How effective are alternative therapies for Graves Disease, and what are the risks?Endocrinology Health & Fitness
Dear doctors, I've had Grave’s desease for 3 years now. It was previously well-controlled with Carbimazole. Recently, my parents spent a lot of money for an alternative therapy. This treatment is called nutrition treatment, and involves taking a surplus of fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus 6 dosages of protein powder daily. After 3 days of treatment, I felt weak due to constant and worsening diarrhoea. This was claimed to be part of the detoxing process by the seller. I would like to know whether there is any evidence for alternative therapies for treating Grave's Disease, and whether there are any risks involved? Thank you very much!
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system ‘attacks’ the body’s own thyroid gland. Antibodies produced by the immune system stimulate the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones. Graves’ disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and one of the most common autoimmune disorders worldwide.
Graves’ disease causes several hyperthyroid symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, increased sweating, weight loss, hand tremors, anxiety, and muscle weakness.
Treatment options for Graves’ disease are targeted at reducing thyroid hormone production through the use of medications, radioactive iodine treatment, or surgery.
Antithyroid medications (carbimazole, methimazole, and propylthiouracil) are the most commonly used treatment in Asia. They reduce the amount of thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland and decrease the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. When an individual with Graves’ disease is continuously treated with antithyroid medication over a period of time, the level of stimulating thyroid antibodies will also be reduced. However, individuals treated with antithyroid drugs have a 20% to 50% risk of disease relapse when the medications are stopped.
Radioactive iodine treatment and surgery of the thyroid gland have much higher rates of curing Graves’ disease but are associated with a 50% to 80% risk of the development of lifelong hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) which will require lifelong treatment with thyroid hormone tablets. Radioactive iodine treatment is also associated with the development or worsening of thyroid eye disease in about 15% to 20% of individuals. Surgery may potentially cause permanent damage to the vocal cords and/or parathyroid glands, which control the levels of calcium in our bodies.
Natural treatment options for Graves’ disease that have been explored in scientific research include vitamin D, selenium, and L-carnitine. However, none of these natural therapeutic options have thus far been shown to have beneficial effects on individuals with Graves’ disease.
Other natural treatment alternatives such as the nutritional treatment that you have undergone do not have any scientific backing and are definitely experimental. The diarrhea you have been experiencing after trying the nutritional treatment may be a result of the ingredients in the nutritional packs that you have consumed.
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