What is Graves disease ?
Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Although a number of disorders may result in hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease is a common cause. Graves Disease Natural Treatment
Because thyroid hormones affect a number of different body systems, signs and symptoms associated with Graves’ disease can be wide ranging and significantly influence your overall well-being. Although Graves’ disease may affect anyone, it’s more common among women and before the age of 40.
The primary treatment goals are to inhibit the overproduction of thyroid hormones and lessen the severity of symptoms.
Graves Disease Natural Treatment
1. Manage Stress Levels
Several studies, involving both humans and animals, show that stress can ignite autoimmune reactions and worsen inflammation. That’s probably why such a high percentage of Graves’ disease patients report having experienced trauma or chronic stress before developing the disease. Research demonstrates that stress causes both physical and psychological changes that impact how the immune system works, causing a downstream of neuro-endocrine alterations that can wind up leading to autoimmune disorders and tissue damage.
Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturb neurotransmitter function and worsen symptoms of thyroid disease. To keep stress from aggravating Graves’ disease, build stress-reducing practices into your day, including natural stress relievers such as: exercise, meditation, prayer, spending time in nature, using essential oils, massage therapy, acupuncture or volunteering for a good cause.
2. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Reducing inflammation through a healthy diet is one of the best ways to enhance immune function, create a healthy gut environment and manage your autoimmune symptoms. Inflammation can partially be traced to an unhealthy gut “microbiota” that is caused by nutrient deficiencies, food allergies or sensitivities, which all raise autoimmune activity.
Some of the ways that your diet might trigger autoimmune reactions include eating common allergens like gluten and dairy products, which the immune system can actually register as a threat when they aren’t digested properly. Allergens can contribute to leaky gut syndrome, in which small particles leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, triggering autoimmunity.
A well-rounded diet that’s filled with anti-inflammatory foods and free from toxin overload helps resolve bacterial imbalances in the gut that make symptoms worse.
Focus on limiting or avoiding foods capable of aggravating autoimmune disorders, including:
- artificial flavorings or dyes
- added sugar
- GMO ingredients (common in almost all packaged foods which contain preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and other chemical ingredients)
It’s also important to avoid foods that are high in iodine as it increases levels of thyroid hormone. These include foods such as iodized salt, egg yolks and seaweed. For this same reason, avoid certain herbs and plants, including bladderwrack (a sea plant). Some herbs also have thyroid-stimulating properties, such as ashwaganda. Speak with your natural health care practitioner or herbalist before taking herbal supplements.
Foods that can help control Graves’ disease symptoms include:
- fresh vegetables/green juices: these provide vital nutrients and fight inflammation
- fresh fruit: a great source of antioxidants and electrolytes, but avoid processed fruit juices
- anti-inflammatory herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley and oregano are all anti-inflammatory
- spices like tumeric, garlic and ginger: known to help boost immune system function
- bone broth: helps heal the gut and improve detoxification
- probiotics: balance bacteria within the digestive tract and fight leaky gut syndrome
- healthy fats including omega-3s: lower inflammation and helps with neurotransmitter functions
3. Get Some Exercise
Exercise is a great way to help control stress and lower inflammation, as long as it’s enjoyable and doesn’t involve overtraining, which may make you even more irritable. Do some sort of exercise daily that makes you feel happier, less anxious and hopefully helps you sleep. Soothing exercises that can work well include dancing, yoga, cycling or swimming. Listening to music while exercising is another great way to “get into the zone” and feel more relaxed afterward. (9)
Another reason to eat a nutrient-rich diet and to exercise is to help protect your bones, since having a thyroid disorder already interferes with your ability to maintain bone strength. Having very high levels of thyroid hormone interferes with your body’s normal ability to incorporate calcium or other minerals into your bones. This means you need to do whatever you can to lower bone loss in other ways. Strength training, including doing bodyweight exercises at home, helps keep bones strong as you age.
4. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco and other recreational drugs has been found to be a potential trigger for autoimmune disorders, including Graves’ disease. It’s not exactly clear how cigarettes might make Graves’ disease worse, but it’s very likely that the high amount of toxins present in cigarettes (and other drugs) raises inflammation, damages healthy cells and tissue, and therefore activates the immune system to release more T-fighter cells.
