the entire philosophy of life, with the ultimate goal to be the cultivation of the spirit - peace.

I think we as a culture have not developed a paradigm such as this, as we are a young country, but it appears to be taking shape more and more as doctors and natural doctors begin to work together and yoga, tai chi, qigong (chi kung) and healthy foods are all being advocated. I think ultimately, because the people want them.

Mary Shomon: Do you feel that there are any natural alternatives to thyroid hormone replacement that would allow patients to either avoid starting prescription thyroid hormone replacement, or gradually reduce their dose over time?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam:There are no herbs that have thyroid hormone in them. That being said, there are herbal, lifestyle, and dietary choices that can be done to help the whole body, which in turn will help the thyroid. If we take the Chinese theory of: PREANCESTRAL QI (essence/genetics)+ FOOD QI + AIR QI = DEFENSIVE QI (immunity) Then what we want to do is foster the best food and oxygen to preserve our essence and maintain our immunity. So, if herbs are just specialized foods, they would fall under that category and be used to help the bodywork optimally.

As we know the thyroid hormones are mostly converted in the liver and the kidneys, so helping these two organs will help the conversion and give the thyroid a brake. Therefore we want the stomach to absorb the food at it's best so that the liver will have less toxins to cleanse and be able to convert the thyroid hormone better. Therefore we would want to eat easily digestible foods and take herbs that will help with digestion including ginger (if the person has mostly cold symptoms) and peppermint (if the person has cold and heat symptoms) and digestive grape bitters (neutral).

Planetary Formulas has products called Digestive Comfort and Digestive Grape bitters that will help. Guggul is known to help the thyroid and if you look at it's properties it is spicy and warm, like ginger, so it again increases the metabolism, while braking down cold clogging fat (cholesterol). Triphala has lots of enzymes, vitamin C and helps digestion and elimination, and since that is a problem with thyroid patients this would be good. Planetary has a product that combines Guggul and triphala, which would be very good for hypothyroid patients. Kelp has iodine in it, which is known to help the thyroid, so eating a little kelp, dulse, or kombu with our meals is a good idea. There are other liver regulating herbs and kidney strengthening herbs such as deer antler, rhemania, polygonum, shizandra and others that may be able to be used if the digestion is working well.

A big problem with taking tonifying herbs for hypothyroid patient's is that they are hard to digest, so if a person only takes digestive aids this may be as good as it gets and would help the patient more then if they were trying to take some heavy duty tonic's and were not digesting them. Some tonic's that are easier to digest and absorb are the Royal jelly, bee pollen and bee propolis. Since these are warmer energetically, yet a whole food the body can brake them down easier. They are known for increasing metabolism, nutrients and enzymes in the body, all-important for helping the thyroid work better.

For the immune system Reishi or Shiitaki mushroom supreme are good Planetary Formulas.

Planetary Formulas will be coming out with a formula called Thyro-boost that will incorporate all of the above principles, and be o.k. for hot hypothyroidism (acute - inflamed Hashimoto's-autoimmune) and cold type hypothyroidism (no inflammation, all cold symptoms only), as it will focus on digestion, metabolism and elimination in a neutral way, which can then have other formulas added in conjunction as needed.

There are many more herbs, as herbs can be used to treat the symptoms that are present, but I would say the place to start would be 1)cleansing the liver, 2)regulating the digestion and elimination, 3)tonifying the spleen and stomach (digestion) and 4)lastly tonifying the kidney/adrenals. This same principle would be true for acupuncture, exercise, etc. I believe the severity of a thyroid problem depends on the above factors, how strong is their genetic problem? How good or bad is their diet? Do they get enough healthy oxygen? Along with emotions, etc. I have known people who spent their whole life in a devotionally lifestyle, meditating three hours a day, fostering beautiful ashrams and orphanages that still had to be on their thyroid medication. I think it is short sided for complementary practitioners to think that we can fix anything, including the thyroid if we just do all the right things for our health. Some genetic thyroid problems are like type I diabetes, which people are born with and must be treated with insulin for the rest of their lives or they will die.

