Working with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, I see these patterns a lot in clinic, because thyroid health plays a strong role in our fertile health, energy levels, temperature regulation, mood, metabolic action and weight. If you have any challenges within these areas, it’s worth ensuring your thyroid health is better supported! Well-functioning thyroid hormones are the gift that keeps on giving.
Thyroid issues can range from
- No obvious symptoms
o If you don’t have symptoms when might we investigate your thyroid more? Usually if other intervention hasn’t seen a shift, we’d be inclined to do a bit more digging eg. subfertility.
- Having lots of symptoms but testing coming back with “nothing” (subclinical)
o If you’re in the “my thyroid was checked and I was told I’m fine, but I have thyroid symptoms!” category, then we support your thyroid! From a Chinese Medicine POV
we work on addressing symptoms, regardless of where they sit in part of a formed pattern picture.
o Lab ranges change all the time, and don’t account for your individual symptom picture or optimal health ranges. Optimal ranges are a lot tighter than the ranges given in reports. If you tick the boxes for having thyroid symptoms, then it’s very likely you can do things to adjust and support your thyroid.
- Through to a complete autoimmune picture (eg. hashimoto’s).
o If you already have an autoimmune diagnosis, there are ways to approach supportive care that are tailored to your individual picture.
Here are a few common symptoms of low thyroid function:
Feeling cold all the time?
From a Chinese Medicine POV we commonly want to make sure that if you’re always feeling cold, or you have low BBT (for those temperature charting) that your Kidney and Yang Qi is sufficient to keep everything moving well and warm. Your Yang Qi is one of the drivers for activity. We also want to look at your Spleen Qi, which assists in assimilating nutrients and keeping your extremities warm.
Without getting too deep into things; In a full thyroid profile they will test your TSH levels, T3, T4, and thyroid antibodies. The quick and dirty explanation of what these check for:
- TSH = Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Having low thyroid function means the thyroid is sluggish, so the body sends some Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, in order to stimulate it to … you guessed it … make thyroid hormone! (The real question is usually, why is it sluggish?)
- Thyroid Antibodies are checked in cases where autoimmune disease is suspected. The two we’re going to focus on more in terms of temp regulation:
- T4 is the storage form of thyroid hormone and has a warming metabolic effect. When someone has low levels of T4 they’ll feel cold, tired, hungry, grumpy or teary. It’s not too
hard to think of someone that fits that category! (Conversely, if you have a lot of heat symptoms, faster heart rate, sore eyes and it’s thyroid related, it may be that T4 is in high levels.)
T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone and mostly is made around the body. It’s influenced quicker than T4 and we need carbs in order to make T3, so In a similar vein to T4, if you’re not eating enough carbs, it’s going to translate to feeling cold, hungry, tired, grumpy.
Feeling hungry all the time?
From a Chinese Medicine POV we generally want to make sure that the transformation and transportation of nutrients is feeding the whole body through regulating your ‘middle burner’ AKA, your Spleen and Stomach working optimally. Hunger is a result of your body being desperate for nutrients. We just mentioned that T3 needs carbs to work well, so it’s easy to see how low carb diets will often exacerbate symptoms in someone who has low thyroid support. Make sure you have regular, nutrient dense and protein rich real foods. We want amino acids coming in from the diet! From a Fasting is not considered a friendly option for thyroid support. During times of starvation or little access to food your body goes into protection mode and reverses T3 to make it inactive so you don’t use your fuel reserves too quickly. Small frequent meals is the way to go.
Feeling tired all the time?
From a Chinese Medicine POV we’re usually looking at how to effectively build, move and/or nourish Qi and blood. If you’re not assimilating nutrients well through your ‘middle burner’, your Liver Qi is congested, or if your Kidney Qi lacks support you’re going to feel constantly flat. In that picture of cold, hungry, tired, grumpy, we talked about T3 and T4 already and their need to be optimised. Part of that is looking at the right co-factors needed to make thyroid hormone. Co-factors, as the name suggests, are simply other factors that contribute!
Two often considered are:
- Getting enough iron. Iron is a big factor to consider with fatigue. We want your iron’s storage capacity (ferritin) to have strong reserve levels.
- Getting enough salt. Sodium is actually suuuper important in getting thyroid hormone made. Salt molecule carries iodine into the cell. It’s necessary! If your labs are on the lower end of “normal” there’s a good chance you need to up your salt.
If you think your thyroid is in need of extra support, Laelia is an Acupuncturist and TCM practitioner who loves to support people in feeling less depleted. She’s available on Fridays and Saturdays at NBIP. You can book in with her here