Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorders are frighteningly common, notably amongst women. This is especially true of low thyroid function (termed hypothyroidism). A recent large US population study found that about 9.5% of people had raised levels of a key thyroid hormone called TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone, pointing to low thyroid function. In addition to those diagnosed, many more suffer with thyroid-related symptoms unaware they have a thyroid disorder. This is despite the potentially serious consequences of untreated thyroid disease. Whether you already have a thyroid diagnosis or simply suspect your thyroid performance is not up to scratch, Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford can almost certainly help. We can refer you for comprehensive blood tests which accurately assess your thyroid function. Additionally, our treatment is second to none. We offer high-quality, effective acupuncture care and Chinese herbs to help deal with the physical and mental-emotional symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. Alongside this, our lifestyle support package based on functional medicine principles can provide significant relief. We only use scientifically grounded and up-to-date knowledge in the areas of diet, sleep, weight loss, stress control and exercise. Feeling fat, brain-fogged and low on energy? Then let Advance Clinic help you recover your zest for life!

Human Thyroid Gland AnatomyThe Thyroid Gland: You Can’t Live Without It

The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck. For such a small piece of body anatomy, your thyroid sure punches above its weight. Without it you would literally not be able to survive, never mind thrive.

Almost every cell in your body has receptors for the hormones (chemical messengers) released by your thyroid gland. That means that almost every physiological function in your body is heavily influenced by thyroid function.

Crucially, your thyroid controls your rate of metabolism. Metabolism is simply the the sum of all the chemical reactions that take place in your body cells. These chemical reactions maintain the living state of your cells and body, building new cells and tissue when required (anabolism), while breaking down cells and tissues (catabolism) no longer fit for purpose. This regulated turnover of cells and tissue helps keep you well, both physically and mentally.

Remember, the rate at which metabolism occurs everywhere in the body is controlled by your thyroid. And the rate at which metabolism occurs is critical if normal body functioning is to be maintained. I’m sure you can already see just how important your thyroid is to your overall health and sense of wellbeing.

Thyroid Disease: Your Symptoms as a Guide to Whether Your Thyroid is Underactive (Hypothyroidism) or Overactive (Hyperthyroidism)

It’s important to realise that your thyroid function can either be underactive or overactive, depending on the underlying disease. Sometimes your symptoms provide an idea of whether you have an underactive or overactive thyroid. With an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) you might experience the following:

  1. Clinician examining woman's thyroid glandWeight gain and/or inability to lose weight
  2. Constipation
  3. Fatigue and low energy
  4. Fluid retention
  5. Hair loss
  6. Feeling cold or chilled much of the time
  7. Poor memory, brain fog, and/or difficulty processing thoughts and getting words out
  8. Depression or low mood
  9. Goitre (swelling in the neck)

In contrast, if your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) your signs and symptoms might include the following:

  1. Weight loss or difficulty maintaining weight, despite a normal diet
  2. Palpitations
  3. Subjective feelings of heat, or sweating even in normal temperatures
  4. Insomnia
  5. Feelings of mild or strong anxiety and jitteriness
  6. Tendency to outbursts of anger for no good reason
  7. Goitre (swelling in the neck)

With some thyroid problems, i.e, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (see below), it’s possible that you could alternately experience the symptoms of both underactive and overactive thyroid. However, it’s more common for the symptoms of one or the other (underactive or overactive) to dominate.

Thyroid Disease: What are the Causes? Just How Common Is It?

There are many reasons why your thyroid gland may not function correctly. Thyroid cancer is one reason, but thankfully this is pretty uncommon. It makes up about 1% of all cancers in the UK, making it the 19th most common UK cancer. Although the incidence is rising, this is from a low base.

Sometimes low thyroid function is simply be due to nutrient deficiencies. Moreover, while the thyroid influences practically all physiological functioning in the body, a whole host of health issues can in turn negatively affect thyroid function. These include:

  1. Poor diet
  2. Excessive or prolonged emotional stress
  3. Overexercising
  4. Hidden/retained infections in the gut or thyroid
  5. Exposure to environmental toxins.

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis illustration with conventional medicationsCommonly, the thyroid becomes dysfunctional due to autoimmune disease. Our immune systems should normally defend us from external invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. It’s our essential defence against these pathogens. In autoimmunity, however, the immune system is dysfunctional and starts to attack the body’s own tissues. Potentially any tissue or organ in the body can become a target in these circumstances.

In autoimmune thyroid disease, it’s the thyroid which is the main target of the immune system. The ongoing immune assault on the thyroid leads to gradual destruction of the gland over time and a lifetime requirement for thyroid replacement hormone therapy, i.e., the drug levothyroxine.

