Chakra Series: Sounding Out Creativity and Metabolism—Chakra Five
As we learned last month, through the fourth chakra we feel love. Through the fifth, we begin to express it. Throughout history, humans have chanted as a form of praise or to enter deep states of meditation and worship. All of nature chants from thunder to birds to the rustling leaves of the aspen tree. Only modern humans have forgotten to chant. As a result we have become disenchanted with our world. To become enchanted literally means to be roused to ecstatic admiration.
A number of years ago I heard a tape which had crickets chirping over a background of what I thought was a choir chanting. A few moments into this beautiful mix a woman explained that what was being heard was not a choir at all but was also the same crickets whose sound had been slowed down to a frequency resonant to that of a human. The effect was stunning. Their point was to show that the natural world and all of creation exists in a constant state of praise and gratitude. That this is our natural state. It is not in praise of some being far removed, but in praise of being itself. That in fact the sound of praise, emitted in a million different ways through vibration, creates the universe.
This belief that sound is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the material universe is held by many spiritual traditions. Our vocabulary is full of associations that reinforce this concept. A destructive idea, someone whose judgment is falling apart and an unstable structure are all called unsound. The fact that we use the word spell to describe the creation of words, as well as the invocation of magic, shows the inherent creative power we attribute to language and sound.
The thyroid and parathyroid are the endocrine glands which interface with the fifth chakra. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck in front of the trachea or windpipe. The parathyroid glands rest upon the surface of the thyroid and are responsible for maintaining calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.
The thyroid is the body’s thermostat which controls the metabolic rate, and impacts the function, of every cell in the body.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is secreted by the pituitary gland, controls the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Thyroxin or T4 accounts for roughly 80% of hormones secreted while the remaining the remaining 20% is liothyronine or T3. T4 refers to the presence of four iodine atoms attached to several molecules of the amino acid tyrosine. T3 is produced, in the thyroid and throughout the body, from T4 by the enzymatic removal of one specific iodine atom. T3 is four times more active than T4. Whether it is under- or overactive, the deleterious consequences of its malfunctioning can be extensive.
Hyperthyroidism is due to an excessive amount of thyroid hormones. Symptoms include an increased body temperature, jitteriness, restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. Hyperthyroidism frequently triggers an irregular rapid heart rate called atrial fibrillation. Left untreated, this arrhythmia can be fatal.
Hypothyroidism is caused by an inadequate amount of, or an ineffective response to, thyroid hormones. The end result is an underactive metabolism which can manifest in a multiplicity of exhausting physical, emotional and mental problems.
The most common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, weight gain, depression, diffuse muscle aches and pains, constipation, thinning hair, brittle nails, dry skin and an extreme intolerance to cold. Numerous other maladies such as repeated respiratory and sinus infections, infertility, menstrual disturbances, carpal tunnel syndrome and impaired cognitive function are also often caused or exacerbated by hypothyroidism.
Not all people with hypothyroidism will have all these symptoms, and not everyone with these symptoms will have hypothyroidism. Western medicine considers a blood test that measures the levels of TSH and free T4 to be the gold standard for detecting hypothyroidism. Many physicians rely entirely on TSH alone. For numerous reasons, using only one or two blood tests misses a significant number af patients who in fact have hypothyroidism or dysfunction in thyroid hormone metabolism.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease which produces antibodies that interfere with the production and function of the thyroid hormones. Other patients may be unable to convert T4 to T3 adequately. Both of these frequent causes of hypothyroidism are often missed.
Elevated cholesterol is extremely common in patients with hypothyroidism. It is astounding how reluctant physicians are to consider a trial of safe hormones to treat high cholesterol and how quickly they are willing to dispense medications with an enormous list of serious side effects.
Broda O. Barnes, MD, a longtime researcher and clinician specializing in thyroid physiology, estimated that as much as 40% of the American population may suffer from clinical hypothyroidism. Medical diagnostic standards have continually evolved and improved. In spite of these advances, Dr. Barnes found the simple measurement of basal body temperature to be one the most reliable indicators of one’s metabolism. It is important to remember, however, there are other causes of a low body temperature. See sidebar.
Another forgotten but invaluable indicator of hypothyroidism is a simple reflex test of the Achilles tendon. A delayed or sluggish response is strong indicator for hypothyroidism. Testing the levels free T3 and checking antibody levels in addition to the standard thyroid panel and a focused and effective clinical evaluation will result in more accurate diagnoses.
Most important is listening carefully to the patient’s constellation of concerns and complaints. What connects the dots to form a complete picture is discovering how much the patient understands what might have caused, and what they believe could help cure, their illness
A wide variety of natural and synthesized thyroid hormone preparations are available to treat hypothyroidism. The standard Western medical treatment is thyroxin. Synthroid and Levoxyl are simply brand names of T4. Cytomel is a commercially available but seldom used prescription containing only T3. Alternative replacements which contain both T3 and T4 include Thyrolar or glandulars like Armour Thyroid. Although these work well for many, they are not appropriate for everyone.
Working with an experienced practitioner, compounding pharmacies can create exacting customized prescriptions. It may take several trials with various preparations in different dosages to discover what is optimal for you. It is also important to recheck the thyroid blood panel periodically.
Proper thyroid function depends on a variety of nutrient cofactors. These include the amino arid tyrosine, and the minerals iodine, zinc, copper, manganese and molybdenum certain B vitamins and essential fatty acids like evening primrose oil. However, iodine, in excess of 600 micrograms per day, and its close relatives fluoride and chlorine can all inhibit thyroid hormone formation. Mercury from dental amalgams and food contaminated by various other environmental toxins have also been reported to reduce metabolic efficiency. Therefore choose your food and water sources carefully.
Activities to harmonize the fifth chakra and balance your metabolism involve expression and creativity. Sing, speak your mind, chant, and join a drumming circle. Learn to play a musical instrument. Generously praise the people in your life. Sit quietly in nature and enjoy to the symphony of sounds around you.
Todd Mangum, MD, of the Web of Life Wellness Center, is a holistically oriented physician practicing in Salt Lake City.