I know there is a big fear about going on something synthetic or even non-synthetic (Armour) because it replaces our thyroid and may shut our bodies down, and that is contraindicated if the adrenals are too weak (which makes one think that it could weaken our adrenals), but I think the opposite is true. If we do not have proper peristalsis or metabolism then we begin to run off of our adrenals and weaken them even more. If we use just the right amount, while incorporating the natural options we should be able to keep our dosages lower while preserving our adrenals and other healthy functions of the body. If we take too much thyroid, then of course we get burned out, but if we need it, and can't get our thyroids going after trying the natural stuff for 2 to 4 months, then we may need a little of it to help the body actually assimilate the natural products. Finding out what works for you is the key.

Mary Shomon: Some practitioners believe that the current increase in hypothyroidism in North America is stemming from a deficiency of iodine in the diet. Yet at the same time, many patients who decide to try to self-treat thyroid symptoms with iodine, kelp, or other iodine-rich herbal supplements report having a "crash" several days after beginning. Their energy flags, they feel profoundly hypothyroid, and cannot function well. This has happened to me personally several times, taking a variety of products containing iodine, and hundreds of other thyroid patients have written to me with similar reports. Some alternative practitioners believe that lack of iodine is not the cause of autoimmune hypothyroidism, and that iodine aggravates an autoimmune thyroid, which has seemed to be the case for me, and for many patients who have contacted me. Yet, I also know some herbal experts who feel quite strongly that supplemental iodine in some form is essential for thyroid patients. What are you thoughts about this controversial issue?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam:We do not give out plain iodine to our patients. Chinese medicine really believes that a combinations of herbs working together usually work best, and kelp (which is how they get iodine from herbs) is usually a very low percentage of the formula (5%) as it is very cold energetically and hard to digest and absorb. So it would always be used with some form of warming digestive herb to help it assimilate properly. Perhaps that is why you had a "crash" from it, because you could not digest it. It's not what we put into our bodies; it's what our bodies can do with it.

Mary Shomon: Many patients who are in the throes of hyperthyroidism due to Graves' Disease are reluctant to try herbal medicine, because they have such acute symptoms - palpitations, high blood pressure, tremors, etc. Frequently they are being shepherded to quickly have radioactive iodine permanently disable their thyroid. Have you found any herbal remedies for hyperthyroidism that work quickly, or that can be pursued in conjunction with the use of antithyroid drugs or beta blockers that are used to help manage the acute phase?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam:It depends on what you think quickly is. Generally, the more severe problems like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism take a lot of treatments to get under control, and may need both western and eastern/complementary methods to treat and stabilize. The person's should always try to work with their whole environment, lifestyle, foods, medications, herbs, treatments, exercise etc. to get the best results. I have seen a combination of acupuncture (2 to 3x's a week), Chi Kung (exercise), less spicy and greasy foods and some herbal formulas with cooling uncongesting properties help a lot within two months. I have seen the fast pulse rate decrease and the protruding eyes go back in and a lot of the symptoms decrease with this more aggressive approach (3x's a week of acupuncture treatments for 3 months). The herbs used are again specific for the patient's constitution, sometimes strong Chinese herbs such as oyster shell and dragon bone are used, and in acute stages I have seen western herbs such as St. John's wort and kava kava along with valerian be used. Kava kava is very sedating and works quickly, however it is spicy and hyperthyroid people are too hot so this could create a problem, especially if used long term, so it is very tricky and should be monitored by a health care provider. I think it is safe to say that chamomile and peppermint tea (room temperature) along with Planetary Formulas Easy Sleep, Stress Free and possibly Bupleurum Calmative are good over the counter formulas. As far as taking herbs along with other hyperthyroid drugs, if the herbs are taken two to three hours from the drugs it would decreases the interaction and may help the body rebalance more quickly, but again this would need to be prescribed by a health care provider who was knowledgeable about herb drug interactions.

Mary Shomon: One of the big controversies for thyroid patients is the issue of soy isoflavones. Some studies have reported that overconsumption of soy - particularly in the form of isoflavone-packed supplements and protein powders, can inhibit the thyroid peroxidase, the thyroid enzyme that makes the key hormones, T4 and T3, resulting in goiters, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune thyroid problems. A number of patients have reported developing thyroid symptoms after periods of excessive soy consumption. What are you thoughts about this process? For thyroid patients looking for natural ways to lower cholesterol, or prevent menopausal symptoms, are there other alternatives that might be more thyroid-friendly than soy products?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam: In Chinese medicine soy is considered very cold, so to balance it they always cook it with ginger, green onion and sesame oil to help the digestibility of it. Hypothyroidism is considered an excessive cold imbalance, so eating anything that is cold in nature (soy, ice cream, lots of salads, and even chilled foods) will increase this imbalance and make it even harder for the body to assimilate nutrition from food. So, if we are to eat soy, it should be in moderation, always cooked and have the balancing herbs to help digest it such as ginger, etc.

