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Autoimmunity and the Thyroid: How Alternative Medicine Effects Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease

Autoimmunity and the Thyroid: How Alternative Medicine Effects Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease

I have a love/hate relationship with the thyroid.

I used to think that I could understand how people felt when they talked about what it was like to be hypothyroid or hyperthyroid.  Sure, everyone has felt a little tired or bloated, anxious or restless right?  Yeah….no.  There is really no understanding what it is like to be either hypothyroid or hyperthyroid unless you have been there.   That inability to pick yourself up out of bed, feeling like you have to pry your eyelids open like that guy from “A Clockwork Orange”, just to be able to see straight in the morning.  Or that jittery-out-of-your-skin feeling where you can’t get your hands to stop shaking, or that my-heart-will-jump-out-of-my-chest sensation.  These feelings can be everyday experiences for someone with a thyroid condition.

And this is where I found myself, at 28 years old, spry and excited about life – an unexpected event later required me to have my thyroid gland removed, forcing me to experience days of severe hypothyroidism and days of hyperthyroidism while trying to get medication doses balanced.  So I now  understand what it is like to have this precious gland tampered with and the effects that can have on a person.  It literally turned my life upside down.  I now have an appreciation for the delicacy and huge importance of the thyroid gland, though there is still a part of me that bears resentment for the effect it has had on my life – thus my love/hate relationship.

Thyroid diseases are skyrocketing in the US.  The correlation with the rise of autoimmune diseases as well is not surprising seeing as how many thyroid conditions are either Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Graves’ Disease, the two most prevalent thyroid diseases.  These conditions are often characterized by a rise in antibodies (which are immune cells that are designed to destroy particular cells or proteins) that mistakenly attack the thyroid tissue, making it really difficult for the gland to do its job and produce thyroid hormone.

The thyroid gland is a very important hormone producing organ in your body.  Thyroid hormone is responsible for the metabolism in almost every cell in the body.  So when the thyroid hormone isn’t balanced, it can cause symptoms from head to toe, leading to an overall miserable feeling depending on which direction the hormone is fluctuating.

Treating thyroid conditions can be tricky.  The thyroid gland is very sensitive to changes in the body and thyroid hormone effects so many different functions in the body.  Current treatment for thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease is pharmaceutical replacement of thyroid hormone.  While this can help to mildly balance out the thyroid levels and help with some symptoms, it often doesn’t help with the underlying cause of why the thyroid is acting weird to begin with.

With alternative medicine we look at why the body is producing antibodies in the first place toward the thyroid tissue.  We also look at what things are potentially triggering inflammation in the body and correcting those things.  More often than not, with autoimmune diseases, food allergies or intolerances can play a big roll in making antibodies flare.  The immune system is designed to attack foreign invaders, not ourselves, but sometimes they get triggered by other things and then turn on our self cells.  Food allergies or sensitivities are often triggers for these immune responses.  Environmental allergies can also play a role in triggering the immune system to respond the way it does.  Finding and eliminating things that cause allergic reactions in the diet and the environment can be really helpful in reducing inflammation in the body.

Stress also plays a big role in aggravating autoimmune diseases.  It is stressful enough having a chronic conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease, that sometimes dealing with life situations can be an over-the-top expenditure of energy.  This increased burden on our body can cause our cells to work overtime and get exhausted, which promotes inflammation and can lead to aggravations in symptoms or disease progression.  It is important to try to find relaxing and fun things in your life that you can do to help decrease the stress that you experience on a daily basis.

There are also plenty of vitamins and minerals that can help with inflammation and decrease immune response and symptoms.  Essential fatty acids, as well as vitamins and minerals, can help to bring the cells back to functioning properly once they have been damaged by autoantibodies.

Of course, thyroid management and any medication adjustments need to be under the watchful eye of your doctor.  If you have questions about ways you can help to manage your thyroid condition with alternative medicine, contact our office today.

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