Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Treatment of Thyroid Conditions

{guest post by Dr. Drew Nesbitt}

I asked Drew to guest post today as I’ve heard multiple times from people I know, how TCM and acupuncture have been helpful in their journey to healing the thyroid. For those who have struggling with thyroid health and unable to overcome their issues through just diet and lifestyle changes, TCM may be helpful in your healing.

Thyroid conditions affect an estimated 200 million people worldwide, many of whom may go undiagnosed. As a Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCMP) who works in the field of natural fertility enhancement, I often see people suffering from thyroid symptoms (i.e. hypothyroidism can lead to miscarriage). In this article, I will go over the basics of the most common thyroid conditions as well as how they are interpreted and treated from a TCM perspective.

Hyperthyroidism – The Hot Type

From a Chinese medicine point of view, hyperthyroidism is often referred to as the “hot” type and is often grouped into the “Yin deficiency” or “Empty Heat” category in Chinese medicine. Yin is the cooling, moistening element in TCM (as opposed to Yang which is warming). When someone is deficient in Yin, sufferers therefore experience a relative excess of heat (see chart #1 below). This excess in heat can create symptoms such as:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations (racing heart)
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight loss (despite a high appetite)

To treat Yin deficiency type hyperthyroidism, a practitioner must nourish Yin with the use of acupuncture, foods and most importantly, herbal medicine. A common Chinese medicine formula to tonify Yin is called “Six Ingredient Pill with Rehmannia” or “Liu Wei Di Huang Wan”.

Chart #1

tcm and thyroid

Image from www.massagetoday.com

 

Hypothyroidism – The Cold Type

On the other end of the thyroid spectrum is the more commonly known hypothyroidism. This is more commonly seen in my fertility practise than hyperthyroidism and in my opinion, often goes undiagnosed. People can suffer for years with what is called sub-clinical hypothyroidism which is when your blood work appears in the normal range yet you still seem to exhibit typical symptoms of hypothyroidism. Since your blood work is normal, you generally do not receive treatment – often leaving people frustrated and looking for alternatives.

First, let’s look at some of the more familiar symptoms of hypothyroidism:

In chart #2, you will notice that with hypothyroidism, there is a deficiency in the Yang energy which creates a relative excess of Yin – resulting in more “cold” associated symptoms, also referred to as a “Yang Deficiency” or “Empty Cold”. Yang energy is the hotter, faster energy when compared to Yin and when one is deficient in Yang, body processes tend to slow down and feel colder.

To treat the Yang deficient type of hypothyroidism, a TCM practitioner would use warming herbs such as cinnamon bark and aconite as well as acupuncture with the help of moxibustion (the burning of the herb mugwort on or around acupuncture points). As always, diet and supplement suggestions are essential.

Chart #2

tcm and thyroid health

Image from www.massagetoday.com

Hypothyroidism and Acupuncture – Study

A recent Russian study (September 2011) examined the effects of acupuncture and other TCM therapies on subclinical thyroid syndrome and discovered that TSH levels were reduced to normal levels in 74% of the treatment group. It went on to conclude that acupuncture could be an alternative to substitution therapy in subclinical hypothyroidism. More participants in future studies would make these finding more significant but the results are certainly encouraging.

In summary, most people with hypothyroidism are in need of more Yang (warming) energy and most people who suffer from hyperthyroidism need more Yin (cooling) energy. Clinically, we often see a mixture of the two in the one individual and it’s up to a seasoned practitioner to decide the best course of treatment.

Don’t let the often mysterious language of TCM stop you from considering this growing healthcare profession…particularly when it comes to your thyroid health. Consult with an experienced TCM practitioner and see if your thyroid condition is the “hot” type or the “cold” type and start feeling better today.

Drew Nesbitt is a Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCMP) and a Nutritional Consultant in Toronto, Ontario who specializes in natural fertility enhancement for both men and women. Visit www.drewnesbitt.ca for more information today.

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

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Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Undiagnosed Thyroid Conditions #1 Reason for Infertility?

{a guest post by Magdalena of  Thyroid Diet Coach}

I went for dinner with my single male friend just the other day and as we just sat down he said: “You know, just about every other woman I go on a date with has a thyroid drama going on.” Yes, he is a serial dater and yes, thyroid problems have become nothing less than a pandemic. “At least these women have a diagnosis”, I said.

They are lucky girls (to have a diagnosis) as once you know the enemy you can derive a plan of action; be it medications, diet, herbs, acupuncture or lifestyle changes. Whatever it is, it’s in your hands.

