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Hashimotos Thyroiditis - Hypothyroid

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Autoimmune diseases can be complex and tricky to manage, but you can use holistic health measures to assist in overall well-being. In this blog I will talk about a little eastern and western and how acupuncture can help you.

What Is Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid gland. Inflammation then causes the thyroid to stop working as well as it should, which leads to hypothyroidism and a range of other endocrine issues.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know why Hashimoto’s occurs or how to cure it completely. To treat the symptoms of Hashimoto’s, most doctors prescribe drugs to boost thyroid function (like levothyroxine or Synthroid) and reduce inflammation.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease include:

  • Fatigue and sluggishness

  • Increased sensitivity to cold

  • Constipation and digestive problems

  • Pale, dry skin

  • A puffy face

  • Brittle nails and hair loss

  • Enlargement of the tongue

  • Weight gain

  • Muscle aches, tenderness, weakness

  • Joint pain and stiffness

  • Menstrual irregularities

  • Depression

  • Poor memory

Can Acupuncture Help with Hashimoto’s Disease?

Acupuncture is well-known for relieving pain and stress. But can it help with internal conditions like Hashimoto’s? The research says yes.

Acupuncture does more than just ease surface-level symptoms. Both Western medicine and Chinese medicine acknowledge that acupuncture can improve the overall health of the thyroid and regulate the immune system.

Western Perspective on Hashimoto's and How Acupuncture Works

From a Western medical perspective, acupuncture helps treat Hashimoto’s by reducing inflammation and modulating the immune system.

Studies show that acupuncture is a natural way to reduce local and systemic inflammation that damages the thyroid. Acupuncture also increases the release of immunomodulatory factors, which keeps the immune response in check and prevents unnecessary damage to healthy thyroid tissue. Together, these effects protect the thyroid, which helps it function better and prevents future damage.

Acupuncture may help fight symptoms by:

  • Increasing your body’s ability to naturally boost thyroid hormones.

  • Reducing sensitivity to stress and promotes relaxation by releasing endorphins.

  • Relieving muscle and joint pain and stiffness and swelling by increasing circulation.

Eastern (TCM) Perspective:

Traditional Chinese medicine also sees acupuncture as a powerful natural approach to managing Hashimoto’s. But, unlike Western medicine, Chinese medicine looks at the bigger picture of how this therapy restores balance to the body. Here are a few reasons why acupuncture can help Hashimoto’s based on Chinese medicine:

Acupuncture clears heat (inflammation)

As we saw above, acupuncture is a natural anti-inflammatory. While researchers are now discovering these effects, ancient Chinese medicine doctors knew that acupuncture treatment could release excess “heat” from the body.

Acupuncture smoothes Liver qi for balanced emotions.

When we repeatedly experience emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, and frustration, tension builds. And when we don’t release them properly, the Liver qi is affected. The flow of qi and blood becomes stuck and stagnant, which opens the door for a host of issues.

Acupuncture is one of the most effective ways to relieve Liver qi stagnation. It gently relaxes the Liver so it can resume the duty of coursing qi through the body. As a result, stagnation dissipates, circulation improves, and we feel more emotionally balanced.

Acupuncture reduces “phlegm” build-up.

From a TCM perspective, thyroid swelling is a symptom of what we call “phlegm.” Phlegm build-up creates an obstacle that disrupts the free flow of circulation. This leads to even more swelling, inflammation, and loss of function. Reducing phlegm is one of the main goals of acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment for Hashimoto’s.

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Hashimoto’s Disease

Like acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine is also an effective way to reduce inflammation, clear heat and phlegm, smooth qi, and encourage thyroid healing. Herbal medicine helps treat the underlying root causes of Hashimoto’s, such as low energy or imbalances in yin and yang. Chinese herbal medicine can also manage specific symptoms, like fatigue or thyroid swelling.

Diet and Hashimoto’s Disease

Diet is always part of a well-rounded Chinese medicine treatment plan. From an Eastern dietary perspective, people with Hashimoto’s Disease typically have excess heat (inflammation), stagnant circulation, and a lack of qi (energy). So, we’ll want to avoid foods that increase inflammation and eat more foods that are cooling, balancing, and restorative.

There are a few common diet tips that work for anyone struggling with Hashimoto’s. Here are some foods to avoid and some to enjoy:

Avoid foods that may trigger an immune or inflammatory response:

  • Fried, greasy, or sticky foods

  • Wheat

  • Soy

  • Dairy

  • Alcohol

  • Refined sugar

Fill up on foods that balance the immune system and replenish your energy:

  • Most fruits and vegetables

  • Antioxidant-rich foods (berries, leafy greens, green tea)

  • Omega-3s (flaxseed, salmon, avocados)

  • Lean proteins (eggs, beans, fish, nuts)

  • High-fiber foods (beans, legumes)

  • Anti-inflammatory spices (turmeric, ginger, garlic)

  • Seaweeds (in moderation)

Acupuncture for Hashimoto’s Disease: How to Make the Most of Your Treatments

Managing an autoimmune disease can be challenging, but with the help of a holistic modality like acupuncture, you can reduce your symptoms and even limit your dependency on medication. While we will do everything we can in our The Remedy Room to help you get the best results, there are a few additional things you can do at home to make sure your treatments are as effective as possible.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, consider making these part of your routine:

1. Stay consistent with your treatments.

Acupuncture can help you make big strides in overcoming Hashimoto’s. But it is not a “one-and-done” method (no treatment is!).

Acupuncture treatment is cumulative. Each treatment builds upon itself, so you experience more and more relief as time goes on. So, it is essential that you stick to your whole treatment plan (usually over several months) so that your body has the chance to adapt to the changes we make and heal.

2. Reduce stress.

In the body, stress tends to heat things up and get things stuck. For those with an inflammatory autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s, that means trouble.

Thankfully, acupuncture alone will help you manage your stress and reduce tension. But you can enjoy even better results (and a calmer life!) if you build in stress management time at home.

Anything that helps you feel at ease (without increasing inflammation) is a great way to relieve stress. So, swap the after-work cocktail with your favorite herbal tea, read a good book, take a midday walk, and lighten your load in general.

3. Exercise at least 3 times per week.

Everyone needs exercise, but it’s essential when managing a disease like Hashimoto’s. Exercise helps to improve the immune system balance and boost energy, which can help reduce your symptoms and improve your overall health. If you struggle with the weight gain of hypothyroidism, regular exercise will help you stay fit and drop some extra weight.

So, what exercises should you do? A balance between aerobic, strength, and flexibility workouts is a good start. Try alternating walking/jogging, weightlifting, and yoga throughout the week.

Bottom Line: Acupuncture Can Help!

Hashimoto’s Disease may have no known cure (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a healthy life in remission.

Managing your Hashimoto’s symptoms is easier when you have the holistic support of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. When you visit The Remedy Room, we’ll review your overall health and your Hashimoto’s symptoms in depth. Then, we’ll devise a treatment schedule and lifestyle recommendations that will help you reduce your symptoms and improve your immune health.

Kelsey Bru is a licensed acupuncturist and TCM Herbalist in the Comox Valley, British Columbia. She loves sharing her passion for natural approaches to health and wellness through her online articles and at her clinic, The Remedy Room, on Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay. Call for an appointment at 250-800-7738.

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