Addressing the Auto Immune Component of Thyroid Disease
Graves and Hashimoto’s Disease – Role of H.Pylori and other infections, Gluten Free Diet, Vitamin D, Selenium, Excess Iodine etc.
One of the errors of modern endocrinology is to ignore the auto-immune component of Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease. The typical mainstream endocrinologist is concerned solely with managing thyroid function, believing there is no known cause or treatment for the autoimmune component. In 2010, Dr. Jerome M. Hershman, makes this exact point in Clinical Thyroidology, expressing the hope a “rational therapy” for the autoimmune origin of thyroid disease can be found. Dr. Jerome M. Hershman writes:
It is difficult to predict how patients with Graves’ disease will be treated 20 years from now, but I hope that we will have some rational therapy that is directed at the autoimmune origin and that makes our entire current armamentarium obsolete. (7)
The reality is that we do know causes, origins and “rational therapy” of autoimmune thyroid disease. This is widely available information found in the medical literature.
Vitamin D and Auto-Immune Disease
I give credit and thanks to Abram Hoffer MD who alerted me to the importance of Vitamin D in preventing autoimmune disease. In April 2007, I attended the Orthomolecular Medical Society Annual Meeting in Toronto, and in the evening, we attended Dr. Abram Hoffer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 90th birthday celebration and gala black-tie dinner. During the daytime meeting program, a Canadian nurse sitting next to me confided that her son had been cured of M.S. (multiple sclerosis) by Dr. Hoffer with large doses of Vitamin D. After examining her son, Dr. Hoffer made the diagnosis of M.S., and then advised the young man to purchase Vitamin D at the local pharmacy over the counter, and start taking large doses. The young man did so, and his neurologic symptoms soon resolved. Dr. Hoffer cured this young man’s autoimmune disease with Vitamin D, a vitamin which plays a role in the prevention and treatment of most, if not all autoimmune diseases.(1-5)
Vitamin D reduces auto-immune disease by 22 per cent
In 2022, Dr Jill Hahn did a 5.3 year randomized clinical trial giving placebo or 2,000 iu of vitamin D/day to 25,871 people over age 50. The Vitamin D group had a 22 per cent reduction in various auto-immune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and others. Dr. Hahn concludes:
Vitamin D supplementation for five years, with or without omega 3 fatty acids, reduced autoimmune disease by 22% .(6)
Vitamin D is important for a functioning immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk for various autoimmune diseases, cancer, and increased mortality from viral infection. For example, in a 2021 study by Dr. Lorenz Borsche mortality from infection with the Sars Cov-2 virus was reduced to zero when the vitamin 25 hydroxy D3 level is raised above 50 ng/mL ! (8)
For these reasons, in my office, we routinely measure serum vitamin D levels and supplement to a target level over 50. Vitamin D supplements are available over the counter without a prescription. However, it is advisable to work with a knowledgeable physician who can monitor levels.(9-11)
Vitamin D and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
In 2022, Dr. Dorina Galușca reviewed Vitamin D in autoimmune thyroid disorders, writing:
In Hashimoto’s disease, vitamin D deficiency appears to be correlated with a higher titer of anti-TPO antibodies and with thyroid volume, and supplementation was associated with reduction of antibodies in some studies. In other studies, supplementation appeared to reduce TSH levels. In Grave’s disease, there was a significant correlation regarding vitamin D levels and thyroid volume respective to the degree of exophthalmos…Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in endocrine disorders and its supplementation appears to have numerous beneficial effects.(12-17)
Wheat Gluten and Leaky Gut
I give credit and thanks to Dr Jonathan Wright for alerting me to the link between gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disease. Here is a quote from Dr. Jonathan Wright’s newsletter (Nutrition & Healing newsletter; Vol. 8 Issue 12, February 2012.):
In 1989, my wife Holly and I visited the office of Christopher Reading in Dee Why, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. He showed us documentation of over 500 individuals who came to see him with a diagnosis of Lupus [erythematosus] … How did over 500 individuals eliminate all signs and symptoms of Lupus – and all patent medicines given for it, too – over 20 years ago? Reading had them totally eliminate all gluten, all milk and dairy products, and often other foods to which they were found to be allergic. The other major part of Reading’s treatment included repeated massive (but safe) doses of vitamins and minerals given intravenously. (27) Endquote Emphasis Mine.
