Graves' Disease (Hyperthyroidism)

Information on diet, nutrition, & research

Self-help   Symptoms   Causes

Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and is an immune disease that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a little butterfly-shaped gland, located just below the Adams apple in the throat. It helps to regulate cell level oxygen uptake and plays a major role in maintaining energy, regulating of blood sugar levels and controlling body temperature.

Self Help

These factors can bring stress to the thyroid:

  • smoking
  • fluoride exposure (from tap water, commercial tooth paste, etc.)
  • mercury exposure(i.e. leaching from silver fillings, etc.) or other heavy metals
  • chemical toxin exposure from home cleansing items and body care products
  • consuming unfermented soy products like as powdered soy protein
  • not having enough iodine in the diet
  • stress related to surgery
  • radiation treatment to the head, chest or neck
  • radioactive fallout exposure or radioactive iodine treatment
  • chronic stress and anxiety

As part of a holistic protocol, stress reduction is paramount including some form of daily meditation, exercise, visualization, lifestyle choices.

An overactive thyroid causes every function of the body to speed up, such as heart rate and the rate your body turns food into energy. Graves' disease is one cause of overactive thyroid. It is closely related to Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid.

While a number of disorders may result in hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease is the most common cause. It often presents itself in people in their 20's and 30's, and affects women 10 times more often than men.

There are often autoimmune problems that coincide with the Graves' disease including: Rheumatoid Arthritis, pernicious anemia, Addison's disease, Type 1 diabetes and Vitiligo.

Symptoms

Primary symptoms include: Goiter, bulging of the eyes, reddening and thickening of the skin, insomnia, hand tremor, hyperactivity, heat sensitivity, excessive sweating, weight loss despite increased appetite, diarrhea, frequent defecation, rapid heart beat (palpitations), muscle weakness and skin being warm and moist, difficulty in getting pregnant, lighter menstrual flow and less frequent periods.

Causes

The cause of Graves' disease is not known, but the following factors may play a role in its onset:

  • genetic disposition
  • excessive, chronic stress
  • gender
  • pregnancy (30% of women who get Graves' disease were pregnant within 12 months of the onset of the disease
  • infection

Conventional Treatment

Conventional wisdom is that there is no cure for Graves' disease. There are, however, treatments for its negative effects including hyperthyroidism, ophthalmopathy and mental symptoms.

There is no standard choice for treating Graves' hyperthyroidism; it is not straightforward and often involves complex decision making. The physician must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the different treatment options and help the patient arrive at an individualized therapeutic strategy that is appropriate and cost-effective.

Therapy with radioiodine is the most common treatment in the United States, whilst antithyroid drugs and/or thyroidectomy is used more often in Europe, Japan, and most of the rest of the world. However, due to the varying success of every treatment option, patients are often given a combination of drugs when the first attempted treatment does not prove entirely successful. There is also often a high risk of relapse or subsequent hypothyroidism. Surgery may be another option where most of the thyroid is removed.