According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of people in the United States will have a thyroid condition at some time in their lives. One of the most common thyroid conditions is hypothyroidism. Though you’re certainly not alone, when the hypothyroidism diagnosis finally comes, many often ask, “What do I do now?” For those who don’t want to take the medications and deal with the possible side effects, the question naturally arises, “What else can I do? Can acupuncture help with hypothyroidism? Can needles actually help my body?
In short, the answer is YES. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are beneficial options. The bonus is that working with a Chinese medicine practitioner can help you with your hypothyroidism and give you a great chance to add a preventative care regime to help reduce many health issues that you may encounter.
In this article, I’ll explore:
- What Is Hypothyroidism?
- How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
- What Are Common Ways Hypothyroidism Is Treated?
- How Can Acupuncture Help with Hypothyroidism?
- What Does Treatment with Acupuncture for Hypothyroidism Look Like?
- Studies Show Acupuncture Helps with Hypothyroidism?
What Is HypoThyroidism?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, just above your collarbone, and it is an endocrine gland, which means that it makes hormones. Thyroid hormones control the rate of many activities in your body, including your metabolic rate (how fast you burn calories) and your heart rate. So, hypothyroidism causes your body to burn calories more slowly than when your thyroid was functioning properly. Additionally, thyroid hormones act on nearly every organ system in the body. So, when the thyroid hormone production is out of balance, the impact on how you feel is significant to the entire system.
When a physician suspects that their patient has hypothyroidism, it is because that person is experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight (despite reduced food intake)
- Coarse, dry hair and dry skin
- Hair loss
- Sensitivity to cold
- Muscle cramps and aches
- Memory loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Decreased libido
- Slowed speech (in severe cases)
- Jaundice (in extreme cases)
- Increase in tongue size (in severe cases)
How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
When someone comes to my office looking to explore acupuncture treatment for hypothyroidism, they’ve usually been through several western medical tests.
Blood tests that doctors will use to determine which thyroid condition you have are:
- TSH (the most accurate measure of thyroid activity)
- T3 and T4 (measure different thyroid hormones)
- TSI (thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin)
- Antithyroid antibody test
Other tests include CT scans, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine tests.
What Are Common Ways Hypothyroidism Is Treated?
The most common western treatment for hypothyroidism involves prescribing levothyroxine synthetic thyroid hormone. Levothyroxine restores hormone levels so that the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism reverse.
Side effects can include increased appetite, insomnia, heart palpitations, and shakiness. For some experiencing severe Hypothyroid symptoms, these side effects are considered negligible.
If a patient takes levothyroxine, the root cause of the hypothyroidism does not get addressed. If the patient stops taking the medication, the symptoms will come back.
How Can Acupuncture Help with Hypothyroidism?
To understand how acupuncture can help with hypothyroidism, it’s helpful to look at how an acupuncturist treats imbalances as a whole. Our body is an intricate but surprisingly simple system of feedback loops, each reliant on the other systems.
A good analogy is If you have a leaky boat. Using a bucket to scoop out the water will only get you so far. However, if you repair the hole in the boat and sure up any other potential cracks, the boat will work much better. So, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are like repairing the whole boat.
Since an acupuncturist looks more deeply than just the problem at hand, hypothyroidism, they seek to find why this problem is happening in the first place. In fact, in Chinese medicine, disease in the thyroid indicates a series of underlying imbalances. Therefore, acupuncture treatment of thyroid diseases begins with identifying the root cause.
Two people with the same hypothyroidism or another thyroid disease diagnosis may have completely different underlying patterns. So, when acupuncturists or Chinese medicine practitioners diagnose their patients, we want to know as much about them as possible. We look at your current and previous lifestyle habits to see if something is happening that may be detrimental to your overall health. We also look at any past challenges or traumas you have experienced. In my clinic, I look at a wide variety of aspects, including eating habits, sleeping patterns, exercise levels, work hours, and stress levels, to name a few.
What Does Treatment with Acupuncture for Hypothyroidism Look Like?
Since treatment is based on a detailed analysis of the whole person, each person’s treatment is customized based on their presenting patterns from a Chinese medicine perspective. At Cup of Life Healing Center, the exact combination of acupuncture points, Chinese herbal medications, dietary and lifestyle adjustments, and mind-body practices are all targeted to address the underlying cause.
This approach awakens the body’s natural healing resources. Not only do patients report a reduction in their hypothyroid symptoms, but since we’re taking care of all aspects of why the thyroid condition appeared in the first place, overall quality of life improves as well.
I’ve seen patients who faithfully follow their treatment plan get fast and long-lasting results. While everyone’s results are individual, in our office, it’s not uncommon to see patients make remarkable gains. They often tell me they are able to significantly reduce and sometimes even be able stop taking their thyroid medications altogether.
Don’t Take Our Word for It; Studies Show Acupuncture Helps with Hypothyroidism.
There have been a few studies looking at the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating thyroid disease. A 2018 overview of such research found several to be promising. There are many ways acupuncture can help, such as:
- Regulating levels of thyroid hormones
- Reducing sensitivity to pain and stress
- Promoting relaxation
- Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility
- Increasing blood circulation in small blood vessels
- Reducing inflammation
When it comes to hypothyroidism, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be invaluable tools in your arsenal. Acupuncture for hypothyroidism works to improve hormone levels and overall quality of life. Proactive, holistic health is vital for staying healthy, living the best quality of life, and being present for our loved ones.
Of course, we’re always here to help when health concerns arise with 100% holistic care, no matter the issue. We’ve given over 18,000 treatments and counting, so we’ve seen pretty much every woman’s health and fertility issue, hormonal issue, or chronic illness out there.
We know how to awaken your body’s natural resources using a unique combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medications, targeted nutritional support, and mind-body medicine.
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About the Author - Michael Hurley, L.Ac.
Michael is the co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center. He specializes in Women's Health and Fertility--a passion born from he and his wife's own fertility journey. Michael holds a Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM), one of the top-rated acupuncture schools in the country. He is nationally certified with the NCCAOM and licensed by the State of New Hampshire to perform acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Michael has also dedicated himself to rigorous and extensive advanced reproductive endocrinology and reproductive medicine studies. He is a board-certified reproductive acupuncturist with The Acupuncture and TCM Board of Reproductive Medicine (ABORM). He is also certified in 5-Element Functional Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine.
Cup of Life Healing Center has two locations: 82 Washington Street, Suite 2, Keene, NH and 400 Amherst Street, Suite 402, Nashua, NH. The clinic can be reached via phone or text at (603) 352-3625.