Natural treatments for Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease
If you google thyroid problems, there is usually a definition of the 2 thyroid disorders, hyper and hypothyroid, but not a lot more information on hyperthyroidism which is less common than hypothyroidism.
In the medical model, due to hyperthyroidism being more damaging to the body, the treatment is medication, killing off the thyroid tissue with radioactive iodine or Thyroidectomy – removal of the thyroid gland. These are the only options offered, but there is much that can be done holistically to improve hyperthyroidism and to avoid these drastic treatments. Once the thyroid gland is removed, medication must be taken for life to provide thyroid hormone, but the body swings into hypothyroidism and life-long effects can be severe.
In this blog, I want to acknowledge those living with hyperthyroidism, and bring hope that there are effective and natural alternatives to the above medical model.
So what is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces more thyroid hormones than you need. When you have hyperthyroidism your metabolism speeds up, making your body work harder and faster. It is a common condition affecting more women than men.
Hyperthyroidism may be caused by a toxic nodular or multinodular goitre, which are lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland that cause the thyroid to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. In addition, inflammation of the thyroid gland—called thyroiditis—resulting from a virus or a problem with the immune system may temporarily cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Furthermore, some people who consume too much iodine, or too little ,(either from foods or supplements) or who take medications containing iodine (such as amiodarone) may cause the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones.
Women may develop hyperthyroidism during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.
Stress and toxic exposures including smoking are other causes.
Nutritional deficiencies are also common.
Leaky gut is another factor to consider especially in autoimmune Grave's disease.
Most medical literature will state that there is no cure and that medication must be taken for life, but I am here to tell you that this is not always the case.
A medical GP and functional medicine doctor, Kelly Brogan, recently published a study in PubMed, a medical journal, proving that diet and lifestyle medicine can put Graves’s disease into remission. This is exciting for many suffering from Graves’s disease and hyperthyroidism!!
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
There are a large range of symptoms connected to hyperthyroidism including:
Unexplained weight loss
Shortness of breath
Increased sensitivity to heat
More frequent bowel movements- diarrhoea
Goitre - swelling of the thyroid gland
Trembling, tremor or shakiness
Tremor in hands/fingers
Itching of hives
Fine brittle hair
Menstrual changes – scantier flow, increased cycle length
Increased blood sugar
A holistic approach is needed to control and stop the thyroid gland from overproducing its hormones, and support the body through this extreme thyroid hormone influence. It is this over activity that puts strain on the body including the heart, brain and nervous system. This is achieved through the identification of individual root causes and treatments are based around healing those root causes.
A major root cause is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease where the immune system is attacking the thyroid tissue. This immune attack causes the thyroid to over-produce its hormones. Treatment’s are based around modulating immune function with diet, lifestyle and specific autoimmune protocols.
Dietary intervention forms the basis of treatment and helps with gut healing. We want to lessen the whole body load and decrease inflammation in the body as hyperthyroidism speeds up the body’s metabolism and temperature creating inflammation and oxidative stress. As well as the elimination of gluten and dairy, which are inflammatory, the diet should be low grain, high in antioxidant rich plant food, quality protein and plant carbohydrates. Avoidance of food intolerances is key, and at times the Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP), is very useful.
Identifying nutritional deficiencies through pathology testing is important. Optimal nutrient levels are required for optimal thyroid functioning. Common nutritional deficiencies associated with hyperthyroidism are vitamin D, selenium, iodine, and L Carnitine.
There are many specific herbs to support hyperthyroidism and should be prescribed by a qualified herbalist and Naturopath. Lemon Balm, Motherwort and Bugleweed can block thyroid hormone production and calm the nervous system.
Lifestyle must be addressed including sleep and stress support and appropriate daily movement. Relaxation and meditation have shown to have positive results.
I am seeing more and more hyperthyroid/Graves disease cases in clinic and I love bringing hope, symptom reversal and disease remission to these patients. If you have hyperthyroidism and or Graves disease, please know that you have options and there are studies to prove it!