Turmeric and Curcumin for Your Thyroid

Turmeric is a plant of the ginger family, but widely known as the main spice in curry.

Thanks to its striking yellow color, turmeric was first used as a dye, but later people started recognizing its potential to benefit our health.

For thousands of years, turmeric has been used as a medicine in many cultures.

Some people believe the health potential of turmeric is so strong, they sometimes refer to as the most powerful plant on the planet!

Does it live up to the hype?

The primary culprit for health properties of turmeric derive from curcumin, the active compound found in the plant.

While turmeric sure is impressive, the question is – how does it affect your thyroid?

Can turmeric boost thyroid health?

Let’s find out!

Relieves inflammation

Inflammation is the natural response of your body to injury or distress.

Not all inflammation is bad, it shows your immune system is functioning properly.

In fact, inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism that protects us from “invaders” or injuries.

However, excessive inflammation, especially when persistent or chronic, is a major threat to our health.

Chronic inflammation can underline a number of diseases including an underactive thyroid.

While it would make sense to categorize it as a condition that should be managed and treated as a preventative therapy, inflammation does not always cause some disease.

In many instances, chronic inflammation aggravates the symptoms and acts as a contributor to disease, but health conditions themselves require additional genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors[i].

Inflammation plays a role in thyroid conditions as well.

Thyroiditis (a type of thyroid disorder) indicates inflammation of the thyroid gland, not an infection as popularly believed.

Lower levels of iodine can also contribute to inflammation because iodides enhance the movement of white blood cells called granulocytes in the inflamed regions and improve the destruction of bacteria.

When iodine levels are insufficient, the thyroid function is impaired and inflammation increases at the same time.

One study found that inflammatory reaction in the thyroid gland is an early event in the pathogenesis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common form of hypothyroidism where the immune system attack thyroid cells.

According to studies, the inflamed tissue also experiences the expression of MxA (myxovirus resistance protein A) thus suggesting that type I IFN interferon (regulates the activity of immune system) plays a role in the development of Hashimoto’s[ii].

In addition, scientists from Turkey discovered that degree of inflammation in thyroid gland could be the reason why some patients with autoimmune thyroiditis develop chronic urticaria[iii].

Chronic urticaria or hives are in itchy rash common among people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

As shown above, inflammation deeply affects thyroid functioning and turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Evidence shows that curcumin is a highly pleiotropic molecule that is capable of interacting with various molecular targets involved in inflammation[iv].

In turn, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects are so powerful they match the efficacy of some anti-inflammatory medications, but without adverse reactions.

Reduces Goitrogenesis

Goitrogensis or Goiter refers to the enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Contrary to the popular belief, hypothyroidism isn’t the only cause of goiter, the problem can occur in hyperthyroid individuals too.

According to the American Thyroid Association, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of goiter in the US.

In this disease, a patient’s immune system damages the thyroid gland which becomes unable to produce an adequate supply of thyroid hormone.

As a result, pituitary gland senses insufficient levels of thyroid hormones and starts secreting greater amounts of TSH in order to stimulate the thyroid.

Due to the stimulation, thyroid gland grows and induces development of goiter.

Another common cause of goiter is Graves’ disease, a form of hyperthyroidism.

Here, the immune system produces thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin[v] (TSI) protein which propels enlargement of thyroid gland i.e. goiter.

One of the major benefits of turmeric for thyroid is a reduction of goitrogenesis.

A study whose findings were published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism analyzed the role of dietary turmeric in the formation of a goiter.

Scientists enrolled 2335 participants who were interviewed for disease history and screened for goiter. The studied population had an endemic goiter and high prevalence of hyperthyroidism was observed as well.

Results showed that goiter was more prevalent among women, unmarried persons and individuals who were drinking subterranean water.

On the other hand, thyroid gland enlargement was less common among participants who consumed milk, ghee, spices, chilis, and especially turmeric.

They concluded the study explaining that turmeric use was strongly associated with reduced goitrogenesis[vi].

Curcumin benefits hypothyroid patients

Individuals who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism can benefit from intake of turmeric as well.

One study found that treatment with turmeric extract reduced atrophy of the thyroid gland, which is important for reduction of thyroid hormone levels. In addition, treatment with turmeric decreased high cholesterol levels[vii].

Needless to mention high cholesterol levels are a common symptom of hypothyroidism and increase a patient’s risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Moreover, evidence shows that curcumin may have an age-related effect on your thyroid. Scientists discovered that curcumin enhances levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 at a young age, but reduces them in aged individuals[viii].

Of course, further research is necessary to elucidate the connection between age-related effects of curcumin and thyroid hormones, but it is an interesting finding.

Curcumin benefits hyperthyroid patients

However, intake of turmeric isn’t beneficial for hypothyroid patients only; even individuals with hyperthyroidism can experience relief.

