Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism: how does Chinese medicine treat thyroid disorders?

In my over 30 years of clinical practice, I have realised that most thyroid issues can be helped by identifying and treating certain internal organ disorders.

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According to traditional Chinese medicine, we don’t just treat your thyroid gland but the body as a whole. Therefore, to rebalance your thyroid function, it is very important to find out which internal organs are disordered according to your symptoms.

1. What is the connection between the thyroid and internal organs?

The thyroid is a gland located at the front of the neck. Although its size is very small compared to the whole body, hormones produced by the thyroid gland affect nearly every cell in the body.

There are eight acupuncture channels which are directly or indirectly connected with the thyroid gland around the neck. These are the Kidney, Liver, Gall Bladder, San Jiao, Bladder, Stomach, Spleen and Small Intestine channels.

This indicates that a disorder in any of these channels in the rest of the body can also affect the function of the thyroid gland in the neck.

The following information is very important to give you an idea about how to prevent thyroid disease and to look after the health of your thyroid.

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2. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid function

a) Symptoms of hypothyroidism
A medical diagnosis of hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid function often presents with the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue, feeling heavy and puffy
  • Stomach bloating especially after eating, sluggish bowel movements
  • Easily gaining weight or hard to lose weight
  • Delayed periods (longer than 30 days), breast fullness before periods
  • Low mood, depression, impotence or low libido
  • Lower back pain, stiff neck and shoulders
  • Very light sleep or waking early

All of these symptoms indicate there may be an underlying Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency syndrome according to Chinese medicine.

b) Diet suggestions for hypothyroidism
We suggest avoid eating and drinking frozen or very cold temperature foods straight from the fridge. It’s best to leave them to warm up to room temperature before eating.

Avoid eating salads and raw foods in the winter time.

It is suitable to eat the following warming foods more often: pepper, onion, ginger tea, lamb, beef, lamb or beef soup, venison.

c) Lifestyle and exercise suggestions for hypothyroidism
People who experience these symptoms are better suited to being in warm and sunny environments. Avoid living in damp and cold environments.

It is best to choose warm colours to decorate your home such as red or orange.

Get plenty of sunshine, at least 30 minutes a day.

Slightly vigorous exercise is suitable, but ensure that the exercise you do is suitable for your body’s energy levels. If your body feels very tired the next day, this is a sign you did too much exercise the previous day.

3. Hyperthyroidism or hyperactive thyroid function

a) Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
Many people who have hyperthyroidism diagnosed with a blood test, will often have the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia (taking a long time to fall asleep or waking up frequently), vivid dreams, frequent urination at night
  • Stiff neck and shoulder pain
  • Hunger and food cravings, heartburn
  • Short menstrual cycle (less than 28 days)
  • Dry and uncomfortable eyes, dry skin, constipation
  • Thirst especially at night
  • Weight loss

If you experience many of these symptoms, it may be an early sign of a hyperactive thyroid disorder. These symptoms suggest there may be an underlying Liver Heat and Kidney Yin Deficiency syndrome according to Chinese medicine.

b) Diet suggestions for hyperthyroidism
Avoid eating spicy and hot flavoured foods such as ginger, chilli, onion, pepper, lamb, garlic, chestnuts.

Eat more cooling foods such as cucumber, watermelon, pear, green vegetables, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, fish, duck, mung beans, green tea, peppermint tea.

c) Lifestyle and exercise suggestions for hyperthyroidism
It is most suitable for people with overactive thyroid symptoms to stay and live in cool environments. Especially exercising in cool and green environments such as gardens, parks and forests.

You can decorate your living area with green, blue and white colours.

It is best to do slow and relaxing exercises such as swimming, gentle walking, tai chi, yoga or slow cycling.

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4. How does Chinese medicine help thyroid disorders?

In my experience, most thyroid disorders can be helped with traditional Chinese medicine using a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

This will not only correct the thyroid disorder, but also take away the symptoms associated with the underlying organ imbalances.

Even through the thyroid is such a small gland, don’t ignore the small things or they can turn into a bigger problem for your health later.

If you find that you have many of the early stage symptoms mentioned in this article, we can help you to find out the cause and rebalance your body quickly, to prevent thyroid disorders and help you live a more healthy and comfortable life.

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6 Responses to Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism: how does Chinese medicine treat thyroid disorders?

  1. Rosemarie 29 March, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    I have Hypothyroidism part of my thyroid was removed about 40 years ago, now under active, I am on Oroxine daily 75 mg and 100mg alternative days. I am always very tired and exhausted, I have a husband who is totally disabled with Multiple Sclerosis for 40 odd years and a gorgeous Mum who is 91 years young, and lives on her own, but I manage just about all of her needs.
    Perhaps that explains the tiredness
    Thank you so much, if you have a little advice, just about at my wits end.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

      Dear Rosemarie, thank you for writing to us. You are amazing to care for your husband and mother in such an admirable way. It does sound like your body is run down from being so busy, specifically your internal organs need re-balancing and a bit of a boost. Our clinic is very experienced in treating cases like yourself with Chinese medicine, if you can get in touch with us it would be our pleasure to look after you.

  2. maureen 2 May, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    i have read this & find it very interesting! i have many of these symptoms & currently on medication for thyroid.

    • Ping Ming Health 30 June, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      Dear Maureen, our clinic is highly experienced in assisting people with thyroid disorders. We hope you can find an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner to help you as well.

  3. Gloria 16 November, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi i have hyperthyroidism and grave disease. Is Sibot Chinese Herbs good for me or what can you suggest is the best herbal medicine for me? Im on under medication Methimazole 20mg per day.

    • Ping Ming Health 12 December, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

      Dear Gloria, sorry we cannot suggest a suitable medicine for you without a consultation. In Chinese medicine we don’t prescribe herbs for a “disease” such as hyperthyroidism, we carefully match the herbal medicine to your body’s Syndrome(s) and symptoms with each visit. Therefore, we suggest you make an appointment with a Chinese medicine practitioner who can diagnose and prescribe you the most suitable Chinese herbal medicine for your body.

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