A Western and Eastern Approach to Hypothyroidism

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Primary Hypothyroidism, or underactivity of the thyroid gland, may cause a variety of symptoms and may affect all body functions. The body’s normal rate of functioning slows, causing mental and physical sluggishness. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe, with the most severe form called myxedema, which is a medical emergency. The secretion of T3 and T4 is controlled by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Thyroid disorders may result not only from defects in the thyroid gland itself, but also from abnormalities of the pituitary or hypothalamus.

The most common cause of Hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a disease of the thyroid gland where the body’s Immune System attacks the gland. Failure of the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone to stimulate the thyroid gland (secondary Hypothyroidism) is a less common cause of Hypothyroidism. Other causes include congenital defects, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, irradiation of the gland, or inflammatory conditions.

A physical examination reveals delayed relaxation of muscles during tests of reflexes. Pale, yellow skin; loss of the outer edge of the eyebrows; thin and brittle hair; coarse facial features; brittle nails; firm swelling of the arms and legs; and mental dullness may be present. Vital signs may reveal slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and low body temperature.

A chest X-ray may reveal an enlarged heart.

A complete blood count (CBC) that shows anemia.

Laboratory tests to determine thyroid function include:

Additional laboratory abnormalities may include:

  • increased Cholesterol levels
  • increased liver enzymes
  • increased serum prolactin
  • low serum sodium


The most common cause is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The thyroid is gradually destroyed, Hypothyroidism develops.

Subacute painless Thyroiditis and subacute painful Thyroiditis can both cause transient Hypothyroidism. The Hypothyroidism is transient because the thyroid is not destroyed.

Hypothyroidism can develop from complete lack of thyroid hormone production because of radioactive iodine or surgical removal of the thyroid gland, both of which are used to treat Hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

Some causes of Hypothyroidism include some inherited disorders in which an abnormality of the enzymes in thyroid cells prevents the gland from making or secreting enough thyroid hormones. In other rare disorders, either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland fails to secrete enough thyroid-stimulating hormone, which is necessary for normal stimulation of the thyroid.


Insufficient thyroid hormone causes body functions to slow. Symptoms are subtle and develop gradually. They may be mistaken for depression, especially among older people. Facial expressions become dull, the voice is hoarse and speech is slow, eyelids droop, and the eyes and face become puffy. Many people with Hypothyroidism gain weight, become constipated, and are unable to tolerate cold. The hair becomes sparse, coarse, and dry, and the skin becomes coarse, dry, scaly, and thick. Some people develop carpal tunnel syndrome, which makes the hands tingle or hurt.


Usually Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with one simple blood test: the measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone. Many experts suggest that the test be performed at least every other year in people older than 55, because Hypothyroidism is so common among older people yet so difficult, in its mild stages, for doctors to distinguish from other disorders that affect people in this age group.

In those rare cases of Hypothyroidism caused by inadequate secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone, a second blood test is needed to measure the level of the thyroid hormone T4 that is not bound by protein (free). A low level confirms the diagnosis of Hypothyroidism. A total T4 and/or Free T4, and a Total T3 and/or Free T3 should be run in addition to a TSH. (Many doctors use the T3 uptake test, but it is not a direct test of T3 levels, and can be influenced by other hormones.

The T7 test or Free T4 Index is a “calculated” test and of little value.) Then get the actual value of your blood tests and compare them with the lab reference ranges. The lab reference ranges are very wide, and you might not feel well with “low normal” results. Some doctors realize this, and you might be able to talk him/her into a trial of thyroid hormone with low normal lab values. Often, thyroid antibodies tests and TRH stimulation test are abnormal even when blood tests are within reference ranges.

A TRH stimulation test measures one form of secondary Hypothyroidism, originating in the pituitary gland.