It’s the worse thing when we experience a list of symptoms and nobody can tell us what is really going on. This sounds like a typical undiagnosed thyroid story; infertility, miscarriages, fatigue, weight loss resistance, low-grade depression, anxiety, hair loss, brittle nails and the list goes on.

There are plenty of studies showing a connection between the thyroid function, fertility, miscarriages and a healthy pregnancy. An underactive thyroid function can prevent ovulation even though you are menstruating.

If you have been struggling with these and have been told that “your thyroid is OK”, I recommend getting your thyroid tested or re-tested even if you have done so already.

This is why: in spite of a mountain of evidence that the “standard thyroid tests” of TSH, Total T4 and Total T3 hormones are insufficient and inconclusive, very few doctors test for more.

And this is where the problem begins.

As a Thyroid Diet Coach, I see too many women with TSH, T4 and T3 within “range” even though they display every symptom described above. Take the TSH as an example. The conventional medicine range is 0.5 to 5.5 whereby the functional medicine practitioners will not accept anything else than 1-2 range. Furthermore, many women show a perfect TSH even though they are still suffering from many symptoms. As a former Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism caused by an autoimmune disease) patient, my TSH was also “perfect” even when I felt at my very worse.

So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions for you:

1). Find an open-minded doctor

This might sound easy but it’s not. I’ve had many of my clients being dismissed and laughed at by their physicians when they request for a full thyroid panel. Sadly, most endocrinologists are very set in their ways and you might have more luck with internists and naturopaths.

Besides, of course, doing a Google search in your area, you can also try another great trick: ask your local pharmacy about doctors who order compounded thyroid medication. These doctors tend to be far more open-minded and willing to work with you.

2). Insist of getting a full thyroid panel

This is THE key. Forget the standard TSH, T4, T3 alone. This is what you would need to test to get a full picture of what is going on:

  • TSH
  • Free T4 (not just Total as we want to know what is “free” and available for your body receptors to use)
  • Free T3 (same for “free” as above)
  • Reverse T3 (it’s a type of T3 that mimics T3 but it only blocks the receptors and does nothing for us)
  • TPO antibodies
  • TGB antibodies
  • TSI antibodies (if you suspect an overactive thyroid)

This is a good start. However, the thyroid does not function in isolation from all other hormones therefore I also like to recommend testing for sugar levels (glucose, insulin and HA1C), cortisol levels (especially if you have been experiencing stress), estrogen, progesterone and DHEA-S.

Since the conversion of T4 hormone to T3 is dependent on many factors, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, I would also recommend testing for Vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, D and ferritin (bio-available iron), zinc, selenium and copper.

3). Reduce your antibodies

90% of thyroid conditions are caused by the immune system’s attack on the thyroid. This means that it’s not the thyroid that originally fails to function well, it’s the immune system’s attacks that causes the thyroid to become under- (hypo-) or overactive (hyper-).

This is why most people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s Disease which is the autoimmune condition and people with hyperthyroidism (more rare) have Graves’ Disease.

How do you know you have it? It’s pretty simple – you need to test for the TPO, TGB and TSI (in case of hyperthyroidism) antibodies.

Elevated antibodies have been connected to infertility, miscarriages and children with learning disabilities and even autism.

Taking thyroid medications like Synthroid, Armour or Levoxyl will NOT lower the antibodies completely as they will not do anything for the immune system.

So what does? This is where your diet comes in.

What many of us don’t realize is that 70% of the immune system resides in the digestive tract (aka “the gut”) in the form of a complex and vast network of lymph tissue referred to as GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue).

You might therefore not be surprised to hear that most women with thyroid conditions also experience many digestive issues such as frequent bloating, constipation, gas, acid reflux, burping or diarrhea. In fact, for many, it’s so common that they assume it’s “normal”. By no means it is normal or acceptable if you want to live a healthy live.

The key things you can do to start addressing and repairing your immune system and your digestion are:

  1. Find out what your food intolerances are

It’s estimated that 70% of people in developed countries suffer from food intolerances (they are different from allergies) which create havoc in the digestive tract and therefore the immune system. The common culprits (although this is not an exhaustive list) are: gluten, eggs, dairy, soy and corn.

Blood tests are often not accurate therefore it’s best to go on an Elimination Diet to gain full clarity and control. If you need help in doing one, you can get The Elimination Diet Guide which was written specifically for thyroid patients. 

  1. Introduce probiotics

Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that will push out the pathogenic bacteria, virus and parasites that are aggravating the immune system. Beyond commercial yoghurt (which is very poor in good bacteria and most often loaded with sugar and additives), try incorporating lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickled cucumbers or kombucha tea.

