Thyroid Problems: How Acupuncture Treats Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Ancient Chinese medicine does not officially recognize the existence of hormones. Instead, it operates under the premise that optimal hormone function is built into many different organs.
What Are Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs balance all organ functions, which allows the body to secrete and absorb hormones as best it possibly can. Take thyroid function, for example. The thyroid helps us use the energy that we consume via air and food for optimal health.
Low Thyroid Hormone Causes Symptoms of Depression
When the thyroid hormone is low (hypothyroidism), the symptoms can mimic depression:
- You feel tired (listlessness, low energy).
- Your digestion suffers.
- You gain weight.
- You have little interest in day-to-day activities.
- Often, you lose your interest in sex completely (low libido, low sex drive).
Too Much Thyroid Hormone Mimics the Symptoms of Anxiety
When the thyroid hormone is too high (hyperthyroidism), the symptoms can mimic generalized anxiety disorder:
- You can’t sleep (insomnia).
- You feel irritable.
- You lose too much weight.
- You feel “wired” or anxious.
Western Medicine Says…
In the western way of thinking, thyroid problems are all about one gland: the thyroid. In order to improve function, a doctor either prescribes thyroid hormone or slows down or discontinues the thyroid function as needed. Then, the doctor adjusts medications to fine-tune the level of thyroid hormone production.
Chinese Medicine Says…
In Chinese medicine, thyroid function involves the digestive tract (spleen and stomach), lungs, and kidney. It also involves the distribution of heat and energy, which is sourced from “the triple warmer”—an energetic concept rather than a physical one.
To diagnose the problem, an acupuncturist looks at which of those four organs is not functioning well. If the problem lies in the digestive tract and the symptoms are weight gain, sweet cravings, and lethargy, a feeling of heaviness might be predominant.
If the problem is in the lungs, symptoms may include low energy, a tendency to catch cold easily and/or not recover from illness in a timely fashion, too much sweating, and possibly signs of allergies.
If the problem lies in the kidney, the symptoms may include low sex drive, frequent urination, inability to conceive, swollen ankles, painful knees and legs, and/or water retention.
If the problem lies in the triple warmer, the patient might complain of being constantly cold and having very low energy.
The Domino Effect in Organs
An acupuncturist looks at the entire system of organ interaction in the body. According to Chinese medical theory, there are 12 organs. All are interconnected. When one goes out, the rest may be impacted in a domino effect. Knowing which of the organs are most impacted helps the Chinese medicine practitioner create a diagnosis.
An acupuncturist chooses acupuncture points and Chinese herbs that address the symptoms and underlying problems associated with that diagnosis. As the body recognizes and adopts the healthy energetic pattern that the treatment creates, it triggers the thyroid to slowly and steadily improve and function as normally as possible.
If the patient has had his or her thyroid removed, acupuncture and Chinese herbs help him or her absorb medications better and feel more like himself/herself.
Hormonal imbalances are complex, because one hormone in the body impacts and is impacted by many others. Treating only one hormone problem, as is typical in Western medicine, may or may not address the entire system and effectively alleviate symptoms.
Chinese medicine looks at the human body as a system and treats the entire hormonal loop.
Debby Shapiro is an acupuncturist in Lakewood, Colorado, who uses acupuncture and Chinese herbs to make you healthy and whole:
- Acupuncture to treat thyroid problems (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism)
- Acupuncture therapy for sleep disorders and sleeplessness
- Acupuncture for anxiety disorder and to relieve anxiety symptoms
- Acupuncture treatment for depression
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