The treatment of thyroid disorders with Oriental medicine


The treat­ment of thyroid dis­orders with Ori­ent­al medi­cine


In sev­er­al of my earli­er art­icles, I have dis­cussed the fas­cin­at­ing (or ter­ri­fy­ing) concept of autoim­mune dis­orders. These occur when the body‘s immune defense sys­tem goes hay­wire and starts attack­ing itself. Autoim­mune dis­eases can mani­fest in many forms, ran­ging from Rheum­at­oid Arth­rit­is (joints) to Mul­tiple Scler­osis (nerves).Other autoim­mune dis­orders have an effect on our hor­mon­al sys­tem. This is the case of Hashimoto dis­ease which is a dis­order of the thyroid gland.

The human body has sev­er­al ways of reg­u­lat­ing itself. The nervous sys­tem can make very quick changes in a frac­tion of a second by send­ing elec­tric­al impulses through the spin­al cord to the muscles, or it can make slow changes by send­ing chem­ic­al mes­sen­gers, called hor­mones, into the blood to reach the tis­sues and the organs. While hor­mon­al changes are a lot slower, they have longer effects, than those activ­ated from the nervous sys­tem to the muscles, and they are often vital for our sur­viv­al.
Hor­mones in our body have very diverse effects. They influ­ence how tall we grow, how much weight we put on, the onset of puberty and men­o­pause, our moods, our sexu­al drive and over­all energy, our abil­ity to pro­cess the food we eat, and our immunity.
To use an example, the thyroid gland is loc­ated in our neck. It reg­u­lates our meta­bol­ism which is our abil­ity to pro­cess energy, and it is activ­ated by the hypo­thal­am­us and pitu­it­ary glands in the brain. These two glands in our head both con­trol the activ­ity of the thyroid through the secre­tion of the Thyroid Stim­u­lat­ing Hor­mone (TSH). A very clev­er neg­at­ive feed­back sys­tem mon­it­ors how much hor­mone is being released by send­ing chem­ic­al sig­nals to the brain when the optim­um amount has been reached.
Unfor­tu­nately, it doesn’t always go accord­ing to plan.
Hashimoto dis­ease is a thyroid autoim­mune dis­order affect­ing mostly women. It can be the res­ult of a vir­us, a bac­teria, a preg­nancy, or due to a genet­ic imbal­ance caus­ing the thyroid follicles to be acci­dent­ally released into the blood­stream. The body’s defense sys­tem reacts by cre­at­ing anti­bod­ies to attack this unex­pec­ted vis­it­or. Thus caus­ing a chron­ic inflam­ma­tion of the thyroid gland, and stop­ping any secre­tion of the much-needed thyroid hor­mones. When the pitu­it­ary gland gets the feed­back mes­sage that the thyroid is no longer func­tion­ing, it responds by gradu­ally increas­ing the amount of Thyroid Stim­u­lat­ing Hor­mone (TSH) which makes the mat­ter worse. In fact, the level of TSH in the blood is an accur­ate indic­at­or of the thyroid inflam­ma­tion. The high­er the TSH levels, the worse the inflam­ma­tion.
A patient suf­fer­ing from Hashimoto syn­drome is someone hav­ing a body engine con­stantly run­ning at half speed. She could be feel­ing cold, get­ting eas­ily tired, feel­ing depressed, los­ing hair, exper­i­en­cing dif­fi­culties with memory, and poor con­cen­tra­tion. At the begin­ning, the patients might only have “flu” type symp­toms, and the excess­ive level of Thyroid Stim­u­lat­ing Hor­mone (TSH) in their blood will be the only indic­a­tion that the cul­prit is hid­ing in their neck.
.Although Hashimoto Syn­drome can be effect­ively treated with a life­time of hor­mones replace­ment ther­apy; the dosage has to be closely mon­itored to avoid bone loss caus­ing osteo­poros­is, and poten­tial heart prob­lems. This explains why patients will often look at altern­at­ive forms of treat­ments.

In Ori­ent­al medi­cine, Hashimoto symp­toms of cold, fatigue, lack of sexu­al energy, hair loss, and poor memory are symp­to­mat­ic of a weak­ness in kid­ney Yang energy, or a lack of intern­al warmth. .Accord­ing to the ancient prin­ciples of Tra­di­tion­al Chinese medi­cine, our immune energy, or Wei Qi, has its source in the Kid­ney organ before being dif­fused by the lungs, so rein­for­cing both the kid­ney chan­nel and organ will be highly bene­fi­cial against any forms of auto-immune dis­orders. Unlike oth­er forms of hypo­thyroid­ism, in Hashimoto dis­ease, the hypo­func­tion of the thyroid is not caused by an iod­ine defi­ciency, so the tra­di­tion­al Chinese thyroid for­mula involving the use of groun­ded oyster shells, or sea­weeds extract is not bene­fi­cial. Instead, Qi and Yang warm­ing herbs like gin­seng, cin­na­mon, ginger, and licorice are often pre­scribed. In addi­tion, acu­punc­ture points stim­u­lat­ing the blood cir­cu­la­tion, har­mon­iz­ing the liv­er func­tion, and strength­en­ing the kid­ney warm­ing energy are often used
In clin­ic­al prac­tice, the patients are treated once a week until their symp­toms have improved and their TSH levels have been brought down to nor­mal. After that stage, the patient will need only to vis­it epis­od­ic­ally while their symp­toms and hor­mone levels are being mon­itored. As in most cases, the earli­er the prob­lem is treated the quick­er the res­ults, but even in long-term con­di­tions, Hashimoto suf­fer­ers can get sig­ni­fic­ant decrease in TSH levels in a short peri­od of time with both acu­punc­ture and Chinese herb­al medi­cine

Once these hor­mone levels have been reduced, the intake of syn­thet­ic Thyrox­in hor­mone replace­ment dosage can be mod­er­ated, then gradu­ally decreased.
Being able to con­trol their hor­mon­al intake and the cor­res­pond­ing risks of side effects bring to many patients a new lease of life.
For the Ori­ent­al prac­ti­tion­er, this power­ful col­lab­or­a­tion of West­ern and Ori­ent­al med­ic­al sys­tems shows the true poten­tial of this new approach to health­care.

Olivi­er Lejus  MHSc. BHSc. is a registered acu­punc­tur­ist prac­ti­cing in Sydney, Aus­tralia..

About Olivier Lejus

I was born in France and I emigrated to Australia in 1980. I worked as a circus performer, puppeteer and actor before I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine a the University of Technology of Sydney in 1997. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of of science degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. I am now specializing in Japanese style acupuncture for the treatment of female and male infertility, pain, and anxiety.

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