5. Lower Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Most of us come into contact with various chemical or environmental toxins multiple times every single day. 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 medications, birth control pills, and antibiotics. These can all wind up accumulating in the water supply and elsewhere, making their way into our homes and bodies.
I recommend buying organic produce as much as possible, using natural household products (including essential oils), avoiding unnecessary medications however you can, and drinking high-quality water that’s been filtered to eliminate chlorine and fluoride.
6. Treat Sensitivity of the Eyes and Skin
If you develop Graves’ complications in the eyes or on the skin, there are some simple remedies you can try at home to ease inflammation and pain. One particular complication that can occur with this disease is Graves’ ophthalmopathy, also known as Graves’ orbitopathy, which causes the eyes to bulge and can cause vision problems. It can also cause dry, puffy eyes, sometimes with a sensation of grittiness. Try using a cool compress pressed against your eyes to keep them moisturized, as well as applying lubricating eyes drops. Also, always wear sunglasses when outdoors, since sensitive eyes are more prone to damage from ultraviolet rays. If your eyes become puffy overnight, try raising your head while you’re sleeping to keep blood and fluid from building up around your face.
If Graves’ affects your skin, you can use soothing essential oils combined with coconut oil to fight itchiness, swelling and reddening. Essential oils that are gentle and anti-inflammatory include lavender, frankincense, rose and tea tree oil.
7. Talk to Your Doctor About Potential Graves’ Disease Complications
There are certain complications that develop when Graves’ disease is untreated. This is especially true if you’re pregnant, have other forms of inflammatory diseases or if you suffer from another autoimmune disorder.
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get Graves’ under control since it raises the risk for miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal thyroid dysfunction, poor fetal growth, maternal heart failure and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). If you have a history of heart disease or complications, Graves’ disease can lead to heart rhythm disorders, changes in the structure and function of the heart muscles, and even lead to possible heart failure in some rare cases. Also, because the high thyroid hormone levels can impact bone density, it’s important to discuss the risk of osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones) with your doctor as well.
While there’s plenty you can do on your own to lower Graves’ disease risks and symptoms, always make sure to get professional help if you notice symptoms worsening suddenly or you’re under a lot of stress/anxiety, which can trigger a relapse. Luckily, if it’s treated, and at least mostly resolved, Graves’ disease isn’t likely to cause permanent damage or lead to other disorders.
Graves Disease Symptoms
- Goiter: A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. A goiter related to Graves’ disease is a diffuse thyrotoxic goiter. As the thyroid gets bigger, the patient’s neck may begin to look full or swollen. Sometimes a goiter makes swallowing difficult, causes coughing, and may disrupt sleep.
- Eye Problems: Eye problems connected to Graves’ disease can go from very mild to very severe. Less severe—but still bothersome—eye symptoms include red eye, tearing, a feeling of sand or dust in the eye(s), and sensitivity to light. Eye disease related to Graves’ disease is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy.In more severe cases, one or both eyes may protrude from the eye sockets (also called the orbits). Graves’ disease causes an inflammatory response in the eye muscles; the muscles and tissues swell. Because of the orbits—the bony parts of your face that help hold your eyes in place—the swollen muscles and tissues are pushed outward. That’s because if enough swelling occurs, then the tissue has no place to go but outward, which causes protruding eyes and limited eye movement. The medical term for this is exophthalmos, and it can make you appear as though you are staring.
- Skin Thickening: Some patients with Graves’ disease may develop thickening of the skin over the front of the lower leg called the tibia. The disorder causes skin lesions that are patchy and pink. Rarely are other areas of skin affected. This skin problem is also called pretibial myxedema.
Graves Disease Causes
Graves’ disease is caused by a malfunction in the body’s disease-fighting immune system, although the exact reason why this happens is still unknown.
One normal immune system response is the production of antibodies designed to target a specific virus, bacterium or other foreign substance. In Graves’ disease — for reasons that aren’t well understood — the body produces an antibody to one part of the cells in the thyroid gland, a hormone-producing gland in the neck.
Normally, thyroid function is regulated by a hormone released by a tiny gland at the base of the brain (pituitary gland). The antibody associated with Graves’ disease — thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) — acts like the regulatory pituitary hormone. That means Graves Disease Natural Treatment that TRAb overrides the normal regulation of the thyroid, causing an overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).