Gluten, Autoimmune Disease, Alessio Fasano MD
How does eating wheat cause autoimmune disease? This remained a mystery for many years until the groundbreaking work on cholera by Dr. Alessio Fasano, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Fasano discovered Zonulin, the hormone that controls the tight junctions in the gut epithelium. The tight junctions are normally closed. However, in certain people sensitive to wheat gluten, excess Zonulin is secreted, opening the tight junctions for prolonged periods of time. This creates what is known as “leaky gut”, the leakage of bacteria, and partially digested food particles from the gut lumen into the blood stream. In a mechanism called “molecular mimicry,” these leaked particles may have amino acid sequences that mimic those of our own tissues and organs, triggering an autoimmune attack. If our immune system attacks the thyroid, then we may find elevation of the anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. This is called Hashimoto’s Autoimmune thyroiditis. If we have elevation of the TSI and TRAb antibodies, then this defines Graves’ Disease, a hyperthyroid state.(18-26)
Anti-Gliadin Antibody Test
For this reason, routine testing for wheat gluten sensitivity using the anti-gliadin antibody test and TTG (transglutaminase antibody) would be prudent. A gluten free diet is advised for all patients with auto-immune thyroid disease. A larger panel of food sensitivity testing is advised, since many will have additional food sensitivities, such as egg, dairy and soy. (28-29)
Iodine, Selenium and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Selenium deficiency has been implicated in the etiology of autoimmune thyroid disease. Selenium is the only known mineral in which selenium insertion with selenocysteine is coded by our DNA. in 2002, Dr. Vadim N. Gladyshev at the University of Nebraska altered our understanding of the genetic code by unraveling the mysteryof selenium insertion ionto proteins. Dr. Vadim N. Gladyshev uncovered the selenium insertion sequence, and dual function of the “STOP” Codon UGA, which also serves as a SEC (selenocysteine) Codon for insertion of selenocysteine, the 21st naturally occurring amino acid. Dr. Vadim N. Gladyshev writes:
Selenium is …inserted into protein as the amino acid selenocysteine (Sec). The elucidation of how Sec is incorporated into protein has progressed at a rapid pace in the last decade and has revealed some surprising results. In fact, unraveling this mystery has altered our understanding of the genetic code, as the code has now been expanded to include Sec as the 21st naturally occurring amino acid. We now know that UGA serves as both a termination codon and a Sec codon.
Hatfield, Dolph L., and Vadim N. Gladyshev. “How selenium has altered our understanding of the genetic code.” Molecular and cellular biology 22.11 (2002): 3565-3576.
Korotkov, Konstantin V., et al. “Mammalian selenoprotein in which selenocysteine (Sec) incorporation is supported by a new form of Sec insertion sequence element.” Molecular and Cellular Biology 22.5 (2002): 1402-1411.
This highlights the importance of selenium for antioxidant function, immune function, wound healing and cancer prevention. A good Selenium intake is required for a functioning anti-oxidant system, The thyroid has the highest concentration of selenium in the body, useful for glutathione peroxidases (GPx) and thioredoxin reductases (TrxR), thyroid anti-oxidants used to neutralized hydrogen peroxide generated by the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Another Seleno-protein is the iodothyronine deiodinase enzymes involved in conversion of T4 to T3. Selenium deficiency is implicated in various diseases, such as muscle degeneration, cardiomyopathy (Keshan’s Disease), autoimmune thyroid disease, cancer, and infection etc. All of which are directly related to excess oxidative damage associaed with either mitchondrial oxidative phophorylation ROS production, or in the case of the thyroid, from hydrogen peroxide production, the rate limiting step in thyroid hormone production. (30-42)
Low Selenium in Hashimotos
In 2020, Dr Kristian Hillert Winther reviewed selenium in thyroid disorders, writing that low selenium status is linked to autoimmune thyroiditis:
Epidemiological studies have linked an increased risk of autoimmune thyroiditis, Graves’ disease and goitre to low selenium status. Trials of selenium supplementation in patients with chronic autoimmune thyroiditis have generally resulted in reduced thyroid autoantibody titre without apparent improvements in the clinical course of the disease. In Graves’ disease, selenium supplementation might lead to faster remission of hyperthyroidism and improved quality of life and eye involvement in patients with mild thyroid eye disease. Despite recommendations only extending to patients with Graves ophthalmopathy, selenium supplementation is widely used by clinicians for other thyroid phenotypes. (42)
