Last week I discussed 5 Myths about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and this week I’ll be discussing five myths about hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. There are many people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease who simply follow the conventional medical treatment protocol, without questioning the advice given to them. I’m not suggesting that everyone with these conditions shouldn’t receive conventional medical treatment. What I am encouraging people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions to do is to keep an open mind, and not to believe everything they’ve been told about this condition.
So let’s go ahead and discuss the five common myths:
Myth #1: Radioactive Iodine is completely safe and is the best treatment option.
In the United States, radioactive iodine remains the number one treatment method recommended by endocrinologists. Although I receive emails from people every week who received radioactive iodine treatment and have regretted their decision, I also receive emails from those who received RAI and was happy they received this treatment. But regardless of whether it helps you or causes more problems, the main issue I have with radioactive iodine treatment is that it’s addressing the thyroid gland, and in most cases the cause of hyperthyroidism is an overactive immune system. Of course something triggers the autoimmune response, but my point is that RAI doesn’t address the cause of the condition.
And this is the case with many other conventional medical treatment methods. If someone has gallstones and is told to have their gallbladder surgically removed, the surgery doesn’t do anything to address the cause of the gallstones. If a woman has uterine fibroids then it may or may not be necessary to perform a hysterectomy, but usually nothing is done to address the cause of the fibroids. And it’s the same story with many other conditions. We are born with these organs and glands for a reason, and I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times when these procedures need to be performed. But there is no question that many doctors are too quick to recommend these invasive procedures.
So when an endocrinologist tells someone that radioactive iodine is “very safe”, keep in mind that while some people do fine after receiving RAI, some people don’t do well. It sounds simple enough, as after receiving radioactive iodine you probably will become hypothyroid and will just need to take a single pill (thyroid hormone) every morning for the rest of your life. Even if it was always this simple I’d be reluctant to receive RAI unless if it were absolutely necessary. But when you consider that radiation is used in this procedure I’d be extra cautious about receiving RAI. Besides the radiation, I don’t understand how any procedure which results in destruction of one of the most important glands in your body can be considered to be “very safe”.
As for it being the best treatment option, the truth is that in many other countries RAI isn’t typically recommended as the primary treatment method for hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. There are also endocrinologists in the United States who will try to do everything they can to help the patient avoid RAI. So if radioactive iodine treatment was the best treatment option, and was very safe, then why wouldn’t all endocrinologists recommend it as the main treatment option? The reason is because some endocrinologists realize that RAI isn’t the best treatment option for everyone with a hyperthyroid condition.
Myth #2: Nothing can be done for the autoimmune response of Graves’ Disease.
One of the main reasons why most endocrinologists in the United States recommend RAI for people with Graves’ Disease is because they don’t think that anything can be done for the autoimmune component of the condition. So for example, if someone has developed Graves’ Disease due to leaky gut syndrome, and the cause of the leaky gut syndrome was a gluten sensitivity problem or an infection such as H. Pylori, removing the trigger and then repairing the leaky gut most likely will suppress the autoimmune component of the condition. But what usually happens is that the endocrinologist will simply recommend RAI, and nothing will be done to address the trigger or the compromised areas of the body.
I realize that many people reading this are skeptical about whether or not anything can be done to help suppress the autoimmune component of Graves’ Disease, or other autoimmune conditions for that matter. However, some of you might be familiar with the Institute of Functional Medicine. This is an organization which consists of chiropractors, naturopaths, and medical doctors, and most of what they do is research-driven. And they also realize that the autoimmune response can be addressed, and so medical doctors involved with this organization will usually do more than just recommend prescription drugs and invasive procedures for people who have autoimmune conditions.
The truth is that there is a lot that can be done for the autoimmune component of Graves’ Disease. I will admit that it can be a challenge to find out what has triggered the autoimmune response. And sometimes there can be numerous factors involved, which will make it even more challenging. It isn’t easy to suppress the autoimmune component and control the inflammation with these conditions, but in many cases it is possible.
Myth #3: One’s diet has nothing to do with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.
Not only do most endocrinologists fail to address one’s diet in people with these conditions, but the fact remains that regardless of the condition, most medical doctors don’t focus on their patient’s diet when they’re dealing with an autoimmune condition of any kind. But there is a reason behind the higher prevalence of these autoimmune conditions, and the main factors which have changed over the last few decades are 1) the food we eat, and 2) the toxins we’re exposed to.
People these days eat way more refined foods and sugars than ever before. And we’re also consuming more foods with artificial ingredients, trans fats, GMOs, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients. While it’s true that many people are becoming more aware of their health and are thus minimizing their consumption of junk food, many people are still eating these harmful foods, and this includes millions of children. So we’re not only seeing a higher incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and type II diabetes in adults, but are seeing these conditions in younger children as well. And the same is true for thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions.
We’re also being exposed to thousands of chemicals which weren’t in existence many years ago. And the long term health consequences are unknown for the majority of these chemicals. And while we assume that our body will be able to excrete these toxins, the truth is that the liver can easily become overwhelmed by all of these toxins. And if we’re not eating a healthy diet then this too will affect the liver’s ability to detoxify.