Cause of Graves’ ophthalmopathy
This condition results from a buildup of certain carbohydrates in the muscles and tissues behind the eyes — the cause of which also isn’t known. It appears that the same antibody that can cause thyroid dysfunction may also have an “attraction” to tissues surrounding the eyes.
Graves’ ophthalmopathy often appears at the same time as hyperthyroidism or several months later. But signs and symptoms of ophthalmopathy may appear years before or after the onset of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ ophthalmopathy can also occur even if there’s no hyperthyroidism.
Graves Disease Risk factors
Although anyone can develop Graves’ disease, a number of factors can increase the risk of disease. These risk factors include the following:
- Family history. Because a family history of Graves’ disease is a known risk factor, there is likely a gene or genes that can make a person more susceptible to the disorder.
- Gender. Women are much more likely to develop Graves’ disease than are men.
- Age. Graves’ disease usually develops in people younger than 40.
- Other autoimmune disorders. People with other disorders of the immune system, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, have an increased risk.
- Emotional or physical stress. Stressful life events or illness may act as a trigger for the onset of Graves’ disease among people who are genetically susceptible.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy or recent childbirth may increase the risk of the disorder, particularly among women who are genetically susceptible.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking, which can affect the immune system, increases the risk of Graves’ disease. Smokers who have Graves’ disease are also at increased risk of developing Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
Graves Disease Complications
Complications of Graves’ disease can include:
- Pregnancy issues. Possible complications of Graves’ disease during pregnancy include miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal thyroid dysfunction, poor fetal growth, maternal heart failure and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a maternal condition that results in high blood pressure and other serious signs and symptoms.
- Heart disorders. If left untreated, Graves’ disease can lead to heart rhythm disorders, changes in the structure and function of the heart muscles, and the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to the body (congestive heart failure).
- Thyroid storm. A rare, but life-threatening complication of Graves’ disease is thyroid storm, also known as accelerated hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxic crisis. It’s more likely when severe hyperthyroidism is untreated or treated inadequately.The sudden and drastic increase in thyroid hormones can produce a number of effects, including fever, profuse sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium, severe weakness, seizures, markedly irregular heartbeat, yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), severe low blood pressure, and coma. Thyroid storm requires immediate emergency care.
- Brittle bones. Untreated hyperthyroidism also can lead to weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis). The strength of your bones depends, in part, on the amount of calcium and other minerals they contain. Too much thyroid hormone interferes with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones.
Graves Disease Diagnosis
The diagnosis of Graves’ disease may include:
- Physical exam. Your doctor examines your eyes to see if they’re irritated or protruding and looks to see if your thyroid gland is enlarged. Because Graves’ disease increases your metabolism, your doctor will check your pulse and blood pressure and look for signs of tremor.
- Blood sample. Your doctor will order blood tests to determine your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), the pituitary hormone that normally stimulates the thyroid gland, as well as levels of thyroid hormones. People with Graves’ disease usually have lower than normal levels of TSH and higher levels of thyroid hormones.
Another laboratory test measures the levels of the antibody known to cause Graves’ disease. This test usually isn’t necessary to make a diagnosis, but a negative result might indicate another cause for hyperthyroidism.
- Radioactive iodine uptake. Your body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. By giving you a small amount of radioactive iodine and later measuring the amount of it in your thyroid gland with a specialized scanning camera, your doctor can determine the rate at which your thyroid gland takes up iodine. The amount of radioactive iodine taken up by the thyroid gland helps determine if Graves’ disease or another condition is the cause of the hyperthyroidism. This test may be combined with a radioactive iodine scan to show a visual image of the uptake pattern.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures inside the body. Ultrasound can show if the thyroid gland is enlarged, and is most useful in people who can’t undergo radioactive iodine uptake, such as pregnant women.
- Imaging tests. If the diagnosis of Graves’ ophthalmopathy isn’t clear from a clinical assessment, your doctor may order an imaging test, such as CT scan, a specialized X-ray technology that produces thin cross-sectional images. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create either cross-sectional or 3-D images, also may be used.