Selenium in Iodine Escape Phenomenon
In view of the above, one might wonder if selenium deficiency might explain the “iodine escape phenomenon” when using Iodine in Graves’ Disease. In Japan, treatment of Graves Disease with Potassium Iodine alone (KI) is widely accepted by thyroid specialists, and in 2015, Dr Yoshihara switched 260 women with Graves’ disease (GD) from Methimazole to Potassium Iodide to control the hyperthyroidism in first trimester of pregnancy. For 88%, this switch was successful. However, for 11% (22 patients-Worsened Group), these remained hyperthyroid requiring a higher dose of Methimazole for control. This suggests “escape from anti-thyroid effect of Iodine phenomenon”. In a follow-up paper in 2020, Dr. Yoshihara reviewed this data, finding the TRAb level predicted continuation of thyroid suppressive medication. However, Dr Yoshihara had no parameter to predict iodine escape (worsened group), writing:
It was difficult to control the maternal thyrotoxicosis of 22 of the 107 patients with KI [potassium iodide] alone, and a higher dose of MMI [methimazole] compared with the dose at the time of conception was required (worsened group).…It must be kept in mind that a certain proportion of GD [Graves Disease] patients escape from the antithyroid effect of iodide and that careful follow-up is necessary after switching a pregnant patient’s medication to KI. Emphasis Mine (43-44)
One wonders if the parameter to explain the 11 per cent “escape phenomenon” is Selenium and Magnesium deficiency in this subgroup, unable to “alleviate the toxic effects of Iodine”. Unfortunately, selenium levels were not measured in this study, so this remains speculation. Perhaps this question could be answered in future Japanese studies which include measurement of selenium and magnesium levels in Graves’ disease patients before and during treatment with potassium iodide.(43-46)
Dr. Daniela Gallo – Adding Selenium and Vitamin D
Observational studies show that newly diagnosed Graves’ disease patients have low selenium and low vitamin D levels. In 2022, Dr. Daniela Gallo did a randomized clinical trial in 42 patients, half treated with methimazole, and half treated with methimazole combined with Selenium and Vitamin D3. Dr. Daniela Gallo found the combination with Selenium and Vitamin D3 improved the efficacy of the Methimazole and improved quality of life, writing:
Low Se levels might exacerbate oxidative stress by compromising the antioxidant machinery’s response to reactive oxygen species, and low Vitamin D levels might hamper the anti-inflammatory immune response… Our results suggest that reaching optimal Se and Vit D levels increases the early efficacy of MMI treatment when Se and Vit D levels are sub-optimal.(47)
Dr. Christine Hotz, Selenium and Iodine in Laboratory Mice
In 1997, Dr. Christine S Hotz studied the effect of dietary iodine and selenium on thyroid function and antioxidant status in laboratory mice. Dr. Hotz found the combination of low selenium and high iodine intake causes low antioxidant status leading to thyroidal damage, writing:
Activity of thyroidal GSH-Px [Glutathione-peroxidase, selenoprotein antioxidant] was lowest in rats fed a diet containing high iodine and low selenium. The results suggest that high iodine intake, when selenium is deficient, may permit thyroid tissue damage as a result of low thyroidal GSH-Px activity during thyroid stimulation. (48)
Dr Xu, Iodine and Selenium in Mice
In 2011, Dr. Jian Xu studied mice given excess iodine, comparing them to laboratory mice fed both excess iodine and selenium combined. Dr. Jian Xu found selenium supplementation in mice alleviated the toxic effects of excess iodine. Dr Jian Xu found Iodine excess caused selenium deficiency, and decreased activity of the seleno-protein antioxidant system, resulting in increased H202 which depressed TPO activity. The excess iodine increased iodine content in the thyroid gland, and altered thyroid gland histology with enlargement of follicles containing increased amounts of colloid, leading to goiter. Excess iodine reduced Deiodinase type I activity by 30-40% in liver, kidneys and thyroid, causing higher plasma T4 and lower T3. This was restored to normal when selenium was added. TPO activity was significantly inhibited by excess iodine, however, selenium restored TPO activity, This was done by restoring the seleno-protein Glutathione Peroxidase which neutralizes H202. Since excess H202 inhibits TPO, this neutralization restores TPO activity. One might then conclude from Dr. Xu’s study, treating Grave’s Disease patients with Iodine excess will increase H202 which may cause oxidative damage and thyroiditis if selenium levels are insufficient to maintain good glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx) activity. Note: colloid is thyroglobulin, the precursor protein to thyroid hormone. Note: Deiodinase Type I converts T4 to T3. Dr. Xu writes:
The experimental results show that…hepatic selenium and the activity of GSHPx [glutathione peroxidase] in EI [excess iodine] group decrease compared with those in NI [normal iodine] group. So, the H2O2 from thyroid hormone biosynthesis could not be converted effectively [neutralized by GSHPx]; therefore, the thyroid hormone biosynthesis will be damaged. There was no significant difference in hepatic selenium and GSHPx between the NI [normal iodine] and IS [iodine/selenium combination] groups, which means that the oxidative/anti-oxidative balance has been maintained in IS groups…The activity of TPO [thyroperoxidase] was inhibited by excessive iodine significantly. Compared with the effect of iodine alone, iodine in combination with selenium increased the activity of TPO, indicating that selenium supplement alleviated the damage of TPO resulted from iodide excess…[in the EI group, excess iodine,] the excessive H2O2 in thyroid would depress the activity of TPO. Supplemental selenium could increase GSHPx activity and correct the unbalanced oxidative/anti-oxidative system. It is the ultimate reason for TPO activity recovery. Supplemental selenium could decrease the level of TPO antibody and the damage of thyroid in the patients with Graves disease. Above all, TPO is not a selenoenzyme, so the effect of supplemental selenium is not direct. We could draw the conclusion that supplemental selenium could alleviate toxic effect of excessive iodine on thyroid. (49) Emphasis Mine
In 2020, Dr. Ioana Vasiliu confirmed the 2011 study by Dr. Jian Xu. Dr. Ioana Vasiliu again studied the protective role of selenium in iodine induced auto-immune thyroiditis in laboratory mice. When the mice were fed excessive amounts of iodine, moderate to severe thyroiditis was observed in 83% of males and 50% of female rats. When mice were fed the combination of selenium with the iodine, none developed moderate to severe thyroiditis. Dr. Ioana Vasiliu writes:
Excess iodine may induce and exacerbate autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT) in humans and animals…Thus, the administration of Se [selenium] was proven to have protective effects against thyroiditis cytology in both male and female Wistar rats. (50-51)
Antibodies to Selenium Transport Proteins
In 2021, Dr Qian Sun found that Hashimotos patients have antibodies to the blood Selenium transport protein called SELENOP. These antibodies inhibit selenium uptake by the thyroid, and leads to low Glutathione peroxidase anti-oxidant status. One might speculate this same defect in Graves’ Disease. Dr Qian Sun writes:
Using a newly established quantitative immunoassay, SELENOP autoantibodies were particularly prevalent in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as compared with healthy control subjects (6.6% versus 0.3%).… GPX3 activity was low and correlated inversely to SELENOP autoantibody concentrations. In renal cells in culture, antibodies to SELENOP inhibited Se uptake. Our results indicate an impairment of SELENOP-dependent Se transport by natural SELENOP autoantibodies, suggesting that the characterization of health risk from Se deficiency may need to include autoimmunity to SELENOP as additional biomarker of Se status.(52)
We routinely test for Magnesium RBC on all patients in our office. Magnesium deficiency will worsen the anti-oxidant status in selenium deficiency. In 1993, Dr Zongjian Zhu studied selenium and magnesium deficient mice, finding that combined magnesium and selenium deficiency made the anti-oxidant status worse than selenium deficiency alone, writing:
Magnesium deficiency had an influence on distribution of Se, which was increased in muscle and decreased in other tissues. The changes in GSHPx matched those in Se. The levels of Se and GSHPx in most tissues were lower in Se-Mg-deficient rats than in Se-deficient rats. Thus, selenium and Mg deficiencies would make oxidant lesion more serious than Se deficiency.(45)
The above studies highlight the importance of routine testing for serum selenium, RBC Magnesium, Vitamin D and spot urinary iodine levels in every auto-immune thyroid patient, as suggested in 2017 by Dr Liontiris, who also advises a Gluten Free Diet. Dr. Liontiris writes:
Serum levels of iodine, Se and vitamin D, in HT (Hashimoto thyroiditis) patients are necessary, and a careful supplementation in case of deficiency of these agents is recommended. Due to the increasing coexistence of HT with CD [celiac disease] and other autoimmune diseases, a low gluten diet is important. (54-55)
Iron Deficiency- Dr Margaret Rayman Explains Importance of Iron-TPO is a Heme Protein with Central Iron
