How does Thyroid work?
About the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a gland which is located on the front surface of our neck below the Adam's Apple. Why is it so important? Because it secretes two hormones named: Thyroxine(T3) and Triiodothyronine (T4). These two hormones are responsible for regulating the metabolism of our body, which means they control the following:
- Thyroid hormones coordinate the body's metabolism by burning of fat, production of energy, and absorption of nutrients in the body.
- Energy production, in turn, helps in the regulation of body temperature.
- Thyroid hormones also regulate brain function and moods.
- By controlling metabolism, one's appetite is moderated (controls your hunger)
- The thyroid also regulates our heart rate.
- These hormones are responsible for reproductive health and control of libido.
- Bone strength and muscle function, depend on thyroid function as well.
So, now you know how important these hormones are!! However, excessive production of these hormones as well as a deficiency, both can create a lot of problems in our body.
Most common Thyroid conditions
- Underactive Thyroid. Hypothyroidism/Hashimoto's disease- There is less production of the Thyroid hormones here. This is the most common form.
- Overactive Thyroid. Hyperthyroidism/Graves' disease- There is excessive production of thyroid hormones here. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by throat cancers, excess intake of iodine, and other conditions.
Hyperthyroidism must not be confused with hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism defines an overactive thyroid, whereas hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland underperforms.
Thyroid issues are most common in women. Millions of women may be suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease, without even realizing they have a problem. Many even develop chronic thyroid conditions that can occur at any age.
Now the question is,
What symptoms indicate that your Thyroid needs help?
Imbalances in thyroid hormones can cause various issues which may make your life difficult to enjoy, without you being able to put the finger on it. You may even fail to understand how to deal with it or doubt whether it is a problem at all?
Hence it is important to be aware of the signs that may be red flags for thyroid-related problems.
So these are the clues that you shouldn't ignore :
- Feeling lethargic, drowsy, or tired all the time.
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden fluctuations in your weight. Sudden weight gain or unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained pain in joints and muscles
- Various changes in hair and skin may be observed, like extreme hair loss or dry scaly skin. There may also be pigmentation observed on your face.
- Frequent mood swings
- Various digestive issues
All these signs may be indicative of a thyroid disorder.
Generally, blood tests can help determine the imbalance of thyroid hormones in your body. You need to consult a physician who would treat this issue with daily thyroid hormone replacement medication.
Alternatively, you may choose natural remedies with fewer side effects and may fit into your overall lifestyle better. These herbal alternatives can help you support your thyroid health by promoting thyroid healing. But they are not an alternative to treatment.
Herbs that support Thyroid health
Herbs can greatly boost your health as they replenish essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients missing in our diet. These natural remedies focus on fixing the root cause of thyroid issues which often occur due to stress, poor diet, and nutritional deficiencies. Plus, you don't have to worry about any side-effects that may occur with medications.
However, it would be best if you work closely with a healthcare provider who can guide you through your journey towards thyroid healing. Many times, taking herbal supplements can help address a low or underactive thyroid in patients who aren't responding well to thyroid medications.
Interestingly, adaptogens are a category of healing herbs that have a varying effect on the body, depending on the body's needs.
Adaptogens have been defined as: "Herbal preparations that increase attention and endurance in fatigue, reduced stress-induced impairment disorders related to the neuroendocrine and immune systems."
These ninja mutants of herbs adapt to the conditions of your body and help counter that particular issue. Adaptogens have diversified benefits. They can be pretty beneficial in reducing stress and hormonal imbalances. Some of the benefits of adaptogens are: They improve the quality of life by acting as an anti-fatigue agent and reduce stress.
Adaptogens are neuro-protective. They have potent anti-anxiety activity and anti-depressive action. They are thus maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. They promote healing by reducing apoptosis (natural cell death). They also can improve cognitive functioning.
Here are some adaptogenic herbs which have proven effective in thyroid support:
Known as Winterberry or Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for centuries. It is one of the most well-known adaptogens. It is made from the root of the Indian Ashwagandha plant.
