Hyperthyroidism is the condition in which the body has too much thyroid hormone. It might seem like too much would be a blessing for those who suffer from too little, but it is not.
Hyperthyroidism can cause you to feel overstimulated in general. If you drink coffee, imagine how you’d feel if you downed two full pots of it at once! You can imagine that you might be anxious and jittery and that your heart might be racing.
Many find it odd to learn that too much thyroid hormone can feel just like too little. Several classic hyperthyroid symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss can also be caused by too much!
How can this be possible? It turns out that when you have too much thyroid, your body blocks it, and you can feel like there is too little. This same issue can even show up on blood tests. When your TSH is below range, it means your body wants less thyroid hormone. Sometimes it can also eliminate T3 and T4 more quickly, causing them to be low. People are often mystified when both the TSH and T3 are low, but this is one of the most common reasons.
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by taking too much medication or from making too much thyroid hormone internally. Taking too much is called exogenous (from without) thyrotoxicosis. Making too much is called endogenous (from within) thyrotoxicosis.
The Thyroid Reset Diet will not help if you are hyperthyroid from taking too much. Your only solution will be to work with the right doctor to adjust your medication.
Your body can make too much thyroid hormone for several reasons. The most common ones are Graves’ disease, toxic nodules, and thyroiditis.
With Graves’ disease and thyroiditis, the Thyroid Reset Diet may help other treatments work better.
Toxic nodules, such as toxic nodular goiter, tend not to respond to dietary changes. They typically need medical procedures to remove or stop them.
Toxic Nodular Goiter
A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. A nodule is an uneven growth. Toxic, in this context, means that it is producing unwanted thyroid hormones. A toxic nodular goiter is a lump of tissue inside the thyroid that makes more hormone than your body needs.
In some cases, there is more than one toxic nodule; this is called Toxic Multinodular Goiter.
Like most thyroid disease, toxic nodular goiter is more common in women, especially in those over 55 years old.
An increase in iodine can often trigger toxic nodular goiter. Extra iodine can come from:
- Contrast agents
Toxic nodular goiter is not an autoimmune disease and does not typically go into remission.
Even though extra iodine is the leading cause of toxic nodular goiter, iodine reduction is not known to reverse it. Most do need treatment with surgery or radioactive iodine ablation.
Thyroiditis can be from autoimmunity, pregnancy, or viral infections. When it is from autoimmunity, the Thyroid Reset Diet may be helpful. In the other cases, it is not.
The Thyroid Reset Diet is worth doing if you have hyperthyroidism from Graves’ disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. The most common type of thyroiditis it can help with is hyperthyroidism secondary to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, also known as Hashitoxicosis.
If you have Hashimoto’s, you are on medication, and your TSH is low, you do not likely have Hashitoxicosis. It is more likely your medication dose is too high. If you suspect Hashitoxicosis, you will need to work with a physician to be sure.
If it is the case, you may still need initial treatment to slow the thyroid. The Thyroid Reset Diet often helps Hashitoxicosis stabilize more quickly.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, comprising roughly 70% of the cases.
Too much iodine is well known to cause Graves’ disease. Paradoxically, researchers have tested high iodine as a treatment for Graves’. How can this be? Here is an example of how iodine can work differently based on the dose.
A little extra iodine may stimulate the thyroid to be overactive. Yet massive doses can shut it down. However, guidelines do not recommend high dose iodine for Graves’ disease. The problem is that it may cause some people to release lethal amounts of thyroid hormone.
Evidence linking iodine to Graves’
Here is some of the evidence linking iodine with Graves’ disease.
As iodine intake goes up, so does Graves’ disease. A study of 400,000 people over 19 regions saw that early hyperthyroidism went up by 64% following a small increase in iodine intake1.
Fewer people who have Graves’ disease go into remission when iodine intake is higher. As iodine intake went up in another study, the remission rates for Graves’ disease dropped from 60-80% down to 13-20%2.
Iodine fortification has seemed to be a trigger for Graves’ disease.
In 1995, Zimbabwe raised its iodine intake slightly and saw that hyperthyroidism went up nearly 3-fold.
When Austria fortified their salt with iodine in 1998, their hyperthyroidism rates went up by 64%.
Tasmania saw its rates go up over three-fold. They also saw that remission from Graves’ disease was highest when iodine intakes were the lowest3.
A recent systematic review focused on the role of excess iodine on thyroid disease, evaluating 50 different studies on iodine fortification. The researchers concluded that iodine fortification increased the risks of hyperthyroidism4.
How iodine causes Graves’
The thyroid deals with too much iodine in two ways. For most people, extra iodine shuts down the thyroid. This response is called the Wolff Chaikoff effect, and you can think of it as a safety switch that protects you against too much thyroid hormone.
For some, the Wolff Chaikoff effect does not work. In these cases, the extra iodine does cause the thyroid to make too much hormone. In some of these cases, the thyroid remains overactive even when people lower their iodine intake. This response is called the Jod Basedow phenomenon.
Jod Basedow can cause hyperthyroidism by itself. It can also trigger Graves disease in those who are genetically susceptible to it.
Hyperthyroidism can worsen the autoimmune process that attacks the thyroid. Because of this, Graves’ Disease can become a vicious cycle. The more the immune system attacks the thyroid, the more the thyroid makes extra hormones. This additional hormone intern worsens the immune attack.
This process has been called the hyperthyroid autoimmune loop. Because of how it works, most people with Graves disease need to have their thyroid slow down before there’s a chance of the autoimmunity stopping.
Oddly enough, Graves has a higher rate of going into remission than Hashimoto’s does. Studies have suggested that the majority of those with Graves may have stable thyroid function back. The time frame for this change can be between 6 to 24 months after having stable thyroid levels.
Once someone is no longer hyperthyroid, the thyroid reset diet has lowered their need for thyroid blocking medication. It can also cause people with Graves’ to go into remission more quickly.
In addition to helping them correct their thyroid levels, the thyroid reset diet can help the deiodinase enzymes use thyroid hormones more effectively. Remember that with hyperthyroidism, the body becomes resistant to thyroid hormones. This resistance can be a source of many of the symptoms. Regulating iodine through the thyroid reset diet can help allow these enzymes to work correctly again.
Thyroid Reset Diet
If you have hyperthyroidism from graves disease or autoimmune thyroiditis, the thyroid reset diet will still be helpful. Please do use it in conjunction with the care from your medical team.
1 – Mostbeck A, Galvan G, Bauer P, Eber O, Atefie K, Dam K, Feichtinger H, Fritzsche H, Haydl H, Köhn H, König B, Koriska K, Kroiss A, Lind P, Markt B, Maschek W, Pesl H, Ramschak-Schwarzer S, Riccabona G, Stockhammer M, Zechmann W. The incidence of hyperthyroidism in Austria from 1987 to 1995 before and after an increase in salt iodization in 1990. Eur J Nucl Med. 1998 Apr;25(4):367-74. doi: 10.1007/s002590050234. PMID: 9553166.
2 – Solomon BL, Evaul JE, Burman KD, Wartofsky L. Remission rates with antithyroid drug therapy: continuing influence of iodine intake? Ann Intern Med. 1987 Oct;107(4):510-2. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-107-4-510. PMID: 2443050.
3 – Sun X, Shan Z, Teng W. Effects of increased iodine intake on thyroid disorders. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2014;29(3):240-247. doi:10.3803/EnM.2014.29.3.240
4 – Katagiri R, Yuan X, Kobayashi S, Sasaki S. Effect of excess iodine intake on thyroid diseases in different populations: A systematic review and meta-analyses including observational studies. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0173722. Published 2017 Mar 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173722
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Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.