Thyroid Health and Menopause: A Naturopathic Approach
A woman’s natural life cycle presents an ever-changing landscape of potential health issues. Hormones, in particular, can be affected by the milestones of puberty, childbirth and menopause. Menopause-related hormone imbalance can be increasingly problematic due to lowered functioning of an aging thyroid, a gland that plays a large role in regulating hormones.
Thyroid imbalances can cause weight issues, anxiety and depression, fatigue, skin and hair changes, indigestion, sleep issues and more. Since thyroid imbalances can also be caused by autoimmune diseases and can have a genetic component, or can even be triggered by viruses, the first step in treating imbalances should always involve a proper medical diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, a naturopathic treatment plan can be created. Because no part of the human body operates independently of the rest of the body, a holistic perspective is essential when addressing thyroid issues.
A founding naturopathic principle holds that if the body is in proper balance, it can tolerate the fluctuation of hormones. Traditional naturopathy considers the health of all major organ systems in the body, acid/alkaline balance and naturopathic detoxification. Specifically, naturopathy seeks to remove offenders (allergens), replace what nutrients might be missing and repair damage (inflammation). While a naturopathic approach to hormonal imbalance considers many factors, including exercise , stress and emotions, nutrition and sleep play a central role in restoring health.
Research shows that certain nutrients can nourish the thyroid gland, such as antioxidants and the herbs ashwagandha, schisandra and ginseng. Additionally, women experiencing menopause benefit from specific nutrients, such as B vitamins and minerals.
Adding to the nutritional challenge, certain foods, especially when refined, often become difficult to digest as we age. Eating more plant-based foods can be beneficial, with the caveat that soy and wheat are not nourishing foods for the thyroid and are common allergens. Engaging in nutritional cleansing can help reduce overload in the liver, the essential organ that manages hormonal fluctuations.
The lack of restorative sleep often underlies all other health challenges, especially during menopause. Naturo-pathic approaches integrate sleep hygiene, restoring sleep cycles and nourishing the nervous system. Commonly used herbs include chamomile, passion flower, valerian and skullcap. Supplements may include melatonin and minerals, which help to calm the body. Since sleep is a naturally occurring human phenomenon, natural sleep cycles can usually be restored, depending on how long the imbalance has occurred.
Aging is a natural part of life, but with the proper whole-system approach to changing needs, delicate balances can be not only maintained, but enriched.
Lynn W. Feinman, owner of Natural Health Options, in Paoli, is a naturopathic doctor and yoga instructor specializing in health recovery and detoxification programs. For more information, call 610-608-1430 or visit NaturalHealthOptions.us.
May 2016 Issue