Many people who have an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis wonder how their condition developed in the first place. While there are some theories on what can lead to an autoimmune thyroid disorder, there isn’t one specific cause that leads to these conditions. In other words, there are most likely different causes of autoimmune thyroid conditions.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find out the cause of such a condition in an individual with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In many cases a competent doctor can find out the cause, or at least the major contributing factors of an autoimmune thyroid condition. And once this cause is found, it is possible to restore the health of many people who have these conditions. And even for those people with an autoimmune thyroid condition who can’t have their health completely restored back to normal, many of these people still can benefit from following a natural thyroid treatment protocol.
In any case, let’s discuss one of the most common ways in which an autoimmune thyroid condition can develop. I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past how many people develop problems with their adrenal glands. This usually takes time to develop, happening over a course of many months, or in most cases, many years. There are typically three primary ways in which people develop weakened adrenal glands:
1. Eating too many refined foods and sugars. Eating refined foods and sugars on a regular basis will affect the hormones insulin and cortisol. This will cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, and the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. When this happens frequently over a period of many years, causing the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol regularly, this will weaken the adrenal glands. This in turn can lead to immune system problems, and thus eventually cause the development of an autoimmune thyroid condition. So the best thing you can do is eat plenty of whole foods, and try to minimize the consumption of refined and processed foods.
2. Getting an insufficient amount of sleep each night. Not getting at least seven to eight hours sleep each day can affect your adrenal health. Not getting sufficient sleep will also affect the cortisol levels. The cortisol levels should normally be at their highest levels in the morning, and then decrease as the day moves on, with the lowest levels being at night right before going to bed. Obviously this will differ for someone who works a third shift, but for someone who works a regular shift, staying up late watching television, surfing on the internet, or doing other things, followed by waking up early in the morning will affect your adrenal health if done for a prolonged period of time. This is why you ideally want to try obtaining at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and more than this if at all possible.
3. Doing a poor job of managing stress. If you recall from previous articles and posts, the adrenal glands are designed to handle acute stress situations. But in this day and age, most people deal with a lot of chronic stress. This too can lead to weak adrenal glands by causing them to constantly secrete the hormone cortisol. While you won’t be able to completely eliminate the stress from your life, there is an excellent chance you can do a much better job of managing it, which will help a great deal.
When someone develops weak adrenals through one or more of the above methods, this can lead to a compromised immune system. And this compromised immune system can trigger an autoimmune response. But why does someone develop an autoimmune condition which specifically involves the thyroid gland, and not another area of the body? Well, weak adrenal glands will also put the body in a state of catabolism, which means the body will be breaking down. This in turn will cause the thyroid gland to slow down this process, which can lead to a hypothyroid condition. So the combination of the hypothyroid condition and the compromised immune system can lead to the development of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, although genetics most likely plays a role in this.
As for why some people develop Graves’ Disease instead of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, this not completely known, although just as is the case with the development of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, genetics almost definitely is a factor. After all, if someone with Graves’ Disease has a genetic marker for this condition, then it would make sense for them to develop this condition, whereas if they have the genetic marker for a different autoimmune condition then the triggering of the autoimmune response will most likely result in that specific condition. When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, it was confirmed through an Adrenal Stress Index test that I had weak adrenal glands. This in turn probably compromised my immune system, and while it’s not completely known why I developed Graves’ Disease instead of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, genetics probably played a role in this.
Other areas of the body can also potentially lead to the development of an autoimmune thyroid condition. As another example, digestive issues can also weaken the immune system, and potentially can lead to the development of an autoimmune condition. If someone has leaky gut syndrome, where proteins and other larger molecules are passing through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream, this can trigger an autoimmune response and thus lead to a condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Other gut issues can also affect the immune system. So one will need to correct any digestive system issues, which in turn will also help with immunity. Many people have problems with both their digestive system and adrenal glands, so of course both of these areas will need to be addressed.
What’s important to understand is that having one autoimmune condition can lead to the development of other autoimmune conditions in the future. This is why just treating the thyroid symptoms alone doesn’t make much sense. Even in cases when thyroid medication (thyroid hormone, antithyroid medication, etc.), RAI, or thyroid surgery is necessary, these treatment methods frequently won’t correct the underlying condition. While the medication might be required to manage the symptoms, they won’t do anything for weak adrenals, digestive problems, or the autoimmune component of Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. So in cases where the autoimmune thyroid disorder can’t be completely cured, the immune system component and other compromised areas of the body need to be addressed in order to prevent, or at least reduce the likelihood of other autoimmune conditions from developing in the future.
Environmental toxins can potentially trigger an autoimmune thyroid condition to develop. In this situation it can be challenging to correct such a problem, but frequently a detoxification program can help to clean out many of these toxins. And then the person will of course need to try minimizing their exposure to these toxins in the future. Sometimes the autoimmune thyroid condition can be caused by a combination of environmental toxins, along with one or more compromised areas of the body. This of course will be even more challenging to correct, but if the person is willing to take responsibility for their health and follow a natural treatment protocol there is an excellent chance they will receive good results.
So hopefully you have a better understanding as to what factors can lead to the development of an autoimmune thyroid disorder. While both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are no doubt complex conditions, many people with these conditions can have their health restored back to normal once these compromised areas of the body are addressed. I’m living proof of this. But in order to do this it’s necessary to first detect these problems, and then attempt to correct them.