Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
Feb 28, 2017 10:51PM
by Rene Ng, DOM, AP, L.Ac.
Thyroid disorders, both Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism, are diseases found in numerous Americans today. According to the Florida Hospital, women are two to 10 times more likely than men to develop Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism. Medical drugs are the normal treatment options for both disorders, although radioiodine therapy and surgery are also indicated for Hyperthyroidism.
So, what is Hyperthyroidism versus Hypothyroidism? To understand this dichotomy, you first need to understand the thyroid. This small, butterfly-shaped gland weighs about 20 grams, and is located at the base of the neck. This gland takes iodine found in a variety of foods and coverts it into the thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), both of which are essential to growth and metabolic function.
The kidneys and liver play an important role in maintaining healthy thyroid function as they convert T4 to T3 (T3 is the metabolically active derivative of T4). When the production of these hormones is impaired, health issues prevail, ranging from fatigue to life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism are the two most common thyroid disorders stemming from this impairment.
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder resulting from the overproduction of thyroid hormones. According to WebMD, contributing factors can include Graves’ disease, toxic adenomas, subacute thyroiditis, pituitary gland malfunctions and cancerous growths in the thyroid. Common symptoms include a rapid or forceful heartbeat, tremors, increased appetite without weight gain, restlessness, anxiety, sleep deprivation, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, diarrhea and soft bowels, goiters, headaches, and vision disorders like increased sensitivity or pressure behind the eyes.
Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is a disorder resulting from the underproduction of thyroid hormones. According to WebMD, contributing factors can include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, exposure to excessive amounts of iodide, history of thyroid problems, pituitary disorders, and a defective or surgically removed thyroid. Common symptoms include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, puffy face, elevated cholesterol levels, thinning hair, slowed heartbeat, depression and poor memory.
Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism from a Different Angle
Thyroid disorders have been addressed effectively through both Chinese Medicine and nutrition over the generations. The focus of these treatment methods is not the disorders themselves. In fact, it’s not even the thyroid gland. Instead, the symptoms, health history, constitution, nutrition and lifestyle of the patient are collectively taken into account to ascertain what is happening inside the body and why it’s happening to cause the related symptoms.
But to understand this way of thinking, you must be familiar with the basic concept of Yin versus Yang. After all, Chinese Medicine and the Tao (which everything from a Chinese perspective is based on) stem from a universal harmony illustrated by the relationship between Yin and Yang. In terms of energetics, Yin (the Chinese character for Yin is “shady,” or “dark”) represents cold, slow, internal, calmness, dark and smoothness. Yang (the Chinese character for Yang is “bright”) represents hot, fast, aggressive, active, choppy and bright.
Nighttime is considered Yin time, whereas daytime is considered Yang time. The female gender is considered the Yin gender, whereas the male gender is considered the Yang gender. This is why women tend to be more calm and collected, less physical, and more internally or emotionally strong. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more rowdy and physically or externally strong.
With these differences in mind, let’s explore Hyperthyroidism versus Hypothyroidism. First, let’s focus on Hyperthyroidism. In Chinese Medicine, this disorder is related to a disharmony within the liver (this organ system includes both the energetic pathways as well as the organ itself). The liver’s function, according to Chinese Medicine, includes the distribution of energy (Qi) and blood throughout the body, manages the eyes, works with the spleen and stomach to regulate digestion and bowels, and manages the storage of blood and fat.
When the liver is impaired, these functions are also impaired. In the case of Hyperthyroidism, energy in the liver––especially the Yang energy––is higher than normal, causing the liver to act erratically. Too much energy flowing toward the head results in eye disorders like pressure, migraines, headaches and sleep issues. The impaired liver results in elevated cholesterol, fatty deposits, fibroids, cysts and goiters. In addition, the gastrointestinal function is affected, resulting in digestive and bowel issues. Absorption becomes problematic, causing excessive appetite with no weight gain, and diarrhea or loose stools. This also creates an upsurge in the creation of Yang energy which is hot in nature.
