Hyperthyroidism, also referred to as overactive thyroid, is a health condition that occurs due to excessive production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. This leads to an increase in metabolism, causing the body to work harder and faster. Symptoms include rapid weight loss, rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, irritability, nervousness, and a host of others. Women are more commonly affected than meni
What Can Cause Hyperthyroidism?
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an abnormality of the immune system known as Graves’ disease. Scientists have long established a family trend in occurance, and have detected that Grave’s disease is not caused by a single gene defect but has a complex pattern of inheritance. But as we say in Functional Medicine – Genes load the gun – Environment pulls the trigger! A part of a corrective approach we use in a natural clinic setting is to alter the environment of the DNA so it can express itself in a healthier way.
Other causes include local inflammation (thyroiditis), nodules, or lumps (ii).
Graves’ disease is an auto-immune disorder. Auto-immune disorders are conditions whereby your own antibodies attack your body. In persons affected by Graves’ disease, the immune system produces antibodies that act like Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and stimulate the thyroid irrepressibly. Physical and emotional stress affects the responsiveness of the immune system, and genetics also plays a role. In addition to symptoms typical of hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease may be accompanied by swelling and protruding of the eyes and coarsening or reddening of the skin on the shins (iii).
Why Do I Seem To Have Such Fluctuating Symptoms?
In instances where Graves’ disease is the cause of hyperthyroidism, it is not uncommon for symptoms to fluctuate between those associated with over-activity and under-activity of the thyroid (iv). Moreover, symptoms associated with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) often mimic those of menopause and/or hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms such as;
- Menstrual irregularities
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood changes
- Increases in cholesterol levels
- Reduced libido
- Vaginal dryness
These symptoms could unhesitatingly be identified as menopause, when in fact they are attributed to thyroid irregularities! Evidently, thorough investigation and testing to discern the cause of these symptoms is essential (1).
Hyperthyroidism and weight gain
Many people assume that hypothyroid patients gain weight, and hyperthyroid patients lose it easily, but this is not always the case as each patient is a unique individual. A recent study looked at the relationship between obesity, thyroid function, and autoimmunity and the study discussed how there is a relationship between obesity and thyroid autoimmunity, with the hormone leptin playing a key role in linking these conditions. The study discussed how “leptin resistance may mitigate leptin deficiency and enhance autoimmunity in obese subjects, and the development of resistance to the weight-lowering effects of leptin might be initiated by activation of inflammatory signaling” v.
So what does this mean? Essentially what this is saying is that the inflammatory component of the autoimmune response might lead to leptin resistance, thus causing obesity. However, obesity itself can potentially lead to thyroid autoimmunity. With someone who already has an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the goal is to suppress the autoimmune response, and addressing the inflammatory component is a big factor in this. By addressing the inflammatory component, this not only can help to suppress the autoimmune response, but in turn can help to correct leptin resistance, thus making it easier to lose weight.
Testing and Investigation
The simplest and most accurate method for diagnosing hyperthyroidism is via blood tests. Levels of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) should be assessed, and one or both must be elevated for a diagnosis to be made. It is also advantageous to assess TSH levels, as the purpose of this hormone is to stimulate the production of thyroid hormones. If the pituitary gland senses the slightest excess in thyroid hormones in the blood, it will stop the production of TSH. Therefore, TSH levels will be low in individuals with hyperthyroidism (vi). However, each laboratory sets its own range, so there is no government standard and this is why different labs will have different ranges. Also, many factors may cause TSH suppression, and it is a naturally fluctuating hormone.
To differentiate whether an individual also has Graves’ disease, additional testing is necessary as the very same thyroid antibodies may be present in both Hashimoto’s and Graves! Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulin (TSI) and Thyroid Receptor Antibodies (TRABS) are the main specificity tests, which contribute to the exophthalmos (bulging eyes) that is typical of Graves’ disease. Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO) can also be assessed, as their presence indicates that the immune system has attacked the thyroid. However, 5-10% of healthy individuals will test positive for TPO antibodies, thus this cannot be relied upon alone for a definitive diagnosis of Graves’ disease (viii). From a Naturopathic perspective, we are not trying to diagnose a disease, but to understand how and why a thyroid may be malfunctioning. TSH receptor antibodies (TRAb) are generally regarded as mediators of thyroid stimulation in Graves’ disease. Positive TRab has been detected in 80% of newly diagnosed Graves patients ix.
