Natural treatments for Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease
Updated: Jun 16
If you google thyroid problems, you'll probably find a definition of the 2 thyroid disorders: hyperthyroid and hypothyroid.
But when it comes to information and treatment options, there is not a lot about hyperthyroidism because it is less common than hypothyroidism.
In the medical model, due to hyperthyroidism being more damaging to the body, there are three treatment options:
Medication to suppress the thyroid
Killing off the thyroid tissue with radioactive iodine
Thyroidectomy – removal of the thyroid gland
These are the only options offered, but there is so much that can be done holistically to improve hyperthyroidism and to avoid these drastic treatments. Once the thyroid gland is removed, the body swings into hypothyroidism. Medication must be taken for life to provide thyroid hormone, and life-long effects can be severe.
In this blog, I want to acknowledge those living with hyperthyroidism. I hope that it gives you some 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. These are lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland that cause the thyroid to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.
Inflammation of the thyroid gland—called thyroiditis—resulting from a virus or a problem with the immune system may temporarily cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Some people who consume too much iodine or too little (from foods or supplements) or who take medications containing iodine such as amiodarone may experience an overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Women may develop hyperthyroidism during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.
The exact causes of these conditions vary from person to person. There are usually multiple factors involved.
Stress and toxic exposures including smoking can contribute to an overactive thyroid. Nutritional deficiencies are common in hyperthyroidism. Leaky gut is another factor to consider, especially in autoimmune Graves' disease.
Can hyperthyroidism be cured?
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. Her case study found that diet and lifestyle medicine successfully put a patient's Graves' disease into remission.
This is exciting for many suffering from Graves’ 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 and 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
Naturopathic Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
The medical model for hyperthyroidism is not enough - it simply takes you from one disease state to another, without actually fixing the underlying issues.
A holistic approach is needed to stop the thyroid gland from overproducing its hormones, and support the body through this extreme thyroid hormone influence. This overactivity that puts a strain on the body, affecting the heart, brain and nervous system.
Managing an overactive thyroid holistically includes identification of individual root causes and treatments based around healing those root causes.
For example, 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.
Treatments are based around modulating immune function with diet, lifestyle and specific autoimmune protocols.
Diet tips for an overactive thyroid
Dietary intervention forms the basis of treatment for hyperthyroidism. When hyperthyroidism speeds up the body's metabolism and temperature, it creates inflammation and oxidative stress. and helps with gut healing. We want to lessen the whole body load and decrease inflammation in the body, while also supporting gut healing.
As well as the elimination of gluten and dairy, which are inflammatory, the diet should be low in grains and high in antioxidant-rich plant food, quality protein and plant-based carbohydrates. Avoidance of food intolerances is key. For some, 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. These should be always be prescribed by a qualified herbalist and/or naturopath. For example, lemon Balm, motherwort and bugleweed can block thyroid hormone production and calm the nervous system.
Lifestyle tips for hyperthyroidism
Although diet is key, the lifestyle must be addressed to successfully manage an overactive thyroid.
This includes optimising sleep and stress support and including appropriate daily movement. Relaxation and meditation have shown to have positive results.
My final thoughts
In the clinic, I am seeing more and more hyperthyroid and Graves disease cases in clinic. I love bringing hope, symptom reversal and disease remission to my clients across the globe!
If you have hyperthyroidism and or Graves' disease, please know that there are options available to you.
Tara is a qualified naturopath with over 20 years of experience. She has a passion for thyroid disorders, and takes an evidence-based, patient-centred approach to healing.
Tara is able to offer online consults to clients across Australia and the world.