A Conversation for Graves' Disease (Hyperthyroidism)
Sheep in wolfs clothing Started conversation Jul 26, 2005
I thought that I would add a coda to this excellently written article, based on my own direct experiences. Whilst all of this article rings true with me, I felt that what was missing was an input from the complementary medicine view point.
First of all, I should establish that I am a male engineer, working in a heavy engineering company, with no pretensions of being a hippy or ‘tuning in and dropping out’. I am, however, interested in natural things and don’t believe that conventional medicine has all of the answers.
My story began in 2001, when I noticed a lot of the symptoms described in the article, during the late summer and early autumn. Based on my very limited medical knowledge and stories of friends and acquaintances, I thought that I might have something like diabetes. I went to my doctor, who (contrary to quite a few peoples experiences), diagnosed an overactive thyroid and referred me to the specialist at the hospital. Both my doctor and the doctors at the hospital explained broadly what the problem was and the possible cures. First of all, they wanted to have a full diagnosis, which led to a number of tests. In brief, they diagnosed Graves’ disease, but changed the diagnosis at my next visit to thyroid toxosis.
I had been visiting an acupuncturist for general health maintenance for a number of years, and looking back with her notes, we pinpointed a virus in May 2001 that had led to the overactive thyroid. My wife and I had a new son in 2000 and, when he started nursery school in Spring 2001, brought back lots of viruses. My wife suffered with all of them, but none of them appeared to affect me, until the crucial one in May.
The treatments that they proposed were a course of Carbimazole for 6 months to see if the thyroid ‘sorted itself out’. If not, they would try it again for another 6 months (whilst monitoring me for any side effects, like lowered immune system). If this treatment didn’t work, they proposed RAI (or a thyroidectomy if I was concerned about the radioactive iodine).
Their proposals immediately set warning bells off in my head. Whilst they knew that Carbimazole would suppress the action of the thyroid, thus helping me feel better, they did not seem to know what was causing the over activity or why it would stop if they ‘gave the thyroid a rest’. Equally, the RAI would kill off part of the thyroid, but they admitted that it was not an exact science and they could under- or overdo the quantities. The prognosis seemed to be that I would be on one drug/supplement or other for a good part of my life. I had some experience of relatives (by marriage, hence no genetic links) having overactive thyroids that were treated by surgery or RAI, which in later life turned to under active and I did not want this option, if I could find an alternative.
Having gathered as much information as I could, I told the hospital that I would not follow their course of treatment initially and found a complementary therapist to help. I am in a fortunate position to find a good therapist as my wife is an aromatherapist (having been qualified for over 5 years at the time, after giving up the world of banking) and she has a good network of friends and acquaintances. I started going to a homeopath in December 2001, at the time with this rather confused diagnosis of either Graves’ or toxosis. I took a couple of small tablets each day, but I don’t know what was in them. For those of you who know a little about homeopathy, you will understand that the quantities of the ‘active’ ingredient are so small that it is impossible to measure (memory of water etc). For those that don’t know, check the web or the H2G2 thread: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/brunel/A932654. I was also continuing with acupuncture, mainly for the symptoms and general health support.
I visited the hospital for monthly checkups and blood tests. Within 3-4 months of starting the homeopathy, the levels of T3 and T4 had returned to normal. After another 3-4 months the TSH levels were normal. They continued to monitor me for another 6 months, before confirming that I was cured. The important thing for me was that I started feeling better over that first three months and without any side effects.
I had hoped that that was where my story would end. Having gone through it once though, I was on the look out for the symptoms (mainly sweating, low blood sugar levels and the shakes). In August 2004, whilst out for a run with my wife, I had a bad low blood sugar level attack. I checked my weight and heart rate over the next few weeks, which confirmed that I should see my doctor again. He confirmed the hyperthyroidism and referred me back to the hospital. The clear diagnosis from them was Graves’ disease. I had, at the time, stopped going to the acupuncturist, and so could not pinpoint any viruses that may have set this off.
Faced with a similar (but different) disease, I went about looking for another cure in the complementary medicine world. The homeopath that I visited before was no longer available, so I went to a reflexologist who was highly recommended. She uses a combination of diagnosis by kinesiology, reflexology treatment (massaging your feet in simple terms) and herbal cures. She identified by the above means that it was Graves’ and that the virus that had caused it was an old virus (i.e. this was probably a re-awakening of the previous toxosis that had sent my immune system wild). I was going for regular treatments at both the reflexologist and acupuncturist as well as taking herbal medicine. Initially, I was taking olive leaf extract and Sambucol (which is a black elderberry extract), which both have anti-viral and antioxidant properties without stimulating the immune system (I think). Within a month or two, my T3 and T4 levels were almost normal and I was on track to being free of the disease within 6 months.
Then disaster struck. A week before my next hospital visit I was struck down by another virus. This sent my immune system haywire again and my blood test results confirmed this, with high T3 and T4 levels. The reflexologist did some research and suggested swapping the olive leaf extract for a more powerful herb; Samento.
Samento is a powerful strain of cat’s claw from the rainforests in Peru and is used to treat immune system problems. It has been linked to a number of diseases, but had only recently been used for Graves’. Over the next month or two, I noticed little improvement. My therapist warned me that Samento was known to take about two months before its effects would be noticed. She also tested me to confirm that it would be less effective if I took the olive leaf extract at the same time (which seemed to have a more rapid response, but was ultimately less effective). After about two months, I started noticing the improvements in how I was feeling and my therapist confirmed this by kinesiology and reflexology. I was still attending the hospital for monitoring, but they announced that they would not see me anymore if I continued with my own course of treatment. I have now switched back to my doctor for a quarterly check-up and blood tests.
The last test two months ago confirmed that T3 and T4 are normal, with TSH lagging behind still. I am confident that I am on the mend and will have clear test results in the coming months. Whilst I don’t claim this to be a miracle cure, I am glad that I have managed to achieve some sort of cure without significant side effects. There is always a danger that my Graves’ will return in the future, but I am happy with that prospect and with the prospect that I can control it in a similar manner again.
I hope that this long rambling history does not bore too many people and that it gives some support and encouragement to those of you out there who are prepared to follow a different path from the conventional medical world.
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