I had a young male patient who came to my office with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, but upon further inspection, he had all the classic hypothyroid symptoms. After running a thorough blood test his TSH was found to be 40 along with low Total T3. We immediately took him off all the soy protein drinks and put him on a mostly warm cooked diet, got him on the appropriate thyroid medications and he reported significant improvement in most of his symptoms. However, he still felt his stomach was not right, and after a stool test found he had very high candida (which is considered to be dampness in TCM). He is now focusing on treating his candida (with warm cooked foods, and appropriate herbs) to warm and dry the dampness (candida) out of his body. He says the symptoms all started when he began drinking excessive amounts of soy protein drinks and he believes that this may have brought on his hypothyroidism and candida.

Guggul has been found to be very helpful for cholesterol as well as red yeast. I have personally seen red yeast lower triglycerides by 200 points in 6 weeks while lowering the cholesterol about 20 points. I have also seen a triglycerides level of 760 go to 250 and cholesterol go from 270 to 213 in about 9 months with the combination of Chinese herbs, red yeast, vitamins and diet change. Regarding menopause, the herb called vitex or chaste berry is used extensively in Europe for helping the balance between estrogen and progesterone. Lesley Tierra has made a wonderful product called Menochange the has many of the menopause herbs in it which is available through Planetary Formulas. Single herbs that are used are peony, dioscorea, black cohosh and others, but we find that formulas tend to work better because of the synergistic balancing of the herbs.

Mary Shomon: The three symptoms that tend to plague most people who are hypothyroid are: (1) fatigue, (2) weight gain/difficulty losing weight, and (3) depression. Can you suggest some natural and herbal ideas that can be of help for thyroid patients who are still suffering these symptoms?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam: (1) Fatigue:

A)Qigong - the "simplified Tai Chi" is a system of exercise from Chinese medicine that uses posture (movement), breath(breathing practices) and mind intent (visualization), to balance and strengthen the bodies energies. I have personally had a patient who was so weak from Lupus and thyroid problems that I advised him not to receive acupuncture, as the theory is that it takes some qi (energy) to move qi, so if a person is too weak then the acupuncture needles will have nothing to move and can even make the person weaker. This same concept is true for people wanting to go out and do aerobic exercise to get stronger, but actually end up running off of their adrenal glands and end up weakening their already compromised adrenal system. So I advised this patient to do Qigong only, with whatever limited foods he could eat, but have them room temp to warm and cooked to help assimilation. I advised him to keep well covered from the wind and not to take any herbs at this time as he was too weak and too allergic to everything to add new things at this time. This man was completely disabled, severely fatigued and looked like he was 70 when he was only in his mid 30's. He took my advice and began studying Qigong from my husband Arnold Tayam, Doctor of Medical Qigong (China). He got both forms of Qigong a)the qi emission sessions where the Qigong Therapist emits energy out of his hands into acupuncture points to rebalance the body (two times a week) and b) qigong meditation, movement practices daily (which he did for two hours a day on his own at home or at class). Within a few months this man normalized his free t3, some of the lupus test values normalized and he reported an increased his strength, stamina, flexibility and vitality. Some people who are not this weak do very well with regular acupuncture or moxibustion (herbal heat therapy) treatments. You have to give it time though. If you really want to undertake fatigue it is good to rule out all western causes ranging from thyroid, to Epstein Barr, candida, adrenal and female hormones, allergies, vitamin and anemia test, etc. then give yourself and a practitioner at least 3 to 9 months to see what can be accomplished together. There is an old Chinese saying that it takes 9 months to create a baby, the first three months you may not even see any changes, but as 6 to 9 months come along it all begins to accumulate in a substantial way. This is the same for all chronic diseases.

B) Bone marrow broth's (see my father Michael Tierra's web site) and Chinese congees (in my father's book, The Way of Chinese Herbs) can be eaten on a regular basis as they are very well cooked and assimilated much more easily in our bodies. A few selected herbs can be cooked into these foods to help bring in the nutrients from herbs in a digestible way like citrus peels, astragalus, codonopsis, ginger, lycii berries and codonopsis.

