Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid becomes chronically inflamed and leads to primary hypothyroidism. Blood tests are used to determine the level of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and other signs of Hashimoto’s disease may include tiredness, sensitivity to cold, swollen and puffy face, hoarse voice, weight gain, shoulder and hip muscle aches, joint pain and depression. Hashimoto’s disease can also cause a goiter, which is a swelling of the neck due to an enlarged thyroid gland.
The pituitary gland tries to stimulate the thyroid and produces more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which then causes the the enlarged gland. We will examine how traditional Chinese medicine looks at Hashimoto’s disease and traditional treatment strategies that they may be used.
How are the Hashimoto’s symptoms of tiredness, coldness, puffy face and weight gain looked at in traditional Chinese medicine?
These symptoms could fall into a pattern known as deficiency of yang syndrome. When the yang becomes deficient cold signs will develop. Yang is represented by the sun and its warmth. Heat normally rises and if it can’t reach the face, it will become pale and the circulation of fluids becomes inhibited and hence fluids build up causing a puffy face results. The yang energy supplies the get and go in motivation so if yang is weak and cold, tiredness can result.
How does Chinese medicine view goiter?
There is more than one disease mechanism that can lead to goiter. One such mechanism is a complication of yang deficiency where it leads to accumulation of damp. If there is not enough fire to warm and circulate the fluids they will then congeal and accumulate. Ancient physicians regarded goiters as phlegm and damp nodules. Many centuries before western scientists discovered iodine in seaweed, Chinese and Japanese medicine physicians had been using kun bu, seaweed, to treat goiter.
What about the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s, can that be addressed with traditional medicine?
Some traditional trained acupuncturists use what is known as the eight extraordinary vessels. These vessels are regarded as being the key to accessing the constitutional strength of the patient and practitioners use them to treat a whole host of chronic conditions. Two of these special eight meridians called the chong and the ren, which are commonly used for women’s problems and may be used to address Hashimoto’s disease as it is known that more women get Hashimoto’s than men.
There is chapter devoted to hashimoto’s disease in the book, The Treatment of Modern Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, by Bob Flaws and Phillipe Sionneau.