For most people, it’s common to seek out natural remedies for the health issues we face in the modern world. With so much conflicting information out there, which products stand up to their claims for improving thyroid function?
Turmeric is a therapeutic herb with thousands of peer-reviewed and clinical studies demonstrating an incredible amount of medicinal uses and health benefits. It’s not only widespread today, but it has been one of the primary herbal remedies in Ayurveda for thousands of years.
Derived from the Curcuma longa plant, turmeric contains a potent rhizome called curcumin, which has proven itself to be a safe and effective approach for several ailments. But, is turmeric good for thyroid health? More specifically, does turmeric affect conditions such as hypothyroidism?
Turmeric for Thyroid Health
In past articles, we’ve seen how turmeric benefits the body by treating arthritis and joint pain, enhancing liver detox and repair and improving neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Turmeric can even help relieve lower back pain and boost cardiovascular health by serving as a natural blood thinner.
Researchers have discovered that turmeric may be able to improve thyroid function, as well. This conclusion comes as no surprise since curcumin’s central promise involves lowering inflammation and boosting antioxidant capacity—two great ways to enhance health and longevity. (1)
Before we cover the studies on turmeric and thyroid function, let’s look at the purpose of the thyroid gland in a bit more detail, and how things can go awry.
What Is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid refers to the butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck. This gland is responsible for the secretion of a multitude of critical hormones, primarily:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
These thyroid hormones have several functions throughout the body. Such tasks include regulating metabolism, body temperature, digestive and cardiovascular management, muscle control, brain development, and bone maintenance.
If the body requires more thyroid hormones, the hypothalamus signals to the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This process conducted by the brain tightly regulates the quantity of each hormone produced (T3 and T4), creating a necessary equilibrium. (2)
Types of Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid dysfunction may occur when there is either too much or too little production of a specific thyroid hormone. This imbalance can lead to autoimmune diseases, or a variety of adverse symptomology including constipation, depression and anxiety, muscle pain and stiffness, and even brain fog.
Some thyroid conditions to look out for include:
- Goiter: A general word used to describe thyroid swelling. Goiters are often harmless, but sometimes indicate iodine deficiency or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation).
- Thyroiditis: An autoimmune condition or viral infection, causing inflammation of the thyroid. Thyroiditis may be symptom-free or be quite painful, depending on the individual.
- Hyperthyroidism: Refers to excess production of thyroid hormones caused by an overactive thyroid nodule or Graves disease.
- Hypothyroidism: Designates low thyroid hormone production, also called underactive thyroid. The most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is when thyroid damage stems from an autoimmune disease.
- Graves’ Disease: An autoimmune condition whereby the thyroid gland becomes overstimulated, ultimately leading to hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroid Cancer: This rare form of cancer has a high cure rate using traditional treatment methods. Radiation, hormone therapies, and surgery can help eliminate thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid Nodule: A nodule is an abnormal lump or mass in the thyroid gland, usually small in size. Thyroid nodules are common and rarely cancerous. They will have no impact, or in some cases, they may secrete excess hormones.
- Thyroid Storm: This rare form of hyperthyroidism may result in severe illness due to extremely high levels of thyroid hormones. (3)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
There is mounting evidence suggesting that turmeric benefits weight loss when dealing with metabolic complications such as diabetes, which often coexists with thyroid disorders. Since curcumin use appears to be good for diabetics, researchers believe it may also be able to treat various thyroid problems.
In addition, curcumin can reduce inflammation and swelling, and boost immunity by acting as an antioxidant within the body. These features make turmeric ideal for stabilizing metabolic activity, allowing you to operate at peak efficiency.
Now, let’s examine what the research says about turmeric’s effect on thyroid health, and whether or not it can resolve the complications of thyroid disease.
Turmeric and Thyroid Disorders: Is Curcumin Good for Thyroid Function?
It can be challenging to control the adverse side effects of hypothyroidism. Typical gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms include constipation and bloating, but where do they originate?
Research points to a possible link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Together, they appear to be interconnected risk factors in the worsening of hypothyroidism symptomology.
There is an apparent disturbance of GI motility (the movement of food) in people with hypothyroidism and IBS, which can exacerbate symptoms. This particular study suggested the following:
- 56% of 97 IBS patients tested exhibited the presence of SIBO. The resulting 7-day treatment period using antibiotics and probiotics normalized the test results for 50% of the patients.
- About 50% of those experiencing hypothyroidism have SIBO.
In other words, the presence of SIBO frequently appears in both IBS and hypothyroidism patients. When co-occurring, they create a negative feedback loop, compounding GI discomfort, which curcumin can help resolve. (4)
Turmeric has a high amount of antibacterial activity, which can significantly reduce bacterial overgrowth in the gastrointestinal system. Curcumin has also shown that it’s a potent anti-inflammatory that can lower the body’s overactive immune response, lessening the severity of IBS symptoms.
Both underactive and overactive thyroid can increase systolic blood pressure. Turmeric has shown in many studies that it can improve vascular endothelial function, lowering blood pressure, and reducing strain on the heart derived from thyroid disorders. (5)
Not to be overlooked are curcumin’s antioxidant properties. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are states characterized by excessive oxidative stress. In other words, a high number of free radicals wreaking havoc on the body. This state includes specific types such as Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Turmeric and black pepper is a great way to increase your body’s antioxidant capacity and neutralize the damage done by free radicals with minimal side effects. Curcumin has shown beneficial in several studies for normalizing the thyroid’s environment by reducing oxidative stress. (6, 7, 8, 9)
Turmeric also appears to be useful in the treatment of benign thyroid nodules, solid or fluid-filled lumps within the thyroid gland. One study containing 34 patients, predominantly women, showed that a combination of Boswellia, spirulina, and curcumin caused the largest thyroid nodules to shrink in size. (10)
Further research assessed the endemic nature of goiter among 2,335 residents in Pakistan. In this study, 28% of the group had a goiter with an extremely high prevalence of hyperthyroidism resulting from goitrogen use and iodine deficiency. The administration of turmeric among the population resulted in reduced goitrogenesis. (11)
Final Thoughts on Turmeric for Thyroid Function
Is turmeric good for thyroid health? The answer appears to be yes. Turmeric does not cure any of the thyroid conditions mentioned above. But, research indicates the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties of turmeric curcumin supplements can affect the thyroid gland’s environment positively.
Take a look at this post for how much turmeric per day you should be taking. If you’re considering using turmeric for thyroid disorders, consult with a certified medical professional to see if it can work for you.