The Doshas, Diet, Toxins, and the Health of the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is like a very delicate flower that needs to be watered daily and meticulously cared for. If there is any problem anywhere in the body, whether it comes from lack of nourishment, electromagnetic exposure, infections, an overload of stress or toxins, this little flower will wilt, taking your physiology down with it.
On the brighter side, however, if you just give a little more attention to your body--resting, nourishing, and detoxifying it--your thyroid gland will bounce right back, giving you the glowing health and metabolism you long for. This is one of the reasons why we can’t devote all our therapies to just the thyroid gland--every problem throughout the whole body is tugging away at this gland, so in order to improve its function, the health of the whole body needs to be addressed. Ignoring these underlying problems and just supporting the thyroid gland is a treatment option that is bound to fail.
Doshic Imbalance at the Root of all Thyroid Disorders
Ayurveda prides itself on identifying imbalances at the deepest level. Before we unfold the numerous causes of thyroid dysfunction, it is imperative to understand that behind everything we see, whether it is low or high hormones, whatever the symptoms may be--hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease, even thyroid cancer--we must first consider balancing the three doshas. This is usually the first step in tackling any thyroid symptom, whether hair loss, arrhythmias, weight gain, depression, or fatigue. Don’t be tempted to treat all these symptoms without addressing their root causes. If you treat the symptoms without balancing the three doshas, your results will be minimal and temporary.
Review of the Three Doshas
The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. The ancient doctors always liked to trace health problems back to these elements, which, if out of balance, were considered the very first steps in a gradual decline in one’s health. Therefore, it is imperative that you begin your search here when looking for the root of your symptoms.
These three doshas comprise the five elements found in nature: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Since humans are a microcosm of nature, these five basic elements--present in all matter--also exist within each of us. These elemental principles control all our bodily functions, and it is up to us to keep them balanced. But to do that, you must first understand exactly what they are and how they affect your body:
Vata represents the elements of space and air. Its qualities are quick, light, cold, dry, rough, subtle, mobile, erratic, dispersing.
Pitta represents the elements of fire and water. Its qualities are light, hot, oily, sharp, liquid, sour, pungent.
Kapha represents the elements of earth and water. Its qualities are heavy, cold, oily, slow, slimy, dense, soft, static, sweet.
We are all born with differing amounts of these three doshas. Thus, there are different body types. The various combinations could be: Pure Vata, Pure Pitta, Pure Kapha, or combinations of Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Vata, Pitta-Kapha, Vata-Kapha, Kapha-Vata, Kapha-Pitta or all three balanced, Vata-Pitta-Kapha. These represent the amounts of all three doshas you were born with. However, these elements will change as various influences in the environment and other stressors throw your body out of balance. Your current imbalances can be diagnosed through the pulse and by various characteristics of the patient’s appearance and symptoms.
Vata is the element of coldness, causing cold hands and feet when imbalanced. It is also quick, representing the element of movement, thus you can become restless and scattered, endlessly talking and moving, making it difficult to stay focused. Light by nature, vata can translate to light sleep, or a tendency for insomnia as your nervous system cannot settle down. Vata is rough and dry, so you may notice rough and dry hair, skin, and nails.
Vata tends to emaciate the body’s tissues, causing osteoporosis, weight loss, or thinning hair. Imbalanced vata moves thoughts quickly through the mind, so you can absorb information quickly and then forget it quickly. Because your physiology is running fast you can become fatigued as the body cannot keep up with the fast-moving pace you force your it to undergo every day. Are you noticing yet that many of these symptoms are also characteristics of thyroid imbalance?
A good rule of thumb to keep the doshas balanced is to do the opposite of the aggravated dosha to bring it back into balance. So, a vata type must learn to slow down; get proper rest; eat warm, cooked unctuous foods; stay warm; and resist the temptation to go to bed late, work too hard, or exercise too much.
Throughout the thirty years of my practice, I have noticed hundreds of instances of vata types contributing to their thyroid problems by weakening their endocrine systems through incessant talking and boundless activity--which are on full display when they visit my office. This is a recipe for adrenal burnout and is the first step toward thyroid weakness. The endocrine glands cannot handle this amount of intense activity. The adrenals and thyroid glands are the batteries we run on. They can become depleted and in need of a recharge, accomplished through proper rest, nourishing diet, and early bedtime. In the early stages, vata aggravation and hyperactivity can push the thyroid gland into a hyperthyroid (or overactive) state. But over time the gland will fatigue and become hypothyroid (or underactive) and unable to produce enough hormones.
Vata aggravation can weaken not only the thyroid gland and the whole endocrine system but also the seven dhatus (the seven tissues in the body according to Ayurveda: blood plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive fluids).
If you can fully understand what vata is and how imbalancing it can affect your thyroid gland, then any treatments you undertake will work more effectively if, at the same time, you learn to balance the disturbed vata.