Hyperthyroidism causes oxidative stress in the brain[ix] which increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

One study found that curcumin has the tremendous potential to regulate the levels of antioxidant enzyme and decrease hyperthyroidism-induced oxidative stress in the brain[x].

Furthermore, hyperthyroidism has an impact on the liver enzyme levels, thus disrupting liver functioning.

A combination of vitamin E and curcumin alleviates this damage and restores liver function[xi], evidence suggests.

Similarly to its effects on the liver, turmeric and curcumin prove to be beneficial for protecting kidney function due to hyperthyroidism-induced damage[xii].

Immune system modulator

Some thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease are autoimmune conditions.

In autoimmune conditions, a person’s own immune system is attacking his/her organ or more of them, in this case, the thyroid.

Evidence shows that curcumin has the immunomodulatory activities i.e. it can regulate immune responses[xiii].

Curcumin uses a multifaceted approach toward immunomodulatory effects. Not only it regulates the activity of immune cells, but it also controls the activity of cytokines (chemicals produced by the cells and they play an important role in autoimmune reactions.)

Regulating both immune cells and cytokines, curcumin can prevent these autoimmune reactions, which only proves it is a truly powerful compound.

Cytokines produced in your body are Th1 and Th2.

A vast majority of patients with Hashimoto’s have Th1 dominance and Th2 suppression of the immune system.

A growing body of evidence confirms that curcumin inhibits Th1 cytokine profile in CD4+ T cells (play an important role in modulating immune system responses) by suppressing production of IL-12 (key immunoregulatory cytokine) in macrophages, a type of white blood cells.

South Korean scientists discovered these findings point out to the potential therapeutic use of curcumin in the Th1-mediated immune diseases[xiv].

Prevention and management of thyroid cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, about 56,870 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed and 2010 people will die due to this disease.

Thyroid cancer is more commonly diagnosed at young than in older age and about 3 out of 4 cases account for women[xv]. It is possible to get a treatment and beat thyroid cancer.

It turns out; turmeric can help you with this as well.

Scientists from China discovered that curcumin may be an effective agent in inhibiting the growth of tumors thus aiding the treatment of thyroid cancer[xvi].

In addition, curcumin enhances the anti-cancer and anti-tumor effect of sorafenib[xvii] and docetaxel[xviii], common drugs used for the treatment of thyroid cancer.

Curcumin addresses numerous biochemical pathways to inhibit metastasis of thyroid cancer, thus showing a tremendous potential to help doctors cure this disease.

Cognitive functioning

Patients with hypothyroidism can experience problems with memory, learning, and cognitive functioning.

It is needless to mention these issues have a big impact on a person’s overall quality of life, particularly as you’re getting older.

Turmeric belongs to a group of natural ingredients that are strongly related to improved cognitive functioning.

One study enrolled 48 male and female participants who were given one gram of turmeric with white bread for breakfast and tested their memory before and after the meal.

They discovered that sprinkling one gram of turmeric on the breakfast meal could improve memory in individuals who are at risk of cognitive impairment[xix].

The modest addition of turmeric to one’s diet improves working memory over six hours. Even though the study participants had diabetes, these results were independent of insulin levels.

Scientists from Australia discovered that consumption of turmeric improves performance on sustained and working memory tasks compared to placebo.

Working memory and mood, contentedness and fatigue were much better following the treatment[xx]. This study also found that curcumin intake lowered the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.

Another thing useful to mention is that curcumin increases the level of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein known for its ability to stimulate the formation of new brain cells[xxi].

How to use curcumin/turmeric for thyroid health

As shown throughout the post, curcumin has a strong potential to improve the health and functioning of the thyroid through multiple mechanisms.

The question you’re probably wondering now is how to use it.

Daily intake of curcumin is necessary to achieve desired effects on thyroid health.

However, there is a slight problem.

You see, your body eliminates curcumin within an hour or so. There is a smart way to address this problem – combining it with piperine.

Piperine, an alkaloid found in pepper, prolongs the life of curcumin in the body and helps it stick around for longer.

Ideally, you should add more turmeric to your cooking and don’t forget to add a little bit of pepper.

Another useful thing you can do is to consume a potent curcumin supplement, especially when it’s in the mix with piperine.

Curcumin is considered safe even at dosages that are up to 8mg/day.

If you have some thyroid disorder and want to improve the health and functioning of the gland, make sure you don’t avoid consulting your doctor. The physician will tell you if turmeric is safe for your health based on your condition.

Conclusion

Turmeric is a plant or spice that gives the curry its distinctive yellow color. For thousands of years, turmeric has been used as a medicine in numerous cultures.

Among a multitude of health benefits, turmeric poses as an incredibly health compound for both men and women.

Lower inflammation, improved cognitive functioning, healthier cholesterol, prevention and management of thyroid cancer are just some of many positive effects of curcumin on Saturday.

As always, consulting your doctor is a good idea before taking curcumin supplements or curcumin combined in thyroid supplements.

