Several risk factors can influence a person's susceptibility to developing Graves Disease:

Stress: Stress appears to play a role, as the onset of Graves Disease is often preceded by a traumatic event, such as death of a family member, divorce, or job loss.

Gender: Graves Disease is eight times more common ins women than in men.

Race: Graves Disease is more prevalent in white and Asian populations than black populations

Age: The onset of Graves occurs most frequently between the ages of 20 and 40.

Genetics: A family history of thyroid or autoimmune disease


Viral Infection

In the course of my own personal fight with Graves Disease, a number of doctors informed me that I would continue to be hyperthyroid so long as I had abnormal levels of certain autoimmune antibodies present in my blood. This led me to begin researching some of the specific autoimmune antibodies showing up in my blood work, such as TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibodies). I was curious to know if these antibodies were present in other diseases (be they autoimmune or not) and if any research had been done on how to reduce specific antibody levels with natural supplements or pharmaceutical drugs.

I credit this line of research, which led me to a number of studies on the nutrient sodium selenite or selenium, to a tremendous breakthrough in my recovery. Within a month of adding a pure supplement of 200 mcg (micrograms) of sodium selenite to my diet, not only did my thyroid peroxidase antibodies decrease dramatically, but my eye symptoms practically disappeared. I had made no other additions to the supplements I was taking at this time.

Among the studies I found:

In 2001, German physician Dr. Barbara Gasnier reported research findings at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in Denver that suggested supplementation with selenium has a powerful impact on slowing down the progression of autoimmune thyroid disease. The study looked at 72 women with Hashimoto's thyroditis, all of whom had thyroid peroxidase and/or antithyroglobulin antibody levels greater than 350 U/mL. Half of the patients in the study received 200 mcg (micrograms) of sodium selenite a day for three months while the remaining patients received a placebo. (It should be noted that all of the patients also received sufficient levothyroxine to maintain normal TSH levels during the study). At the end of three months, thyroid peroxidase autoantibody levels had dropped by 49% in the selenium group, compared to just a 10% drop in the control group. Nine of the patients taking selenium and two of the patients taking a placebo had normal thyroid antibody titers. Meanwhile, concentrations of antithyroglobulin antibodies remained unchanged in both groups of patients.

In another study I found in Clinica Chimica Acta (2004:341:55-63), researchers found that antioxidants, especially those containing selenium, had a beneficial effect in the treatment of Graves Disease. From the abstract: "The effect of supplementation with a fixed combination of antioxidants (vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium) was monitored on the speed of attaining euthyroidism in a group of patients with Graves' disease, treated with methimazole. Methods: The activity of glutathione peroxidase in whole blood and the concentrations of selenium, pituitary and thyroid hormones in serum were measured, prior to commencement of therapy and after 30 and 60 days. Results: Patients who received supplementation with antioxidants in addition to therapy with methimazole (Group A, n=29) attained euthyroidism faster than the patients treated with only methimazole (Group B, n=28). The concentration of selenium in the serum of patients in Group A increased significantly during treatment (p<0.001), while there was no statistically significant change in the patients in Group B. The concentration of selenium in the serum between the groups differed statistically significantly 30 days (p<0.05) and 60 days (p<0.01) after the commencement of therapy. Activity of glutathione peroxidase in whole blood increased during treatment in both groups of patients. However, a statistically more significant increase occurred in Group A compared to Group B, 30 days after the commencement of therapy (p<0.01)."

Food additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate) can exacerbate symptoms of hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease. So be sure to read food labels carefully and avoid MSG and other additives that contain MSG, such as Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Calcium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Corn Oil, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein, Autolyzed Yeast and Hydrolyzed Oat Flour.

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage, are goitregens. Goitregens inhibit thyroid function by blocking iodine absorption. Aim to eat somewhere between half a cup to a cup of fresh cruciferous vegetables a day. Eating them raw or lightly steamed will provide the maximum health benefits.

People suffering from autoimmune and other forms of hyperthyroidism should watch their consumption of iodine carefully. Steer clear of foods that are high in iodine, such as fish, seafood, kelp (commonly known as seaweed), iodized salt, milk and other dairy products, and egg yolks. Vitamins and food supplements often contain high levels of iodine as well, so be sure to read the labels carefully. Some food dyes, such as Red #3, are also high in iodine.

The Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association offers a free Low Iodine Cookbook on their website ( It can help you get started as you look for low iodine alternatives.

Many people with Graves Disease suffer from eye problems ranging from simple irritation to full-blown Graves Opthamology. The following suggestions can help ease these problems:

Apply cool, moist compresses to the eyes.

Elevate the head of your bed when sleeping.

Cover or tape the eyelids shut at night.

Protect the eyes from sunlight with sunglasses or eye patches.

Reduce sodium intake to lower fluid retention in the eyes.

Prescription beta-blockers, often deemed necessary to stabilize heart rate in Graves Disease patients, can have some unpleasant side effects, such has impaired circulation, fatigue, weakness, and cold hands. Magnesium is a natural beta-blocker that inhibits hormones which increase heart rate, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine. It does this without the fatigue and other symptoms associated with prescription beta-blockers. Graves Disease patients owe it to themselves to have their magnesium levels checked by a doctor or naturopathic physician and to ask about supplementing with magnesium.