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In the early 1960s, a time of great ferment, physicist-philosopher Thomas Kuhn authored an influential book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The book rippled through the scientific community, creating waves and opposition as it went. In it, he argued that progress does not always proceed in a straight line but is, rather, subject to periodic paradigm shifts that challenge conventional wisdom. We are in such a moment now.
It is a time of twists and turns. In the years since Kuhn’s book, many patients have awoken to the gaps and problems of modern medicine. After all, when the third leading cause of death in the United States is a hospital stay, it is time for some soul-searching—and a concerted effort to avoid hospitalization!
Westernized, fast-track versions of holistic medicine came along with new and improved models based on purported “natural” treatments. But these often fell short, offering a facsimile of modern medicine that quite often substituted synthetic vitamins and minerals for pharmaceuticals, while at times maintaining the laser focus on treatment of symptoms. Indeed, the time is ripe for a reassessment of the old models.
Ironically, it turns out that today the new paradigm Kuhn trumpeted comports with the ancient practice of Indian herbal medicine. The New Ayurveda draws on eternal principles to treat the underlying cause(s) of illness. It takes into account our modern ills and develops a series of new protocols, and it delivers on the promise of personalized medicine that we have been hearing so much about.
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In America, An Epidemic of Ill Health
America is reeling from an epidemic of ill health that drives people to despair and to doctors. The litany is familiar: cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and digestive disturbances, with the latter two often one and the same.
How can we be so sick in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, home to superior diagnostic equipment, wonder drugs, and esteemed medical institutions? We are at a point where both allopathic and holistic medicine need the kind of paradigm shift suggested by Kuhn, whether in the treatment of thyroid disease or in any number of other diseases.
Allopathic doctors are trained to look for and treat disease with a range of side-effect–laden pharmaceuticals that only address symptoms and upset our body ecologies. Through no fault of their own, they have no method to detect underlying imbalances early on, before disease sets in, when they are much easier to manage.
Holistic medicine is in its infancy in the United States, and as with any new discipline, there is a great deal of experimentation. Inevitably and understandably, mistakes are made. Holistic practitioners are on the right track with their use of natural alternatives to pharmaceutical medicines.
But herein lies the problem: in addition to using various herbs and foods for healing, many also incorporate the use of numerous synthetic vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and so forth. Upon closer inspection, these so-called natural products, often placed under the category of nutraceuticals, are nearly as problematic as drugs, made as they are in a lab and divorced from nature. Like pharmaceuticals, they have an effect, but at what cost?
While these remedies may decrease some symptoms, all too often patients become sick over time from taking this man-made version of vitamins in much higher doses than naturally occur in food. The body recognizes these synthetic supplements as toxins, which makes the kidneys and liver work overtime to rid the body of these chemicals. Thus, if we are going to present a truly natural alternative to allopathic medicine, then the treatment needs to consist of remedies that are grown in nature.
Not only that, we have to consider the strain on the liver from swallowing so many supplements, even if some of them are herbal and truly natural. It is the job of the liver to process everything we swallow, so we don’t want to overwhelm it with so many tablets and concoctions. “How much can the liver take?”
A Truly Alternative, Alternative Medicine: Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old traditional system of Indian herbal medicine. Well before Hippocrates, ancient Indian seers developed a comprehensive system of healing that addressed imbalances and the root causes of those imbalances, with the ideal goal of preventing illness when possible and reversing it when not.
A chiropractor by training, I became interested in Ayurveda some thirty years ago when I decided to study herbs in an effort to help my patients overcome intractable health problems. In short order I discovered that American indigenous herbs were lying fallow in the fields, undiscovered and unknown to the masses. The United States, a young country, never had the opportunity to develop a full-scale herbal pharmacopoeia. As a result, there were few herbal experts with whom to study.
I went on to study with various nutritionists around the country and learned how to use nutraceuticals, conducting a trial run of that approach in the early years of my practice, and suffering deep setbacks along with my patients. More determined than ever, I turned to Ayurveda, which I had heard of through my exposure to meditation and Eastern culture. With this modality, I found a glimmer of success—my patients started to get better. But the seminal moment came in 1999. That year, I was introduced to and started studying with Vaidya Rama Kant Mishra, who had come to America from India to develop Ayurvedic formulas for the premier Ayurvedic herbal company in the United States.
Dr. Mishra held an exalted place in the Ayurvedic pantheon, having descended from a line of “Raj Vaidyas,” or Ayurvedic doctors who held the distinction of being chosen to treat the royalty of India. And now he was training me! Over the next seventeen years Dr. Mishra sat by my side as we saw hundreds of patients, painstakingly teaching me how to use five hundred herbal formulas to treat every conceivable disease and condition.
But he did so much more. My office became his laboratory, so to speak. Dr. Mishra soon discovered that American patients were unable to metabolize many of the herbs he used in India, could not tolerate the cleansing techniques recommended in the ancient texts, and suffered from different modern maladies not discussed in the ancient texts, such as fibromyalgia and many others. In addition, many presented with very delicate physiologies resulting from the overuse of pharmaceuticals and the ingestion of processed foods. So in concert with me, Dr. Mishra adapted and reoriented the traditional practice into what we today call The New Ayurveda, combining the wisdom of the seers with modern research.
The New Ayurveda
Compared to traditional practice, The New Ayurveda incorporates a few of Dr. Mishra’s key innovations:
His remedies call for just a pinch or two of herbs in a quart of boiled water instead of the typical one teaspoon per cup of boiled water. Everything we swallow passes through the liver; however, the American liver tends to be so overwhelmed by excesses of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and processed foods that in many cases it does not tolerate normal doses of the herbs.
