Q.: What, if anything, would Natural Medicine recommend as natural treatment or support for Graves’ disease? I have a friend who has been diagnosed at 40 and would like to avoid having her thyroid removed. Lee-Anne
DR DAVID NYE REPLIES:
Thank you for your request for information. Graves’ disease is a serious auto-immune disorder, the cause of which is poorly understood. Some factor or factors trigger the immune system to start attacking thyroid gland tissue. The thyroid then goes into over-production of its two hormones T3 and T4, resulting in hyperthyroidism. This can seriously affect quality of life and may even lead to death. Common effects include goitre, bulging eyes, palpitations, tremors and psychiatric symptoms. The usual treatment for Graves’ disease involves antithyroid drugs, ablation of the thyroid gland with radioactive iodine or surgery, which results in a permanent underactive thyroid state requiring ongoing T4 supplementation.
Natural alternatives are possible, but not easy to manage on one’s own – it’s preferable to be under the guidance and supervision of a qualified integrative practitioner. As in all auto-immune conditions, one needs to assess and treat leaky gut syndrome, correct imbalance of the gut bacteria, test for food intolerances, and detoxify the body with special emphasis on detecting and removing toxic metals.
Substances that have been shown to be beneficial include rosmarinic acid, extracted from herbs such as lemon balm. This can be combined with bugleweed for better effect. L-carnitine and flax seed oil have also shown promise in helping to reduce some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Certain foods have been shown to block or reduce thyroid hormone production. These include kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, spinach, pears and peaches. I would caution your friend not to treat herself. To find a practitioner in her area she can go to www.integrativemedicine.co.za. I hope this helps.