Ashwagandha is known to regulate our endocrine system by maintaining the hormonal balance in our bodies. It lowers stress by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol in our body and reduces fatigue. This herb has amazing powers to calm the body's response to stress.
According to eastern medicine, Ashwagandha can also fight inflammation, boost immunity, and stabilize blood sugar. It relieves adrenal fatigue by supporting the body's natural energy and metabolism, boosting adrenal health. It has also been used to promote good sleep.
A study was conducted on bipolar patients to evaluate the cognitive benefits of Ashwagandha. The researchers observed that Ashwagandha increased the levels of T4 hormones in 8 weeks. They concluded that Ashwagandha could prove to be an effective herb for subclinical hypothyroidism (Chengappa et al. 2014). It supports improved thyroid functions and promotes overall well being.
Also known as Siberian Ginseng, it is native to Japan, northern China, Russia, and Korea. It has been traditionally used as an immune system booster and a stimulant. It maintains the balance of hormones preventing the excessive secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, hence decreases stress. This balance, in turn, helps regulate thyroid functions as well. As a stimulant, it boosts energy and helps overcome fatigue and prevent its side effects.
It enhances mental alertness and performance and improves concentration. This herb if used regularly increases energy and stamina and also strengthens immunity, promoting detoxification.
Native to Western Asia and Southern Europe, licorice is one of the world's oldest herbal remedies. It supports thyroid health by decreasing cortisol levels in the body and protecting the thyroid gland from oxidative damage.
Research-backed evidence shows that licorice has powerful antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant action. This can counter numerous symptoms of thyroid disorders to ease your life.
Licorice also has known benefits in respiratory difficulties, heal ulcers, and aid in digestion.
This herb grows in cold mountains of Europe and Asia. Its roots have 140 active ingredients with potent adaptogenic properties. It has been used for ages to treat anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
This herb has been shown to improve symptoms of burnout, which can occur with chronic stress. Studies show that Rhodiola appears to raise the levels of dopamine and serotonin in our body to counter stress.
Rhodiola was found to increase brain function, reduced mental fatigue, and improved work performance in physicians and military cadets in a research study.
5. Bacopa Monnieri
This is yet another Ayurvedic herb for thyroid support. It is known to have beneficial effects in hypo- and hyperthyroidism.
Bacopa Monnieri has been shown to increase the levels of thyroid hormones, thus can be an effective herb for hypothyroidism. It is taken along with Ashwagandha, green tea, milk, etc.
By increasing thyroid hormone levels, causes negative feedback reducing the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones. Hence it helps in the regulation of hyperthyroidism as well.
6. Holy Basil
This Indian herb, known as Tulsi, has been used for ages and is considered sacred in Ayurveda owing to its amazing healing properties. It is of the mint family but is regularly used in religious rituals in Hindu mythology and consumed daily for its adaptogenic properties.
The Holy Basil has anti-inflammatory properties and contributes towards maintaining the hormonal balance in our body. This herb contributes to thyroid health by helping your body adapt better to stress. It regulates stress and blood sugar levels through the moderation of cortisol and insulin levels in the blood.
Holy basil has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that is why people chew on its leaves regularly. It also contains Vitamin C and A, which act as potent antioxidants.
7. Lemon Balm
This is yet another natural remedy for hypothyroidism. It has traditionally been used to encourage restful sleep, relieves stress, and anxiety. It also has beneficial effects on digestion. Various studies have shown encouraging effects in hyperthyroidism.
Lemon Balm has also been used as an antiviral herb as viral infections, and thyroid disorders go hand in hand.
It can be consumed as a tea or even in the form of a supplement. A cup of lemon balm tea could be beneficial for healing as a stress management technique.
Piperine, a herb for thyroid support, is the key active ingredient in black pepper and long pepper. Research has shown immense benefits of piperine supplements on plasma levels of T3, T4, and iodine levels. Thus it can be concluded that piperine has thermogenic activity.