C) Royal jelly, bee pollen and bee propolis have many healing properties and are especially good for hypothyroid patients with fatigue because again, they are more warm in nature, and are packed with enzymes, B vitamins and minerals which nurture the blood and qi and since they are a whole food, are much more digestible.

D) Deer antler is known to help hypothyroidism and fatigue as it is packed with nutrients that are known to not only strengthen the blood, qi and yin and yang, but also, more importantly, the essence. Planetary has just come out with a deer antler product.

E) The Planetary Formulas Bu Zhong Yi Qi tang, Gui pi tang, Menochange and Women's Treasure are all great all around energy builders, but may need to be taken with digestive herbs such as Digestive Comfort . If digestion is really bad, you can dissolve the tablets in hot water so that they are more like a tea.

F) A good probiotic is always recommended to restore the friendly bacteria in the intestines.

G) Using heat therapy, such as a hot water bottle ten minutes a day over the lower abdomen and upper back can be useful in creating better circulation for the lungs and the intestines, which helps the metabolism over all.

H) Equal rest, play and work.

I) Try the "eat right for your blood type" diet theories along with the Chinese theories of food for your constitution (can be found in the book Herbal Healing Secrets of the Orient or Between Heaven and Earth).

2) Weight gain/difficulty-losing weight

A) The great book I just mentioned above called Herbal Healing Secrets of the Orient, written by my father's student, Darlena L'Orange, it talks about eating for your constitutional body type and eating with the seasons. Many of us do not know what our predominate body type according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is and what foods benefit and what foods aggravate our constitution. For example, a hypothyroid patient has deficient "yang" or heat in their body and if they want to loose weight they must eat more warming foods to counteract the slow, cold metabolism. When we exercise we get hot, sweat and burn calories, if we drink a freezing cold drink on top of that we will squelch all of the heat and metabolism we just increased. Therefore, if we want to loose weight and have deficient heat and internal coldness, we must eat mostly warm cooked, less watery and more hearty foods (like root veggies, whole grains, protein) and decrease or stay away from the frozen fruit smoothies, yogurts, salads, ice teas, etc. Refrigerated foods and drink are a new phenomenon of the 20th century and we really have no idea how shocking this may be repeatedly used on our bodies. Most cultures do not serve iced drinks as we do at every meal, and the Chinese never have chilled foods. It may seem hard at first, but over time your taste buds change and cold food and drink is way too cold. As our bodies get warmer, perhaps with the thyroid naturally regulating or from medication, we may be able to handle the occasional chilled foods without it causing stomach distress and weight gain as readily.

B) Eating right from your blood type (see the book Eat Right for Your Blood Type) has been shown to really help most people loose weight and I think there is something to this. I think perhaps the combination of knowing what your TCM constitution or Ayurvedic constitution mixed with your blood type recommendations is a great idea.

C) In the book Herbal Healing Secrets of the Orient,there is a recipe called Spring Kicharee, which I use for all of my patients who want to loose weight. People should eat it minimum three times a day for 7 to 14 days (14 is best). It is a wonderful tonifying cleanse in that it has cleansing herbs and foods in it, without being low on calories and causing your body to go into starvation. I recommend that my patients eat it with steamed or sautéed veggies (not the nightshade family though,) and if they are more of an B or O blood type, or feel weak, add a little bit of animal protein. I also recommend that they take Planetary Formulas Triphala or Triphala-Garcinia formula with the Bupleurum Liver Cleanse at the same time as this cleanse. It is remarkable how people's cravings change, their excess dampness comes off and their energy increases. The herbs in the recipe - turmeric, cumin and coriander are renown for helping digestion and increasing metabolism, and the beans are a natural diuretic. An master yogi named Baba Hari Das taught the kicharee recipe to my Father, saying that kicharee a very balanced food and is what the Indian sages live off of, and Darlena took the recipe and added herbs and veggies for each season and body type making up 5 unique recipe's. The wonderful thing about the spring kicharee is that is has blood cleansing and liver cleansing herbs in it which is so important for hypothyroidism as the liver is where most of the thyroid hormones are converted and other important hormones are eliminated. The beans are known to be kidney tonics and this is very helpful for hypothyroid patient's as the kidneys are also considered part of the adrenals so helping the kidney's be stronger helps the conversion of the thyroid hormones as well as the strength of the adrenal hormones. Most of my patient's lose 7 to 10 pounds in 7 to 10 days while eating plenty of food! I recommend that they get a ketone dipstick from the Drug store to make sure they do not loose too much weight at once, but I have never seen anyone test positive, so I believe that they are not starving, their systems are just rebalancing and the weight is a reflection of this. They can then follow the food suggestions for their blood type (book live right for your blood type) along with their constitution and the season (as in the book Herbal Healing Secrets of the Orient). Then, after about three to four weeks a person can do the kicharee cleanse again, and perhaps try one of the other recipes if it seems appropriate and loose another 5 to 10 pounds and so forth. I have seen great success with this program and really like it because people are not starving themselves, yet they loose weight and most importantly gain energy! There have only been a few patients who just could not stomach this recipe and others that I also recommended the use of Beano digestive enzymes, but most people come to really like it after about day three or four.

