Hyperthyroid & Graves Disease

Let’s talk thyroid health! Or, more specifically, let’s talk about hyperthyroid and Graves Disease. A lot of people are familiar with hypothyroid, or low thyroid hormone levels. Not so many are familiar with hyperthyroid, or conditions that make the thyroid over-produce thyroid hormones. And even less people seem to be truly familiar with Graves Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can cause one to become hyperthyroid.  In this post I’ll share my experience with my diagnosis and treatment of hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease.   

Important Notes

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed physician. The information discussed is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues, including consult your doctor before using any alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Supplement Note: Supplements are powerful and can interact with medications, other supplements, and health conditions. Therefore, you should always speak with a health professional familiar with supplements and do your own research before adding any supplement to your regimen.

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My Experience

As I shared in my history with fatigue post, I spent many years battling fatigue before I finally began to get some answers.  One of the first anwers came with my diagnosis of an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. The best thing about the dr that diagnosed me is that she was familiar with supplements as a use in medical treatments. She offered to treat me using natural remedies or with prescription medications, and also explained surgery and radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment as well. The choice was mine. So, I hit the internet to do some research and learn more about the options available, though I was really intrigued by the thought of treating my condition with natural options.

The Simpler, More Flexible Options

The dr talked to me about one natural treatment she had used with other patients. She suggested I would use a starting dose of 1500 mg of Acetyl L-Carnitine. Acetyl L-Carnitine is known to suppress, or block absorption, of thyroid hormone. (There’s an argument over which pathway it actually works on.)

I was also informed about thyroid suppression drugs, or anti-thyroid drugs (ATDs).  The most widely used ATDs are Tapazole and Propylthiouracil (PTU). At the time of my heavier research into ATDs, most drs leaned toward limiting ATD treatment to two years for fear of liver toxicity. Afterwards, if treatment was still required, the patient would be referred for surgery or RAI.

Note… I have talked with people that have been on these drugs safely for years, decades even. Not everyone becomes toxic on these drugs. It can also have a lot to do with the dosing levels. Do not let a dr scare you into a permanent treatment option prematurely. Do your research. Make an informed decision.

The Permanent, Non-Reversible Options

The dr explained that not everyone will respond to natural routes. Some will require prescription medication.  In some cases ATDs would not be successful either.  If neither of those brought the thyroid hormones to stable healthy levels then the other options were surgery or Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI).

With surgery, the surgeon will remove part, half, or all of the thyroid gland. The point is to remove enough tissue to thereby “reduce” the amount of thyroid hormone being produced. The downfall is that the thyroid is just like the liver. They can both regenerate themselves. So, since any thyroid tissue left behind can regrow, most surgeons suggest complete removal to prevent regrowth and a possible hyperthyroid recurrence. Furthermore, with surgery, especially with full removal of the thyroid, the patient will have to take thyroid replacement hormone for the rest of their lives.

With RAI, a Radioactive iodine pill is swallowed. Iodine is used by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. So, the Radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid, and to a lesser degree in other places in the body. The radioactivity of the iodine absorbed by the thyroid will kill off those portions of the thyroid. Some drs dose to kill off the entire thyroid hormone, other drs dose to simply “cripple” production, if you will. Depending on the accuracy and the purpose of the RAI dose, the patient may be rendered with insufficient thyroid function. If so, then they will also require thyroid hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives. Here’s more info about RAI.  

My Choice

So, after researching facts, and joining a couple of online thyroid groups (here’s my favorite one) and reading up on other people’s personal experiences, I made up my mind. The dr had said the choice was mine. Well, duh, I chose the natural route! I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. The dr said we’d give it about three months. If my thyroid hormone levels hadn’t dropped in that time-frame then we’d move on to the medications.

I found the Acetyl L-Carnitine the dr suggested at a local health food store. The dr didn’t care how I took it, just that it was 1500 mg per day. So, I began taking the three 500 mg capsules each morning in one dose. After following the discussion boards, I decided to mimic ATD dosing schedules. ATDs to not “last” all day.  So, for continuous suppression, dosing is split into two or three doses per day.  Therefore, I began taking 500 mg, three times a day.

I later came across a reference in the book Living Well With Graves Disease and Hyperthyroidism by Mary J Shamon.  The book stated that Dr Richard Shames uses Acetyl L-Carnitine to treat hyperthyroidism with doses of 3,000 to 4,000 mg per day.   At these levels carnitine reduces the production of thyroid hormone. Per the book, Dr Shames says, 

“I make use of the side effect of this otherwise simple and very benign amino acid.  I have found that a dose of two to three 500 mg of Carnitine three times a day is in the anti-thyroid range.  Carnitine at these doses has a similar effect to PTU and Tapazole without the side effects of these drugs.”  

