Healing with homeopathy: homeopathy for thyroid problems part 1: a woman with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Why Consider Homeopathy for Thyroid Imbalances?
When prospective patients or family members ask us whether we recommend classical homeopathic care for individuals, we unhesitatingly respond positively. Whether the diagnosis is hyperthyroidism (Graves' disease), hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, in our clinical experience, it is well worth pursuing treatment with an experienced homeopath. By the time that patients contact us, in the case of hypothyroidism, most have already been taking medication, often for years or decades. The longer the history of medication, the more difficult it may be to discontinue it, but our Indian colleagues have presented a number of cases in which the correct homeopathic medicine could in fact replace the pharmaceutical.
Homeopathy has distinct advantages over conventional treatment, for patients in general and for patients with thyroid problems:
* One substance from nature, prepared homeopathically, is prescribed for the whole person - physically, mentally, and emotionally. The prescription is based on the experience and the sensation of the chief complaint, in this case the thyroid symptoms. However, the in-depth process of homeopathic case taking seeks to reveal the one medicine that brings into balance not only the thyroid, but the entire organism. This means that not only the fatigue, weight changes, sleep and appetite disturbance, metabolic imbalance, and body temperature abnormalities will be resolved, but also any other symptom that the person may be experiencing, be it anxiety, depression, asthma, constipation, or hormonal issues. This concept of one single medicine for all of the individual's complaints is much the opposite of contemporary conventional medicine, in which a patient can easily find herself taking four or more medications for her individually prescribed ills.
* The substance prescribed is safe and natural. Even the most effective pharmaceutical drugs are accompanied by a list of potentially harmful side effects. Whether the drug be a statin or a mood enhancer or stabilizer, an antibiotic or a corticosteroid, you can bet that the bottle will be accompanied by a required brochure of the potential side effects. In some cases., the results of the medication are more debilitating than the original complaint. On a number of occasions, a patient of ours disappears from treatment for several months, or years, only to return in much worse health that when we last saw him, on numerous medications and feeling terrible. This scenario generally occurs when the patient receives a diagnosis and medical advice that frightens him into pursuing conventional medicine. It is not to say that modern medicine is without its benefits - far from it. However, homeopathic and alternative medicine can often do a far better job of keeping people healthy. Homeopathic medicines are safe enough for babies, seniors, pets, and pregnant moms. No need to read the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) to protect yourself from homeopathic medicines!
* Homeopathy individualizes treatment. Homeopathy treats patients, not disease. There are over 2000 medicines in the homeopathic materia medica. You will be appreciated and treated for your uniqueness, for how your experience of your symptoms is different from others with the same diagnosis. In this time of cookie-cutter patient care, you can depend on your homeopath's treating you as an individual.
* Homeopaths spend lots of time with their patients. We typically spend an hour and a half or two on the first visit. It is not unusual, if we think that we need to understand the patient more completely, to schedule another half-hour to an hour before choosing the appropriate homeopathic medicine. You will feel listened-to and, hopefully, understood in a new way. You will not sense that your homeopath has one hand on the doorknob of his consultation room door, as is often the case with rushed, overbooked conventional physicians.
* Successful homeopathic treatment enables not only improvement in symptoms, but an overall enhancement of well-being. The kinds of reports that we most like to hear from our patients are: "I feel myself again." "I haven't felt this well in years." "My friends and relatives ask what I'm doing to feel so Rood."
What to Expect from Homeopathic Treatment for Thyroid Problems
Typically, patients begin to feel significantly better within several weeks of taking a well-prescribed homeopathic medicine. The improvements are likely to include:
* increased physical energy, stamina, and passion for life
* improvement in such associated physical symptoms as coarse hair, hair loss, skin problems, and digestion
* decrease in size of goiters or nodules
* weight loss in the case of an underfunctioning thyroid and gain in hyperthyroidism, as appropriate
* improved sleep, normal appetite and body temperature greater concentration, clarity of mind, creativity, calmness, and well-being
* improvement in abnormal thyroid blood values
Medicines to Consider for Patients With Thyroid Problems
It is fascinating, though not surprising, that many of the homeopathic medicines used successful in the treatment of thyroid disease are composed of iodium (iodine) or its salts or sea animals with a high concentration of iodine. Of course, each patient's case is individualized and could require any one of over 2000 medicines, from the plant, animal, or mineral kingdom, as well as a nosode, or even an imponderable. The iodine remedies are mineral elements or salts. So, although it would be impossible to narrow the medicine choice to only iodine salts and sea animals, it gives an insight into some of the medicines that can be helpful.
