I have always been interested in alternative medicine and diet and used both in a preventative manner which I thought was working. When Louise Smyth of the Metabolic Balance system told me that I was hypothyroid with levels of thyroid-stimulation hormone at 6.59, well outside the norm of 0.27 to 4.2, I got a really bad feeling.
I left her office and began researching online, which led me to the comforting fact that, over the course of their lifetimes, one in 50 women will experience thyroid problems along with one in 500 men, so they are not uncommon.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your throat and one of its functions is regulating your metabolism. The symptoms of an over-active thyroid are losing weight rapidly, being highly sensitive to heat, anxiety and stress and, long term, it can lead to heart problems.
Under-active thyroid's first symptoms are being unable to shed excess weight, feeling sluggish and exhausted.
I first spoke to Dr Aogan Rooney, a GP practising in Malahide, to hear what his expert medical opinion was. He said that thyroid issues are partly genetic and that an under-active thyroid is easier to treat, as you top up the missing hormones, whereas an over-active thyroid needs to be addressed by an endocrinologist -- a doctor specialised in treating hormonal conditions.
He said that once you have a condition it will not correct itself and must be medicated.
I took all this on board and decided to see what the alternative community would prescribe.
First up I visited Niamh O'Brien, who is an acupuncturist operating from a health food store in Dublin's Merrion Shopping Centre. She is one of the few people in Ireland to have invested in a Theragem.
A Theragem harnesses the dielectric resonating properties of crystals, along with natural healing frequencies and colour to influence the vibration rates and energy of living cells -- tissues, bone, organs and glands.
I had two sessions under this machine combined with acupuncture, which Niamh does for €50 a session all included. It felt incredible and I really want to believe that things like this can help my body naturally heal itself. She says she has seen results from between three to six sessions for all manner of ailments.
Next up, I visited Vilma Matuleviciute, a herbalist who qualified in her native Lithuania. She said that the thyroid is an emotionally sensitive gland. Further problems with it could be related to unspoken words and verbal suppression, which would cause tension in the throat area and subsequently cause the thyroid gland to be put out of balance.
She took an extremely detailed consultation going over my day-to-day activities and she also used iridology (looking at the iris for signs of internal imbalance) and ayurveda techniques, a traditional Indian medicine, to ascertain my condition. Her treatment would involve herbal tinctures or teas, and a detailed diet for recovery.
She also did some craneosacral therapy during our session, which was deeply calming.
When I asked about the success rate I was very impressed with the response. She told me that for some people who come to her on Arthroxin (a drug used to treat thyroid conditions) and want to come off it, it can take up to six months. It also involves the financial commitment of about eight sessions at €55 each but the success rate is there for those who commit.
I went into her totally wired and stressed out for no apparent reason other then that I might have been five minutes late, but I left blissed out and calm.
From what I learned, constructive relaxation is a vital tool for recovery and that stressing can have an extremely harmful effect on your body.
Last up I had a quick chat with Leila Abachi, a homeopath from Nelsons on Duke Street. She explained that the homeopathic approach would also involve a detailed lifestyle consultation.
As homeopathy is holistic in its approach to health it would also explore the mental and emotional states that arise and define specific individual personality traits. The remedies given will be specific to the person's constitution. In some cases homeopaths will give specific remedies to support the organ and diet and supplements can also be used.
Having met these natural healers I now feel aware of how I may have contributed to this condition. Being a freelance journalist, stress is par for the course as some days are mental and some are empty which creates another form of worry.
I may think I have a good diet but I eat chocolate like it's going out of fashion and I often go for the convenience option. Having this condition made me realise that I am not superhuman, nor am I still 19.
As much as the medical community may say that it could be genetic and how you can never come off the proposed medication once started I am keen to see if I can bring my body back to optimum condition via the treatments outlined above.
In all my years of going to various alternative therapists none of them were able to diagnose my condition. I don't know how long I have had this as thyroid conditions can only be seen via blood test carried out by a local GP. I will have mine rechecked in a month or so and see is there any improvement having taken the advice above and put most of it into action.
>Niamh O'Brien www.inspirit.ie 086 073 7115 >Vilma Matuleviciute 087 666 8659, Vilmamat@hotmail.com >Leila Abachi, Nelsons Homeopathic, 01 679 0451, www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com