Treating Graves' Disease
by Diane Linsley
In this article, I will briefly cover the different aspects of what I
call the 4-fold approach to treating Graves' disease. These aspects
are diet, supplements, stress reduction and drugs.
If you have Graves' disease, you should be under the care of a
physician. This article is not intended as medical advice for any
person. Even though symptoms often correlate with lab results,
how you feel is not always an accurate indicator of your thyroid
Graves Disease Cure or Remission
Long-term remission could be called a cure, but there is actually
no permanent cure for Graves' disease or any other autoimmune
disease. Even though my lab tests are currently normal, I have
lived with autoimmune disease in various forms for 30 years.
During that time, I've had periods of feeling almost normal that have lasted for months or years. But the autoimmune disease has always recurred in some form whenever I've gone through a period of excessive stress. It's not a coincidence that I was diagnosed with Graves' disease approximately one year after my divorce.
Autoimmune disease can appear in many different forms - from the relatively benign irritable bowel syndrome that I developed during college to the life-threatening hyperthyroidism that occurred later in life. But in spite of their different appearances, all autoimmune diseases are just symptoms of the same disorder - autoimmunity. When I was diagonosed with Graves' disease, I knew that it was just more of the same thing. It had just gotten worse.
4-Fold Approach to Treating Graves Disease
The 4-fold approach to treating Graves' disease can be used for any type of autoimmune disease. Only the details of the supplements and drugs vary.
The most important aspect of the 4-fold approach is the anti-inflammatory diet. I was fortunate to discover this diet soon after my diagnosis. The diet made it possible for me to get off the anti-thyroid drugs after just 3 months. I could have gone off them sooner, since my T3 and T4 levels were back to normal after the first month, but the doctor couldn't believe what he was seeing on the lab results, so he kept me on the drugs for 2 more months, even though this caused me to become hypothyroid.
You might be thinking that my quick recovery means that I was never very sick to start with. On the contrary, I was so ill that I was briefly hospitalized with the early symptoms of thyroid storm.
At the time of my diagonsis, my TSH level was .007, which is almost non-existent. I was experiencing vomiting and watery diarrhea. I lost 10 pounds in one week, which was a serious problem, since I was already underweight to start with. My muscles were so weak that I couldn't walk up the stairs without stopping halfway to catch my breath. I couldn't even open my drug bottles without help. My heart rate was over 120 beats per minute, even when I was laying down. I was having panic attacks that I couldn't control - even with all my meditation skills. I thought I was going to die or go insane.
The doctor wanted to destroy my thyroid with radioactive iodine, but I refused. I'd been studying alternative medicine for many years, and I knew there had to be other options. But when I looked in my books, they all said the same thing - that there was no alternative cure for Graves' disease. That was incredibly discouraging for someone who no longer believed in using conventional medicine, except for things like broken bones.
So I turned to the internet. I bought a stack of new books on Graves' disease, and I read them all during the first 3 weeks that I was bedridden. Each book contained valuable information, which I integrated into my treatment plan.
I started the drug treatment first. When I refused to take the radioactive iodine, the doctor wanted to prescribe PTU. But I'd read too many scary things about PTU, so I insisted on methimazole. He reluctantly agreed, saying that I was only postponing the inevitable by taking anti-thyroid drugs. He also put me on propanolol for the heart symptoms and ondansetron for the vomiting and diarrhea.
I knew that I only had one chance to cure myself. I had to do it before the course of drug treatment ran out in one year. I never dreamed that I would go into remission after just two months. I credit the diet, supplements and stress reduction for making that possible.
Self-Care for Graves Disease
Soon after I went on the drugs, I made an appointment with a naturopath. He added thyroid-specific supplements to my regimen, which were surprisingly effective. I stopped going to the conventional doctor, and I continued to see the naturopath. He weaned me off the methimazole, and I continued to take the supplements.
Around Christmas time, I was feeling so normal that I cheated on my diet by eating a little bit of cheese and white potatoes. Within a couple of days, I was having night sweats, diarrhea, swollen eyes, and increased anxiety. This was a reminder that there is no substitute for the diet, even though I feel deprived sometimes by not being able to eat the same foods as everyone else.
When I cheat on the diet, skip the supplements, or get lax about meditating and taking my afternoon nap, I suffer the consequences. All parts of the 4-fold approach are essential, and I can't substitute one for another. For example, I can't get away with cheating on the diet by taking extra supplements. I can't meditate the disease away or make it disappear by thinking positive thoughts. That's just magical thinking. Likewise, if I overwork and get stressed out, I get sick, in spite of my diet and supplements.
This is a challenging regimen. I'm not sure I could do it if I hadn't spent the previous 28 years dealing with other health problems with very little support. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in my twenties, my mom refused to believe it, and she tried to make me eat dessert every time I visited her. Her denial and lack of support made it harder for me to stick to my diet.
Looking back on my life, I realize that all my experiences made me stronger as I learned to be assertive and self-reliant. I was also cured from the magical thinking that is so prevalent in the New Age world.
Clients often complain to me that they are tired of having to eat healthy, exercise and take their supplements. They say things like, "Why can't I just be like everyone else?" They seem to think that everyone else in the world is healthy, happy, and free of problems. They insist that there must be a way that they can be permanently cured - if they could just find the right words or the right energy practice to make their health problems disappear. They get angry at me because they think that I'm withholding secret information that would permanently cure them.
Of course, after hearing my reply to their complaints, they get even angrier :)
Sorry, there is no magical cure. We live in a highly toxic environment, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Autoimmune disease is on the rise, along with many other physical and mental diseases. Yes, some people have stronger genes, and others are more sensitive - like canaries in the coal mine.
It's normal to grieve and feel like a victim when you get sick. But at some point, you have to get practical and do what it takes to survive (or not). I recommend that people focus on the things that they can control - like what they put in their mouth. That's the real secret of happiness - learning to focus your mind and take responsiblity for what you can do.
The 4-fold approach to treating Graves' disease is challenging, but doable. As a life coach, I can provide emotional support. If you are interested in coaching with me, click here to schedule a free consultation.
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