  1. Support your liver

The liver plays a huge role in detoxifying our body, storing vitamins and minerals, balancing our hormones and converting the T4 thyroid hormone to T3. We will never be healthy if we have a sluggish liver. One needs to be careful, however, about many bogus detoxes, especially the ones promised by pill and powders. It’s best to focus on really freeing the liver temporarily from animal fats, meats and toxins by fasting and adding cleansing foods like dandelion, parsley, lemons, flax seeds, etc. For more details on how to do a detox that is thyroid-centric, you can check out Thyroid Detox home-study program.

I’m a big believer that we eat our way into many health problems, often times unknowingly. But, I also believe we can eat our way out of these problems.

Give food a chance. Our body is an amazing machine; designed to self-heal and self-regulate. Just give it the right environment and you will be amazed what might happen.

You can also sign up for the free video classes. I’ve watched the first video on what foods could be sabotaging your thyroid and from what I’ve been reading, aligns very much with what I know of healing the body.

Magdelena’s also has a  Fire Up Your Thyroid class that Is currently 35% off until December 31, 2012. Just use the code: THYROID2013.

And until the end of January 2013, you can take $20.00 off the Thyroid Detox home study program with the code: TD20OFF

The author of this article, Magdalena Wszelaki is the founder of Thyroid Diet Coach; a nutritional practice dedicated to empowering women with thyroid and autoimmune conditions to self-heal and reclaims their lives.

Magdalena is a former Hashimoto’s patient (autoimmune disease causing underactive thyroid) and she has been in remission for several years now. You can watch her videos, listen to her FREE Thyroid Community Calls and read her articles on Thyroid Diet Coach website.

 

 *some links in this article may be affiliate links

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Natural Fertility and Zinc

Zinc is actually one of the most studied nutrients when it comes to fertility.

Much of the reason behind that statement most likely stem from the fact that zinc is an essential component of genetic material. This means that a deficiency in zinc can cause chromosomal changes in either partner which in turn causes reduced fertility and greater risk of miscarriage.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is basically an essential mineral that your body uses in all sorts of ways, and it is needed daily to replenish your body’s supply. It’s so essential that it’s found in every cell of our bodies.

  • it helps in the production of DNA,
  • assists in wound healing,
  • is important for hormone production,
  • boosts your immune system,
  • helps in supporting the balance of our blood sugar levels because when we’re low or deficient in this mineral, our bodies insulin response slows and our blood sugar becomes harder to stabilize,
  • it’s required in the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach to digest and break down foods,

It also directly affects your fertility.

For women, zinc is important in helping your body utilize the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. A deficiency can lead to hormone imbalance, abnormal ovarian development, and menstrual irregularity. When your body is low on zinc it also inhibits the metabolism of protein, which in turn can lower egg quality.

For a man, it can greatly impact the sperm count since zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. It is also needed to make the outer layer and the tail of the sperm. If a man is deficient in zinc, it can affect his sperm quality and quantity.

zinc and fertility

photo credit: Brian Jackson

Unfortunately zinc is not stored in the body well so you must keep up a constant consumption of it. The best ways to get zinc naturally are to eat plenty of:

  • beef, venison, and poultry
  • eggs
  • whole grains
  • whole fat dairy products
  • seeds like sunflower and pumpkin
  • molasses and maple syrup

The recommended daily allowance is only 11mg for men and 8mg for women, though these amounts may be to low to help boost fertility and may only work well for those who already have an ample supply of zinc.

For boosting fertility I’ve seen amounts anywhere from 25 mgs to 50 mgs per day. Although long term use above 40 mgs has also been shown to cause deficiencies in other minerals (like copper), so if you plan on taking large doses, I’d talk to your doctor or get tested to see if you have a deficiency first.

Gluten and Zinc

When I taped our podcast with Dr. Tom O’Bryan (an expert on gluten intolerance and how it affects reproduction), one of the things he said really made me think. You see…..I’ve often known that a gluten intolerance or celiac can affect a woman’s fertility and ability to carry a pregnancy, but I never thought to much about the male side of the coin.

He told me that when the villi in the intestines are worn down from a gluten intolerance, that zinc is the first nutrient we lose the ability to absorb.

Yup, just let that sink in a minute.

So if someone is intolerant to gluten, before it’s even noticed, before you have any symptoms, you start losing the ability to absorb zinc. And with zinc so high on the list for important nutrients for men, this has to have drastic consequences.

Testing for Zinc Deficiencies

One of the other things I learned from talking with Dr. O’Bryan was that there was a way to test for zinc deficiencies at home by using something called zinc talley.

This stuff is supposed to taste horrible.