References

[i] Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease: The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Reports. 2012;13(11):968-970. doi:10.1038/embor.2012.142. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/

[ii] Hammerstad SS, Jahnsen FL, Taurianien S, et al. Inflammation and increased myxovirus resistance protein A expression in thyroid tissue in the early stages of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroid 2013 Mar;23(3):334-41. Doi: 10.1089/thy.2012.0264 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998463

[iii] Guelc M, Kartal O, Calisanker AZ, et al. Chronic urticaria in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis: significance of severity of thyroid gland inflammation. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venerology, and Leprology 2011 Jul-Aug;77(4):477-82. Doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.82406 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21727695

[iv] Jurenka JS. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative Medicine Review 2009 Jun:14(2):141-53 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19594223

[v] Goiter, American Thyroid Association https://www.thyroid.org/goiter/

[vi] Jawa A, Jawad A. Riaz SH, et al. Turmeric use is associated with reduced goitrogenesis: thyroid disorder prevalence in Pakistan (THYPAK) study. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism 2015 May-Jun;19(3):347-50. Doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.152768 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25932388

[vii] Deshpande UR, Joseph LJ, Patwardhan UN, Samuel AM. Effect of antioxidants (vitamin C, E, and turmeric extract) on methimazole induced hypothyroidism in rats. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2002 Jun;40(6):735-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12587721

[viii] Papiez MA, Kaja M, Gebarowska A. Age-dependent different action of curcumin in thyroid of rat. Folia Histochemica et Cytobiologica 2008;46(2):205-11. Doi: 10.2478/v10042-008-0031-6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18519239

[ix] Villanueva I, Alva-Sanchez C, Pacheco-Rosado J. The role of thyroid hormones as inductors of oxidative stress and neurodegeneration. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity November 2013, vol 2013. Doi: 10.1155/2013/218145 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2013/218145/cta/

[x] Jena S, Dandapat J, Chainy GB. Curcumin differentially regulates the expression of superoxide dismutase in cerebral cortex and cerebellum of l-thyroxine (T4)-induced hyperthyroid rat brain. Neurological Sciences 2013 Apr;34(4):505-10. Doi: 10.1007/s10072-012-1084-z https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22476324

[xi] Subudhi U, Das K, Paital B, et al. Alleviation of enhanced oxidative stress on oxygen consumption of l-thyroxine induced hyperthyroid rat liver mitochondria by vitamin E and curcumin. Chemico-Biological Interactions 2008 May 28;173(2):105-14. Doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2008.02.005 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18377885

[xii] Samanta L, Panigrahi J, Bhanja S, Chainy GB. Effect of turmeric and its active principle curcumin on t(3)-induced oxidative stress and hyperplasia in rat kidney: a comparison. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry 2010 Oct;25(4):393-7. Doi:10.1007/s12291-010-0046-6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21966112

[xiii] Bright JJ. Curcumin and autoimmune disease. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 2007:595:425-51. Doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_19 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569223

[xiv] Kang BY, Song YJ, Kim KM, et al. Curcumin inhibits Th1 cytokine profile in CD4+ T cells by suppressing interleukin-12 production in macrophages. British Journal of Pharmacology September 1999, vol. 128 no. 2, 380-4. Doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0702803 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/sj.bjp.0702803/full

[xv] About thyroid cancer, American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8853.00.pdf

[xvi] Zhang CY, Zhang L, Yu HX, et al. Curcumin inhibits invasion and metastasis in K1 papillary thyroid cancer cells. Food Chemistry 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4):1021-8. Doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.02.016 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23561205

[xvii] Zhang J, Yu J, Xie R, et al. Combinatorial anticancer effects of curcumin and sorafenib towards thyroid cancer cells via PI3K/Akt and ERK pathways. National Product Research 2016 Aug;30(16):1858-61. Doi: 10.1080/14786419.2015.1074229 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26299635

[xviii] Hong JM, Park CS, Nam-Goong IS, et al. Curcumin enhances docetaxel-induced apoptosis of 8505C anaplastic thyroid carcinoma cells. Endocrinology and Metabolism 2014 Mar;29(1):54-61. Doi: 10.3803/EnM.2014.29.1.54 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26299635

[xix] Wahlqvist ML, Chou YC, Fang WH, et al.Turmeric improves post-prandial working memory in pre-diabetes independent of insulin. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014/10/28, 1-11. Doi: 10.6133/apjcn.2014.23.4.24 http://www.airitilibrary.com/Publication/alDetailedMesh?DocID=09647058-201303-PP201303130005-PP201303130005-1-11-0079

[xx] Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2015 May:29(5):642-51. Doi: 10.1177/0269881114552744  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25277322

[xxi] Xu Y, Ku B, Tie L, et al. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB. Brain Research November 2006, vol. 1122 no. 1, 56-64. Doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.09.009 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306027144

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