Thyroid disorders are fast becoming one of the most common health problems in India, with over 42 million people suffering from some form of thyroid disorder. Also, 1 in 10 people in India have thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer, and more than 60% of them go undiagnosed.
It can affect people of all ages, but women are more likely to be affected as it is often inherited from family members and also results from iodine deficiency. While traditional treatments typically focus on medication and surgery, Eastern treatments like acupuncture can effectively manage thyroid issues. Although acupuncture has many applications, it has been shown to be particularly effective in the safe and natural treatment of all types of hormonal imbalances.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid happens to be a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck. The gland is responsible for metabolism, energy, hormone regulation, body weight, and blood calcium levels. It is one of the endocrine glands that manufacture hormones.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Similarly, hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain essential thyroid hormones. Here are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism:
Weight loss despite a good appetite
Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, nervousness, and excessive sweating
Frequent bowel movements, sometimes accompanied by diarrhea
Shorter or lighter periods
Development of a goiter (an enlargement of the neck)
Lethargy, depression, or slower mental processes
Increased sensitivity to cold
Reduced heart rate
Numbness or tingling in the hands
Heavy periods or dry hair and skin
Hormones are like messengers in the body that are responsible for many functions, such as overseeing the regulation of sleep cycles, emotional health, reproduction, physical growth, metabolism, mental acuity, body temperature , the immune system and energy levels. When out of balance, all body systems can be affected. Fluctuations may be a natural phenomenon, but long-term imbalances are not. This is why it is important to get a diagnosis by testing thyroid hormone levels in the blood.
How acupuncture helps
According to the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most illnesses stem from imbalances in key energies of body and mind. “Qi”, which can be defined as life force energy, flows along pathways through the body called “meridians”. It should be held strong and flow freely. If the Qi is low or the meridians are blocked, certain organs will not receive the nourishment they need and disease will result.
Acupuncture is a process of inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points on the body that coordinate with particular Qi pathways. By targeting these meridians or pathways, an acupuncture practitioner aims to rebalance a Qi disturbance thought to be causing thyroid disorders or other symptoms of a disease.
According to the British Acupuncture Council, acupuncture can treat thyroid disease in several ways, such as:
Lower thyroid hormone levels in patients with hyperthyroidism
Increased thyroid hormone levels in people with hypothyroidism
Reduce sensitivity to stress and pain, as well as promote relaxation
Improve joint mobility and muscle stiffness by increasing blood circulation in small blood vessels
Improve the release of the chemical adenosine, which reduces pain sensitivity
Reduce inflammation by aiding in the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
In addition to acupuncture, certain lifestyle changes such as a diet high in calcium, protein, magnesium, and iodine help support thyroid function. Also, certain foods known as goitrogens can interfere with thyroid hormone production and should be limited. These include cruciferous vegetables (for example, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), soybeans, and peanuts. Stress reduction exercises like yoga or tai chi can also be helpful.
(Dr. Srividya Nandakumar – Senior Naturopath, Jindal Naturecure Institute)