5 Potential Causes Of Graves Disease

Whenever someone is diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, probably one of the first things that comes to mind is “how did I get this condition?”  Most people want to know what is the cause behind their condition.  There are actually numerous factors which can trigger an autoimmune thyroid disorder such as Graves’ Disease, and so the goal of this article is to discuss some of these factors.

Cause #1: Stress. Stress seems to be one of the big triggers of this autoimmune hyperthyroid condition.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that stress played a big role in the development of my Graves’ Disease condition.  It can be an acute stressor that triggers this disorder, although more commonly it’s chronic, prolonged stress that eventually leads to this problem.  Keep in mind that chronic stress will affect the adrenal glands over time, and compromised adrenal glands will also affect the immune system, therefore making someone more susceptible to autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease.

So if someone deals with a great deal of stress, it is essential for them to improve their stress handling skills.  For some people, just being aware of the stress can help greatly, although most need to incorporate other techniques, such as regular exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, deep breathing, or biofeedback.  If the adrenal glands are compromised then this needs to be addressed too, which is why I frequently recommend adrenal testing to my patients.

Cause #2: Mineral deficiencies. Certain mineral imbalances can lead to a development of Graves’ Disease.  For example, selenium is very important for immune system health, and so a deficiency in this mineral can potentially lead to the development of an autoimmune thyroid condition.  A deficiency in iodine is frequently associated with hypothyroid conditions, but many people with Graves’ Disease are deficient in this mineral.  There is a great deal of controversy over iodine and hyperthyroidism, as most endocrinologists and many other healthcare professionals would advise their patients with Graves’ Disease to avoid iodine.  Some even claim that it can trigger an autoimmune thyroid condition.  Although I agree that people with Graves’ Disease (or any condition for that matter) shouldn’t be told to take high dosages of iodine supplements, if someone has an iodine deficiency then it is important for this to eventually be addressed.  If anyone needs to supplement with iodine I will start them with low dosages, and won’t start someone with 25mg or 50mg, which many healthcare professionals do.  To be honest, even with dosages this high problems are rare, but I always start someone with a much lower dosage.

Zinc and copper are two minerals that can play a big role in Graves’ Disease.  Some sources claim that a copper deficiency is common in people with hyperthyroidism.  On the other hand, Dr. Larry Wilson talks about the role of copper toxicity in Graves’ Disease.  And since zinc helps to balance copper, if someone has high levels of copper, most of the time they will have low levels of zinc, and in order to get rid of the excess copper they will need to take zinc supplements, along with making sure their adrenals are functioning properly.

Cause #3: Problems with the gut flora. This is a big problem that affects many people.  Most people don’t realize the connection between the gut and the immune system.  This is one of the reasons why many natural healthcare professionals like myself focus a great deal on digestion.  Eating well of course is very important, but if someone has a condition such as a candida infection and/or leaky gut, then eating well alone probably won’t cure these problems.  Don’t get me wrong, as anyone with these conditions needs to minimize (and ideally cut out) their consumption of refined foods and sugars.  It’s also a good idea to avoid common allergens, such as gluten and dairy (especially cow’s milk).  But sometimes doing this isn’t enough, and if I suspect that an imbalanced gut flora is causing or contributing to the person’s condition then I will recommend an extensive gut dysbiosis protocol for them to follow.

Cause #4: A hormone imbalance. An imbalance in the hormones estrogen and progesterone can also potentially trigger an autoimmune response.  This problem is becoming more common, especially with women taking bioidentical hormones, and we’re also being exposed to numerous xenohormones.  Similarly, many women take oral contraceptives, which will affect the balance of estrogen and progesterone.   Sometimes slowly weaning off these hormones and going on a liver detoxification program is all that is required to balance the hormones.  Sometimes this isn’t sufficient.  I’m not opposed to women (or men) taking bioidentical hormones, as there are times when this may be necessary.  I also realize there might be times when taking oral contraceptives is necessary as well.  But many women don’t need to take natural or synthetic hormones, and even if they do, most don’t realize the impact these hormones have on their endocrine system, which in turn can negatively affect the immune system.

Cause #5: Toxins. I briefly mentioned xenohormones, but there are other toxins which can cause a condition like Graves’ Disease by triggering an autoimmune response.  For example, a heavy metal such as mercury can potentially trigger an autoimmune response.  There are thousands of other toxins we’re exposed to on a frequent basis, and although not all of them will trigger an autoimmune response, some of them can have this effect.  A good book to read on this topic is “The Autoimmune Epidemic”.

In addition to these five factors I listed here, there are other factors which can potentially lead to the development of Graves’ Disease.  But these are some of the more common ones.  Many people will have more than one of these problems, and when this is the case it can be challenging to know what exactly caused their Graves’ Disease condition to develop.  But whether you have only one of these problems, or all of them, the obvious goal will be to address each one of them in an attempt to restore your health back to normal.  This of course takes time to accomplish, but is definitely possible for most people with this condition.  Most endocrinologists won’t look at any of these factors, as after doing their series of testing it usually comes down to antithyroid medication to manage the symptoms, or radioactive iodine to obliterate the thyroid gland.  Although symptom management is important, in my opinion it is equally important to try finding the underlying cause so you won’t have to take prescription drugs for a long period of time, or get your thyroid gland obliterated through RAI.