Hyperthyroid and Acupuncture: How Treatment Can Help with Symptoms
Hyperthyroidism is the term given to an overactive thyroid, one that produces too many hormones. People with hyperthyroidism experience an array of far-reaching symptoms that are difficult to treat with medication alone.
Acupuncture is an emerging treatment option for people in Houston with an overactive thyroid, and there is some research to back the approach. Acupuncture is also well-suited to resolve many of the symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, as it provides holistic health benefits.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is defined by an imbalance in thyroid hormone production. Specifically, a thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone. This critical part of the endocrine system is responsible for producing dozens of hormones, but a couple are associated with hyperthyroidism in particular, including:
If T3 and T4 levels are abnormal, the patient’s metabolism is either running too fast or too slow. In the case of hyperthyroidism, there’s too much T3 and T4 present, and therefore an elevated metabolism.
In a healthy person, the thyroid is regulated by the pituitary gland, which uses its own hormone signaling to tell the thyroid to ramp up or shut down T3 and T4 production. If T3 and T4 levels are off, that’s a sign that something could be wrong with the thyroid.
What Conditions Can Cause Hyperactivity in the Thyroid?
Hyperthyroidism isn’t a single condition, but a symptom of one of several underlying conditions. There are several medical explanations for a hyperactive thyroid, including:
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. In response, the thyroid loses the ability to regulate thyroid production and synthesizes more T3 and T4. Graves’ disease is, by far, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism – an estimated 80 percent of all hyperthyroid cases are due to Graves. It affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population and is most common in women over 30. Family history of thyroid problems, other autoimmune disorders (including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes), and smoking are all known risk factors of Graves’ disease.
Thyroiditis typically develops after a viral infection, leaving the thyroid in a chronic inflamed state. Chronic inflammation is a known organ disruptor, and in this case, it can cause dysregulation in the thyroid and result in elevated levels of T3 and T4.
Tumors or noncancerous growths
Nodule-like growths on the thyroid can also interfere with the organ’s function and hormone production. These growths are rarely cancerous, but some testicular or ovarian tumors can also cause hyperthyroidism as a secondary condition – a sign that thyroid function is deeply connected with whole-body function.
A somewhat common cause of thyroid dysregulation is taking too many thyroid supplements. Without careful dosing, it’s difficult for people to properly maintain their own thyroid hormone levels through supplementation.
In rare cases, someone may experience hyperthyroidism as a result of eating too many iodine-rich foods or due to receiving contrast dye (prior to medical imaging). When food or contrast dye is the issue, though, there is almost always an underlying thyroid problem present.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism produces a general increase in metabolic activity, and this has systemic effects on how the body functions. As such, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism affect nearly every organ system in the body and may include:
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Mood swings
- Elevated heart rate
- Unexplained weight loss and difficulty gaining weight
- Increased hunger and thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of libido
Everyone experiences hyperthyroidism a bit differently, so two patients can have very different symptom profiles. This is another reason why acupuncture is well-suited to treating hyperthyroidism.
How Houston Acupuncture Can Help People with Hyperthyroidism
Acupuncture has been in use among eastern medicine practitioners for thousands of years. There is compelling research backing its use as a pain and anxiety reducer, but there’s also emerging evidence that it can help regulate thyroid (and other hormone-centric) functions as well.
Most notably, a 2018 meta-analysis that reviewed 29 studies found that acupuncture could help with a variety of thyroid disorders. The meta-analysis did confirm that more research is needed, but given acupuncture’s pain relieving and anxiety reducing effects, there is reason for optimism.
Another reason why more hyperthyroid patients are turning to eastern medicine is because practitioners consider the patient’s whole-body health. In contrast to western allopathic medicine, which targets particular organs during treatment, eastern medicine aims to restore balance to the patient’s overall health.
This makes acupuncture and herbal therapies (which can also help with hormone balance) excellent adjunct treatments. While they cannot replace thyroid medications, acupuncture and herbal therapy can offset some of the most common and debilitating symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. This can help restore quality of life to a significant degree.
Elevated Thyroid Activity Can Impact Quality of Life, But Houston Acupuncture and Other Eastern Treatments Can Help
Some people with hyperthyroidism experience few, if any, symptoms. Others, though, experience debilitating issues that sap quality of life. Thyroid medications have gone a long way in treating the condition, but many patients still need extra relief.
Eastern medicine – acupuncture and herbal therapies the most notable among them – can be a valuable support option for those patients. They’re effective against an array of hyperthyroidism symptoms and come with little risk, as long as treatment is administered by a licensed acupuncturist.