Hashimoto's disease, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is a disorder in which an individual's immune system attacks their thyroid, causing inflammation of the gland. This, in turn, can lower the thyroid's ability to produce hormones needed for metabolism, growth and many other functions vital to the body.
Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or Hashimoto's disease, is the most common reason for hypothyroidism; meaning, the gland is underactive and not producing enough hormones to help the body run as it should. The disease progresses slowly, so it may take years for hypothyroidism symptoms to appear. A goiter, a swollen lump that typically develops at the front of the throat, is often one of the first signs.
Other symptoms may include:
- Major sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- Puffy face
- Dry, raspy voice
- Weight gain (generally 10 to 20 pounds) as a result of fluid retention
- Muscle pain and stiffness in knees, hands and feet
- Menorrhagia (excessive bleeding during menstruation)
- Slowed heart rate
- Hair loss
- Difficulty getting pregnant
As with many autoimmune diseases, the exact of cause of Hashimoto's disease remains a mystery. Some scientists believe it may arise due to a viral or bacterial infection, while others suspect genetics, heredity, sex and age may also be contributing factors. Middle-aged women are most likely to get Hashimoto's, though women, men and children of all ages are susceptible. A person's risk may also increase if a family member has the disease or if the individual already has an autoimmune disease of any type.
It is important to schedule an appointment with your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner if you have been tested and diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, and have begun to experience symptoms. Early treatment is necessary to help prevent complications associated with the disorder if it is left untreated. Some problems include:
- High cholesterol levels, which may lead to cardiovascular problems
- An enlarging goiter
- Mental health issues such as depression
- Slowed mental functioning
- Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Birth defects in babies born to mothers who were untreated while pregnant
- Extreme cold intolerance and drowsiness that can be followed by lethargy and coma
When you go to your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner for treatment, you will most likely receive acupuncture treatments to address your particular symptoms. This can include addressing your emotional imbalances as well as your physical ones. According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine philosophy, when you treat the body, the emotions are treated at the same time. In this way, any depression or other difficult emotions may be soothed from an acupuncture treatment.
One lifestyle change you may discuss with your practitioner includes diet. To help address the sensitivity to cold, fatigue and muscle pains, you might want to try certain congee recipes. Congee is the word for traditional Chinese porridge. The basic recipe involves cooking 1 cup of rice in about 7 cups of water for 1 to 3 hours. The addition of a piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb), beef, lamb, onions and leeks can help with fatigue and cold sensitivity. Adding black sesame seeds can assist with reducing inflammation for muscle pain.
Congee is considered a medicinal meal because it is very easy to digest and it is highly nutritious. To make it more enticing, you can ask your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner for different recipes to address your specific symptoms.
Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help manage your symptoms!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.