For those people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who choose to follow a natural treatment protocol, the ultimate goal is to get these people to the point where the immune system is balanced. In other words, the goal is to suppress the autoimmune component of the condition while addressing compromised areas of the body (i.e. adrenals, gut, etc.). At this point the person’s symptoms have disappeared, their thyroid hormone levels will be normal and the thyroid antibodies will be negative. Some might refer to this as a cure, but since there is a genetic component which can potentially be triggered again then it’s probably best to refer to this as a state of remission. And of course once remission is achieved, the goal is to help the person maintain their health so that a relapse doesn’t occur.
But how can one maintain their health after remission is achieved? After all, if there is a genetic predisposition then isn’t there the possibility that eating poorly, experiencing a stressful event or some other lifestyle or environmental factor can cause a relapse? Without question this is possible, but once someone has restored their health back to normal there are numerous things they can do to help reduce the likelihood of having a relapse occur. So let’s go ahead and discuss some of the more important factors to help maintain your health.
1. Make sure that your condition is stable. Some people think they are in remission even though this is not the case. First of all, just because someone is symptom free and has a normal TSH and thyroid hormone levels doesn’t mean they are in remission. You of course want the thyroid antibodies to be negative too, although since these can fluctuate you can’t always rely on a single test result. If saliva testing was done then ideally you want these results to be normal too. So for example, if someone presented with elevated cortisol levels, a depressed DHEA, and a depressed secretory IgA then the obvious goal is to get these to within normal limits. If someone has a leaky gut then this should be healed before someone declares that they’re in remission.
Of course everyone wants to restore their health quickly. And while it’s my goal to help people achieve optimal results as fast as possible, the truth is that it takes time for this to happen. Let’s not forget that with autoimmune thyroid conditions it frequently take years to develop, and so it will take time for someone’s symptoms to improve, and for the blood and saliva tests to normalize. And if someone has a condition such as leaky gut syndrome, or toxic overload, then these conditions also take time to address.
2. You want to eat well most of the time. When following a natural treatment protocol you need to be very strict with your eating habits. Once someone has restored their health it still is important to eat well, although in most cases it is fine to indulge every now and then. When someone restores their health back to normal what I commonly see is the person eat well for a few months, but then frequently they will slowly incorporate more and more junk food into their diet. It’s easy to get into bad habits, and I’d be lying if I told you I don’t give into the temptations every now and then.
While most natural healthcare professionals would like to give you the impression they eat well 100% of the time, the truth is that just about everyone indulges every now and then. I frequently attend nutritional seminars and conferences, and it’s very common to see natural healthcare professionals drinking Starbucks lattes, eating unhealthy food for lunch, etc. Once again, I’m not trying to criticize natural healthcare professionals who do this, as while I don’t care for Starbucks, and although I usually bring some of my own healthy snacks at these seminars and conferences, I’d be lying if I told you that I never eat some unhealthy foods when attending these conferences.
The point I’m trying to make is that most people who have already restored their health back to normal can get away with eating unhealthy foods on an occasional basis without having to worry about relapsing. So while you should eat mostly healthy foods and try to avoid the refined foods and sugars, indulging every now and then should be fine after remission is achieved. I’m sure some people reading this will want to know if this includes common allergens, such as gluten and dairy. In other words, if someone avoided gluten and/or dairy while following a natural treatment protocol, after they restore their health is it okay to have some gluten based foods every now and then?
This is controversial, and it really depends on the person. Of course if someone has a condition such as Celiac Disease then they really do need to avoid gluten on a permanent basis. If someone has a non-autoimmune gluten sensitivity then this is where it gets more controversial. Dr. Tom O’Bryan is an expert when it comes to gluten, and he feels that anyone with any type of gluten sensitivity should permanently avoid gluten. However, I’m still not sure of this. For example, if someone developed a gluten sensitivity due to a leaky gut, but corrected this problem, then it might be fine for this person to have some gluten every now and then. But perhaps this is just due to my own personal bias since every now and then I’m guilty of having a slice of non gluten-free pizza or a non-gluten free dessert.
I think many would agree that the problem with most people isn’t that they eat poorly once in a while. The primary reason why there is a high prevalence of these chronic health conditions is because most people make it a daily habit of eating refined foods and sugars, fast food, common allergens such as gluten and dairy, etc. So for those who ate poorly before being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, if you changed your diet as part of a natural treatment protocol and then restored your health back to normal, you need to understand that while perfection isn’t necessary, you will need to eat well on a regular basis for the rest of your life if you want to maintain your health.