D) Decrease the use of processed, refined foods and drink along with excess dairy and yeasted foods such as pasta's and breads.

E) Regular exercise. Could even be easy exercise like walking, yoga, etc. Minimum 20 minutes 3 times a week.

F) Drink lots of water. Particularly "organic" waters like the brands Trinity, Fiji or Evian as they still have some of the naturally occurring minerals left in them.

3) Depression

A) Exercise. Research shows that just 20 minutes of light aerobic exercise a day can increase your seratonin and decrease depression. Yoga, Tai chi and Chi Kung are also good forms of less strenuous but strengthening exercises. Some people do better or high impact aerobic exercise where they are also able to let some of their pent up emotions out.

B) St. John's wort and Kava Kava are known to help depression and anxiety. Planetary Formulas has a product called Bupleurum Calmative the is an ancient Chinese formula known to help depression, and mixed with St. John's wort may be a very good combination.

C) Make sure you're having enough good carbohydrates, as these are known to help the serotonin in the brain also (the book Potatoes not Prozac gets into this). I've seen people on the high protein diet's eat too little complex carbohydrates and become depressed and get anxiety and insomnia, and with the addition of a little brown rice cream with rice milk (unopposed carbohydrates) calm down, feel happier and go right to bed.

D) Spiritual cultivation. Is your life in line with who you feel you truly are? A counselor may be able to help with this, or meditation, or good friends, etc.

Mary Shomon: One problem that some thyroid patients have had trouble with is persistent constipation. An ayurvedic herbalist recommended that I try your father's Triphala product (Planetary Formula's Triphala), and frankly, I've been a great fan of this product ever since. Can you tell us a little bit about Triphala, and how it works?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam: Persistent constipation is a big problem because the body needs to eliminate its waste or it becomes toxic inside the body. You could be eating as pure are possible, but without proper elimination your body becomes a toxic waste dump. This is where increased airborne and food allergies are a common side effect. If our body has healthy bacteria and good elimination then our immunity is better.

a) The main Planetary Formula there is for this is Triphala. It is made of three fruits from India and has a lot of vitamin C as well as digestive enzymes.

b) Getting a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis is a good idea to see how many functions of your intestines are working from your pH to your unfriendly bacteria to candida. You can get these from your health care provider who can order them from Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratories or Meridian Valley Lab.

c) The kicharee can be used like an "elimination diet" and once completed you can reintroduce different foods back into your diet and see which one's you may be more allergic to.

d) You can do the "Elimination diet", which is hard, but helpful.

e) Eat lots of fiber, including flax seeds and use flaxseed oil. You can put two tablespoons of ground flax seeds on your food every day.

f) Use probiotics and fermented foods such as miso to reestablish friendly bacteria into the gut.

g) Try eating the proper diet for your blood type and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) constitutional type.

h) Be careful eating too much protein as it has little to no fiber (except beans). Some people have very little hydrochloric acid (which can be detected in a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis test) and may need to use a little bit with meals particularly to help digest animal protein. Digestive bitters can help this also.

i) Keep trying different things until you find what helps you.