Graves Disease Treatment
The treatment goals for Graves’ disease are to inhibit the production of thyroid hormones and to block the effect of the hormones on the body. Some treatments include:
Radioactive iodine therapy
With this therapy, you take radioactive iodine, or radioiodine, by mouth. Because the thyroid needs iodine to produce hormones, the radioiodine goes into the thyroid cells and the radioactivity destroys the overactive thyroid cells over time. This causes your thyroid gland to shrink, and symptoms lessen gradually, usually over several weeks to several months.
Radioiodine therapy may increase your risk of new or worsened symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy. This side effect is usually mild and temporary, but the therapy may not be recommended if you already have moderate to severe eye problems.
Other side effects may include tenderness in the neck and a temporary increase in thyroid hormones. Radioiodine therapy isn’t used for treating pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding.
Because this treatment causes thyroid activity to decline, you’ll likely need treatment later to supply your body with normal amounts of thyroid hormones.
Anti-thyroid medications interfere with the thyroid’s use of iodine to produce hormones. These prescription medications include propylthiouracil and methimazole (Tapazole).
Because the risk of liver disease is more common with propylthiouracil, methimazole is considered the first choice when doctors prescribe medication.
When these two drugs are used alone, a relapse of hyperthyroidism may occur at a later time. Taking the drug for longer than a year, however, may result in better long-term results. Anti-thyroid drugs may also be used before or after radioiodine therapy as a supplemental treatment. Graves Disease Natural Treatment
Side effects of both drugs include rash, joint pain, liver failure or a decrease in disease-fighting white blood cells. Methimazole isn’t used to treat pregnant women in the first trimester because of the slight risk of birth defects. Therefore, propylthiouracil is the preferred anti-thyroid drug during the first trimester for pregnant women. After the first trimester, methimazole use is generally resumed and propylthiouracil is no longer prescribed.
These medications don’t inhibit the production of thyroid hormones, but they do block the effect of hormones on the body. They may provide fairly rapid relief of irregular heartbeats, tremors, anxiety or irritability, heat intolerance, sweating, diarrhea, and muscle weakness.
Beta blockers include:
- Propranolol (Inderal)
- Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
- Nadolol (Corgard)
Beta blockers aren’t often prescribed for people with asthma, because the drugs may trigger an asthma attack. These drugs may also complicate management of diabetes.
Surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid (thyroidectomy or subtotal thyroidectomy) also is an option for the treatment of Graves’ disease. After the surgery, you’ll likely need treatment to supply your body with normal amounts of thyroid hormones.
Risks of this surgery include potential damage to the nerve that controls your vocal cords and the tiny glands located adjacent to your thyroid gland (parathyroid glands). Your parathyroid glands produce a hormone that controls the level of calcium in your blood. Graves Disease Natural Treatment ,Complications are rare under the care of a surgeon experienced in thyroid surgery.
Treating Graves’ ophthalmopathy
Mild symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy may be managed by using over-the-counter artificial tears during the day and lubricating gels at night. If your symptoms are more severe, your doctor may recommend:
- Corticosteroids. Treatment with prescription corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may diminish swelling behind your eyeballs. Side effects may include fluid retention, weight gain, elevated blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure and mood swings.
- Prisms. You may have double vision either because of Graves’ disease or as a side effect of surgery for Graves’ disease. Though they don’t work for everyone, prisms in your glasses may correct your double vision.
- Orbital decompression surgery. In this surgery, your doctor removes the bone between your eye socket (orbit) and your sinuses — the air spaces next to the orbit. This gives your eyes room to move back to their original position.This treatment is usually used if pressure on the optic nerve threatens the loss of vision. Possible complications include double vision.
- Orbital radiotherapy. Orbital radiotherapy was once a common treatment for Graves’ ophthalmopathy, but the benefits of the procedure aren’t clear. Orbital radiotherapy uses targeted X-rays over the course of several days to destroy some of the tissue behind your eyes. Your doctor may recommend orbital radiotherapy if your eye problems are worsening and prescription corticosteroids alone aren’t effective or well-tolerated.
Graves’ ophthalmopathy doesn’t always improve with treatment for Graves’ disease. Symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy may even get worse for three to six months. After that, the signs and symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy usually stabilize for a year or so and then begin to get better, often on their own.