Hypothyroidism: Causes, Symptoms and How Houston Acupuncture Can Help
In people with hypothyroidism, the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones to meet the body’s needs. There are multiple causes of an underactive thyroid, including:
- Hashimoto’s disease – the result of the immune system attacking the thyroid
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Thyroid inflammation
- Medical treatments, including surgery, radiation or medications
Of these, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid. No matter the cause, though, hypothyroidism can be treated with acupuncture and other forms of eastern medicine.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Since thyroid hormones are involved in hundreds of bodily processes, hypothyroidism can produce a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle and joint pain
- Difficulty maintaining weight
- Irregular menstruation
- Fertility problems
- Face swelling
- GI symptoms – constipation most notably
- Thinning hair
These symptoms may be slow to develop, so it’s common for people to live with hypothyroidism without knowing it. However, tests can confirm an underactive thyroid. These tests measure the level of TSH, T3 and T4 hormones in the blood.
If hypothyroidism is suspected, it’s important to get confirmation. Hypothyroidism can cause cholesterol levels to rise, which can impact heart health. And while rare, it’s possible for thyroid activity to drop to the point where it results in a coma.
How Can Acupuncture Help Hypothyroid Conditions?
If tests do confirm an underactive thyroid, you have treatment options. One option is medication. Levothyroxine is the most common drug prescribed for hypothyroidism and provides the body with synthetic T4. However, there are side effects associated with levothyroxine, including:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Heart palpitations
- Hot flashes and heat sensitivity
These side effects can be difficult for patients to deal with, which is why many turn to acupuncture for support. Acupuncture is an ideal adjunct therapy for many conditions, and it has noted effects on hypothyroidism as well.
Both the British Acupuncture Council and World Health Organization have stated that the treatment can help patients with hypothyroidism. Multiple studies also back this notion, though more high-quality studies are needed to confirm the treatment’s efficacy.
There are multiple reasons why acupuncture may help with hypothyroidism. While more research is needed, the available research suggests the following:
- Acupuncture may stimulate the thyroid to produce additional T4 and T3 hormones, increasing the availability of both in the blood.
- Acupuncture acts on several parts of the brain associated with hypothyroidism symptoms. Specifically, treatment can influence areas of the brain associated with pain and anxiety.
- Acupuncture stimulates better circulation into muscles and joints. This can improve stiffness, mobility and inflammation in both.
- Acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-reducing and mood-improving biochemicals, including adenosine and endorphins.
In short, acupuncture has wide-ranging, systemic effects on the body that can offset the systemic effects of an underactive thyroid. The available research may have trouble capturing all of these factors, but patient case studies demonstrate that the treatment can relieve symptoms.
Acupuncture Can Also Reduce the Severity of Thyroid Medication Side Effects
Even if you are receiving acupuncture for hypothyroidism, it’s important to keep taking any prescribed thyroid medications. As mentioned, medications like levothyroxine can produce side effects, though.
If you’re experiencing thyroid drug-related side effects, acupuncture is perfectly suited to reduce their impact. That’s because the treatment is effective for the following:
- Headaches – Several high-quality medical studies and meta-analyses show that acupuncture is effective for headaches. This includes migraines and tension headaches. During treatment, each needle stimulates the nervous system into releasing pain-relieving endorphins, reducing headache intensity.
- Fatigue – Several studies, including a 2015 study published in Trials, demonstrate acupuncture’s effectiveness with fatigue. In the 2015 study, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome experienced an improvement in symptoms following acupuncture treatment. The effects persisted for weeks.
- Anxiety and irritability – Several studies also demonstrate a positive effect with anxiety. This includes human and animal studies. In a 2016 animal study that used rats as subjects, acupuncture reduced the intensity of the rats’ fight-or-flight response.
- Hot flashes – Acupuncture is frequently recommended to menopausal women who experience hot flashes. The research here is strong, and many reputable medical organizations in the U.S. have promoted its use in this regard. According to the medical literature, acupuncture can help with hot flash frequency and severity. It can also reduce depression associated with hot flashes.
Considering Acupuncture For Thyroid health? Work With a Licensed Acupuncturist
A licensed Houston acupuncturist is also trained in effective needle placement and insertion, so they can deliver treatment with minimal discomfort. They can deliver it cleanly, too, because licensed practitioners observe best sanitation practices.
If you’re already taking thyroid medication or are considering it, there are also Houston acupuncturists who are also licensed in western medicine, like ours. Working with a dual-licensed practice ensures you get the best of both medical philosophies, including acupuncture treatment.