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Graves’ disease is the number one cause of hyperthyroidism. This occurs when thyroid hormones are overproduced. and can result in an enlarged thyroid. Although the thyroid hormones are absolutely essential for health and vitality, too much of a good thing can be quite debilitating. Graves can result in symptoms such as; insomnia, hand tremors, hyperactivity, hair loss, excessive sweating, shaking hands, itching, heat intolerance, weight loss, diarrhea, palpitations, muscle weakness.

Graves’ disease affect about 1 in 200 people, mainly women. It is an autoimmune disease, whereby thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) can mimic pituitary hormones and cause an overactive thyroid, and/or Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies, or Antithyroglobulin antibodies. This disease can be diagnosed through blood testing, radioactive iodine uptake or an ultrasound.

Due to Graves’ being an autoimmune disease, it is crucial to begin reducing your inflammation to calm down your immune system. One way to do this is to begin healing a leaky gut as this has been strongly correlated with the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. Some foods are causing microbial imbalances and leaky gut, therefore it is important to look at your diet. A good start is to identify foods in your diet that are causing inflammation and then eliminate them from your diet.

  • Gluten – screening for coeliac disease has been recommended due to the high prevalence of this in Graves’s patients. Therefore, it is highly recommended that those with Graves avoid gluten. It is important to completely eliminate gluten, as even a small amount may spike anti-bodies and take up to 6 months to calm down.
  • Other grains and legumes – it is best to avoid grains and legumes whilst you are trying to heal your gut to reduce symptoms of Graves. This is because these foods can be difficult to digest and therefore inflammatory, as they can wreak havoc on the gut lining due to the lectins that are contained in the grains and legumes.
  • Nightshade vegetables – these can be quite inflammatory for those with an autoimmune disease. They also contain certain types of lectins as well as saponins that can create inflammation. It is best to remove these for at least 4-6 weeks, and reintroduce them to see how your body tolerates them. Sometimes it may be a case of really limiting these foods, as it can sometimes be an accumulation of the nightshade vegetables, however, in the beginning, certainly avoid them completely.
  • Genetically modified foods or genetically altered foods such as corn, soy, vegetable oils, wheat and so on. These can cause huge amounts of inflammation and have their individual side effects. They may stimulate your immune system and increase your antibodies, so they are best avoided.

What foods to eat?

  • Foods that boost your glutathione levels: glutathione is a potent, abundant antioxidant in your body and is used within your cells. It has been shown to be beneficial for those with Graves. Glutathione is essential as it supports detoxification, reduce inflammation and supports the immune system (and much more!). Sulphur containing foods like garlic, onion, brussel sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and watercress help boost glutathione.
  • Other antioxidants have been shown to assist in the treatment of Graves, though it is best to source these antioxidants from foods, or eat foods that boost your natural production of antioxidants. Antioxidants include nutrients such as selenium (Brazil nuts), vitamin C (camu camu), vitamin E (Inca Inchi Oil, fish oils), beta-carotene (carrots and sweet potato).
  • Adaptogenic herbs to support your adrenals and thyroid including tulsi and ashwaghanda. They can assist in lowering your cortisol levels and therefore stress, which can assist with sleep, energy and vitality.
  • Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as chia seeds, Inca Inchi oil, cod liver oil to assist in the reduction of inflammation.
  • Other inflammation fighting foods – read more here 

Other considerations:

  • Reduce your exposure to heavy metals, as heavy metal exposure has been shown to trigger or accelerate the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. Ways in which you may be exposing yourself to heavy metals may be in amalgam fillings (mercury), cookware (aluminum, copper), deodorants (aluminum), drinking water (copper, lead),
  • Stressful life events have in fact been correlated to the diagnosis of Graves’ disease, so it is important to include stress reducing activities on a daily basis 
  • Microbial imbalances in your gut have been linked to autoimmune diseases. What you eat directly influences what is living in your gut, so by taking the above recommendations with your diet, you will be on your way to a healthier balance of microbes. However, other infections still may be present, therefore I recommend you take probiotics that are suitable for you, or herbs to reduce any overgrowths. It is best, however, to work with a holistic practitioner to investigate further into these options.

Have you or a partner been diagnosed with Graves? What symptoms have you had and how are you managing them? We would love to hear from you.

Happy changing habits

Sheridan Williamson

Changing Habits Nutritionist and GAPS practitioner