But if you’re deficient in zinc, you won’t taste a thing!

How to test:

  • Take about 1 tablespoon of the zinc talley liquid and swish in your mouth for 5 – 10 seconds. (you can then either spit it out or swallow it)

If you can’t taste anything, seems like it was just water, you have a zinc deficiency.

If you want to spit it out right away and it has a strong flavor, you have enough zinc in your system.

And of course, if you’re somewhere between those you can figure that the more you taste, the more zinc you have in your body. If you notice you’re deficient you can supplement with extra zinc and then test every once in a while to gauge your zinc levels.

 While fertility issues are usually not attributed to just one thing, have you ever thought about zinc as a needed nutrient?
Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Vitamin C and fertility

Natural Fertility and Vitamin C

photo credit: free-stock

Natural fertility isn’t just about getting the woman healthy. Up to 30% of couples that struggle with infertility do so because of male factor, and another 30% have combined issues. So nutrition is equally important in men – their bodies must be nourished with the correct nutrients to support sperm production as well as the quality of the sperm. A good solid fertility diet is a wonderful for men, but sometimes, depending on the male factor infertility issue, some supplementation may be helpful.

One University of Texas study has shown that increasing the daily amount of Vitamin C in men helps them produce more sperm, stronger sperm, and more mobile sperm. Sometimes the sperm count rose over ten times when men started ingesting the healthy amount of vitamin C.

Basically, it’s thought that because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps to protect the sperm and it’s DNA from damage thereby increasing the sperm quality. Sperm with damaged DNA can fail to thrive at all or fail to allow conception. And in some circumstances, it’s the damaged DNA that causes birth defects or a failure for the baby to thrive.

So vitamin C helps to neutralize any chemicals or toxins found in the semen from things like environmental pollution, or smoking. (Another reason to quit before you try to conceive!)

Along with its antioxidant properties vitamin C seems to help semen be less sticky, or clumped together, so that the sperm can more easily move and swim to meet the egg.

Foods high in Vitamin C:

  • red peppers (1/2 cup has 142 mg)
  • orange (70mg)
  • broccoli (1/2 cup has 62 mg)
  • kiwi (74 mg)
  • papaya (62 mg)
  • strawberries (5 of them have 51 mg)

How much should you take?

The RDA amount for Vitamin C was raised awhile back, almost across the board for all men, women, and children. What used to be 60mgs per day for men, now stands at 90 for non smokers and 120 for smokers. If this seems quite low to you, bear in mind that this is the amount needed just to prevent certain illnesses like scurvy.

Fertility studies showing the effects of vitamin C were done using supplements of 1000mgs, 3000mgs, and sometimes even more per day. 

You’ll know when you’ve reached your bodies limit for vitamin C in one easily noticed bodily reaction – loose stools. You see, vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, meaning that what the body doesn’t use, it eliminates. So you should be able to increase the amount you take until you notice this reaction – you’ll then know how much your body needs.

If you’re dealing with male infertility it may be wise to supplement the husbands diet with a good quality vitamin C supplement throughout the womans cycle, as well as increase supplementation right before and during ovulation to help the sperms mobility.

 

*I should also let you know that taking aspirin, alcohol, or antidepressants has been shown to lower vitamin C levels in the body. And high doses of C can also make some medications not as effective, so check with your doc if you’re serious about taking large doses and are already on meds. About 3/4 of the way down on this page tells you a bit more about the safety of high vitamin C doses.

 

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.

Free Fertility Foods Checklist

Subscribe to Naturally Knocked Up and I’ll send you a link to download the Foods for Fertility checklist!food for fertility checklist

This convenient checklist can help you figure out what to eat, as well as give you a weekly look at your food intake. This checklist covers most of the basic foods that are nutrient dense and good for balancing hormones and boosting fertility. And I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting in everything, every day – so this is an easy way for me to make sure that most of the boxes are checked off by the end of the week.

And while we have offered this checklist before, it just hasn’t been as pretty. My friend and fellow blogger Fran, from Small Bird Studios designed this one for us. So if you’ve downloaded it in the past – it’s time for an upgrade!

I use this checklist myself every few weeks, to make sure I’m on track. It’s also been helpful in busy seasons, where I’m more apt to forget different foods day after day or get into the habit of eating quicker foods.

Of course, nothing is perfect. And there is no “perfect diet” for fertility, so some of your food items will need to change based on food allergies or intolerances. There are also a few lines for you to write in the specific foods you need, to customize it a bit.

 

 

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

I am not a doctor and don\'t pretend to be one. Use everything you read only to inspire you to do your own research and be an advocate for your own health. Please read my disclaimer in full.