The fact is that a healthy diet is important for a healthy immune system, a healthy gut, and healthy adrenals. And the toxins we’re exposed to will also affect these areas, as well as other areas of the body. So to tell someone that their diet and the toxins they’re exposed to isn’t a factor in the development of these conditions is ludicrous.
Myth #4: People with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease should never take iodine
This myth is definitely controversial, and I’m not suggesting that everyone with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease needs to supplement with iodine. On the other hand, most endocrinologists will tell their patients to avoid iodine, and there is a lot of conflicting information in books and on the internet, and so it really is difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. My goal isn’t to try to convince you that iodine is completely safe and should be taken by everyone with a hyperthyroid condition. But hopefully this information will at least open your mind to the possibility that some people with hyperthyroid conditions can benefit from iodine supplementation.
Iodine is necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone. And since hyperthyroid conditions involve the excess production of thyroid hormone, then it makes sense that consuming too much iodine will result in too much thyroid hormone. However, what is considered to be too much iodine? 150 mcg is the recommended daily allowance, so is anything higher than this considered to be too much iodine? How about 600 mcg? How about 15mg? How about 50 mg?
Before I discuss this further, let me first reveal that although I’m without question pro-iodine, I’m also conservative when it comes to iodine supplementation when compared to many other healthcare professionals. I do believe that people should first be tested before taking iodine, and then if an iodine deficiency is confirmed then I recommend small doses in the beginning. And while some natural healthcare professionals put all of their patients on 50mg of iodine, very rarely do I put someone on this high of a dose. But those who do take this approach and know what they’re doing rarely encounter problems.
But how about iodine triggering an autoimmune response? This is possible, but if the proper precautions are taken then this is unlikely to happen. Dr. David Brownstein, author of the book “Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”, makes sure that all of his patients who are on iodine also take sufficient amounts of selenium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Selenium and vitamin C help with the oxidation reaction that takes place, and helps to prevent oxidative damage which can result in an autoimmune response. Magnesium helps with the absorption of iodine, and other cofactors are also necessary, which you can learn about from reading his book.
So while not everyone with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease need to take iodine, some people with these conditions can benefit from supplementing with iodine. I’m one of them, as when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, part of my natural treatment protocol included supplementing with iodine. And I’m pretty sure that this was an important part of restoring my health back to normal. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a necessary component of everyone’s treatment plan. Just remember that the excess production of thyroid hormone in Graves’ Disease isn’t due to too much iodine, but instead is due to the thyroid receptor antibodies attacking the TSH receptors.
Myth #5: It’s Dangerous To Treat Hyperthyroid Conditions Naturally.
Obviously I’m an advocate of treating hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease naturally. On the other hand, many endocrinologists will be concerned about a person developing a condition such as thyroid storm if attempting to treat their condition naturally. The truth is, there are risks with both natural and conventional medical treatment methods. For example, if someone has a very high pulse rate and severe palpitations, then they might need to take antithyroid medication and/or a beta blocker to help manage the cardiac symptoms.
However, even when this is the case, most of the time the person who is taking these prescription drugs still can follow a natural treatment protocol. I do think it’s a good idea for people with these conditions to be under the guidance of a competent natural healthcare professional, rather than attempt to self-treat their condition. And when this is the case, usually the risks of following a natural treatment protocol are minimal. Keep in mind that I also think it’s fine to continue working with a medical doctor as well, although I realize that most medical doctors won’t be supportive of natural treatment methods with regards to Graves’ Disease.
So hopefully you understand that with everything it comes down to risks vs. benefits. There are potential risks when following a natural treatment protocol, and this is especially true for those who attempt to self-treat their condition. But there are also obvious risks with getting your thyroid gland obliterated through radioactive iodine treatment, or receiving thyroid surgery. This doesn’t mean that these treatment methods aren’t necessary at times, but some endocrinologists will try to scare their patients into receiving these treatment methods. They may tell the person that they will be at risk for developing thyroid storm or will be more likely to have a heart attack.
The truth is that while it is always possible for a condition such as thyroid storm to develop, if someone is taking the proper precautions then this will minimize the risk of this happening. So if they are taking medication to manage the symptoms, or herbs such as Bugleweed and Motherwort, and if these are effectively managing the hyperthyroid symptoms, then the risk of developing thyroid storm is low.
So while there can be risks involved with natural treatment methods, this doesn’t mean that following a natural treatment protocol is “dangerous”. When working with an expert who has experience dealing with these conditions, the risks associated with natural treatment methods are minimal. And while even in this situation there are still risks involved, there of course risks with conventional medical treatment methods as well.
In summary, there are numerous myths associated with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. And while I’m sure some people will argue about some of the myths I listed in this post, others will realize that in most cases, receiving radioactive iodine treatment isn’t the best option for people with hyperthyroid conditions. Either way, I hope you kept an open mind while reading this information, and hopefully will realize that there is a place for natural treatment methods in addressing hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.