According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), 12–18% of the American population is hypothyroid, with women being 5–8 times more likely to be hypothyroid than men. The prevalence of hypothyroidism is probably much higher than the percentage quoted above because many people with thyroid disease – up to 60% – don’t know they have the disorder.
And beyond that statistic, there are a great number of people with underactive thyroids that are often undiagnosed, because their thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) fell within a “normal” range. The problem with this scenario is that you can have a “normal” TSH and T4 and still be hypothyroid, because of underconversion of T4 to T3 in the periphery, which primarily refers to the liver.
Unfortunately, doctors rarely screen for this peripheral activity, which would include such analyses as: free T4, free T3, and reverse T3. This is why it’s a good idea to see an integrative practitioner who is aware of these other causes of hypothyroid and is devoted to going to the root of the problem, instead of suppressing symptoms with drugs. At Healing Lotus Acupuncture we take an integrative approach by combining both Eastern Medicine and Functional Medicine, in order to restore the quality of life that the patient lost as their illness manifested over time.
Hypothyroidism in Eastern Medicine
In Eastern medicine, hypothyroidism is a condition of deficiency caused by overwork, unmanaged stress, emotional disturbances, unhealthy diet, external factors in the environment, or congenital deficiencies.
Any one of these or a combination thereof can cause an imbalance between the Yin and Yang energies of the body, and disrupt the mutual relationships between organ systems, which keep each other in check.
In general, Yang is active and Yin is nourishing. In the case of hypothyroidism, the Yin & Yang imbalances we’re talking about are between metabolic activity (Yang) and the synthesis of vitamins & minerals, nutrients / hormones (Yin); as well as, the decline in cellular energy production (end-product being adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) / Qi; or in this case, Spleen Qi, Kidney Qi, and Heart Qi). When these mechanisms become imbalanced or dysfunctional, two main presentations of hypothyroidism arise.
The first involves a deficiency of Spleen & Kidney Yang. Symptoms belonging to this pattern include: Swollen tongue with teeth marks, pale complexion, early morning diarrhea with undigested food, fatigue, poor memory, low libido, weakness of the low back and knees, epigastric distention, cold hands & feet, lower leg edema, etc.
The next pattern involves Heart and Kidney Yang deficiency. These symptoms are: Heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, sleepiness, low back pain with cold sensations, cold extremities, lower leg edema, pale and profuse urination, especially at night, etc.
As usual, there are always underlying conditions that also contribute to the pathology. These usually involve Liver Qi stagnation and blood stasis, Spleen / Kidney / Heart Qi deficiency, accumulation of dampness (inflammation, especially in the adipose tissue), and sometimes phlegm.
The treatment protocol does not focus on the gland itself, but instead is directed towards the body’s system as a whole and the specific organ systems that are dysfunctional. In this case, we focus the treatment on improving the function of the Liver, Kidneys, and Spleen. By combining herbal formulas and acupuncture we are able to supplement Qi and Yang energy, nourish the Yin, regulate Qi & blood circulation, and restore balance to the neuroendocrine system, and improve hormone synthesis.
Nutritional modifications also play an important role in treatment, which addresses the nutritional deficiencies of the patient, which may pertain to such vitamins, minerals and amino acids such as Vitamin D, Selenium, tyrosine, etc. Lifestyle modifications always play a role in improving and maintaining health, so we make recommendations to the patient to include some form of activity in their daily lives, for example: yoga, exercise, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, meditation, walking, etc.
Eastern medicine is a natural, safe, cost-effective, and non-invasive form of medicine to return your body and mind back to a state of holistic well-being.