He introduced the use of herbal transdermal creams, where herbs are taken directly into the blood from the skin, thus bypassing the liver, giving it a much-needed break.
A special process was also developed by Dr. Mishra whereby the pranic energy of the herb is extracted, filtering out the crude physical herb and infusing just the vibration or intelligence of the herb into organic yellow squash syrup. Because these resultant nectar glyceride drops contain none of the physical molecules of the herb, there is no crude herb for the hot reactive liver to attack and oxidize. Yet at the same time the cellular system, organs, and glands can enjoy the exact same benefits as if the physical herb were present.
Keep in mind it is the pranic energy that produces the effects on the physiology. Thus, by incorporating this ingenious delivery system, numerous herbs can be given by drops taken in a liter of water and sipped slowly throughout the day, preventing the extreme stress to the liver that comes from swallowing herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, pharmaceuticals, and so forth.
Daily oil massage—a common Ayurvedic practice to remove toxins, lubricate the joints, and slow down the aging process—was revised by Dr. Mishra. In The New Ayurveda, traditional sesame oil is replaced with olive or almond oil in the colder months for people with light skin. We found that lighter-skinned patients could not handle the heavier sesame oil used on Indian patients—the oils sat on their skin, not absorbing, and created too much heat on the body, since sesame oil is considered a heating oil. We also recommend the use of coconut oil in the summer months, regardless of whether they have light or dark skin, as coconut oil, a cool oil, can pacify the effects of heat on our bodies as it accumulates throughout the summer months.
Cleansing techniques recommended in the ancient texts were updated to accommodate the modern toxins that those long-ago doctors couldn’t have foreseen: pesticides, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and air pollution, for example.
The ancient doctors provided us with the textbooks of Ayurveda to teach future doctors how to treat a wide variety of ailments. They did say this, however: they would leave the textbooks open for the future doctors to add new chapters to their books, because they could not possibly foresee what would happen in the future. And this is precisely what Vaidya Mishra did as we saw patients together. These changes presented above represent the upgrades he made, keeping Ayurveda relevant and effective in this modern era.
Once we overcame the various hurdles we encountered in the early years, hundreds and hundreds of patients came to our office, streaming in from all around the world, and slowly regained their health. We reported our findings to numerous Ayurvedic associations and clinics around the country. Our reputations grew as word spread about the work we were doing. After lectures, people would invariably run up to me and ask me to write a book, so I have dedicated myself to compiling all the knowledge I gained from my mentor in order to share it with patients, and with doctors who wish to adopt these protocols.
Why Focus on the Thyroid?
I focus on the thyroid for good reason. I have seen more than ninety thousand patients presenting with every conceivable illness over the last thirty years of my practice. But by far I treat more people with thyroid conditions than anything else. In a typical day, at least half of my patients have some form of thyroid malfunction. The stressors of modern life can weaken the thyroid gland, with consequences for the entire physiology that can result in a wide range of confounding chronic maladies.
The ancients who wrote the textbooks on Ayurveda warned doctors, “If all you do is give herbs to the patient, you are a bad doctor.” They went on to say that in order to effectively treat patients, you must first and foremost diagnose the underlying hetu, as they called it, referring to the underlying cause of the problem, or the etiology, as it is called today. Next you must teach patients proper diet, daily routine, and cleansing techniques in order to effect true and lasting changes in their health.
There are numerous reasons that someone might develop a thyroid problem, and those reasons will vary depending on the patient. Through pulse diagnosis and pertinent questions, you can discover the root causes, address them, and then support the thyroid. Without getting to the root of the problem, treatment of the thyroid is destined to provide minimal, if any, results.
One thing that I have learned in these past thirty years is that whatever the manifestation of disease, it is just a symptom of some underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Cancer? A symptom—what caused it? Rheumatoid arthritis? A symptom—dig deeper to find the etiology. Hashimoto’s disease? Why is the immune system misfiring and attacking the thyroid? Fix that, and you can watch the thyroid perk up.
When underlying causes are addressed, the patient will have great success in overcoming an ailment and regaining balanced health. Above all, we must resist the temptation to treat only the obvious; the cause is usually far removed from the symptom.
©2019 by Marianne Teitelbaum. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Healing Arts Press,
a division of Inner Traditions Intl. www.InnerTraditions.com
Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda: Natural Treatments for Hashimoto’s, Hypothyroidism, and Hyperthyroidism
by Marianne Teitelbaum, D.C.
A comprehensive guide to addressing the growing epidemic of thyroid disease from the perspective of the Ayurvedic tradition • Details the author’s successful treatment protocols for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism developed over more than 30 years of Ayurvedic practice • Explores the underlying causes of thyroid malfunction, the thyroid’s connections to the liver and gall bladder, and the importance of early detection • Also includes treatments for common symptoms of thyroid disease, such as insomnia, depression, fatigue, and osteoporosis, as well as for weight loss and hair growth. (Also available as an ebook/Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Marianne Teitelbaum, D.C., graduated summa cum laude from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1984. She has studied with several Ayurvedic doctors, including Stuart Rothenberg, M.D., and Vaidya Rama Kant Mishra. The recipient of the Prana Ayushudi Award in 2013, she lectures and writes extensively about Ayurvedic treatments for all diseases. She has a thriving private practice and lives outside of Philadelphia.