This further confirmed the multiple times a day dosing I had already begun. And the higher dosing sounded promising.  Plus, I found further research to prove this benefit. So, after talking with my dr, I upped my dose to 3,000 mg per day. I was now taking 1,000 mg of Acetyl L-Carnitine three times a day. My doses were spread out 8 hours apart (6 am, 2 pm, and 10 pm).

Graves Disease

Within a month of my diagnosis, per the thyroid boards, I learned of different causes of thyroid disorders.  Ranging anywhere from our diets, to autoimmune diseases, to cancer.  So, I dug into researching those aspects of hyperthyroidism as well.  I found out that hyperthyroidism can be caused by an autoimmune thyroid disease, Graves Disease.  And I learned about the antibodies involved. 

Additionally, there are several lab tests to assess and track your thyroid state and recovery progress, including antibody testing.  Here’s a great list and description of all the thyroid testing I have addressed at one time or another.  After having my dr run antibody testing, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease.  

The thing with having an autoimmune disease additionally and randomly messing with your thyroid levels is that permanently killing or removing the thyroid does not treat the autoimmune disease.  The  autoimmune disease will still wreak havoc.  Therefore, I had all the more reason to buckle down and find successes with the alternative routes or ATDs to treat my hyperthyroidism and Graves disease.  

Other Things

Through my research I also learned about different foods that suppress or increase production of thyroid hormones. Like I already mentioned, iodine is used by the body to produce thyroid hormones. So, does calcium. Similarly, there are foods that suppress the thyroid, like soy, magnesium, and goitrogens (cauliflower, broccoli, etc). There are a lot more thyroid influencers. And there are nutrients and co-nutrients, and on, and on! It can really boggle the mind! Lol! Which is why I rely on medical professionals knowledgeable in supplements and nutrition to assist me.

In doing all this food research, I came across this article about balancing calcium and magnesium.   It was very eye opening for me.  After thinking back over my own dietary habits, I realized I was severely imbalancing myself with just these two nutrients. I had bought the lie, hook line and sinker, that “you can never get too much calcium, especially if you’re a woman.” At the time, I drank several glasses of whole milk a day, ate cheese as often as possible, and dutifully took my calcium supplements daily. Magnesium? Umm…. Well, iceberg lettuce doesn’t really count towards the magnesium-rich leafy green vegetables. Nor do peanuts count towards magnesium-rich nuts. According to magnesium rich food lists, I was getting pretty much nothing on the magnesium front.

So, I began making dietary changes. I reduced iodine in my diet. Which wasn’t hard since I didn’t eat a lot of iodine rich foods besides eggs, russett potatoes and iodized salt. I reduced the eggs and potatoes and switched to Redmond Real Salt brand sea salt. I also cut out my calcium supplements and milk. I relied on cheese and the calcium in my multivitamin for my calcium sources. I also added soy milk, and a magnesium supplement to re-balance and to help the Acetyl L-Carnitine suppress my thyroid. This was a lot but I began feeling better.

The Wall

I was feeling so good, in fact, that I felt it almost immediately when I started feeling like I was sinking. I was feeling worse again, but different from before my diagnosis. We had been testing my thyroid hormones, Free T4 and Free T3 monthly to monitor my treatment response. They’d moved down a smidgen, but not remarkably.

So, I went in for fresh labs. And viola’! Just like that, I was sitting at the absolute bottom of the normal range of the lab ranges for Free T4 and Free T3. I was in shock! My dr was satisfied and moved on to my decade old skin issues. What?! That was the scary part for me at the time. I knew I needed to make changes to slow my suppression. Sadly, I had to wing it on my own for a time.  This was a trial by fire, but I found my way through.  With my limited knowledge, I let my symptoms be my guide and began reversing some of my changes.

Ongoing Recovery

Over time, I found another dr.  I added a chiropractor, then a naturopath to my medical team. I tweaked foods and/or supplements from time to time. Following symptoms and labs together, I found I felt best when my Free T4 and Free T3 were at or below the middle of the lab ranges. I learned what my personal hyperT symptoms and my hypoT symptoms were. I backed off, or increesed, my treatment methods when I felt my symptoms change. The goal was, and is, always to maintain the least amount of negative symptoms while maximizing the good ones.

Its been a long road.  But, its a road that’s been completely worth it.  Plus, if sharing my experiences helps just one person, then that’s all the more reason to celebrate my improved health.  If you have any questions I may not have covered, then don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments or via my contact page through the menu link above.  

May you have amazing thyroid health, even if you have to fight your way through all things thyroid just as I had to do.  Remember, no matter your diagnosis….  Be sure to do your own research on each treatment. Find out for yourself the good and the bad about each of them. Read about the remarkable recoveries and the horror stories of setbacks associated with each option.  Talk with your dr.  Be informed. And when you decide, make sure its a fully informed decision. Its your decision after all. Own it. No regrets!

*Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash


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