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10 Complementary and Alternative methods for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism


Svetla BankovaThe science today is speechless about what is the cause of Graves’ disease and similar autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s disease, Lupus, Diabetes type I, Rheumatoid Arthritis and many others. We can speculate forever what caused our autoimmune disorders and probably we’ll never know for sure, neither will our doctors. Especially when the disorder is a possible combination of numerous factors: the chemicals, the genetically modified foods we consume every day, the heredity, the exhausted adrenal glands due to massive and chronic stress, the single traumatic events or mycoplasma bacterium (as noted by some clinicians). The pure physical causes may vary depending on circumstances and conditions, but chronic autoimmune diseases are, in fact, systematic malfunctions caused by collapses in the body chemistry balance. How is that happening? How our otherwise perfectly designed body structure will allow this to happen?

Let’s take Graves’ Disease for example. For over 50 years the traditional medicine uses and recommends only three type of treatment: medication, RAI or thyroidectomy. But many patients, diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, are either dissatisfied or unhappy for one or another reason from the conventional medical treatment approaches. They vigorously search the Internet for complementary and alternative techniques that may help them deal with the above autoimmune disorder and its symptoms.

The usefulness and safety of alternative and complementary techniques significantly vary, thus they should be approached with a great deal of precaution. Even though many people do not make a difference between alternative and complementary approaches, these are two different types of treatment. While much research remains to be done in this direction, many studies demonstrate the effectiveness of one or another alternative/ complementary method. However, since Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder with many physical and mental symptoms, manifested on a body level, I would suggest people looking for such treatments to use them not instead, but in conjunction of already prescribed medical treatment. All of the complementary therapies have few things in common: they all aim for increased concentration, relaxation, calmness, stress relieve and awareness. They, accordingly, serve as a mediator to a specific state of mind and condition which may enhance the effects of the traditional medical treatment.

  1. Meditation– this is a process in which people focus their attention either on their breathing, a specific phrase (mantra) or object like a candle. Besides well-known passive form of meditation many people feel resistant to try, there are many other active forms like walking meditation or even swimming, that may accomplish the same job. They practically serve the same purpose- to calm down the hectic mind, to develop an increased awareness of the body, focus on the present and to increase concentration. Mediation, among its other benefits, is also found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, or palpitations, related to Graves’ Disease.
  2. Yoga therapy– this type of therapy incorporates few different elements: breathing, increase of strength and flexibility and balancing body, mind, and spirit. It is found to relieve many physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from anxiety and depression to muscle- skeleton problems and chronic pain. It helps Graves’ disease and Hyperthyroidism in creating stress-free atmosphere and overall relaxation.
  3. Movement therapies: they use “the movement” in general, to promote physical and emotional health. One of most popular, for example, is the dance therapy, as it is believed that body and mind cannot exist separately, thus, they influence each other in various ways. These movement therapies are known also to help anxiety, depression, dementia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Argentinian tango I found to be the most helpful for hyperthyroidism as it dramatically increases body awareness, concentration, balance and relieves stress.
  4. Reiki. This Japanese technique is a type of energy healing, where the Reiki practitioner uses his hands in different positions to mediate healing energy to the patient. It is shown to help pain management, anxiety and promote relaxation.
  5. Music therapy. It involves writing music, singing, listening to music and lyric analysis. As any other complementary therapy, it does not have a direct measurable effect on the disorder but it helps people to explore their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through the use of music. It is known to help anxiety, depression, pain, and restlessness.
  6. Qigong- an ancient Chinese health care system that incorporates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. It is known to reduce stress, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. On a pure body level, it has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive systems. It also improves self-awareness and concentration.
  7. Tai Chi is a centuries-old Chinese practice, which involves gentle and focused, controlled body movements which reduce stress, increase concentration and promote calmness. This mind-body technique is found to help balance, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina, muscle tone, and coordination. The deep breathing techniques involved in Thai Chi boost mental alertness and releases tension, thus relieving body stress response.
  8. Massage therapy is a manual procedure that involves direct contact with the body. The types of massage are all different but they all are found to reduce stress, increase relaxation and reduce anxiety and depression and increase blood circulation.
  9. Acupuncture– it uses needle stimulation of specific points in the body and is also centuries-old Chinese technique. Acupuncture is proven to be effective for numerous body ailments, physical problems related to stress and emotional conditions and is found also to boost the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. It can treat the blockage in the movement of Qi (life energy) which is passing through different meridians in the body and thus, to enhance immune system response.
  10. Biofeedback is used to help prevent or treat conditions including migraine headaches, chronic pain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stress-related symptoms. During a biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. These electrodes send signals to a monitor, which displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, or muscle activity. Biofeedback uses techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation to help you control otherwise uncontrollable processes like muscle tension, skin temperature, and brain activity.

How to practice complementary methods and techniques for Grave’s Disease and Hyperthyroidism, or any thyroid disorder for that matter?

Most of the above complementary techniques target the whole system, not just a particular organ or part of the body, as most of the traditional medical approaches. They all aim to restore the lost equilibrium of the body and mind due to the “dis-order”. Very often these methods cannot be tested scientifically, because the research methods applied by the science today are mostly focused on randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-response studies, which is impossible to be applied for the alternative methods.

Regardless, they are used for centuries to enhance the healing processes of the body. Neither one of these methods though can be applied as a substitute medications like Propylthiouracil or Methimazole for Graves’ Disease/ hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism treatment. But they are all, surely, an irreplaceable assistant in the treatment process. My recommendation is to choose one of the methods above that seems really attractive to you and try it for at least 2 months, two times a week. If it doesn’t work, chose another one until you find the best for you. The results, I believe, will follow shortly.

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