As previously mentioned, thyroperoxidase (TPO) is directly responsible for organification of iodine into thyroglobulin using H202 as a substrate. TPO is a heme protein. Heme chemical structure is a porphyrin ring with a central iron atom. Thus, thyroid hormone production is dependent on adequate iron stores. In auto-immune thyroid patients, there may be co-existing auto-immune gastritis or gluten sensitivity with iron malabsorption, both associated with iron deficiency. Iron supplementation to a ferritin level of 100 μg/l is suggested by Dr Margaret Rayman who writes in 2019:
It is important to recognise that low iron stores may contribute to symptom persistence in patients treated for hypothyroidism…An example is afforded by a small study in twenty-five Finnish women with persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism, despite appropriate L-T4 [Levothyroxine] therapy, who became symptom-free when treated with oral iron supplements for 6–12 months… all had serum ferritin <60 μg/l. Restoration of serum ferritin above 100 μg/l ameliorated the symptoms in two-thirds of the women. At least 30–50 % of hypothyroid patients with persisting symptoms despite adequate L-T4 therapy may, in fact, have covert ID [iron deficiency]…Patients with AITD or hypothyroidism should be routinely screened for ID [iron deficiency]. If either ID or serum ferritin below 70 μg/l is found, coeliac disease or autoimmune gastritis may be the cause and should be treated.(100-101)
Graves’ Disease is an Autoimmune Disease
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack and stimulate the TSH receptor. As such, based on the work of Alessio Fasano MD, gluten sensitivity and leaky gut has been implicated in the etiology Graves’ s Disease and all other autoimmune diseases for that matter. This explains why a gluten free diet is recommended by Dr Liontiris above for all auto-immune thyroid patients.(54)(28)
Wheat, Leaky Gut and Molecular Mimicry
Underlying gluten sensitivity is the common cause of leaky gut and auto-immune disease. The mechanism of molecular mimicry has been proposed with leakage of bacteria into the blood stream which invokes an immune response. Various infectious organisms have been implicated in molecular mimicry. One is Yersinia, a bacteria implicated in Graves’ Disease. Antibodies to Yersinia cross react with the TSH receptor, producing hyperthyroidism by stimulating the TSH receptors in the thyroid gland. Similarly, thyroid eye disease (TED) is the result of autoimmune attack on TSH receptors or other antigens in the extra-ocular muscles, peri-orbital adipose and connective tissue. (36-47)
Helicobacter Pylori and Graves’ Disease
In 2005, Drs. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall were awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for their 1982 discovery of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection in the stomach wall, thought to cause gastritis, gastric ulcers, and gastric cancer. H. Pylori is treatable with a protocol known as Triple Therapy consisting of a PPI proton pump inhibitor antacid, and two antibiotics over a ten-day course. The infection can be diagnosed with a breath test developed in 1991 by Dr. Barry Marshal. H. Pylori infection has been associated with Graves’ disease and other autoimmune conditions. It would be prudent to test for H. Pylori in all patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, and treat with Triple Therapy when found positive. Triple therapy may be more effective when combined with probiotics and bismuth. A decrease in thyroid auto-antibodies has been reported after treatment for H. Pylori. One study found a more 2000 point reduction in TPO antibodies in Hashimotos’ patients affter H. Pylori eradication. (56-77)(83)
Use of Probiotics for Graves’ Disease
The connection between the gut microbiome and autoimmune thyroid disease has sparked interest, and was touched upon in the above discussion of wheat gluten sensitivity and leaky gut. Therefore, it is not surprising that restoring the microbiome with probiotics can be enormously beneficial in the Graves’ disease patient. (78-81)
In 2021, Dr Huo studied the effect of probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum supplied in addition to the usual Methimazole treatment in 9 Graves’ Disease (GD) Patients. As expected, Methimazole alone (MMI) controlled the hyperthyroidism, effectively reducing Free T3 and Free T4 thyroid hormone levels, but had no effect on the auto-immune disease measured by the TRAb antibodies. However, when probiotics were administered in combination with Methimazole, Dr. Huo found dramatic reduction in TRAb antibodies indicating improvement in the auto-immune component of the disease. Dr Huo writes:
Unsurprisingly, MI [Methimazole] intake significantly improved several thyroid indexes but not the most important thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb), which is an indicator of the GD [Graves Disease] recurrence rate…the clinical thyroid indexes of patients with GD in the probiotic supplied with MI treatment group continued to improve. Dramatically, the concentration of TRAb recovered to the healthy level. (78) Emphasis Mine.