3. Become a master at handling stress. Managing one’s stress is just as important, if not more important than eating well. It’s very common for people with these autoimmune thyroid conditions to link the onset of their condition to a stressful event. There is no question that stress has an effect on the immune system. While acute stress will lead to elevated cortisol levels and thus immunosuppression, chronic, prolonged stress has been associated with an increase in proinflammatory cytokines, which is also a component of autoimmunity.
I’ve spoken about the impact of stress in other articles and posts. Stress is a factor in just about everyone’s life, and in many cases it’s not possible to reduce the stress levels. And so what we need to do is change how we handle the stress. Unfortunately most people don’t do a good job of handling the stress in their life. And many people who think they are doing a good job of managing their stress really aren’t doing a sufficient job in this area.
So how about if you currently have low stress levels and feel that you are doing a good job of managing your stress? As I just mentioned, just because you think you are currently doing a good job of managing your stress doesn’t mean that this actually is the case. But even if this is true, you never know what the future will bring. For example, I once had a patient who was doing great on the natural treatment protocol. Her symptoms improved quickly, and her blood tests normalized after only three months on the protocol, which is great. But then she was dealing with a close relative who had health problems and eventually passed away, and she relapsed. It obviously is difficult to prepare for a situation like this, and chances are her condition wasn’t yet stable at this point. But I brought this example up to demonstrate how important it is to be proactive in managing your stress.
Although eating well, exercising regular, and being aware of the impact stress can have on your health is important, you need to incorporate other stress management techniques into your daily routine. At the very least you need to block out 10 to 15 minutes once or twice each day to work on managing your stress. If you can block out 30 minutes each time this would be even better. I spoke about this in detail in a blog post entitled “Blocking Out Time To Manage Your Stress Is Essential“.
4. Detoxify your body on a regular basis. We are constantly being exposed to toxins, and as a result, we need to do things to 1) minimize our exposure to toxins, and 2) do things to eliminate toxins from our body. I have also spoken about this in a separate post entitled “3 Ways People With Thyroid and Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions Can Detoxify Their Body“.
5. Take advantage of natural antimicrobials. Pathogens are also a potential trigger for an autoimmune condition. We’re all going to be exposed to pathogens, and the in order to minimize the risk of getting an infection you should 1) practice proper hygiene, 2) improve the health of your immune system, and 3) take natural antimicrobials. I’m not going to talk about hygiene here. With regards to immune system health, those who are in a true state of remission should have a healthy immune system, and you can maintain its health by following the advice I have given so far in this post. If you eat well and manage your stress you will maintain the health of your gut and adrenals, which will help greatly in maintaining the health of your immune system. And of course minimizing your exposure to toxins and eliminating them from your body will also help with immunity.
With regards to natural antimicrobials, there are three that I’m going to mention here. One of them is garlic, as this is one of the best natural antimicrobials available. I would try to eat one clove of raw garlic per day, or if you don’t want to do this then take a garlic supplement. I have written an article entitled “Can Garlic Benefit Thyroid Health?“. Turmeric is another wonderful herb that has antimicrobial properties. And so I would also consume some turmeric each day. I’ve written an article entitled “Turmeric and Thyroid Health“.
The final antimicrobial I’d like to discuss is the controversial mineral iodine. I’m not suggesting that everyone should take iodine on a wellness basis. I’m sure some people reading this post were in agreement with most of what I said until I mentioned iodine! In previous articles and blog posts I’ve mentioned that iodine isn’t for everyone. Iodine is a potent antimicrobial, and is also effective in penetrating the biofilm of certain pathogens. But of course there is also evidence of iodine triggering an autoimmune response in some people, and so while I’m pro-iodine, some people should avoid supplementing with this mineral. In any case, when it comes to fending off pathogens, I would definitely make garlic and turmeric a part of your daily routine, and some people might also want to consider a small amount of iodine.
There are of course other factors which are important to maintaining one’s health. It’s important to obtain quality sleep each night, as I would try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. It is also important to exercise on a regular basis, although I realize that some people won’t be able to do this until they have restored their health back to normal. However, you want to be careful not to overexert yourself, as this can put stress on the immune system as well.
In summary, without question it is a challenge for people with autoimmune thyroid conditions to restore their health back to normal. Doing this takes a good amount of time, and requires extreme changes in lifestyle factors. Maintaining one’s health also can be a challenge, although it doesn’t require being as strict as when one is following a natural treatment protocol. With that being said, once someone has restored their health back to normal they want to continue to eat well, work on their stress handling skills, continue to minimize their exposure to toxins and do things to help eliminate toxins, take advantage of natural antimicrobials, get ample sleep, and exercise on a regular basis. Once again, doing all of these things can be a challenge, but doing so is necessary to maintain your health and prevent a relapse from occurring.