The all too common story goes like this…
You’re following your doctor’s recommendations, you’ve taken up a stress management practice, and maybe even changed your diet all in the hopes of getting your antibody levels down and your Graves’ under control.
It’s the same (or worse) outcome the next time you go for blood work – high levels of antibodies.
Then comes the infamous question (and one I get asked all the time):
“Why are my antibodies still elevated?”
Let me start by giving a quick refresher on antibodies.
Thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) is the antibody responsible for hyperthyroidism in Graves’ disease. It does this by stimulating the TSH receptor on thyroid cells. This causes the thyroid cells to constantly produce thyroid hormone which triggers Graves’ symptoms.
TSI is also responsible for the Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) that affects some Graves’ sufferers.
The typical management most doctors and endocrinologist recommend is to kill the thyroid with Radioactive Iodine (RAI) or to cut out the thyroid gland.
However, this DOES NOT address the autoimmune component and the immune system is free to attack another area of the body.
Remember, Graves’ disease is NOT due to a sick thyroid, it’s due to a sick immune system that attacks the thyroid. Therefore, treatment must be aimed at correcting the immune system.
This is why conventional treatments fail – they’re treating the wrong part of the body.
Back to why antibodies are still elevated…
This comes down to three common reasons:
1. The autoimmune trigger hasn’t been removed.
This is the most common reason I find as to why elevated antibodies stay high. This one is obvious because the CAUSE hasn’t been addressed.
For example, the Epstein-Barr virus is a common autoimmune trigger in Graves’ disease and, unless the virus is treated, the autoimmune attack on the thyroid will continue.
Another example is “leaky gut”. If the gut isn’t healed, then the autoimmune attack carries on.
Cutting out the thyroid or using radioactive iodine is NOT going to kill the virus, fix the gut, or heal the immune system.
Here you can see how conventional treatments fail to treat the triggers which leaves other tissues and glands susceptible to future immune attacks.
The takeaway here is that the focus should be on identifying and correcting the underlying triggers. Many patients have more than one immune trigger that must be addressed in order for antibody levels to normalize.
This step may take some time but, be patient, the results will be worth it!
2. The autoimmune process is still turned on (even after the trigger has been removed).
You’ve found the trigger and treated it. You’re feeling better but your antibodies are still high. This can put you at your wits end.
However, if your immune system has been chronically activated for years, you’re not going to shut this down overnight. It’s going to take time.
In other words, your immune system is “stuck” in the on position and learned that this is “normal”.
When this happens, it becomes necessary to do things to help calm the immune system and regulate its activity.
Changes in diet and certain nutrients like vitamin D3, curcumin, selenium, glutathione, CoQ10, and omega 3 fish oil can help with this.
However, other areas of the body may also need to be addressed…
3. Other body systems not balanced.
What this means is that you need to focus on a “whole body approach” to healing. It’s not just and autoimmune attack on the thyroid. It’s an inflammatory problem, a gut problem, a stress problem, an infection problem, a neurological problem, a hormonal problem, etc.
Not everyone has all these problems but most Graves’ sufferers have more than one system that’s unbalanced. This is the challenging part when treating Graves’ disease and it’s also where a lot of people don’t get the direction and guidance they really need.
Testing is a must at this point and many times it’s overlooked or inadequate, leading to continued illness and chronically elevated antibodies.
By finding and addressing ALL compromised areas of the body that are contributing to the autoimmune attack, you restore function and reverse the autoimmunity.
Warning: Thyroid Antibodies Can Fluctuate
In some people, thyroid antibodies will fluctuate throughout the course of treatment. It’s not uncommon to see the antibodies decrease, and then on the next blood test they increase. It’s important to understand that this is a normal part of the healing process and usually not a reason to be concerned. However, once the trigger has been removed and the autoimmune attack has been suppressed, the antibodies will stop fluctuating and remain low or become completely undetectable.
I can’t promise it’s going to be easy, but you must know, it is possible to reverse autoimmune Graves’ disease. You can overcome this and get your life back.
The best part is, you don’t have to do it on your own.
I would love to help guide you on your journey.