Sea animal medicines indicated in the homeopathic literature for thyroid problems include Ambra grisea (waste product of the whale, commonly known as ambergris), Badiaga (freshwater sponge), Calcarea carbonicum (calcium carbonate or oyster shell), Sepia (cuttlefish), and Spongia (toasted sponge). Aqua marina (sea water) is also mentioned. Other salts, mostly iodides, that have successfully treated thyroid conditions include Arsenicum iodatum (arsenic iodide), Aurum iodatum (gold iodide), Baryta iodatum (barium iodide), Calcarea iodatum (calcium iodide), Ferrum iodatum (iron iodide), lodum (iodine), Kali iodatum (potassium iodide), Lithium iodatum (lithium Iodide), Magnesium iodatum (magnesium iodide), Mercurius iodatum flavus and ruber (two mercury iodides), Natrum iodatum (sodium iodide), and Natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride). Thyroidinum, made from the thyroid gland, has also been known to be effective in some cases. Again, through individualization of the symptoms and the state, any homeopathic medicine could potentially be indicated for an individual suffering from thyroid problems.
A Case of Thyroiditis
Joan was a 45-year-old musician and administrative assistant. She dressed smartly and had an air of self-assurance about her. Her graying brown hair was neatly coiffed. She demonstrated extreme attention to detail in everything she did. She added six pages of handwritten information to an already comprehensive medical history form just to make sure that we had all of the relevant information. Joan was referred by another naturopathic doctor, who several months before had run laboratory tests that indicated hyperthyroidism.
Joan's thyroid was slightly enlarged. She had a fine tremor of the head, noticeable when she spoke. Her hands trembled when writing, making it difficult to control her handwriting. Joan was chilly, she complained of cold hands and feet, and her toes cramped during cold weather. Her heels were sensitive to pressure when lying in bed. She had to wear high heels for comfort. Joan became stiff if she did not exercise. Her joints would lock in the cold. She suffered from a slipped cartilage in her right index finger and some neck stiffness. Joan did not enjoy physical activity as a rule, but she did enjoy walking alone. She complained of dry, itchy patches of skin, which became red after bathing.
She recounted a history of whooping cough, recurrent bronchitis, and croup as a child. Her tonsils and adenoids were removed and her adenoids treated with radium. She wore braces for 10 years as a child. She was slow to grow until age 12. Her upper jaw was underdeveloped and she had to have teeth removed. Joan developed ulcerative colitis at age 16, when her parents were experiencing marital discord. At the time, she denied that there was any problem with her parents. Joan had surgery for rectal fissures, hemorrhoids, and a rectal abscess; anemia followed the surgery. She had been diagnosed with a calcification in one of her lungs since college.
Joan's mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis in her 20s. Her two maternal aunts had suffered from TB as well. Family history also included colon and breast cancer, myocardial infarctions, strokes, and mental illness. Joan's half-sister, 19 years her senior, had suffered from diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Joan described her mother as manipulative, verbally abusive, and mentally unstable. Her father was quiet and ineffectual. Joan had been given responsibilities in the family in her teens, as her mother was incapable of managing her household duties. She was her mother's caregiver until age 23, when she left the family in order to protect herself. She never saw her mother again, except from a distance during her parents' divorce proceedings. Joan simply did not trust her.
Joan was relatively healthy after her teens until her parents' deaths, at which time she was living in Saudi Arabia. She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which began during a time when her distrust of her mother presented itself strongly, and hepatitis, as a result of a reaction to sulfasalazine. Her medications included 5-ASA daily and Imodium occasionally for loose stools. Joan lost 20 pounds in six weeks, and reported episodes of diarrhea six times a day at the time. The diarrhea began to resolve after stopping sulfasalazine. In 1981, she had also experienced iritis for a period of six months, which was treated with steroids.
Joan loved to travel and to live in foreign countries. She enjoyed the slower pace of a Mediterranean lifestyle. When she thought she would have to remain in the US, the diarrhea returned. Music was also a passion, but Joan was frustrated by a lack of opportunities to perform. Joan was quite concerned about her husband's health. She experienced anxiety when driving through tunnels.
At the time of her first visit, Joan had been diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and was being treated with botanical medicine and hydrotherapy, and her T4 had decreased from a high of 14.9 to 7.75, which was within normal range. Her T3 uptake had increased from 35.6 to 49.3 and her TSH was elevated (6.8). Joan also had an elevated antimicrosomal antibody (91.6 ), as well as elevated antithyroglobulin antibody (14.8).
Five days after the initial appointment, Joan sent us a complete five-page list of food desires, aversions, and aggravations and a three-page list of personal and household products that she used.
