Thyroid Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine has practiced endocrinology for over 2,000 years.  The Genius of China at 3,000 Years Of Science, Discovery & Invention written by Robert K.G. explains the ingenious thoughts and discoveries that were originated in ancient times.  Chinese healers back in 200 B.C. used extractions of both sex and pituitary hormones from human urine. This was done by using the sulfate mineral gypsum and saponin extracted from flower seeds. These were then used for a multitude of medicinal purposes.

thyroid healthThe thyroid gland is only one of the 8 glands which comprises the endocrine system. The other glands include the adrenals, the hypothalamus, the pancreas, the para-thyroid, pineal, pituitary, and also the reproductive glands which consist of the ovaries and testicles.

Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disorder characterized by increased serum levels of both T3 and Tthyroid hormone levels. There can be many causes of hyperthyroidism but Grave’s disease is the most common cause.  This can be characterized by goiter, exophthalmos and pretibial myxedema. Grave’s disease is considered an autoimmune disease in which antibodies target the TSH receptors of the gland. This results in a continual release of the thyroid hormone and synthesis. Grave’s disease is associated with many syndromes including autoimmune insulin-dependent diabetes mellitis, vitiligo, pernicious anemia, and polyglandular deficiency syndrome. Symptoms may be dramatic or mild. The thyroid is also in charge of basal metabolism so other commons signs can be palpitations, tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, tremors, nervousness, weight loss, and many others.

In Chinese Medicine, the goiter is often the major and most common symptom of hyperthyroidism. Treatment is pointed towards qi stagnation and phlegm accumulation surrounding the thyroid cartilage. Manifestations of both heart and liver yin deficiency with empty fire may be present. Common herbal formulas used are Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang  with xia ku cao to enrich yin and clear heat. San Zhong Kui Jian Tang can be used to drain fire, disperse hardness, resolve toxin, and reduce swelling. Xiao Luo Wan can clear heat, transform phlegm, soften hardness, and disperse binds. Lastly, Zhi Gan Cao Tang with xuan shen, xia ku cao, and chi shao can help nourish yin, replenish fluids, and boost qi.

Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder with a systemic effect on the whole body. The effects can range from mild to severe. It can result from a primary deficiency of the thyroid gland or can be secondary to a pituitary TSH. Laboratory findings of primary hypothyroidism may show an elevated serum TSH. A low or normal TSH is found in hypothyroidism secondary to deficient pituitary TSH secretion. Other abnormal findings include hypercholesterolemia, increased serum liver enzymes, hyponatremia, hypoglycemia, and anemia. Common signs include fatigue, lethargy, dry skin, thin and brittle nails, myalgia, edema, and many others. The clinical manifestations of hypothyroidism in Chinese medicine can be found for consumptive deficiency, edema, and goiter. Factors include constitutional from congenital deficiency or malnutrition, improper diet, or overexertion.

Management for hypothyroidism would be to treat spleen yang deficiency, spleen and kidney yang, and both heart and kidney yang deficiency as well as depletion of yang qi. Acupuncture points would be used such as mingmen, geshu, guanyuan, qihai, neiguan, hegu, sanyinjiao, and zusanli. Herbal formulas used may be Ba Wei Di Huang Wan ,Shi Quan Ba Du Tang, Si Ni Tang, and Zhen Wu Tang.

          Hashimotos is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. This is not a disease of the thyroid gland itself but of the immune system attacking the thyroid. Initially, the thyroid hormones may be elevated showing hyperthyroidism but eventually this will lead to inflammation preventing the thyroid from producing adequate hormones ending in hypothyroidism.  There are over 200,000 cases nationwide annually. Symptoms may include fatigue and unexplained weight loss, feeling cold, constipation, and/or heavy menses.

Etiology is unknown but it may result from a combination of genes and triggers. It is an autoimmune disorder which is comprised of both environmental and possibly genetic factors. Triggers can be stress, virus, dietary related. Certain food such as sugary drinks, refined grains, fried foods, night shade vegetables, red meats, and processed meats should be eliminated from the diet. Healthy Balance

Hashimoto’s is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis which ends in an underactive thyroid gland.  The age affected is mostly middle-aged women but can affect either sex and any age, even children. In hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the pituitary gland located in the brain increases TSH due to thinking the thyroid is not making enough. T4 levels will be normal or low normal.

Acupuncture points utilized for hashimoto’s will usually incorporate abdominal balancing points such as Ren points. Herbal formulas will be used to supplement and nourish and supplement the qi and blood, revive yang, warm channels, dispel cold, tonify spleen, and nourish kidney qi and yin depending on how patient presents.

Lastly, hypothyroidism despite its origin and cause, is a gradually progressive disorder characterized by chronic deficiency of spleen and kidney yang with declining organ functions. When spleen energy is deficient, the source of qi and blood is also deficient followed by kidney yang deficiency. Chinese medicine through herbal formulas and acupuncture can effectively help the body maintain balance to manage this disorder. After all, Chinese Medicine dates back to the ancient days of practicing endocrinology, and is known to greatly assist with both autoimmune and endocrine issues.



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