Why Graves’ Disease Doesn’t Have to be Grave

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In the U.S., Graves’ disease is the no. 1 cause for hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormones.  Normally, thyroid function is regulated by the pituitary gland, a tiny gland responsible for secreting TSH, which signals the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4. In Graves’ disease, an antibody known as thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) can mimic pituitary hormones causing an overactive thyroid. When thyroid hormones are too high, energy metabolism will speed up, causing the body to burn through nutrients too quickly.

Graves’ disease symptoms can vary a lot depending on the person and how severe the disorder has become. Some of the most common symptoms are: irritability, anxiousness, muscle pains and weakness, insomnia, a fast heartbeat, digestive problems, an increase in perspiration, sensitivity to heat and changes in temperature, enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter), irregular periods, reduced libido, eye problems, including bulging of the eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy), sensitivity to light.

Conventional Treatment

Most often, Graves’ is treated with radioiodine therapy, which gradually destroys the cells that make up the thyroid gland. After this procedure, you need to take thyroid hormone medication for life.

Antithyroid drugs like propylthiouracil (PTU) and methamazole, which are commonly prescribed, also have a long list of dangerous side effects, like destruction of your liver, rash, hair loss, vertigo, jaundice, aplastic anemia, lupus-like syndrome, and hepatitis.

When antithyroid medications and radioactive treatments are not viable options, doctors may recommend a partial thyroidectomy, which is when part of the thyroid gland is surgically removed.

Low Dose Naltrexone

Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is a prescription medication that works to reactivate cells and normalize your body’s immune system. LDN is inexpensive, easy to administer, and virtually free of side effects.

Naltrexone was once known for treating drug and alcohol addiction. However, in low doses it now has a much wider use and holds great promise for the millions of people worldwide who suffer from autoimmune illnesses.

LDN balances your immune system by turning off the cells that cause autoimmunity and diminishing the release of inflammatory and neurotoxic chemicals in the brain. By boosting the immune system, it activates the body’s own natural defenses, thereby stimulating immune function in patients with immunodeficiency and reducing antibody production in patients with excessive antibody production, such as Graves’ disease.

LDN also inhibits endorphin production and allows your body to naturally produce more. This determines stimulation of the immune system, reducing of pain, and improving of overall sense of well-being. In most autoimmune diseases, the disease progression halts and symptoms are reduced.

Reduce Inflammatory Foods

Some of the ways that your diet might trigger autoimmune reactions include eating common allergens like gluten and dairy products. Gluten contributes to autoimmune disease by damaging and inflaming the digestive system and stressing out your immune system. Gluten triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines, a chemical that tells your gut lining to “open up,” contributing to “leaky gut.” This is a condition in which small particles leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, triggering autoimmunity.

Focus on limiting or avoiding foods capable of aggravating autoimmune disorders, including: conventional dairy products, gluten, GMO foods, processed foods.

Add Nutritional Supplements

Treatment may also include nutritional supplements to help balance hormones, improve immune system functions and reduce inflammation. Selenium supplements can reduce antibodies and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. L-carnitine supplements have shown to help with the increased cellular needs created by hyperthyroidism, reversing or preventing symptoms of the disease.

A good level of vitamin D is essential for a good functioning immune system. Integrative and holistic physicians frequently recommend that the levels for people with autoimmune disease or thyroid disease be maintained at higher levels, around the 75th percentile of normal. (That means, if the reference range is 20-100, the general target is 50-60, and for autoimmune and thyroid patients, 60-80.)

Lower Exposure to Toxins

There are over 80,000 chemicals and toxins used legally every single year in the U.S. in common household or beauty products, chemically sprayed crops, prescription medication and more.

Eating organic produce as much as possible, using natural household products, avoiding unnecessary medications, and drinking high-quality water with no chlorine and fluoride are essential steps for a cleaner environment, both inside and outside your body.

Reducing Stress

Reducing stress is one of the most important ways to fight autoimmune disorders. Stress causes a downstream of neuro-endocrine alterations that lead to autoimmune reactions and worsens inflammation. A high percentage of Graves’ disease patients have reported experiencing trauma or chronic stress before developing the disease.

Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturb neurotransmitter function and worsen symptoms of thyroid disease.

Aim to incorporate a series of stress-reducing practices into your day, which resonate with you. It can be walking in nature, meditation, prayer, massage therapy, meeting friends, volunteering for a good cause, etc.

Exercise is a great way to help control stress and lower inflammation, as long as it’s enjoyable and doesn’t involve overtraining. Soothing exercises that can work well include swimming, dancing, yoga, tai chi or cycling.

You don’t have to live your life feeling out of control and proper treatment of hyperthyroidism is critical. Make sure to find a doctor that is willing to sit down, listen, and explore treatment options that are best for you and your health.