Traditional Chinese physiology didn’t refer specifically to the thyroid gland, but because it’s actions are so pervasive healthy thyroid function is central to Chinese medicine. Disturbances to thyroid function, which can be linked to stress, genetics or a hormone imbalance, are incredibly common. If your thyroid is struggling to function, you probably are too. Fortunately, change is possible – depending on the issue, the thyroid can heal and recover with a bit of care and balancing.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the throat. This gland produces triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) in response to TSH from the pituitary gland. These hormones regulate energy and fluid metabolism, weight loss and gain, heart rate, and body temperature.
When the thyroid is out of balance, it can lead to a myriad of issues and diseases. These conditions have two categories depending on the state of imbalance: hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). More information is contained in a previous post.
The thyroid plays a starring role in the regulation of period health. An underactive thyroid can be one of the causes of missing ovulation due to the excess prolactin produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid irregularities can even slow down the detoxification of estrogen and testosterone, and impair insulin sensitivity, which is thought to increasing the risk of developing PCOS.
In traditional Chinese medicine physiology, the thyroid is closely linked to the Heart (Fire element) – Kidney (Water element) axis. There is also overlap between thyroid function and the San Jiao (rhymes with now). The San Jiao, meaning Three Burning Spaces, refers to the three areas of the chest, upper and lower abdomen. In health, each of these burning spaces function like the fire under the cooking pot, to transform and distribute fluids and nutrients around the body, freely and unimpeded. Not enough fire (hypofunction), the fluids are too wet; too much (hyper) and it dries up.
When the thyroid is underactive and metabolism is slow, it’s important to tend our inner fires. Sun is the prime Yang energy – enjoy it regularly and often. Warm cooked foods, warm clothes, physical movement and creativity, and warm-hearted connections with others, will all support our inner glow. And of course stabilise the Yang with the still, quiet Yin, like the roots of a tree.
Feel free to discuss with us individualised treatment to optimise your thyroid and general health. Acupuncture treatment has shown positive effect on the regulation of thyroid hormones (Li 2006), increasing circulation, reducing inflammation, and promoting relaxation whilst reducing anxiety and stress (Hui 2010, Hui 2009), that can never be a bad thing. Find out more.
Hui KK et al 2010 Acupuncture, the Limbic system, and the Anti-correlated Networks of the Brain, Auton Neurosci; 157: 81-90.
Hu G et al 1993 A Study on the Clinical Effect and Immunological Mechanism in the Treatment of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis by Moxibustion, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine; 13(1): 14-8.
Hui K.K.-S 2009 The Salient Characteristics of the Central Effects of Acupuncture Needling: Limbic-paralimbic-neocortical Network Modulation, Human Brain Mapping; 30: 1196-206.