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Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid gland resulting in an overproduction of thyroid hormone and is named after Robert Grave, an Irish doctor who described this thyrotoxicosis in 1835. The thyroid, being an endocrine gland that sits at the base on the neck, produces two important thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which help us manage things like sleep, appetite, metabolism, energy, and heart rate.

Understanding Grave’s Disease The origins of Grave’s Disease is not known, but it is understood to be an autoimmune response. In Grave’s, the body improperly produces antibodies (referred to as thyrotropin receptor antibodies (TRAb) or thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI) that cross-react with the cells of our thyroid, sending the thyroid into overdrive. The overproduction of thyroid hormone is referred to as hyperthyroidism. ​Grave’s Disease symptoms include but may not be limited to the following:

  • Increased irritability & anxiety

  • Weight loss

  • Hypertension and rapid and/or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

  • Heat intolerance

  • Diarrhea

  • Insomnia

  • Development of a goitre (swelling in the gland at the base of the neck)

  • Dry flushed skin

  • Muscle tremors

  • Grave’s Ophthalmology (Bulging eyes)

So far, science and research show that the disease may be related to lymphatic stagnation as a result of neck injury. Food intolerances may also be associated with the development of Grave’s Disease, as does a compromised digestive system. Grave’s Disease appears to be genetically correlated, and may also be passed down through family history. Diagnosis is generally made via blood work, confirming elevated TSI to TRAb antibodies, and in some cases may also include ultrasound and/or a radioactive iodine uptake test. Is Grave’s Disease common? Grave’s Disease is one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism in Canada, as per the Thyroid Foundation of Canada. The disease affects 1 in 100 people within the country. Start managing Grave’s Disease with Naturopathic Medicine In most cases, medication will be required to stabilize the overproduction of T3 hormone, but there are numerous natural therapies and lifestyle changes that can be done to support symptoms and more effectively maintain remission of this autoimmune disorder. Kick the habit of smoking Cigarettes increase your exposure to toxic compounds and oxidative damage, which magnifies the risk of developing an autoimmune condition. Toxic ingredients and chemicals inside cigarettes cause free radical damage to perfectly healthy cells, inducing immune activation to repair the damage and increasing the likelihood of a cross-reaction. Furthermore, cigarette smoke contains cyanide, which when metabolized to thiocyanate, can interfere with iodine concentration in the thyroid. Get more L-Carnitine L-carnitine is a natural amino acid derivative produced from our liver and kidneys as well as sourced from our diet that helps the body break down fats into energy. People with Grave’s Disease may not produce enough or may have an increased demand for L-carnitine. Evidence suggests supplementation of L-carnitine may help manage symptoms and offset cell damage caused by overproduced thyroid hormones. It may also offer protection by blocking the action of thyroid hormone, and therefore should never be used in low-functioning thyroid conditions and should always be supervised by your doctor or naturopath. You can find foods such as beef, lamb, codfish, chicken, whole wheat bread, tempeh, avocados, asparagus, and cheese to be rich sources of L-carnitine. Keep stress levels low Stress often accelerates most health conditions, and in this instance, it can increase the implications of Grave’s Disease. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol not only disrupt the immune response but also increase hyperthyroidism symptoms and secondary organ damage. Toxins in the environment can increase the symptoms Toxins can disrupt the way the body functions, especially the way the endocrine system functions. Studies show that environmental exposures, most notably PCBs, nuclear and medical radiation, and increased iodine exposure, interfere with thyroid function at multiple sites, including thyroid hormone synthesis, action, and metabolism/excretion. Toxins not only negatively influence thyroid function but also increase the likelihood of autoimmune thyroid development - especially in those with a family history of thyroid disease. Eating a whole foods diet free from preservatives and chemicals can limit exposure to environmental toxins. Drinking filtered water may eliminate exposure through water/waste systems. You may wish to also explore household detergents and cleaners free of endocrine-disrupting ingredients (the Environmental Working Group’s website is a good resource to start learning about household endocrine disruptors). Remember, ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean non-toxic! Add selenium Selenium is valuable for all cells and tissues but is particularly important to the thyroid gland. Selenium assists in thyroid hormone conversion as an active ingredient in the thyroid’s enzymes and assists in defending the gland against oxidative damage. The mineral also helps keep the immune system strong. Selenium is a natural mineral found in selenium-rich soil. Crops grown without this mineral won’t have selenium in them and thus, supplementation may be needed. Selenium is naturally found in nuts, eggs, meat, fish, sunflower seeds, spinach, mushrooms, and baked beans. Eating just 2 brazil nuts per day can give your thyroid a significant source of selenium. As you may notice, the thyroid, endocrine and immune system can be a complex network to manage, and support from a Naturopathic Doctor can help to find the most effective strategies and supplements for your unique needs. To access naturopathic support in the management of Grave’s Disease, please contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Homberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule your appointment today.

References: Hyperthyroidism (Thyrotoxicosis). Thyroid foundation of Canada. Benvenga S, Ruggieri RM, Russo A, Lapa D, Campenni A, Trimarchi F. Usefulness of L-carnitine, a naturally occurring peripheral antagonist of thyroid hormone action, in iatrogenic hyperthyroidism: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86(8):3579-3594. Berni A, Meschini R, Filippi S, Palitti F, De Amicis A, Chessa L. L-carnitine enhances resistance to oxidative stress by reducing DNA damage in Ataxia telangiectasia cells. Mutat Res. 2008;650(2):165-74. Pearce EN. Braverman LE. Environmental pollutants and the thyroid. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009;23:801–813. Brent GA. Braverman LE. Zoeller RT. Thyroid health and the environment. Thyroid. 2007;17:807–809. Ventura M, Melo M, Carrilho F. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:1297658.

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