Therefore, the individual suffers from intolerance to heat, and excessive sweating occurs as the body tries to detox from this overabundance of heat. Meanwhile, the smooth distribution of the Qi energy and blood is interrupted, causing waves of disturbed circulation, eventually leading to tremors and gas. Hyperthyroidism is treated in Chinese Medicine through herbal formulas, teas, nutrition, acupuncture, meditation and massage to calm the liver energy and effectively balance the Yin energy.
Unlike Hyperthyroidism which is linked to the liver, Hypothyroidism is linked to the kidneys. As mentioned earlier, from a Western Medicine perspective, both the liver and kidneys play an essential role in a healthy thyroid system through production of the T3 and T4 hormones. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the kidney plays an essential role in growth and development, performing a range of important functions like managing bone, brain and hair health, sexual functions, hearing ability, blood circulation and water retention in the body.
Unlike Hyperthyroidism which is considered an excess condition in Chinese Medicine, Hypothyroidism is considered a deficiency condition. In this situation, the Yang energy in the kidney is insufficient, causing them to underperform. The kidney Yang moves blood and Qi energy throughout the body, but this decreased Yang energy results in slowed circulation. This causes a slowed heartbeat, heightened sensitivity and fatigue.
When circulation to the head area is impaired, the memory is affected, hearing can be impaired, and the hair can thin or fall out. The patient can also experience depression and lack of focus. The body’s water retention increases, giving rise to weight gain. The skin also becomes undernourished, lackluster, and dry or flaky. Sleep becomes an issue, the muscles weaken, and eyes become puffy. A deficiency in the kidneys can also present with dark circles around the eyes. Chinese Medicine can extensively and effectively address Hypothyroidism by strengthening the kidney Yang energy, balancing the Yin energy and increasing the overall circulation of blood throughout the body.
Thyroid Disorders Are More Prevalent in Women
As previously mentioned, women are up to 10 times more likely than men to suffer from thyroid disorders. This is especially true for Hypothyroidism. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, women are considered creatures of blood, while men are considered creatures of Qi. Women have menstrual cycles, causing them to undergo a blood-related process each month throughout their lives. Moreover, the liver is responsible for managing the use and storage of blood in the body. Therefore, women are more prone to Hyperthyroidism and issues pertaining to the liver.
Recall that women are also creatures of Yin, whereas men are creatures of Yang. Women are born with abundant Yin energy in their body which explains why, in their earlier years, women are often more cold-natured than men. However, as they age, the Yin energy in women diminishes and becomes overtaken by the Yang energy. As a result, their bodies become warmer and dryer. Men, on the other hand, start with an abundance of Yang, then as they age, start losing their Yang and become overabundant in Yin energy. Consequently, men become colder and retain more water with age.
Yin energy-rich women are often deficient in Yang energy––the condition behind Hypothyroidism. Throughout their lives, at least until the Yang energy overtakes the Yin energy, women are prone to Hypothyroidism. Conversely, men of a similar age are more abundant with Yang and less likely to experience Hypothyroidism.
Chinese Medicine provides a comprehensive solution for those suffering from Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism. Treatment methods consist of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage therapy, moxibustion, food therapy, teas, meditation, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These natural modalities can strengthen and balance the body, enabling it to regain homeostasis.
When this balance is achieved, Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism symptoms become manageable, and quality of life improves. This approach has been proven for thousands of years, and is still relevant in the modern world. If you suffer from thyroid disorders, visit a licensed and board-certified Acupuncturist to have your situation addressed. According to an old Chinese Medicine expression, “Respect the body, take care of it, and it will take care of you.
Rene Ng, DOM, AP, L.Ac., is a board-certified, licensed Acupuncture Physician and Chinese Herbalist. He is a multiple-time winner of Sarasota’s “Favorite Acupuncture Physician” and “Favorite Anti-Aging Practitioner” awards. For more information, call 941-773-5156, email [email protected] or visit ChineseMedicalSolutions.com.