What Causes Graves’ Disease?

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You can read the transcript to this video below:

Greetings, friends. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg. Today, I want to talk to you about what causes Graves’ disease. Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common autoimmune disease in the world, and Graves’ disease usually results in what we call hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid is overactive, and the other major autoimmune thyroid disease is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and that usually results in hypothyroidism. Today, I’m going to cover all the different possible causes of Graves’ disease so you can have an understanding of why it happened and what triggered it.

The first thing we want to talk about is the Epstein-Barr virus. The Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes mono, also known as the kissing disease, and most people get it when they’re young, when they’re teenagers or in college. And they get some fatigue and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and it usually goes away in a few weeks to a month. But some people, genetically, have a hard time controlling the Epstein-Barr virus throughout life. And there are many, many research papers out there that connect the Epstein-Barr virus with Graves’ disease. Actually, some case report showing that people develop Graves’ disease immediately after having mono. So the Epstein-Barr virus is the big player, not just with Graves’ disease but also with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, and many, many other autoimmune diseases. This is a blood test that you should request from your doctor to see if the Epstein-Barr virus has reactivated. Another virus is the Parvovirus, B-19. There’s also connections with Parvovirus and Hashimoto’s as well.

Helicobacter pylori is probably the most common infection connected with Graves’ disease. H. pylori is found in the stomach and it usually reactivates when someone is under a tremendous amount of stress, or if there is some sort of traumatic, stressful event. H. pylori is also the bacteria that causes ulcers, and many, many research papers have shown that people with Graves’ disease have active H. pylori infection. And that can be tested through blood, also through a breath test, and also through a stool test. So, H. pylori is one of the number one infections that we look for in patients with Graves’ disease. Too much estrogen, and this sort of ties in with the Epstein-Barr virus. Too much estrogen will suppress your body’s ability to control the Epstein-Barr virus throughout your life. Too much estrogen can suppress that part of your immune system and then that can lead to Graves’ disease. Estrogen levels, ideally, should be tested through urinary testing, so we can not only see your estrogen levels but how your body’s actually metabolizing the estrogen.

Another one is Enterobacter, and that’s basically a bacteria species found in the intestine. So, Enterobacter infection, there are connections there with Graves’ disease. Herpes 6 and 7. With Herpes 6 and 7, you won’t get your classic outbreaks on the mouth or the genitals. Herpes 6 and 7 does not result in any skin lesions or breakouts, but a lot of people who have Graves’ have active Herpes 6 and 7 infections. HFV is the Human Foamy Virus, not very common. A lot of Human Foamy Viruses are actually going to be found in the simian population, and so those particular types of animals like monkeys are most likely to have it. Campylobacer jejuni, this is a bacteria. Usually people get it from contaminated meat or dairy products, and Campylobacter has been shown to be connected with Graves’ disease, and this we can pick up on stool testing to identify the infection.

Human Intracisternal A-Type Retroviral Particle, more easily known as HIAP. One of the things we know about Graves’ disease is that about 85% of people with Graves’ disease have the HIAP particle in their system, and retroviruses are heavily connected with autoimmune diseases and retroviral activity. So, this test is currently unavailable but with such a high percentage of Graves’ disease patients having it, we’ll usually work with the patient holistically in preventing retroviral activity. And that can help to balance the immune system and reduce the attack on the thyroid gland. Yersinia enterocolitica. We talked about the connection with Yersinia in my Hashimoto’s videos. Yersinia enterocolitica is a bacteria that people get from contaminated food or water, and it usually creates some digestive system problems like you may think that you’ve had food poisoning, or some diarrhea, and your body usually fights it off. But in some cases, your body doesn’t completely fight off the Yersinia, and it remains active in the intestine.

And so the Yersinia can trigger Graves’ disease. The Yersinia is best tested in the blood. It can also be picked up on a stool analysis. However, the stool analysis will miss the majority of Yersinia infections, so it really should be tested in the blood. HIV, something to think about if you have Graves’. You may want to be tested for HIV if you have a history of potentially contracting HIV. The HTLV-1 virus, this is a tropical virus, so unless you’ve developed it after traveling overseas or to a tropical area, it’s unlikely that it’s connected with your particular case of Graves’ disease. Then, a traumatic and stressful event. I’ve seen many patients who’ve had a major, major trauma, stressful event in their life, and then they’ve developed Graves’ disease right after that. The trauma and the stress really throw off the immune system, damage the immune system. It can damage DNA and then these stressful events can also allow opportunistic infections to reactivate and take hold.

One example that we talked about earlier would be H. pylori and another one would be the Epstein-Barr virus. Leaky Gut and what we call Dysbiosis. So 70% of your immune system is in the gut, and if you develop Leaky Gut and what we call Dysbiosis, meaning that the bacterial colonies in your gut are way out of balance and that’s throwing off your immune system. And then that can create a vicious cycle of Dysbiosis, Leaky Gut, and an imbalanced immune system, and that’s a significant part of the Graves’ disease and the attack on the thyroid gland. SV-40, this is a virus, again, in the Simian class. Again, unlikely unless you are in contact with a simian species like monkeys, but there is a connection there with Graves’ disease.

There you have it. Those are all of the most heavily researched causes of Graves’ disease. And so these are the things that you’ll want to request to be tested for by your doctor. The most common ones you should be tested for would be the Epstein-Barr virus, H. pylori, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Those are the big three, and then you’ll also want to request a stool analysis to look for Enterobacter, Dysbiosis, Campylobacter, and other GI infections that could be contributing to Graves’ disease. If you do have Graves’, you should definitely be consulting with an endocrinologist who will recommend medication to control the Graves’. And he or she may even recommend having your thyroid removed or having radioactive iodine, which will obliterate the thyroid gland. However, in addition to seeing an endocrinologist, you could work with a functional medicine doctor who can do some of this testing for you and hopefully identify the cause, and then balance your immune system.

But again, you should definitely be seeing an endocrinologist and you should definitely be under the care of an endocrinologist while you’re going through that process. Because Graves’ disease can result in what’s call a thyroid storm, which is an emergency situation that could actually lead to death. If you want more cutting edge information on thyroid disorders, my website, drhedberg.com, has a tremendous amount of information. And I do send out a newsletter with cutting edge thyroid information. I always stay up to date on all the latest thyroid research and so if you want to follow that, you can sign up for my email newsletter.

I hope you enjoyed this short webinar on all the possible causes of Graves’ disease. Hopefully you’ll have a better understanding now of what’s thrown off your immune system, and the reason why your own immune system is attacking your thyroid gland. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg. Take care, and I’ll see you at the next webinar.

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