When someone with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis goes to their medical doctor or endocrinologist, their doctor will focus on the thyroid gland. Managing the thyroid symptoms can be important, as it will be necessary for some people with hypothyroid conditions to take thyroid hormone, and for some people with hyperthyroid conditions to take antithyroid medication. The problem I have with this is that most of these doctors don’t address other compromised areas of the body.
It’s bad enough that they won’t try to help correct weakened adrenal glands, improve poor digestion and gut health, or correct any vitamin or mineral deficiencies (with the exception of vitamin D and B12, and iron in some cases). But to completely ignore the autoimmune component is crazy if you ask me. Of course the primary reason why they don’t do anything for the immune system is because they don’t know what to do to help restore its health. And in most cases they have no interest in finding out.
With that being said, is it possible to completely eliminate the autoimmune response in Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? This admittedly is a controversial subject, as some will claim that once you “turn on the genes” for an autoimmune condition there is no way to turn it off. Then there are those who believe you can stop this process. Even with the advances we have had in genetic testing, I’m not sure if this is something that can be measured. Plus, we also need to keep in mind that apparently not everyone who develops this condition has a genetic component, although this might be controversial as well.
There Is Still A Lot We Don’t Know About Autoimmune Conditions
Even though we are constantly learning more about autoimmune conditions, there is still a lot we don’t know. And things are always changing. For example, cytokine testing was once thought of as a way to measure the autoimmune response. But upon attending a recent conference on thyroid health, I was told that this type of testing is no longer thought to be accurate. Perhaps this will change in the near future, but the point is that it is difficult to look at the autoimmune response and see if it has been “shut off”, or even suppressed.
How about looking at the thyroid antibodies? I think it’s important to look at the antibodies, as if they are positive then this concludes that someone has an autoimmune thyroid condition. But just because someone once had positive thyroid antibodies and now tests negative for thyroid antibodies doesn’t confirm that the autoimmune response has been eliminated. This doesn’t mean that it’s useless to measure the antibodies on follow-up tests (although many medical doctors think doing this is pointless), but negative thyroid antibodies alone doesn’t tell the entire story.
The Primary Goal Is To Control The Inflammation
Although I don’t know for sure whether the autoimmune response can be “eliminated”, or simply suppressed, what I do know is that in any one with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, inflammation is an issue. And if one is going to suppress the autoimmune response and help restore the health of the person, one really does need to get the inflammation under control. The problem is that so many different factors can cause inflammation, and at times it can be difficult to determine what specifically is causing it. In many cases a food allergy such as gluten or casein is causing the inflammation, and therefore needs to be avoided. Sometimes another food allergen is causing the problem. Sometimes the inflammation can be caused by a candida infection, H. Pylori, or parasites. So it can be a challenge to determine the source of the inflammation, but doing so is essential to help with an autoimmune condition.
But how do other factors cause or contribute to an autoimmune thyroid condition, such as weak adrenal glands, mineral deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities, imbalances of the sex hormones, etc? These all can potentially act as triggers to the autoimmune response, and so they do need to eventually be corrected. For example, the adrenal glands are closely tied into the health of both the immune system and the gut. And so problems with the adrenals can in turn compromise the immune system, which in turn can lead to the development of an autoimmune condition. Plus, let’s not forget that the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which is essentially an “anti-inflammatory hormone”. This is why corticosteroids are commonly recommended, as they help to control inflammation. So if someone has an adrenal problem where the cortisol levels are depressed, then this will affect the body’s ability to control inflammation.
So while I’m guilty at times of talking about how it is important to “eliminate” the autoimmune response, the truth is that this is difficult to measure. As a result, when dealing with someone who has Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, one of the main goals is to suppress the autoimmune response and to get rid of the inflammation. In order to accomplish this one of course needs to get rid of the inflammatory trigger, whether it be gluten, a candida infection, etc. Herbs such as hemidesmus, boswellia, and turmeric can help with the autoimmune component and inflammation. Then once this has been addressed the goal from this point on is to have the person maintain their health and try their best to avoid those factors which can trigger the autoimmune response again.