Treatment involves replacing thyroid hormone using one of several oral preparations. The preferred form of hormone replacement is synthetic T4. Another form, desiccated (dried) thyroid, is obtained from the thyroid glands of animals. In general, desiccated thyroid is less satisfactory than synthetic T4 because the content of thyroid hormones in the tablets may vary. In emergencies, such as myxedema coma, doctors may give synthetic T4, T3, or both intravenously.Treatment begins with small doses of thyroid hormone, because too large a dose can cause serious side effects, although large doses may be necessary. The starting dose and the rate of increase are especially small in older people, who are often most at risk of side effects. The dose is gradually increased until the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone in the person’s blood return to normal.



Argentum nitricum is an excellent homeopathic remedy for people who are extremely anxious. They are usually open, outgoing, talkative, and very likeable. They sometimes have so much mental energy pouring out that they find it difficult to not say too much. They often have a very strong desire for sweets and can have a terrible aggravation after ingesting them. They can have considerable anticipatory anxiety, fears about their health, and often extreme claustrophobia, fear of elevators, bridges, high places, and corners.

Vitamin/Supplement Therapy

The first way to combat low thyroid hormones is by avoiding goitrogenic foods like soybeans, peanuts, millet, turnips, cabbage and Mustard. These foods block the thyroid from using iodine, an element vital for thyroid hormone production.

Kelp, for the mineral content, is very beneficial, especially the iodine, and tyrosine, since T3 and T4 both are made from tyrosine. Everyone should take a basic multivitamin, including C, E, Vitamin D, Zinc, all the B Vitamins and beta-carotene for Vitamin A. Balanced Minerals are crucial for proper function of the whole body and are also central to thyroid hormone synthesis.

The supplement most commonly recommended, Synthroid, contains one form of thyroid hormone.

There is another product, Thyrolar, which provides both T3 and T4 hormones. Once the body begins to get normal amounts of these hormones, symptoms will disappear. After that, periodic blood tests should be done to determine if the dosage is correct.

Fulvic Acid (not to be confused with folic acid - B vitamin) can prevent and treat thyroid disease including Hypothyroidism; Hyperthyroidism, Graves Diesease and Wilson’s Syndrome, plus many other conditions. Outpatient medical hospital studies on overactivethyroid had a 90.9% cure rate within a six month period when patients were treated with fulvic acid medication (Yan, Shenyan; Tongren Hospital, Beijing: Fulvic Acid, 4 (1988).

Thyroid malfunction, both overactive and underactive, is generally due to autoimmune response by the body generally caused by a build up of dangerous Toxins, chlorinated substances, viruses, pathogens, infections, pesticides, altered enzymes or hormones in the tissues of the thyroid gland.

Stress Relief:

Journaling can be a wonderful release as well as reflection on the events and moments in our lives. I have found it to be great therapy and can lend itself to great expression without reservation. I suggested the patient start writing in a journal. This took him 4 weeks to buy and another three weeks to finally write in it.

Exercise: Regular exercise helps your body lower blood sugars, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and enhances overall fitness.

Meditation and visualization techniques are very helpful in order to see the big picture, work on reducing stress levels and calming the mind.

Traditional Chinese Medicine



A chronic lack of iodine in the diet is the most common cause of Hypothyroidism in many developing countries. This is less evident in the United States because iodine is added to table salt; iodine is also present in dairy products. Some causes of Hypothyroidism include some inherited disorders or Kidney Jing deficiency in which essence from both parents is not strong during conception. Other patterns include Qi Stagnation which leads to Blood Stasis, Blood Deficiency or Phlegm patterns.

TCM Patterns

Kidney Jing Deficiency

Slow mental/physical development in children, late/incomplete fontanel closure in infants, poor skeletal development, brittle bones, soreness and weakness of the lumbar region and knees, mental retardation, poor memory, premature aging and Senility, dizziness, deafness, Tinnitus, Low Sex Drive, Infertility, premature graying and Hair Loss. Tongue varies (Deficient Yin or Yang) Usually Yin is more Deficiency, and red, peeled tongue is more evident.

Treatment principle: Tonify kd jing and essence.