Auto-Immune Thyroid Disease and GI Health
In 2022, Dr. Michael Ruscio made the bold statement that treating the GI (gastro-intestinal) tract directly reduces autoimmunity, and the health of the GI health may be a root cause in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. Dr. Michael Ruscio feels dysbiosis [altered microbiome] and intestinal permeability are directly related to thyroid autoimmunity, both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. Dr. Michael Ruscio writes:
The connection between GI health and autoimmunity may be mediated by increased intestinal permeability caused by various forms of GI imbalances (i.e., SIBO, dysbiosis, pathogens). One study found that increased GI permeability is found at higher rates in those with thyroid dysfunction and is associated with more thyroid symptoms…A small pilot study found that children with Hashimoto’s disease have increased markers of leaky GI when compared to controls. In this study, higher serum zonulin was associated with higher levothyroxine dose. In other words, more intestinal permeability was associated with more thyroid dysfunction…Similarly, higher GI permeability levels among Graves’ patients were associated with higher antibody levels, lower TSH, higher fT4/fT3, and more symptoms. This suggests that dysbiosis and intestinal permeability have a direct interaction and impact on thyroid autoimmunity (both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease) and can contribute to the autoimmune phenomenon as a whole. GI therapies directly reduce autoimmunity, suggesting that GI health may be a root cause behind the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. For example, a small study found an average of a 2000-point decrease in TPO antibodies after H. pylori eradication . Probiotics have multiple lines of evidence showing that they lower inflammation and autoimmunity. (82)
Use of Berberine for Auto-Immune Thyroid Disease
Berberine is a botanical used for hundreds of years to prevent or reverse “leaky gut”, and to alter the gut microbiome in beneficial ways, increasing beneficial bacteria and decreasing pathogenic bacteria. In Numerous studies in animals and humans have shown benefits of Berberine for improving intestinal barrier function (tight junctions) and the gut microbiome.(84-90)
In 2021, Dr. Zhe Han studied the use of berberine in Graves’ disease. Eight patients were given methimazole (MI) alone, and 10 patients were given both MI and Berberine over 6 months. Dr. Zhe Han notes that the Berberine had a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome, increasing beneficial Lactococcus lactis while decreasing pathogenic bacteria, writing:
The results showed that the addition of berberine restored the patients’ TSH and FT3 indices to normal levels, whereas MI alone restored only FT3. In addition, TRAb was closer to the healthy threshold at the end of treatment with the drug combination. MI alone failed to modulate the gut microbiota of the patients. However, the combination of berberine with methimazole significantly altered the microbiota structure of the patients, increasing the abundance of the beneficial bacteria Lactococcus lactis while decreasing the abundance of the pathogenic bacteria … In conclusion, methimazole combined with berberine has better efficacy in patients with GD.(84)
Use of Berberine and Probiotics has been found beneficial for Graves’ Orbitopathy, the exophthalmos eye disease associated with Graves’. (85)
A new drug for Graves Orbitopathy
A new drug for Graves Orbitopathy, the IGF-IR inhibitor, teprotumumab is given by intravenous infusions. In a controlled trial, at week 24, the percentage of patients with a proptosis response was higher (83%) with teprotumumab than with placebo (10%). Note: IGF-IR is insulin-like growth factor I receptor. (91-93)
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist originally developed as a treatment for opiate addiction. Used in lower doses, usual 3-4.5 mg taken at night before sleep, the drug may have benefits in various auto-immune diseases, neuropathic pain and cancer. Although clinical trials for autoimmune thyroid disease are lacking, anecdotal reports have suggested a possible benefit in Hashimotos’ and Graves’ as well as Graves’ Orbitopathy. Other than its obvious withdrawal effects in opiate addicts, LDN has virtually no adverse side effects, a factor which has liberalized its use. (94-99)
in 2022 Dr, Rong Sun studied Vitamin C in an animal model. Dr. Sun commnets the reason why females have higher prevalence of autoimmune disease compared to males is due to estrogen effect incresing the mRNA for NOX4 whic increases hydrogen peroxide generation. Writing:
additional supplements of vitamin C are a better method to counteract the oxidative damage caused by excess iodine exposure. Vitamin C represents one of the most prominent antioxidants both in plasma as well as intracellular regions; enables the quenching and scavenging of free radicals; and is required in the body for collagen formation in the bones, blood vessels, and muscles …In this study, it could be found that vitamin C can increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which decreased in the HI [Hi Iodine] group, and had a protLong-term chronic excessive iodine exposure caused oxidative damage in rats, such as decreasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes and increasing the content of lipid peroxides, and there was a difference between females and males. Vitamin C had a certain protective effect against oxidative damage induced by excess iodine exposure; a high-dose intake of vitamin C reduced the content of MDA, while a low-dose intake of it promoted oxidative damage.ective effect on oxidative stress caused by excessive iodine.,,
Sun, Rong, et al. “Protection of Vitamin C on Oxidative Damage Caused by Long-Term Excess Iodine Exposure in Wistar Rats.” Nutrients 14.24 (2022): 5245.
In 2000, Dr Bernard Corvilain studied animal models showing that although the effect of excess iodide inhibits H202 generation, under conditions of acute iodine exposure to an iodide depleted thyroid gland the opposite is found, namely activation of H2O2 generation explaining toxic effects of acute administration of iodide on iodine-depleted thyroids.Dr Bernard Corvilain writes:
In comparison with conditions in which an inhibitory effect of iodide on H2O2 generation is observed, the stimulating effect was observed for lower concentrations and for a shorter incubation time with iodide. Such a dual control of H2O2 generation by iodide has the physiological interest of promoting an efficient oxidation of iodide when the substrate is provided to a deficient gland and of avoiding excessive oxidation of iodide and thus synthesis of thyroid hormones when it is in excess. The activation of H2O2 generation may also explain the well described toxic effect of acute administration of iodide on iodine-depleted thyroids.
