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One of the things that conventional medicine works very poorly is autoimmune conditions. Patients are usually on a trajectory of progressive worsening of their health despite whatever drugs they may be using. This is not including all the side-effects that may come with use of said drugs as well. The good thing is Chinese Medicine views such weird diseases as a process of deteriorating systemic imbalance which is at the core of autoimmune conditions. It is for this reason that Chinese Medicine is probably one of the few treatments available that can really put a dent on this class of diseases.
I recently treated a case of Hashimoto thyroiditis. This is one of those conditions that leads to progressive failure of the thyroids. By the time the patient came to see me she has had the disease for many years already and on low dose synthroid. Most importantly she complained her neck/throat area feels swollen when she swallowed, which is the result of the inflammation of the thyroid. After taking her pulse I reasoned that this is due to mal-communication of the pituitary and adrenals, two of the most important endocrine glands in the body that is vital to our endocrine and hormone balance. When these two organs go out of whack the body is thrown into chaos. The list of conditions that can ensue is nearly endless, from infertility all the way to cancer.
However, the patient had doubts about our treatment, and she came only because nothing has worked so far. This is why I told her you need at least 4 treatments for me to know if our medicine is working or not. I think that is a pretty good deal as that is at most only 1 month of treatment when many other health practitioners may be telling you to come for months on end. My style of treatment is instead favored towards the quick and clear-cut to the point. I don't like to waste my time.
When the patient came for the 2nd visit, I asked the patient how things were. Many of the side issues such as insomnia and fatigue are better. The thyroid remained the same. I checked her pulse and modified the medicine as necessary. The next day I got a phone call, her ecstatic voice told me that this morning she woke up and her thyroid felt 'shrunk'. She was very emotional, and honestly could not believe this was even possible. Yet being the objective doctor, I was not as giddy as she was, because I know these things need to hold in order to validate that the treatment really is doing its job. I calmly told her, 'don't get too happy, continue on with the herbs and see what happens'.
After 4 visits the thyroid continued to remain stable and shrunk. I think this is a good sign and a call for continued treatment. However at around this time the patient caught a cold, and her throat felt swollen. After confirmation this was indeed the case and it was not the thyroid at play. I wanted the patient to continue with the treatment and have her go do another blood test to check the TSH level for an objective gauge of her disease. The patient unfortunately declined to continue. She wanted to go see her MD first for the throat. Somehow I could sense her doubt never went away.
A few weeks later I phoned the patient to follow up on her situation. She told me the thyroid remained stable, but her cold and throat remained swollen. Her blood test revealed TSH was about the same.
The later developments tell me 3 things:
1. The fact that her thyroid has shrunk means the inflammation caused by the autoimmune activity has been positively halted to some extent.
2. Her TSH remaining the same means her autoimmune condition is not completely reversed, or it could be the case that after all the years of the inflammation the thyroid itself has been irreversibly scarred to some degree. Although, I would generally like to give the former benefit of the doubt given lack of information coming from her end.
3. The 'cold and sore throat' is likely a systemic response to tackle some latent pathogens residing in the body as a result of activation by the Chinese Medicine treatment. Considering how close the throat, tonsils and thyroid are, this is highly plausible. It is also something I see from time to time for certain patients.
4. Continued treatment would most likely benefit her further but her doubts unfortunately stand in her own healing in my humble opinion. My hope is that she would one day come back for further treatments.