Mary Shomon: Another frequent complaint of thyroid patients is persistent hair loss that doesn't slow down despite being on thyroid hormone replacement. In fact, in some cases, it even becomes worse once a patient begins taking Synthroid, or Armour Thyroid. Is there any herbal help for thyroid patients suffering from hair loss?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam:The hair is governed by the kidney qi in Chinese medicine. That is why you may see an old tai chi master who still has naturally black hair, great flexibility while the his body may be wrinkly. The art of cultivating the kidney qi is of the utmost importance to the Chinese who practice their philosophy. They believe in everything in moderation, not going to big extremes. Even too much excitement, or sex, they feel is unhealthy for the body. That is why you may see millions of them doing tai chi and qigong in the parks in the morning in China. They are rarely seen running or straining themselves in exercise and believe in moderation in their lives. If the blood is weak (lack of nutrients) then the hair will get thin. This can happen by being too stimulated (excess physical activity or yang hormones like testosterone) or not enough stimulus (like not enough nutrients from the food, poor metabolism and absorption, etc.). That is why the hypothyroid patient has a problem with this because first they have bad metabolism and absorption so as many as 40% of them are anemic (weak blood) and they are having to run off of their adrenals to just keep going, which weakens their kidney qi (reserves). I have seen blood building foods and herbs help, while eliminating the false stimulants like coffee, sugar, nicotine that burn up our reserves. Some of the foods that I have seen help are the iron rich foods such as bone marrow broths, liver, green leafy veggies, etc. The herbs that I have seen work are blood tonics such as polygonum, dang qui, lycii, kelp, rhemania, peony, dioscorea (wild yam), royal jelly, bee pollen and bee propolis. If the thyroid hormone is overstimulating the adrenals (even subtly) this may cause more of the hair to fall out. It is better if a person regulates their lifestyle, food, habits, exercise to optimize the absorption and assimilation of the medication so that they will not need as much to survive. Again, it is a balancing act to find the way.

Mary Shomon: How would you suggest a thyroid patient go about finding the best natural practitioner or herbalist to aid in thyroid treatment?

Shasta Tierra-Tayam: I think looking up different practitioners such as the Thyroid Top Doctors off your site is a good place to begin. Then there is Andrew Weil's site, which has numerous health care providers across the country, as well as many acupuncturist's. There is the American Herbalist Guild, which has many respected herbalist's across the country. I think it is important to find out what their experience and philosophies are. It is important that they have a comprehensive system that treats the patient's individual symptoms individually, verses one thing for all. Are they totally western medicine oriented or totally alternative medicine, or can they see the strengths and weaknesses of both? Are they up to date with the latest literature (like off of your web site?). Do they seem like they truly care, or are they going to think that you're a hypochondriac and neurotic? Do you feel like you are in partnership with them, or is it all one sided? Hopefully you will be blessed enough to find a team of doctor's that are willing to work together to help you with your health.

Mary Shomon: This has been fascinating, and I would like to thank you for being so generous with your time and helping to address the concerns of thyroid patients. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Thyroid disease is very disabling for many. If it comes on slowly then you can feel as if your life force is slowly draining out of you and you don't know why. If it comes on quickly, you can feel like you've been hit by a semi truck (Marie Osmond's post partum runaway from the family depression). Thank God people are starting to speak out and books like Living Well with Hypothyroidism are available now, as it seems that mainstream medicine doctors are still stuck on the simplistic TSH with the wrong ranges for the lab test. The above answers are only suggestions, by no means has anyone figured out all the answers for thyroid disease. We are the pioneers, and we have the ability to help shape the way and hopefully ease the suffering for future generations. Thank you Mary for making a place for all of us to contribute our ideas and experiences to further this cause and help us all live well with thyroid disease.

About Shasta Tierra-Tayam

As a licensed primary health care provider, Shasta Tierra-Tayam uses Acupuncture, Clinical Herbology, Nutrition and Acupressure for the treatment of a broad range of common ailments. Having grown up surrounded by the healing arts, Shasta had the rare opportunity to study under the tutelage of her father, Dr. Michael Tierra O.M.D. L.Ac. author of many books including the best selling book, The Way of Herbs. With over ten years as a health care provider, Shasta specializes and teaches on hypothyroidism, women's health care, pain management and whole body and facial rejuvenation. Shasta has lectured and practiced Chinese Medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine at O'Connor Hospital, as well as taught at the American School of Herbalism. Her unique approach incorporates a total health program aimed at achieving whole life enrichment.

Shasta Tierra-Tayam, Licensed Acupuncturist, AHG
The Longevity Center
2171 Darnis Circle Morgan Hill, CA 95037

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