Corvilain, Bernard, et al. “Stimulation by iodide of H2O2 generation in thyroid slices from several species.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 278.4 (2000): E692-E699.
In 2019, Dr. Karimi studied patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, finding administration of Vitamin C 500 mg/day over 3 months reduced antithyroid antibody (TPO-Ab) levels to the same degree as selenium 200 mcg/d supplementayion.
Karimi, F., and G. R. Omrani. “Effects of selenium and vitamin C on the serum level of antithyroid peroxidase antibody in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis.” Journal of Endocrinological Investigation 42.4 (2019): 481-487.
Abdul-Majeed, Abdullah F., Saeb Y. Abdul-Rahman, and Hassan A. Al-krad. “Effect of Vitamin C as Antioxidant on Stressed Quail Induced by Hydrogen Peroxide.” Euphrates Journal of Agriculture Science 13.4 (2021).
Carvalho, DENISE P., et al. “The Ca2+-and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-dependent hydrogen peroxide generating system is induced by thyrotropin in porcine thyroid cells.” Endocrinology 137.3 (1996): 1007-1012.
One study from Croatia, evaluated the effects of supplementation with a fixed combination of antioxidants (vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium) on superoxide dismutase activity, copper and zinc concentrations, and total antioxidant status in erythrocytes derived from a group of patients with GD treated with methimazole, with respect to the rate of achieving euthyroidism (Bacic-Vrca et al 2005). Results showed that patients receiving antioxidant supplementation along with methimazole therapy achieved euthyroidism at a faster rate than those treated with methimazole alone. The activity of superoxide dismutase similarly decreased in both groups, while the total antioxidant status was mostly improved in the supplemented group. Taking together, the abovementioned studies’ results, may lead to think that Se supplementation may exert a beneficial effect on the course of GD. Bacic-Vrca, Vesna, et al. “The effect of antioxidant supplementation on superoxide dismutase activity, Cu and Zn levels, and total antioxidant status in erythrocytes of patients with Graves’ disease.” Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM) 43.4 (2005): 383-388.
How to Address Underlying Autoimmune Cause of Thyroid Disease
1) Gluten sensitivity testing with anti-gliadin antibody, and Genetic testing. If positive, a Gluten Free Diet is advisable.
2) Serum Selenium, Vitamin D3, Magnesium RBC and spot urine for Iodine, testing and supplementation.
3) Extended Food Reactivity testing, and dietary modification to eliminate reactive foods.
4) H. Pylori Breath Test and if positive, Triple Therapy to eradicate H Pylori.
5) Healing the Gut with probiotics and Berberine, etc.
6) Low Dose Naltrexone, an immune modulator, has been found useful in autoimmune disease patients. (94-99)
7) Iron and Ferritin testing and supplementation when found low.(100-101)
Conclusion: One of the errors of modern endocrinology is to ignore the autoimmune component of Hashimotos’ and Graves’ disease. We have made the case that treating the auto-immune component can have a major beneficial impact on the course of disease.
Articles with Related Interest
Header Image: Lactobacillus, a probiotic organism in the microbiome courtesy of wikimedia commons.
Jeffrey Dach MD
7450 Griffin Road, Suite 190
Davie, Fl 33314
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The modern Gastroenterology have witnessed an essential stride since Helicobacter pylori was first found in the stomach and then its pathogenic effect was discovered. According to the researches conducted during the nearly 40 years, it has been found that this bacterium is associated with a natural history of many upper gastrointestinal diseases. Epidemiological data show an increased incidence of autoimmune disorders with or after infection with specific microorganisms. The researches have revealed that H. pylori is a potential trigger of gastric autoimmunity, and it may be associated with other autoimmune diseases, both innate and acquired. This paper reviews the current support or opposition about H. pylori as the role of potential triggers of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, autoimmune liver diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as Sjogren’s syndrome, chronic urticaria and psoriasis, and tried to explain the possible mechanisms.
Lahner, Edith, et al. “Thyro-entero-gastric autoimmunity: Pathophysiology and implications for patient management.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 34.1 (2020): 101373.
