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Graves’ Disease

Immune, thyroid | December 2, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

autoimmune, thyroid health

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Antibodies are produced by the immune system that attack the thyroid leading to a wide-range of symptoms such as anxiety, racing heart, weight loss, trouble sleeping and eye bulging. So, what is Graves’ disease and what can you do to treat this common thyroid condition naturally?

Thyroid function

Our thyroid is responsible for producing hormones (T3 and T4) which regulate body and brain growth and development, energy levels, body temperature and metabolic functions.

It is part of the endocrine system which regulates and influences the activity of all cells and tissues in the body.

Our thyroid is located in the front of the neck, below the voice box –in the shape of a bow.

What happens in Grave’s disease?

What happens in Grave’s disease?Grave’s disease is triggered by an abnormality in the immune system.

Antibodies are produced which cause the thyroid to increase in size and produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, known as thyrotoxicosis.

Normally thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is released by the pituitary gland but in Grave’s disease there is a problem with normal communication.

The antibodies are mistaken for TSH which produce excess thyroid hormones— above and beyond what is necessary and healthy.

On a blood test, people with grave’s disease will show abnormally high levels of T3, T4 and antibodies, and low TSH levels.

What are the symptoms?

If you suffer from Grave’s disease, your symptoms could include:

  • Weight loss/increased appetite
  • Increased sweating
  • Heat intolerance
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hand tremor
  • Loose bowel motions/diarrhoea
  • Fatigue and weak muscles
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Menstrual changes/fertility problems
  • Personality changes (emotional, irritable, restlessness and nervousness)
  • Protruding or staring eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy)

Natural treatment for Graves’ disease

Reduce stress

Reduce stressResearch has found that stress can trigger autoimmune reactions and worsen inflammation. Many people with Grave’s disease report trauma or chronic stress before they developed the disease.
Stress increases levels of cortisol and adrenaline which worsen the symptoms of thyroid disease.
Natural stress relievers include gentle walks, meditation, massage therapy, yoga, being in nature and reading.

Exercise should be gentle and for relaxation purposes only—overexertion in Grave’s disease is a big no no!

Dietary recommendations

  • Eat foods high in nutrients, calories and protein to accommodate for a high metabolic rate
  • Small frequent meals help to stabilise mood and other symptoms
  • Eat foods high in goitrogens, including broccoli, cabbage, kale and soy, preferably raw
  • Avoid foods and supplements high in iodine including seaweed, kelp and iodized salt
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds and lentils/legumes and low in processed foods, grains, dairy, poultry and red meat
  • Avoid gluten (wheat, rye and barley), chemicals in foods and genetically modified ingredients
  • Avoid all stimulants including alcohol, caffeine and sugar
  • Eat organic, wholefoods that are fresh and unrefined


Vitamin A is vital for healthy thyroid function and deficiency is common in people with thyroid disorders. In one study the serum levels of vitamin A was significantly reduced in people with both over and underactive thyroid disorders.

AntioxidantsVitamin C and bioflavonoids may prove helpful in Graves disease by providing much needed antioxidant support. Oxidative damage has been found in hyperthyroid patients and vitamin C supplemented at 1000mg per day increased antioxidant capacity.

Vitamin D deficiency is a commonly low in individuals with autoimmune diseases including Graves’ disease.

However, before assuming you have a deficiency ask your doctor if they can check your levels first. Depending on your results you may need to supplement small or large doses.

Selenium deficiency in Graves disease is suspected of influencing the conversion of T4 to T3, the generation of free radicals and the autoimmune process. A small clinical trial concluded that high selenium levels has a positive effect on the thyroidal autoimmune process.

Low zinc levels have been observed in people with Graves’ disease as well as an increase in zinc excretion. A more accurate way to test for zinc is by testing red blood cell content rather than serum levels.

Other antioxidants which may assist include co-enzyme Q10, magnesium, carnitine, quercetin, turmeric and alpha lipoic acid.

B complex

Supplementing with a B complex that includes all the B vitamins will help to support the body during times of physical and mental stress. They also play a role in relieving anxiety and nervous tension. Feeling fatigued is a common complaint of people with Graves’ disease and supplementing with a B complex may help to relieve exhaustion and provide support.

​Cigarette smokingCigarette smoking

A well recognised risk-factor of Grave’s disease and Graves' ophthalmopathy is cigarette smoking, exposure to tobacco and other recreational drugs. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this occurs, but it is postulated that the high amounts of toxins trigger inflammation, damages healthy cells and tissue and activates the immune system to release more T-helper cells.

Herbal medicine

For the highly stressed and strung out, herbs that have relaxing properties may be indicated. Withania, chamomile, passionflower, valerian and rhodiola may help to calm body and mind. Rehmannia provides additional support to the adrenals, reduces inflammation and helps to modulate an unbalanced immune system. Primary herbs that help to supress an overactive thyroid include motherwort, bugleweed and lemon balm. Australia’s best online discount chemist


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Wiersinga WM. Smoking and thyroid. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Aug;79(2):145-51

Dirican MTaş S. Effects of vitamin E and vitamin C supplementation on plasma lipid peroxidation and on oxidation of apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins in experimental hyperthyroidism. J Med Invest. 1999 Feb;46(1-2):29-33

Wertenbruch TWillenberg HSSagert CNguyen TBBahlo MFeldkamp JGroeger CHermsen DScherbaum WASchott M. Serum selenium levels in patients with remission and relapse of graves' disease. Med Chem. 2007 May;3(3):281-4

Xu MYCao BYin JWang DFChen KLLu QB. Vitamin D and Graves' disease: a meta-analysis update. Nutrients. 2015 May 21;7(5):3813-27

Santini FVitti PCeccarini GMammoli CRosellini VPelosini CMarsili ATonacchera MAgretti PSantoni TChiovato LPinchera A. In vitro assay of thyroid disruptors affecting TSH-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity. J Endocrinol Invest. 2003 Oct;26(10):950-5

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