Increased production of rT3 is often seen in patients with disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Wilson’s Thyroid Syndrome, and stress. Measurement of rT3 is also valuable in identifying sick euthyroid syndrome where active T3 is within normal range and rT3 is elevated. Reverse T3—According to Dr.Holtorf rT3 should be less than 250.
Learn more about medical treatment options CLICK HERE
Treating Hyperthyroidism Naturally
The most common herbal remedies for the treatment of hyperthyroidism, particularly in those affected by Graves’ disease, are Hemidesmus, Bugleweed, and Lemon Balm. Hemidesmus helps to suppress the auto-immune response, whilst Lemon Balm prevents the binding of thyroid antibodies to the thyroid gland and Bugle has a thyroid inhibiting action particularly good for TSH irregularities and hyperthyroid symptoms. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as Turmeric and Boswelia are also useful for alleviating the auto-immune response and reducing inflammation (x). Further, symptomatic relief can be sought from anti-anxiety herbs (e.g. passionflower, zizyphus and skullcap), anti-hyperhidrotic (anti-perspirant) herbs (e.g. sage), sleep-promoting herbs (e.g. hops, valerian, kava), and cardio-protective herbs (e.g. hawthorn, motherwort).xi
Diet for Hyperthyroidism
A gluten and dairy-free diet are essential for autoimmunity, as the immune system recognizes gluten as thyroid cells because the molecular structure of gluten is very similar to that of the thyroid. There are of course many patients that get away with eating these foods; but there is much evidence for these foods as triggers, not just patient testimonies about how much better they feel from their skin to their organs.
Many of our patients arrive at their first follow-up at The Lucy Rose Clinic for copies of their test results already feeling better, just from diet changes.
Ongoing research is still underway on exactly how many of these mechanisms may improve this function, as there are MULTIPLE contributing triggers as we have discussed above. There is a great ABC episode by Catalyst on gluten intolerance and the current research to provide us with the how’s and why’s patients get such symptomatic improvement as there are many allergic proteins/sugars, not just gluten such as FODMAPS. It’s not just eczema but mouth ulcers, headaches and migraines, gastric function, and autoimmune conditions that can be improved! It also discusses how modern farming, processing, and cooking methods contribute to the upsurge of food reactivity so many people suffer with. AND we love how it encourages you to read the label of processed “healthy food” substitutes. No wonder some nutritionists are concerned about avoiding gluten, packet gluten-free foods are low in nutrition so stick to the natural foods discussed . . . we know that makes sense but there are better ways of avoiding dairy wheat, and sugar without relying on the packaged processed foods in supermarkets. (xii)
Books we recommend include those by Dr. David Brownstein, Dr. Sandra Cabot, ‘Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health’ by William Davis.
If hyperthyroidism is left untreated or is improperly treated, it may eventually lead to complications such as atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, miscarriage, and osteoporosis (due to rapid calcium loss from the bones) (xiii). There are many natural therapy options available to support Hyperthyroidism and Graves’s Disease. It is important to seek appropriate treatment and rest as much as possible to maximize the chance of a return to optimal health. Optimising and regulating Thyroid health leads to a reduction of symptoms for quality of life and disease prevention.
Working with a natural healthcare clinic will give you access to more personalised treatment options to help you get better support and better health outcomes. The good news is that people feel a big improvement very quickly when they work with us!
Book a free 15-minute appointment if you would like to discuss your health, if your disease is being managed optimally, or how we can help, CLICK HERE to book a call!
REFERENCES & RECOMMENDED READING
Dr. David Brownstein’s book “Iodine-Why you need it, why you cannot live without it” 4th edition
The incidence of Graves’ ophthalmopathy in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Bartley GB, Fatourechi V, Kadrmas EF, Jacobsen SJ, Ilstrup DM, Garrity JA, Gorman CA, Am J Ophthalmol. 1995;120(4) 511.
