Hyperthyroid / Graves’ Disease – The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat. It regulates metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, muscle strength and mood. In the case of hyperthyroidism, also called thyrotoxicosis, the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to:
- Increased perspiration
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Intolerance to heat
- Too many bowel movements
- Less frequent menstruation / decreased menstrual flow
- Separation of nails from the nail bed
- Hand tremors
- Protruding eyeballs
Most cases of hyperthyroidism are caused by Grave’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid and forces the thyroid gland to produce too many hormones. Graves’ disease was first described in the mid-1800’s by Dublin physician Matthew Graves, who treated three successive women with heart palpitations and overly large thyroid glands.
The trigger in Graves’ Disease is currently unknown, however there are theories that a viral or bacterial infection may trigger the antibodies which cross-react with the TSH hormone receptor. The thyroid is normally tightly regulated by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, however with Graves’ Disease the antibody interrupts the normal feedback mechanism that regulates production of adequate amounts of thyroid hormone, causing levels to be abnormally high.
Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by small lumps or tumors on the thyroid gland. Infection or inflammation of the thyroid can cause temporary hyperthyroidism and is much more common in women than in men. Without treatment, hyperthyroidism can lead to heart problems, bone problems, and a condition called thyroid storm. Other possibilities include nutrient deficiencies, stress, environment and certain medications.
In the U.S., hyperthyroid is initially treated with radioactive iodine, which destroys part of the gland and permanently reduces its hormone output.
Certain drugs may be prescribed such as Tapazole to reduce hormone levels. Please see your doctor regarding the many side effects that can occur with Tapazole.
People with Graves’ disease may be prescribed beta blockers including Inderal, Tenormin and Lopressor to relieve tremors and a rapid heartbeat. The side effects may include: excessive heart rate slowing, inability to raise heart rate during exercise, worsening of congestive heart failure, and confusion, depression or impotence.
Surgical removal of the thyroid includes a risk of damage to the vocal chords and the glands around the thyroid that help control calcium absorption. This can also lead to hypothyroid, requiring long term thyroid hormone medication.
Testing for food allergies, parasites, yeast and heavy metals may be performed. Food allergies can cause similar symptoms to Graves’ Disease, including an elevated heart rate, digestive troubles (malabsorption) and high cortisol levels (cortisol effects thyroid function). Find a local Naturopath to learn more about alternative possibilities.
Digestion and detoxification is the main focus while following an anti-inflammatory diet with a focus on foods that help suppress thyroid function is recommended:
- Use plant sources of protein including beans, legumes and nuts
- Eliminate dairy, wheat (all grains if digestion is compromised), gluten, coffee, nicotine and soft drinks
- Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils including canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, margarine, vegetable shortening and all partially hydrogenated oils. Use olive oil and coconut oil only.
- Eat plenty of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, peaches, pears, spinach, turnips, soy
- Fruit including apples and berries
- Wild salmon
- Use ginger and turmeric when cooking
Daily exercise will assist the thyroid, and enough sleep is important for the glandular system. It is ideal for the body if you fall asleep at 10:00pm, and to rise between 6:30am and 7:30pm. Working on stress management is very important since the wrong response to stress can be detrimental for a proper working thyroid. Use a chemical free laundry and cleaning line to create a chemical free environment, since chemicals have been connected with malfunctions of the thyroid.
If taking Beta BlockersQ-Best 100
Beta blockers disrupt CoQ10 production.
Additional Supplementation for Graves’ OpthalmopathySelenium by Thorne Research
In the May 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a study done by the University of Pisa in Italy showed that the selenium proved effective when tested against both the drug pentoxifylline and a placebo in cases of Graves’ opthalmopathy. Participants were randomly assigned to take two daily doses of 100 micrograms of selenium, 600 mg of pentoxifylline or a placebo. After six months, only the selenium was associated with improved quality of life, a slower progression of Graves’-associated eye disease and reduced symptoms.
3. Selenium Might Help Treat Symptoms in Graves’ Eye Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. May 2011.