Of the thyroid diseases, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are by far the most common. These are characterized by low output of thyroid hormone, either from antibodies against the thyroid (Hashimoto’s) or other causes. But it is also possible for the thyroid to go the other way, and instead overproduce thyroid hormone.
Hyperthyroidism just means thyroid hormone is too high, though this can happen for several reasons. The most common cause is the autoimmune condition called Grave’s Disease.
WHAT IS GRAVE’S DISEASE
Normal thyroid function happens when TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) from the pituitary binds to a receptor on the thyroid and tells it to produce T4.
In Grave’s Disease, antibodies attack the TSH receptors on the thyroid. Neither the pituitary nor the thyroid are at fault; the thyroid just thinks it’s being told to work harder, so it does.
WHY THE ANTIBODIES GET PRODUCED
Another possible cause goes back to gut inflammation. The idea is this: the junctions in your small intestine ought to be tight enough that nothing can get in or out without the aid of digestive enzymes. In a leaky gut, the junctions are loose enough that food particles can come in contact with the bloodstream prematurely (before they’ve been broken down into something your bloodstream would recognize and be able to use). Your blood therefore thinks the food particles are foreign invaders, and it creates antibodies against them.
Increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, also can be the gateway to autoimmune conditions, since allergies and autoimmunity are so closely linked. In a nutshell: allergies are when your immune system thinks a friend is an enemy; autoimmunity is when your immune system thinks you are the enemy.
I’ll also say clinically that I have yet to see a case of Grave’s Disease that didn’t start right after a period of acute stress. This is because too much adrenaline can rev up the thyroid.
SYMPTOMS OF GRAVE’S DISEASE
Symptoms of Grave’s Disease or hyperthyroidism in general include:
- anxiety (often it feels more physical than mental)
- sweating and night sweats
- muscle weakness
- weight loss
- shortness of breath
- increased appetite
- irregular periods
- exophthalmos (bulging eyes)
Untreated, too-high circulating thyroid levels can be damaging to the cardiovascular system. It’s not something to mess with.
TREATMENT FOR GRAVE’S AND HYPERTHYROIDISM
Grave’s is best treated integratively: that is, with a combination of pharmaceuticals and natural interventions. There are supplements that can suppress thyroid function, but because increased circulating thyroid levels can be dangerous, they are best used in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.
It’s also important to look at underlying triggers: remove molecular mimics (like gluten—and in extreme cases, even other grains that look like gluten), heal up the gut if that’s a factor, and address the underlying source of stress as well as adrenal function.