The thyroid gland lies in the neck at the Adam’s apple, immediately on front of the windpipe, and produces the iodine-containing substances that control the rate of metabolism (the pace of chemical activity in all the body cells.) It therefore affects mental and physical growth and development. The thyroid is in turn controlled by the pituitary gland at the base of the skull, which secretes thyroid-stimulating hormone.
A goitre is formed by the swelling of the thyroid gland. It can be caused by a lack of iodine in the diet, but it can also be caused by overgrowth, or may be due to a tumour which in very rare cases may be malignant. An underactive thyroid can develop gradually. It can cause weight gain, and lethargy, and a sufferer will tend to sleep more than usual. The skin and hair become dry and there may be some hair loss. The eyes become puffy and the voice deepens.
An overactive thyroid results in excess of the thyroid hormones in the blood. This speeds up the metabolic rate, and sufferers lose weight, become restless and fidgety, and find it difficult to sleep. They can suffer from palpitations and sweating, a goitre may develop, and the eyes may bulge.
Overactivity of the thyroid gland is caused by heat in the liver, according to Chinese Medicine, and can sometimes also be caused by a deficiency in the liver, which may make sufferers hungry, nervous and prone to sweating. Chinese Medicine treatment begins by clearing the heat from the liver, in order to restore its balance. Many marine plants and animals are used in the treatment, especially seaweed.
Underactive thyroid glands are according to Chinese Medicine theory usually attributed to spleen deficiency, kidney deficiency and dampness. The treatment will aim to tonify the spleen, tonify the kidneys and remove the dampness inside. Prepared fritillary is often used as a medicine.
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