The association between autoimmune atrophic gastritis and thyroid disorders has been observed since the early 1960s and the expression “thyrogastric syndrome” was coined to indicate the presence of thyroid autoantibodies or autoimmune thyroid disease in patients with pernicious anemia, a late clinical stage of autoimmune atrophic gastritis. More recently, it was confirmed that autoimmune thyroid disorders, in particular Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, may be frequently associated with other organ-specific, immune-mediated disorders, such as autoimmune atrophic gastritis or celiac disease. The association of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with autoimmune atrophic gastritis or celiac disease in adult patients is currently considered part of the polyglandular autoimmune syndromes which include several autoimmune disorders associated with an autoaggressive impairment of endocrine glands. From a clinical point of view, the thyro-entero-gastric autoimmunity may lead to potentially serious consequences like anemia, micronutrients deficiencies, and drugs malabsorption, as well as to an increased risk for malignancies. These alterations may frequently present in an underhand manner, with consequent diagnostic and treatment delays. Many aspects of the association between thyroid, gastric and intestinal autoimmune diseases still await clarification. The present review focuses on the embryological, genetic and pathophysiological aspects of thyro-entero-gastric autoimmunity. In particular, the current diagnostic criteria of autoimmune thyroid disease, autoimmune atrophic gastritis, and celiac disease are reviewed, along with the evidences for their association in poly-autoimmunity syndromes. The benefits of proactive screening of autoimmune thyroid disorders in patients with autoimmune gastritis or enteropathy and viceversa are also discussed.
Triggiani, Vincenzo, et al. “Role of iodine, selenium and other micronutrients in thyroid function and disorders.” Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-Immune, Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders) 9.3 (2009): 277-294.
Most people can be exposed to large amounts of iodine without apparent problems . Iodine supplementation programs in iodine-deficient populations leading to iodine intakes of 150-200 mcg/day have been associated with an increased incidence of iodine-induced hyperthyroidism, mainly in older people with multinodular goiter. Iodine deficiency, in fact, increases the risk of developing autonomous thyroid nodules that are unresponsive to the normal thyroid regulation system, resulting in hyperthyroidism after iodine supplementation [107, 108]. This is a complication of iodine profilaxis usually of short duration in a given population, but it can be a very serious health problem for a given patient, because of the high risk of atrial fibrillation .=\
An increased incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease frequently parallels an increased dietary iodine intake . In iodine-sufficient populations (e.g., the U.S.), in fact, excess iodine intake is most commonly associated with elevated blood levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), hypothyroidism and goiter. Thyroid autoimmunity is depressed in iodine deficiency but it is “reset to normal” after its correction. Acute and massive excess of iodide can inhibit the process of synthesis of hormones by the thyroid gland through an inhibition of the process of iodide organification, the socalled Wolff-Chaikoff effect . Se deficiency increases the sensitivity of the thyroid gland to necrosis caused by iodide overload in iodine-deficient thyroid glands [209-214].
Several studies reported on the benefit of Se treatment both in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. In two of these blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies, serum levels of thyroid anti-TPO autoantibody decreased, and patients’ self-assessment of the disease process improved, compared with a placebo group, after 3 to 6 months of treatment with 200 mcg/day sodium selenite or selenomethionine. All patients were substituted with levotiroxine to maintain TSH within the normal range. Se substitution may improve the inflammatory status in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis, especially in those with high activity. These studies were performed in areas of Europe with limited nutritional Se supply. Se supplementation led to increased plasma Se and GPx activity [203, 204, 224].
Hotz, Christine S., et al. “Dietary iodine and selenium interact to affect thyroid hormone metabolism of rats.” The Journal of nutrition 127.6 (1997): 1214-1218.
Vrca VB, Skreb F, Cepelak I, Romic Z, Mayer L (2004) Supplementation with antioxidants in the treatment of Graves disease; the effect on glutathione peroxidase activity and concentration of selenium. Clin Chim Acta 341(1–2):55–63
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Danailova, Yana, et al. “Nutritional Management of Thyroiditis of Hashimoto.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23.9 (2022): 5144.
Moncayo, Roy, Helga Moncayo, and Juliana Reisenzahn. “Global view on the pathogenesis of benign thyroid disease based on historical, experimental, biochemical and genetic data, identifying the role of magnesium, selenium, coenzyme Q10 and iron in the context of the unfolded protein response and protein quality control of thyroglobulin.” Journal of Translational Genetics and Genomics 4.4 (2020): 356-383.
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2. Botelho, Ilka Mara Borges, et al. “Vitamin D in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Its Relationship with Thyroid Function and Inflammatory Status.” Endocrine Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30058600
3. Cannell, John. “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Does D Deficiency Play a Role?” Vitamin D Council, 10 May 2018, www.vitamindcouncil.org/hashimotos-thyroiditis-does-d-deficiency-play-a-role/
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