Many people experience unexplained fatigue, a poor mood, weight gain or feel cold more often than normal.1 And there are a number of possible reasons why these symptoms could surface.
However, the common culprit — an underactive thyroid gland — often goes undiagnosed. In fact, more than 27 million Americans suffer from a thyroid condition, and 13 million of them aren't even aware of it.
While the symptoms of an underactive thyroid are no fun to deal with on their own, suboptimal thyroid function actually can be deadly, as it increases the risk for coronary heart disease, advanced chronic kidney disease, and major depression.2-5
What Causes Poor Thyroid Function?
Before answering this, we need to first briefly outline how the thyroid functions. The pituitary gland secretes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid gland to release the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). In the body, T4 is converted into T3, which is the form directly involved in metabolism and is about four times more potent than T4.6
Another important thyroid hormone is reverse T3 (rT3), which is a nonfunctioning form of T3. Not only is rT3 inactive, but it also blocks thyroid receptors, inhibiting the action of regular T3.7
So, to answer the question — there are three main causes of suboptimal thyroid function:
- There's not enough T4 produced.
- There's a decreased conversion of T4 to T3.
- There's too much rT3 being produced.
How to Improve Thyroid Function
A trip to the doctor may result in a prescription for Synthroid and Levoxyl, but these are just forms of T4, and not everyone converts T4 into T3, so they'll still have undesirable symptoms.
Some medications, such as Nature-Throid, Armour Thyroid, and Westhroid, contain both T4 and T3. Also, Cytomel, which is synthetic T3, is another option for doctors.
Medications prescribed by a doctor may be necessary for certain individuals to maintain sufficient thyroid function. However, research has shown the ability of three natural herbs to address the three main causes of suboptimal thyroid function:
- Ashwagandha — An adaptogenic herb that not only helps to reduce stress, but also increases levels of T3 and T4.8,9
- Guggul — A sap extract from the Indian myrrh tree and traditionally used for treating slow metabolism. It contains molecules that have strong thyroid-stimulating properties and have been shown to help convert T4 into T3.10-12
- Korean ginseng — Another adaptogenic herb that has been shown to reduce levels of inactive rT3.13
The Bottom Line
If you're always tired, moody, and gaining weight, it could be because of your thyroid. The natural herbs ashwagandha, guggul, and Korean ginseng can help provide support!
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- Available at: http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works. Accessed April 13, 2016.
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- J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998 Sep;50(9):1065-8.
- J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Nov 1;67(2):233-9.
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- Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1999 Apr;19(4):209-11.