The Prescription and Follow-up
We prescribed Calcarea iodata in the 6C potency, repeated three times daily. It covered the thyroid symptoms, her diarrhea, anxiety, chilliness, joint symptoms, and a feeling of mistrust of and betrayal by her mother. Joan's manner was slow and methodical. She reported growth problems as a child, and late development of bones and teeth, both of which are characteristic features of Calcarea. Her presentation of information indicated that she was extremely detail-oriented, organized, and conscientious about trifles. Her conscientiousness led her to make extensive lists of all her food desires, products used, daily moods, bowel movements, and symptoms in exhaustive detail. She didn't want her doctor to miss any possible scrap of information that would help us prescribe for her. Those needing lodum are known for making lists like this.
The thyroid problems suggested an iodine salt. Her tendency to overconcern and her having to take on too much responsibility as a teenager suggested Calcarea. Joan was chilly, had an enlarged thyroid, and yet she had been hyperthyroid. There was not a good enough case for either lodum or Calcarea Carbonica alone, so we chose the combined salt.
There are references to Calcarea iodata in Boericke's, Kent's, and Mathur's materias medicas. It is known as a tubercular remedy; indeed, a remedy for tuberculosis itself. This remedy has bronchitis and croup, which were in Joan's history. Also characteristic is an enlargement of the thyroid gland (often starting at puberty). Calcarea iodata is known for diarrhea, with frequent watery or mushy stools. It has enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids, which Joan had had removed and irradiated as a child. It was predominantly a warm remedy, according to Kent, as one would expect from the lodum component, but it also could be chilly, as one would expect from the Calcarea component. The trembling and twitching were also well covered by the medicine.
Joan waited one month to begin taking the remedy in order to gradually discontinue the medication, under the guidance of the prescribing physician. She also took some time to read more about homeopathy because it was a new approach for her and she felt anxious about trying it.
We next saw Joan one month after beginning the Calcarea iodata. She presented a daily summary of her symptoms, as well as five typed pages of journal entries for the month. She reported feeling less chilly. Her toe cramps had diminished in frequency. Her finger joints had no longer been locking. Her T4 was now in the normal range (6.4). Joan's husband noticed that she was calmer and less irritable. Sleep was improved. Joan remarked that her mouth was dry, and she had developed a crack in the right corner of her mouth, which came and went. She commented that her energy was increased, even at the end of her work day. Her bowel movements were formed with greater frequency. Her head tremor was unchanged. The Calcarea iodata appeared to be beginning to act, so we advised her to continue taking it at the same potency and frequency.
Joan returned six weeks later. Her head tremor had markedly decreased. Her T4 levels were still normal, and the antimicrosomal antibodies had decreased to 82. Antithryroglobulin antibodies were unchanged. TSH was normal at 4.0. Handwriting continued to be easier. Her right upper eyelid was drooping to a lesser degree. Joan no longer complained of being chilly now. Her energy had definitely increased and her moods continue to improve, with noticeably less irritability. Joan was please to have lost 3 pounds. Her food desires and aversions were unchanged. At this point it seemed that the remedy was definitely acting, and it was continued as before.
Six weeks later, Joan's head tremor was almost completely gone. She experienced it only if she got very upset. Her handwriting was comfortable. Her right eyelid no longer drooped. There was no stiffness in her right thumb and finger. Her energy level was quite good. Joan's thyroid was not enlarged. Thyroid tests were mostly normal. T3 uptake was 29.61, T4 was 8.25, FTI was 2.4, TSH was 2.2. Antithyroglobulin antibody was the same at 14.2, and antimicrosomal antibody was decreased, but still elevated (23.9) We advised her to continue the regimen of the Calcarea iodata.
After another five weeks later, all of Joan's symptoms had resolved except occasional dryness of the shins. Her thyroid was normal size. Her case seemed to be resolving nicely. She was given a single dose of Calcarea iodata 200C, and we instructed her to return in two months for additional thyroid testing.
Over the course of homeopathic treatment for two more years, Joan continued to improve and only needed the Calcarea iodata. Although her antibody levels did not become completely normal, all of her symptoms improved considerably, as did her thyroid values.
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board certified in homeopathy. Their books include the upcoming Homeopathic Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and other Mental and Emotional Problems (a revision of the previous title Prozac Free)f as well as A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment. The doctors have taught internationally, and they practice at the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds and Langley, Washington. Dr. Reichenberg-Ullman will be speaking about the homeopathic treatment of Asperger syndrome in Germany in March 2012. (See http://www.narayanapublishers.com/mental_healthj:ongress_2012.php/booksjang/en.) The doctors live on Whidbey Island, Washington, and in Pucon, Chile. They treat patients by phone and videoconference, as well as in person, and can be reached at 425-774-5599 or www.healthyhomeopathy.com.
By Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, LCSW, and Robert Ullman, ND