How does Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis manifest in the Chinese Medicine body-system?
It takes years for Hashimoto’s to typically develop or at least be noticeable as a “big issue” by yourself or a practitioner.
In Chinese Medicine, the Organ Systems that are implicated are the Spleen and Kidneys.
Knowing that the Spleen and Kidneys are most affected with this condition makes deciding what to eat and what to avoid much simpler.
It is so easy to get confused by what to eat due to a lot of conflicting information out there and by near-miracle dietary promises.
If you understand the basics of what’s happening in the body per Chinese Medicine, you’ll better able to select foods that help the patterns that you are experiencing. You’ll also know how to help support your body’s general well being. Then, you can sift through all the crap that’s out there online that tells you to do X, Y, or Z diet without taking into consideration what’s happening for you!
Talk about EMPOWERMENT!
Shall we get started?
Metabolism is ruled by the Spleen and the Kidneys.
Because metabolism is ruled by these two Organ Systems, they are the ones that are often most deeply impacted by Hashimoto’s. After all, the thyroid is in charge of metabolic processes!
Let’s delve into what these Organ Systems do in the body.
The Spleen is in charge of utilizing food for making Qi (energy), Blood, and Yin – which in turn are what’s called “post-natal Qi”. The Spleen rules what happens to the food we eat – does that food get put to use as energy, or is it stored as unhealthy “reserve” energy (aka “fat”) or does it not store anything at all? The Spleen also plays a major role in our immune system’s function.
The Kidneys are what determines our quality and length of life, how resilient we are, how we age and our fertility. The Kidneys store the material that the Spleen makes in the Sea of Marrow (the literal marrow in our bones), along with our pre-Heaven Essence (aka genetics and epigenetics) – that’s what we were born with. Basically, this means that the Kidneys store all the deep nutrition deep within the body.
The Kidneys are the one Organ in Chinese Medicine that houses both Yin and Yang.
Yang is the firey heat in our bodies, Yin is the cool fluid in our bodies.
If our body is its own planet…
The Kidneys are the Ocean, and the molten core of the planet underneath the Ocean and earth.
The Spleen is the earth/soil/land.
If the Kidneys are somehow compromised, the Spleen cannot work well. (Think of how when the ocean gets disturbed, and tsunamis wreak havoc on the earth the water touches.)
The Kidneys also house the Ming Men, or Gate of Fire, which is the source and well for the Yang in our bodies.
The Spleen is like the pot that sits atop this Fire, simmering and cooking ingredients into delicous nutritious food for our bodies.
That means, if there is deficiency of Qi (energy, or logs available to fuel the fire and the energy that the fire creates) or Yang (heat, the fire itself), the Spleen doesn’t have enough energy to “cook” the food we eat into useable materials (absorbable nutrients).
If the Spleen is somehow compromised first (think of: irregular food intake, not eating enough, eating too much, yo-yo dieting, eating a lot of raw or cold foods, doing juice cleanses in the middle of winter, being in cold/damp environments, stuff like that), they can drain otherwise healthy Kidney Yang.
Regardless of which came first (the Yang or the Qi deficiency), in time, the Spleen and Kidneys both become deficient.
When this happens, the flow of Water (Kidneys) to feed Wood (Liver) is obstructed.
Then, Earth (Spleen) can’t nourish Water which feeds Wood, and Wood gets stagnant, tight and frustrated!
Then, Wood tries to draw more resources from Earth, and a pattern “Wood invading Earth” begins.
This is because Wood can’t grow and flow smoothly, and when that happens, Liver Qi Stagnation and, eventually, Blood Stasis occur.
In women, you’ll see this last set of patterns as menstrual issues with PMS, clotting, alternating loose stools one day to constipation the next, and so on. This is also where joint and tendon issues show up.
In Chinese Medicine there can be many possible patterns presenting with a “Hashimoto’s diagnosis” (in quotes because I’m not an MD!)
Hashimoto’s for you, will have a different set of patterns presenting than Hashimoto’s in me – despite the fact that there are core root issues!
Yet, the locus of ALL pattern remediation will be through… food-as-medicine (aka diet), lifestyle changes, exercise, sleep, medication, etc.
Your mission is to focus on the health of the Spleen, and assisting the Spleen in turning food into usable parts for the body. You’ll also focus on not burning your Kidneys out!
In the next post, you’ll get a list of symptoms for you to tally up.
Then, in Part 5 you’ll distill them into which pattern (or patterns) that are most frequently found within Chinese Medicine for those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Between now and the next post, make a list of the foods you eat, and your current self-care routine as well as the things you know (or suspect) bring stress to your life.
In the next post, I’ll explore the top patterns I see with folks with Hashimoto’s/Autoimmunity.
My hope is that you’ll see one or two patterns that comprise the majority of your symptoms.
Even if you aren’t someone with Hashimoto’s or an Autoimmune disorder, keep reading because you may see yourself in the following posts. I see these patterns in many complex chronic health conditions that mainstream medicine doesn’t know what to do with.
As always, if you benefited from this post and know others who would also benefit, please share away!
The Typical Path to Diagnosis (by an MD)
All too often, it takes years to get a Hashimoto’s diagnosis because the medical field typically tests just your TSH, T3 and T4 levels. If you fall into a “normal” range (that is: the aggregate of ALL the lab’s test results of both healthy and unhealthy patients!) then the doctor may say you are fine and you need to eat better and exercise more. If you are a woman, then your doctor may tell you it is “hormones” and offer you the pill. The doctor may test you for nutritional deficiencies, tell you to supplement those deficiencies and then… you’re on your own.
You you may start to feel like what you are experiencing is in your head, that you are a hypochondriac, that your situation is hopeless, or something to that effect…
Remember: You know your experience better than anyone else on the planet. If you suspect something is wrong, keep at it!
Go to different doctors, request different tests, be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease!
If you suspect Hashimoto’s, based on the symptoms you experience from the list above: request the following tests be taken: both sets of thyroid antibodies, and free T4. (Recommendation from EndocrineWeb.com)
Based on your lab results, you’ll likely be prescribed thyroid medication to make up for the hormones that your body is not producing and to help reduce the antibodies that your body is producing (if you are producing them).
A lot of people report feeling better once they are put on thyroid medication, and their labs show a marked improvement as well.
Here’s the catch: medication doesn’t take away the root cause of inflammation. For true long-term health benefits, working with root-cause inflammation is very important.
Addressing the any number of root cause autoimmune-creating inflammation states includes: shifting what you eat, making lifestyle changes (i.e. sleep, rest, exercise, baths, etc.), emotional and mental updates (i.e. the thoughts you think, your stress-load, your relationships with yourself, with others, etc.), supplements, herbs, and so on. It’s also doing labwork to see if there are other underlying factors that need to be addressed (such as Epstein-Barr Virus – EBV).