Piperine has a thermogenic property by which, it helps regulate the body's BMR (Basal metabolic rate). This, in turn, allows you to maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to counter digestive issues. Piperine regulates adrenaline production and helps in stress management too.
Piperine can also help with the symptoms of thyroid, like breathing difficulties, joint discomfort, and low moods.
This herb is known for its effects on blood lipids. It has also been shown that the active ingredients of guggul have strong thyroid-stimulating actions and increase iodine uptake. Hence Guggul is effective in regulating thyroid function by improving thyroid function and iodine uptake.
Guggul herb also has antioxidant properties of the herb which protect the thyroid gland from oxidative stress and increasing production of T4 into T3 in the liver.
It efficiently lowers cholesterol levels associated with hypothyroidism.
This herb is known as the Holy grail of thyroid support herbs. It is the ultimate herb for thyroid health as it effectively regulates both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. It can increase iodine uptake, thus combating iodine deficiency and increasing thyroid hormone secretion.
Nettle also provides other important vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A and B6, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Nettle is also a source of selenium, a naturally occurring trace mineral shown to have great benefits on thyroid functioning.
Herbs that have strong antioxidants and anti-Inflammatory action have been shown to support healthy thyroid function by protecting the thyroid gland from environmental damage. Our thyroid gland is sensitive to radiation and toxins.
It is a known fact that environmental toxins negatively impact the thyroid gland and impair the function of thyroid hormones. This leads to an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid disease, which can be prevented with the help of the antioxidant action of these herbs.
Stress is never good for the body. In thyroid disorders, imbalances of hormones lead to low or high levels of stress. This is controlled by levels of cortisol hormones in the blood.
Cortisols elevate other inflammatory mediators in our body, leading to inflammation. This causes a series of hormonal havoc in our body. There may be various consequences due to this cascade of events which may take every person a different amount of time to recover from.
The herbs mentioned above for thyroid have marvelous properties to overcome anxiety, reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, and calming the mind.
Other Herbs that Enhance Liver Function for better thyroid health areMugwort, Ceanothus (red root), Artichoke leaves, and Dandelion. They diminish blood viscosity and promote the quality of fluids circulating through the lymph. They also improve the metabolism of fat. Curcuma, Cynara, Schisandra, and Silybum have good regenerating effects on the liver. Ganoderma and Glycyrrhiza have liver-protective effects.
How can you make these herbs a part of your daily routine?
Though these natural remedies cannot replace conventional thyroid treatment, incorporating them in your daily life can always supplement your treatment and help you heal faster, the natural way. So how to get enough of these herbs to gain their benefits. It is wise to consult and collaborate with an expert who can guide you on choosing the best herbal alternative catering to your unique needs.
Brew some tea.
The most common method to use these herbs in your routine life is brewing some tea with the herbs. This not only works to calm and de-stress you but also adds their benefits to your daily regime.
Turn them into smoothies.
This is an alternative if you don't have time and you are fond of making smoothies. You can add these herbs not only for an added flavor (especially lemon balm) but also to maximize their benefits.
Take a high-quality supplement.
Let's face it, in our high octane busy schedule it is not always possible to find ways to incorporate these herbs subtly. Hence this is the easiest way to gain the maximum benefits with minimum effort and in a predictable and dose-efficient way.
Supplements of Ashwagandha, licorice, piperine, etc. are commonly available. The doses of these supplements are designed for specific purposes – like supporting your thyroid. They provide you with a fixed dose of these herbs for maximum efficacy.
Thyroid disorders need a medical prescription and routine monitoring by a healthcare professional. While these natural remedies can help you manage your symptoms and can act as an adjuvant to thyroid medication, they cannot replace it.
Eating well, exercising, and practicing self-care and stress management all contribute towards better thyroid health and overall well-being. When managed with medication and a healthy lifestyle, the thyroid can return to normal health within no time.