1. Manage Stress Levels
Several studies, involving both humans and animals, show that stress can ignite autoimmune reactions and worsen inflammation. That’s probably why such a high percentage of Graves’ disease patients report having experienced trauma or chronic stress before developing the disease. Research demonstrates that stress causes both physical and psychological changes that impact how the immune system works, causing a downstream of neuro-endocrine alterations that can wind up leading to autoimmune disorders and tissue damage.
Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturb neurotransmitter function and worsen symptoms of thyroid disease. To keep stress from aggravating Graves’ disease, build stress-reducing practices into your day, including natural stress relievers such as: exercise, meditation, prayer, spending time in nature, using essential oils, massage therapy, acupuncture or volunteering for a good cause.
2. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Reducing inflammation through a healthy diet is one of the best ways to enhance immune function, create a healthy gut environment and manage your autoimmune symptoms. Inflammation can partially be traced to an unhealthy gut “microbiota” that is caused by nutrient deficiencies, food allergies or sensitivities, which all raise autoimmune activity. (4)
Some of the ways that your diet might trigger autoimmune reactions include eating common allergens like gluten and dairy products, which the immune system can actually register as a threat when they aren’t digested properly. Allergens can contribute to leaky gut syndrome, in which small particles leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, triggering autoimmunity.
A well-rounded diet that’s filled with anti-inflammatory foods and free from toxin overload helps resolve bacterial imbalances in the gut that make symptoms worse.
Focus on limiting or avoiding foods capable of aggravating autoimmune disorders, including:
conventional dairy products
artificial flavorings or dyes
GMO ingredients (common in almost all packaged foods which contain preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and other chemical ingredients)
Foods that can help control Graves’ disease symptoms include:
fresh vegetables/green juices: these provide vital nutrients and fight inflammation
fresh fruit: a great source of antioxidants and electrolytes, but avoid processed fruit juices
anti-inflammatory herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley and oregano are all anti-inflammatory
spices like tumeric, garlic and ginger: known to help boost immune system function
bone broth: helps heal the gut and improve detoxification
probiotics: balance bacteria within the digestive tract and fight leaky gut syndrome
healthy fats including omega-3s: lower inflammation and helps with neurotransmitter functions
3. Get Some Exercise
Exercise is a great way to help control stress and lower inflammation, as long as it’s enjoyable and doesn’t involve overtraining, which make you even more irritable. Do some sort of exercise daily that makes you feel happier, less anxious and hopefully helps you sleep. Soothing exercises that can work well include dancing, yoga, cycling or swimming. Listening to music while exercising is another great way to “get into the zone” and feel more relaxed afterward. (5)
Another reason to eat a nutrient-rich diet and exercise is to help protect your bones, since having a thyroid disorder already interferes with your ability to maintain bone strength. Having very high levels of thyroid hormone interferes with your body’s normal ability to incorporate calcium or other minerals into your bones, which means you need to do whatever you can to lower bone loss in other ways. Strength training, including doing body weight exercises at home, helps keep bones strong as you age.
4. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco and other recreational drugs has been found to be a potential trigger for autoimmune disorders, including Graves’ disease. It’s not exactly clear how cigarettes might make Graves’ disease worse, but it’s very likely that the high amount of toxins present in cigarettes (and other drugs) raises inflammation, damages healthy cells and tissue, and therefore activates the immune system to release more T-fighter cells.
5. Lower Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Most of us come into contact with various chemical or environmental toxins multiple times every single day. There are over 80,000 chemicals and toxins used legally every single year in the U.S. in common household or beauty products, chemically sprayed crops, prescription medications, birth control pills, and antibiotics. These can all wind up accumulating in the water supply and elsewhere, making their way into our homes and bodies.
You should consider buying organic produce as much as possible, using natural household products (including essential oils), avoiding unnecessary medications however you can, and drinking high-quality water that’s been filtered to eliminate chlorine and fluoride.
6. Treat Sensitivity of the Eyes and Skin
If you develop Graves’ complications in the eyes or on the skin, there are some simple remedies you can try at home to ease inflammation and pain. For ophthalmopathy, try using a cool compress pressed against your eyes to keep them moisturized, as well as applying lubricating eyes drops. Also always wear sunglasses when outdoors, since sensitive eyes are more prone to damage from ultraviolet rays. If your eyes become puffy overnight, try raising your head while you’re sleeping to keep blood and fluid from building up around your face.
If Graves’ affects your skin, you can use soothing essential oils combined with coconut oil to fight itchiness, swelling and reddening. Essential oils that are gentle and anti-inflammatory include lavender, frankincense, rose and tea tree oil.
7. Talk to Your Doctor About Potential Graves’ Disease Complications
There are certain complications that develop when Graves’ disease is untreated. This is especially true if you’re pregnant, have other forms of inflammatory diseases or if you suffer from another autoimmune disorder.
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get Graves’ under control since it raises the risk for miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal thyroid dysfunction, poor fetal growth, maternal heart failure and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). If you have a history of heart disease or complications, Graves’ disease can lead to heart rhythm disorders, changes in the structure and function of the heart muscles, and even possibly heart failure in some rare cases.
Another reason to track your symptoms and progress is because of a rare but very serious and life-threatening complication of Graves’ disease: “thyroid storm,” which is also called thyrotoxic crisis. This is basically a severe form of hyperthyroidism and make symptoms worse, including digestion, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, bone loss, severe low blood pressure and weight loss.
While there’s plenty you can do on your own to lower Graves’ disease risks and symptoms, always make sure to get professional help if you notice symptoms worsening suddenly or you’re under a lot of stress/anxiety, which can trigger a relapse.