Occurrence of ophthalmopathy after treatment for Graves’ hyperthyroidism. The Thyroid Study Group. Tallstedt L, Lundell G, Tørring O, Wallin G, Ljunggren JG, Blomgren H, Taube A, N Engl J Med. 1992;326(26) 1733.
Vogel A, Elberling TV, Hørding M, et al. (January 2007). “Affective symptoms and cognitive functions in the acute phase of Graves’ thyrotoxicosis”. Psychoneuroendocrinology 32 (1): 36–43. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2006.09.012. PMID 17097812.
Bunevicius R, Velickiene D, Prange AJ; Velickiene; Prange Jr (2005). “Mood and anxiety disorders in women with treated hyperthyroidism and ophthalmopathy caused by Graves’ disease”.Gen Hosp Psychiatry 27 (2): 133–9. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2004.10.002. PMID 15763125.
Studies on thyrotrophin receptor antibodies in patients with euthyroid Graves’ disease. Kasagi K, Hatabu H, Tokuda Y, Iida Y, Endo K, Konishi J, Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1988;29(4) 357.
Studies of thyroid function and immune parameters in patients with hyperthyroid Graves’ disease in remission. Murakami M, Koizumi Y, Aizawa T, Yamada T, Takahashi Y, Watanabe T, Kamoi K, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988;66(1) 103.
Chapter 11. Diagnosis and Treatment of Graves’ Disease Leslie J. De Groot, MD Professor of Medicine –
http://www.thyroidmanager.org/Chapter11/chapter11.html Updated: March 5, 2008
Neuromuscular findings in thyroid dysfunction: a prospective clinical and electrodiagnostic study. Duyff RF, Van den Bosch J, Laman DM, van Loon BJ, Linssen WH, J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000;68(6) 750; Electromyographic and histological findings in the muscles of patients with thyrotoxicosis. HAVARD CW, CAMPBELL ED, ROSS HB, SPENCE AW, Q J Med. 1963;32:145; Electromyography in thyrotoxicosis. Ramsay ID, Q J Med. 1965;34(135) 255.
i Wikipedia 2016, Hyperthyroidism. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthyroidism . [22 June 2016].
ii Gilbert, J 2012, ‘Thyroid and Menopause’, British Thyroid Foundation. Available from: http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/articles/107- thyroid-and-menopause . [23 June 2016 iii Gilbert, J 2012, ‘Thyroid and Menopause’, British Thyroid Foundation. Available from: http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/articles/107- thyroid-and-menopause . [23 June 2016].
iv Norman, J 2016, ‘Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism: Overactivity of the Thyroid Gland’, Vertical Health. Available from: http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hyperthyroidism/diagnosing-hyperthyroidism-overactivity-thyroid-gland . [22 June 2016]. v http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22934923 and http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/articles/the-role-of-leptin-in-thyroid-health/
vii Toft, DJ 2016, ‘Graves’ Disease Diagnosis’, Vertical Health. Available from: http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/graves-disease/graves- disease-diagnosis . [23 June 2016].
viii Natural Endocrine Solutions 2012, Is It Possible To Eliminate The Autoimmune Response In Graves Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? Available from: http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/archives/is-it-possible-to-eliminate-the-autoimmune-response-in-graves-disease-hashimotos- thyroiditis/ . [23 June 2016].
ix Thyroid : Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association Thyroid Autoantibodies (TPOAb, TgAb and TRAb) Thyroid. 2003;13(1) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/452668_7
x WebMD 2016, Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism). Available from: http://www.webmd.com/women/overactive-thyroid- hyperthyroidism?page=3 . [23 June 2016].
xi Natural Thyroid Treatment Methods Graves’ Disease & Hyperthyroidism Hashimoto’s & Hypothyroidism http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/treatments/natural-graves-disease-treatment-methods/ xii https://thelucyroseclinic.com.au/eczema-in-kids-adults-what-can-you-do/#sthash.TBoxRRRh.dpuf xiii Wikipedia 2016, Signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signs_and_symptoms_of_Graves%27_disease . [23 June 2016].