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make very quick changes in a fraction of
a second by sending electrical impulses
through the spinal cord to the muscles,
or it can make slow changes by sending
chemical messengers, called hormones,
into the blood to reach the tissues and the
organs. While hormonal changes are a lot
slower, they have longer lasting effects than
those activated from the nervous system
to the muscles, and they are often vital for
Hormones in our body have very
diverse effects. They influence how tall
we grow, how much weight we put on,
the onset of puberty and menopause,
our moods, our sexual drive and overall
energy, our ability to process the food we
eat, and our immunity.
To use an example, the thyroid
gland is located in our neck. It regulates
our metabolism, which is our ability to
process energy, and it is activated by the
hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the
brain. These two glands in our head both
control the activity of the thyroid through
the secretion of the Thyroid Stimulating
Hormone (TSH). A very clever negative
feedback system monitors how much
hormone is being released by sending
chemical signals to the brain when the
optimum amount has been reached.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go
according to plan.
Hashimoto disease is a thyroid
autoimmune disorder affecting mostly
women. It can be the result of a virus,
bacterial infection, pregnancy, or a genetic
imbalance causing the thyroid follicles
to be accidentally released into the blood
stream. The body’s defence system reacts
by creating antibodies to attack this
unexpected visitor thus causing a chronic
inflammation of the thyroid gland, and
stopping any secretion of the much needed
When the pituitary gland gets the
feedback message that the thyroid is
no longer functioning, it responds by
gradually increasing the amount of Thyroid
Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which makes
the matter worse. In fact, the level of TSH
in the blood is an accurate indicator of the
thyroid inflammation – the higher the TSH
levels, the worse the inflammation.
A patient suffering from Hashimoto
syndrome is someone having a body
engine constantly running at half speed.
She could be feeling cold, getting easily
tired, feeling depressed, losing hair,
experiencing difficulties with memory,
and poor concentration.
At the beginning, she might only have
flu type symptoms, and the excessive level
of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in
her blood will be the only indication that
the culprit is hiding in her neck.
Although Hashimoto Syndrome can
be effectively treated with a lifetime
of hormone replacement therapy, the
dosage has to be closely monitored to
avoid bone loss causing osteoporosis and
potential heart problems. This explains
why patients will often look at alternative
forms of treatments.
In Oriental medicine, Hashimoto
symptoms of cold, fatigue, lack of sexual
energy, hair loss, and poor memory are
symptomatic of a weakness in kidney
Yang energy, or a lack of internal warmth.
According to the ancient principles of
Traditional Chinese medicine, our immune
energy, or Wei Qi, has its source in the
Kidney organ before being diffused by
the lungs. So reinforcing both the kidney
channel and organ will be highly beneficial
against any forms of autoimmune disorder.
Unlike other forms of hypothyroidism,
in Hashimoto disease, the hypo function
of the thyroid is not caused by an iodine
deficiency, so the traditional Chinese
thyroid formula involving the use of
grounded oyster shells or seaweed extract
is not beneficial. Instead Qi and Yang
warming herbs like ginseng, cinnamon,
ginger and liquorice are often prescribed.
In addition, acupuncture points stimulating
the blood circulation, harmonising the liver
function, and strengthening the kidney
warming energy are often used.
In clinical practice, patients are treated
once a week until their symptoms have
improved and their TSH levels have been
brought down to normal. Once the patient
reaches that stage she will need only to
visit periodically while her symptoms and
hormone levels are being monitored.
As in most cases, the earlier the
problem is treated the quicker the
results, but even in long term conditions,
Hashimoto sufferers can achieve a
significant decrease in TSH levels in a short
period of time with both acupuncture and
Chinese herbal medicine.
Once these hormone levels have been
reduced, the intake of synthetic thyroxin
hormone replacement dosage can be
moderated, then gradually decreased.
Being able to control their hormonal intake
and the corresponding risks of side effects
gives many patients a new lease of life.
For the Oriental practitioner, this
powerful collaboration of Western
and Oriental medical systems shows
the true potential of this new approach
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‘ Hashimoto disease is a thyroid
autoimmune disorder affecting
’ A patient suffering from
Hashimoto syndrome is
someone having a body engine
constantly running at half speed.’
Olivier Lejus MHSc.BHSc. is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Sydney.
Treating Thyroid Disorders
Lejus discusses how
disorders such as
n several of my earlier articles, I have
discussed the fascinating (or terrifying)
concept of autoimmune disorders.
These occur when the body‘s immune
defence system goes haywire and starts
attacking itself. Autoimmune diseases can
manifest in many forms, ranging from
Rheumatoid Arthritis affecting the joints
to Multiple Sclerosis affecting the nerves.
Other autoimmune disorders have an
effect on our hormonal system. This is the
case with Hashimoto disease, which is a
disorder of the thyroid gland.
The human body has several ways of
regulating itself. The nervous system can
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