3 Thyroid Gland Disorders and Different Ways to Improve Them

Thyroid gland disorders can disrupt your ability to function normally. Early treatment is important to prevent a worsening of symptoms.

Woman looking uncomfortable while eating an ice-cream.

Located on the front of the neck, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces hormones. These hormones T3 and T4 control and regulate how the body’s cells utilise energy. It also plays a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth functioning of metabolic processes in the body.

However, the gland can be susceptible to thyrotoxicosis — clinical manifestations of excess thyroid hormone action at the tissue level. Here are a few thyroid gland disorders that can impair your quality of life and separate ways to treat each problem effectively.

Woman looking uncomfortable while eating an ice-cream.
Hypothyroidism may lead to a sensitivity towards cold foods.

Hyperthyroidism 

Hyperthyroidism is the elevation of T3 or T4 levels. This increase in hormones can arise from an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease, as well as the intake of too much iodine. A growth or tumour in the gland and inflammation is also likely to trigger hyperthyroidism.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes the cause of hyperthyroidism to be qi (vital energy) stagnation. This can cause an internal Fire that consumes qi and yin (passive energy). An excessively high fever from yin deficiency and excess heat is another cause of hyperthyroidism. 

Hyperthyroidism can trigger weight loss and hyperactive bowel movement, which goes with polyphagia an excessive eating disorder that’s also a symptom of disease. In addition, hyperthyroidism may disrupt a woman’s menstruation cycle and reduce menstrual flow. It can also compromise hair health, resulting in excessive hair loss and fine, brittle hair. 

TCM Treatment

Herbal formulations and ingredients can support the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Examples of these are Liver Cleansing (Zhi Zi Qing Gan Tang), Kidney Yin Tonic (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan) and Heart Yin Tonic (Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan). Ingredients like Cornus (shan zhu yu), Dioscorea (shan yao) and Rehmannia (shu di huang) can also help.

Western Remedy

A healthcare provider will prescribe oral anti-thyroid medications like carbimazole and propylthiouracil. Treatment with these medications usually spans over a 2-year period, and accompanied by frequent checks on your T3 and T4 levels. 

Specifically, physicians are introducing anti-thyroid medication and beta-blockers as alternatives to relieve hyperthyroidism signs. It’s worth noting that medication will not produce instant results, but effectively regulate thyroid hormone levels only after 12-18 months. It can also cause side effects that require immediate medical attention, including a fever, skin rash or sore throat. If the condition recurs after you’ve completed your medication cycle, physicians may suggest radioactive iodine surgery, or surgery to remove the thyroid gland. 

Woman with bulging, green eyes.
Graves’ disease can cause people to present with symptoms like bulging eyes.

Graves’ Disease 

SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES: Graves’ disease causes an immoderate production of hormones by the thyroid gland. It’s more common in women than in men, and is similar to hyperthyroidism. It generally presents with bulging eyes (exophthalmos) and a localised thickening of leg skin (pretibial myxedema). 

Conversely, TCM believes the cause of Graves’ disease to be Liver and Spleen imbalances, which are after-effects of negative emotions like anger and stress.

TCM Treatment

A herbal mixture called Yingliu has proven to work well with methimazole — a medication used to treat hyperthyroidism — in the treatment of Graves’ disease. The study also showed remarkable improvement of symptoms like fatigue, thyroid enlargement, and a dry mouth. 

Western Remedy

There are three clinical treatments for Graves’ disease. These include medication, surgery and radioiodine therapy. Previously, radioiodine therapy was the most common treatment for Graves’ disease. This treatment option involves the use of radioactive iodine-131 (I-131) to destroy thyroid gland cells that produce hormones. Recently though, clinical physicians are starting to order a more frequent use of medications. 

Surgery, on the other hand, is the least considered treatment for Graves’ disease. The objective of using this modality is to treat people with large goiters — swelling of thyroid gland or pregnant women who allergic to, or have side effects from using anti-thyroid medications. 

Hypothyroidism 

SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES: The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s disease. This disease is hereditary, and stimulates the immune system to damage the thyroid. Consequently, the thyroid gland is restricted from producing sufficient hormones. Genetics, hyperthyroidism treatment, a thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis) or an iodine deficiency can also make you prone to hypothyroidism.

A Shanghai Medical University study also learned that a Chinese herbal formulation was effective in stimulating the Kidney meridian (energy channel) of people with hypothyroidism. This finding corroborates the TCM theory that this thyroid disease relates closely to a Kidney deficiency.

As a result, you may experience symptoms like depression, a hoarse voice and sensitivity to cold, and puffiness in the eyes.

TCM Treatment

Physicians will recommend the use of ingredients like aconite (fu zi) and cinnamon (rou gui). In addition, the. physicians may propose herbal formulas such as Kidney Yang Tonic (jin gui shen qi wan) and Right Restoration Formula (you gui wan). 

Western Remedy

Most people with hypothyroidism who seek clinical treatment will be advised to take medication. The primary goal of taking medication is to replace the hormones that your thyroid gland stopped making.

Levothyroxine is a type of medication that can help to achieve this purpose. However, you’ll need to take it for the rest of your life if you wish to continuously regulate hormone levels in your body. 

Understanding the symptoms of a thyroid gland disorder can enable you to get treated appropriately. Do speak to both a clinical and TCM physician about adjunctive treatment to avoid potentially adverse outcomes.

References

  1. Medical Xpress. 2017. Clinical study finds Chinese medicine treat [Accessed 6 December 2021] 
  2. PACIFIC COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND SCIENCE. TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE A ment of hyperthyroidism to be over 80% effective. [Accessed 6 December 2021] 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Hypothyroidism. [Accessed 6 December 2021] 
  4. SUSTAIN HEALTH. Graves Disease (GD) and Chinese Herbal Medicine. [Accessed 6 December 2021] 
  5. US National Library of Medicine. 2015. Clinical efficacy of Yingliu treatment for Graves disease.  [Accessed 6 December 2021] 
  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Graves’ Disease. [Accessed 6 December 2021] 

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