Thyroid Disorders & Chinese Medicine
- Written by Louise Stevens
The main function of the thyroid gland is maintenance of basal metabolic rate. Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common endocrine imbalances seen in clinic, with hypothyroidism and its many complications such as infertility, weight problems, depression and chronic tiredness the most frequent.
The two main clinical syndromes of the thyroid are over activity and under activity. Like with many chronic conditions Western medicine only seeks to control the symptoms and not address the underlying problems. Overall Chinese medicine treatment aims to correct the constitutional imbalances that led to the disorder in the first place.
The main causes of hyperthyroidism is Graves disease, and accounts for 75% of cases. Autoimmune in nature, with a genetic and familial link. There are several factors that consistently emerge in the genesis of hyperthyroid disorders but the overwhelming pathogen is Heat and this need to be cleared as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the body.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is due to the loss of thyroid tissue from autoimmune destruction. Treatment of an underactive thyroid is based on supplementing and warming yang qi. If there is no functional thyroid tissue, the patient must always take thyroxine, but we can improve their general constitutional wellbeing and overall health. When patients are taking thyroxine but there is still functional thyroid tissue, (as may be seen in cases of recent onset and in subclinical hypothyroidism), Chinese medical treatment can restore thyroid function sufficiently so the dose requirements of any exogenous thyroxine may change.