Acupuncture treatment

Points: Kd 3, 6, Ren 3,4 ,7, Ub 23, Sp 6, Ht 6

Formula: Zuo Gui Yin

Qi Stagnation

distention, distending pain that moves from place to place, hypochondrium pain, epigastric pain, throat, abdomen discomfort, abdominal masses that appear and disappear, mental depression, irritability, frequent mood swings, frequent sighing, high stress levels and emotional issues. The pulse is thready, slow and short, entering and exiting with difficulty, knotted rapid with irregular beats. Tongue: can be normal with thin white coat or slightly purple.

Treatment principle: tonify Qi

Acupuncture treatment

Points: Ren 2,3,4, 6, 17, Lv 2, 3, 13, 14, LI 4

Formula: Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Blood Stasis

Abdominal pain (fixed) with hardenings, hypochondriac pain (sharp, stabbing), irritable, Indigestion, Constipation. Pulse: wiry/taut and hesitant; Tongue: purple with spots on the side.

Treatment principle: move blood

Acupuncture treatment

Points: SP 10, Ub 17, Ren 17, Lv 3, LI 4

Formula: Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Blood Deficiency

Pale complexion, pale lips, thin skin, dry, pale cracked skin, palpitations and irritability, Insomnia, poor memory, sensation in the chest, hiccups, sudden loss of voice, Convulsions, frequent sorrow without any obvious causes, abnormal joy or rage, unreasonable suspicion or fear, thin white tongue or dry coating, wiry and thin pulse.

Treatment principle: tonify blood

Acupuncture treatment

Points: Sp 6, 8, 10, UB 17, ST 36, Ren 6

Formula: Si Wu Tang


Phlegm mainly arises from Spleen Deficiency as it fails to transform and transport body fluid. Lung and Kidney can also be involved if Lungs fail to disperse and lower fluids and if the Kidneys fail to transform and excrete fluids, they can then accumulate into Phlegm. There are 2 types: substantial, which can be seen (phlegm), and non-substantial, which can’t be seen (rheum). Excessive consumption of greasy foods and/or cold and raw foods can contribute to this condition.

Treatment principle: clear and resolve phlegm

Acupuncture treatment

Points: Ren 22, ST 40, LI 4

Formula: Ba Xin Tang


Acupuncture & Hypothyroidism

Acupuncture has traditionally been successfully employed in China to treat most illnesses and there is little doubt that acupuncture is an excellent therapy for people suffering with this condition. There are several studies suggesting that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be very helpful in the treatment of Hypothyroidism. For instance, in a study at the Shanghai Medical University in China, 32 patients with Hypothyroidism were treated over a period of one year with a Chinese herbal preparation to stimulate the kidney meridian (energy channel).

The results were compared with a control group of 34 people. At the end of the study, the clinical symptoms of Hypothyroidism were reported to be markedly improved confirming that “Hypothyroidism is closely related to deficiency of kidney energy”. (1)

(1) Relation of Hypothyroidism and deficiency of kidney yang Zha LL, Inst. of the Integr. of TCM-WM Med., Shanghai Med. Univ. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (CHINA) Apr 1993, 13 (4) p202-4,195,

Traditional Chinese Medicine & Hypothyroidism

Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine has been shown to offer an effective alternative treatment for people suffering from Hypothyroidism (an under-functioning thyroid gland). In a study at the Shanghai Medical University in China, 66 patients with Hypothyroidism were monitored over a period of one year.

32 patients were treated with a Chinese herbal preparation to stimulate the kidney meridian (energy channel) and their results were compared with a control group made up of the other 34 patients.At the end of the study, the clinical symptoms of Hypothyroidism were reported to be “markedly improved” in the TCM group confirming that Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine can offer real help in its treatment and suggesting that “Hypothyroidism is closely related to deficiency of kidney energy”.

Relation of Hypothyroidism and deficiency of kidney yang Zha LL, Inst. of the Integr. Of TCM-WM Med., Shanghai Med. Univ. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (CHINA) Apr 1993, 13 (4) p202-4,195


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Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac - http://www.peacefulmind.com - Therapies for healing mind, body, spirit

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