The two main types of autoimmune thyroid disorder are:

  1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – in which the thyroid is generally underactive (hypothyroidism),
  2. Graves’ Disease – where thyroid function becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism).

Hashimoto’s is far more common than Graves’ (see below).

Autoimmune thyroid disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the West. Early post-mortem studies have, for example, found an incidence of chronic autoimmune thyroid disease in 27% of women and 7% of men, this in individuals who had no symptoms of thyroid disease in their lives.

In people showing clear symptoms of hypothyroidism or low thyroid function, most (approximately 90%) will be due to Hashimoto’s. In general, Hashimoto’s is thought to affect around 9-10% of the population, mostly but not exclusively females. The prevalence of Graves’ disease in women is 0.5-2.0%. Women are 10 times more likely to develop autoimmune thyroid disease and much more likely to develop autoimmunity generally.

Thyroid and thyroid hormone function is highly complex. Because the hormones released by the thyroid affect almost every cell in your body, thyroid dysfunction can lead to a wide array of often confusing signs and symptoms. Some patients therefore remain undiagnosed for years. This is important because earlier diagnosis and treatment may mean that your thyroid function can be partly or fully restored or retained. This may mean you won’t have to take replacement thyroid hormone, or at the very least may allow you to take a smaller dose.

How Advance Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, Hertford Can Help

At Advance Clinic we have effective ways of helping you improve your thyroid function.

If you don’t already have a diagnosis, but are concerned you are suffering with thyroid dysfunction, we can refer you for comprehensive blood tests. These will provide a snapshot view of your thyroid function and how efficiently thyroid hormone is being used by your body’s cells and tissues. They’ll also tell us whether you are suffering with an autoimmune thyroid disorder. It’s critically important to know this if we’re to provide you with the best possible advice and care.

We believe in ordering a full thyroid blood panel when we refer you for blood tests. This means measuring TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, as well as anti-TPO and anti-TG antibodies. This information provides the most accurate idea of just how well your thyroid and thyroid hormone is functioning and is almost always more comprehensive than blood tests you will obtain through your GP practice. We are of course happy to inform your GP of results we obtain.

Notepad showing the different components of a wellness lifestyleOur main treatment strategies are:

  1. Acupuncture therapy
  2. Chinese herbs
  3. Diet, nutritional and other lifestyle advice

When combined, these strategies can be highly effective for those with autoimmune thyroid disease, or for those with thyroid dysfunction due to other factors, such as nutrient deficiency.

Currently, it’s thought that 25% of the risk of developing autoimmunity is due to genetic factors. That means the other 75% of the risk is due to environmental factors, including poor diet, uncontrolled emotional stress, poor sleep patterns, ongoing infections, and exposure to environmental toxins etc.

‘Leaky gut’ or increased gut permeability is an increasingly important focus in autoimmune research. Leaky gut means that substances which should stay in the gut, including toxins, bacteria and partly digested food particles etc, instead leak through the gut wall and enter the blood circulation. There are many reasons why this might happen, including poor diet, stress and certain medications etc. Irrespective of cause, the immune system is said to recognise these substances as foreign. This provokes an immune and inflammatory response. It’s believed that repeated episodes of gut leakiness can create the potential for a disordered immune response, i.e., autoimmunity. More research is required to work out the precise mechanisms and consequences of leaky gut. However, it’s looking likely that leaky gut is one important consideration when thinking about the causes of autoimmune disease, including autoimmune Thyroid disease. There is increasing scientific evidence that specific Chinese herbs and dietary change can have a positive role both in protecting the gut barrier but also in helping to restore an already compromised barrier.

Even where you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, there’s increasing evidence that making positive lifestyle changes in the areas of diet, stress, sleep and exercise etc, can have a profound effect on reducing the symptoms of autoimmune thyroid disease. This is especially so when your on the right type and dose of thyroid replacement hormone, if indeed you need to take it. We will of course provide information about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of thyroid replacement hormone.

Acupuncture needles inserted in skinAt Advance Clinic, we provide you with all the quality lifestyle advice and support based on functional medicine principles that you need to improve your health. And, we’ll support the lifestyle changes you make with proven acupuncture care and/or Chinese herbs.

Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs can potentially help reduce your thyroid symptoms in the following ways:

  1. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help reduce pain and inflammation – both are commonly found in autoimmune disease, including thyroid disease.
  2. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs may help balance immune system activity, although more research is required in this area. Balancing immune system activity means that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can potentially boost immunity when it is weak, but also reduce overactive immune responses, as is the case in autoimmunity.
  3. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help reduce the mental-emotional impact of thyroid disease, whether it be anxiety, depression, stress, poor memory or difficulty processing thoughts.

You can see there’s a wealth of ways in which Advance Clinic can help with the symptoms of your thyroid disorder. Why not contact us today and make your life right again!

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