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, due to the fact that 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 under
conversion of T4 to T3 in the periphery, which primarily refers to the liver. Unfortunately, doctor’s rarely screen for
this peripheral activity, which would include such analytes as: Free T4, Free
T3 and Reverse T3. But guess what? Integrative practitioners like myself do . .
. because we want to answer the question "why?",
and get to the root of the problem. 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.
Primary Hypothyroidism - This is when the gland itself is not functioning properly, and does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Causes ●
Autoimmune - Hashimoto's Disease (Thyroiditis). ● Iatrogenic - Post-operative thyroidectomy, radioactive iodine treatment, or medications (ex. methimazole) ● Congenital
Secondary Hypothyroidism - The thyroid isn't being stimulated. Causes ● Hypopituitarism - The pituitary isn't secreting enough thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Tertiary Hypothyroidism - The hypothalamus isn't producing enough thyrotropin stimulating hormone (TRH).
Causes: ● Hypothalmic Dysfunction - disorders such as amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and disorders of the hypothalamus - pituitary - thyroid axis.
fatigue / lethargic
greater sensitivity to cold temperatures
heavier or irregular menstrual periods
muscle or joint pain dry skin
thin, brittle hair or fingernails
Later Symptoms, if Untreated
puffy face, hands and feet
Decreased sense of taste and smell
thinning of the outer 1/3 of the eyebrows
Thickening of the skin
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.
Evaluation & treatment
At Healing Lotus Acupuncture we take the best of both worlds, put them together, and formulate a unique treatment that is fine tuned for each patient’s individual case. This is important because disease manifests differently in each individual. Not everyone has the same constitution, nor the same underlying conditions or symptoms. For this reason we go beyond treating just the symptoms, we treat the root of the disease with the end goal of reversing the disease process and restoring a homeostatic state of health & well-being. In order to do this, we order the right tests, and interpret them with “optimal health” in mind, in contrast to conventional medicine, which uses “pathological” ranges that are based on sick people. For example, in figure 1, are the typical “pathological” ranges used by labs (different labs use different ranges) compared to the “optimal health” ranges that we use, which allow us to catch disease in its earliest stages and do something about it, as opposed to labeling a patient “normal” and waiting for the disease to fully manifest. We believe in prevention not reaction!
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. Nutritional modifications also play an important role in treatment, which addresses the nutritional deficiencies of the patient, which may pertain to such vitamins & minerals as Vitamin D, Selenium, Zinc, etc. Lifestyle modifications always play a role in improving and maintaining health, so we make recommendations to the patient, which includes some form of activity in their daily lives, for example: yoga, exercise, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, meditation, walking, etc.