Recently, we discussed how an underlying autoimmune component is often overlooked with thyroid disease. If an autoimmune tendency is at play, there are several solutions that you can pursue in order to balance the immune system and treat the thyroid. In the case of a thyroid disease with an underlying autoimmune component, such as Graves’ or Hashimoto’s, something is triggering the immune system. With the immune system constantly revving, chronic inflammation develops. The immune system becomes overzealous and the ability to differentiate self from non-self can be lost. The delicate thyroid gland is often the first affected area. The first task at hand is to identify and remove the cause.

Decrease inflammation

The first step in treating autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ or Hashimoto’s is to decrease inflammation by identifying the food allergens that are present. This is very important because when a food allergen is part of the person’s normal diet, inflammation occurs every time it is consumed. Chronic inflammation sets the stage for an autoimmune condition. Once a person has an autoimmune tendency, they will always have the potential for the body to produce antibodies to it’s own glands or tissues. Identifying and avoiding food allergens is a critical component to a balanced immune system. This important step can prevent or delay the progression of autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ or Hashimoto’s.

Avoid Environmental Triggers

I tend to ask my patients a lot of questions about their environment. Autoimmune diseases that affect the thyroid are among the many diseases and conditions that can (at least, in part) result from the environment where we live and work. It is important to avoid exposure to chemicals, toxins and pesticides by drinking filtered water and eating organic whenever possible. Plastics in the home have become common, but they can be harmful especially when used for storing heated food or cooking. Avoid bringing things into the home that emit gases, such as new rugs, toxic paint or dry-cleaned clothing. Also, avoid common store-bought cosmetics that have harmful chemicals in them such as methyl paraben and sodium lauryl sulphate. I guide patients to clean up their environment in addition to their optimizing nutrition. While you can’t avoid harmful chemicals and toxins entirely, there are several measures that we can take to minimize our exposure and maximize our health.

Balance the Immune System with Homeopathy and Chinese Herbs

Homeopathy and Chinese herbal formulas aid the body with elimination and detoxification. They are helpful in treating Graves’ and Hashimoto’s. It is important to balance the immune system with autoimmune disease rather than boost it. It already is boosted, and knowing which aspect of the immune system (Th1 vs. Th2) to stimulate is paramount. Homeopathy offers an efficacious and delicate approach as well. While there is a strong familial tendency toward autoimmune conditions like Graves’ or Hashimoto’s, our environment and nutrition choices play a huge role. Just because you have a family history, doesn’t mean you’ll develop this or any other disease. That said, it’s always prudent to be proactive. Naturopathic medicine offers a unique approach to treating autoimmune conditions, such as Graves’ and Hashimoto’s because it aims to treat the underlying cause. Through adequate patient education, nutrition plans and the gentle use of natural medicine, Naturopathic medicine excels in stopping or slowing the progression of an autoimmune disease.

Image Credit: Adriano Agulló