Ever tried that spicy but slightly sweet and pungent ginger root? Well, this herb not only adds a pleasant flavor to some of your favorite dishes but actually has many unbelievable health benefits! It has been used by many different cultures for centuries for its medical properties.
For starters - what exactly is ginger?
Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, is a plant that is indigenous to Asia that has been commonly used as a spice and for its medical properties for centuries. The rhizome, or the root, of ginger, is most commonly used for its medical properties.
Ginger has many herbal constituents that give it an array of healing benefits, including volatile oil, phenylpropanoids, and derivatives (gingerols, shogaols), and resins. These key constituents or components of ginger give it some of its main medical actions, including carminative/spasmolytic, anti-emetic, circulatory stimulant, inflammation modulator, diaphoretic, and decongestant.
What do these actions mean exactly?
Do you ever remember someone giving you ginger ale as a kid when you were nauseous? That’s the anti-emetic property of ginger! We’re not saying ginger ale will provide you with all the amazing benefits that the ginger root will... But the small amount of ginger in that sugary soda we all remember and love may provide you with some of those anti-emetic properties. Given that ginger has so many properties that we listed above, it is often used to:
Decrease gas and bloating
Reduce nausea and vomiting
Help with IBS
Increases gastric motility and helps digestion
Decrease inflammation- especially in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and even musculoskeletal injuries
Reduce PMS symptoms
But is ginger good for hyperthyroidism?
Well.. the answer may not be as black and white as we had hoped. As I mentioned earlier, ginger is a circulatory stimulant and a diaphoretic. This means that it helps increase your body's circulation and produce heat, increasing metabolic function. As an anti-inflammatory herb, ginger helps reduce inflammation in the body.
In a condition like hyperthyroidism, where your body may be creating more inflammation, ginger can help reduce that inflammatory response. The potassium and magnesium content of ginger can also aid in reducing inflammation. However, you have to be careful as your metabolism is already in overdrive if you have hyperthyroidism.
Your thyroid is the master gland that controls your metabolism. When you are hyperthyroid, your metabolism is working overtime. Symptoms that may be associated with an overactive thyroid include unintentional weight loss, anxiety, diarrhea or loose bowel movements, increased appetite, nervousness, hair loss, irregular periods, irritability, sensitivity to heat, increased sweating (also known as diaphoresis), palpitations, rapid heartbeat, and insomnia.
While some individuals with hyperthyroidism may experience severe symptoms, others may experience little to no symptoms. While not enough studies have been done to look at ginger's impact on hyperthyroidism, an interesting case report looked at a 34-year-old female who had a history of powdered ginger consumption and no previous history of thyroid disease. Her thyroid tests revealed thyrotoxicosis, or hyperthyroidism. When given ginger candy (in a milder form than she was taking previously) again one year later, the thyrotoxicosis returned.
More research studies need to be conducted on ginger consumption's impact on one’s thyroid and the potential induction of thyrotoxicosis or hyperthyroidism. What do we do with this information since ginger's effect on the thyroid is not yet clinically clear?
Moderation is key here. As we’ve mentioned in this article, zingiber officinale has many healing properties that can be used to treat a variety of both acute and chronic medical conditions. However, sometimes too much of a good thing is not always good, and what is good for one person may not be good for another.
If you have normal thyroid function, you should generally be okay to consume ginger once in a while for a cold or some abdominal discomfort. Given this clinical information that we have, even though it is not much, I would advise airing on the side of caution if you have a pre-existing thyroid condition (specifically hyperthyroidism). I would advise getting an okay from your Doctor and monitoring your thyroid function tests if you do start to consume some ginger. Also, pay attention to how you feel if you are consuming ginger. Are you noticing an increase in sweating, palpitations, and diarrhea? These may be signs that your thyroid is overactive and needs to be reassessed.
However, this study indicates that studies on ginger's effect on HYPOthyroidism may be very interesting. Given that ginger consumption has been shown to stimulate metabolic function, specifically thyroid function, this may provide therapeutic benefits for patients suffering from hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid.
Interestingly enough, a study looked at the effect of ginger supplementation in patients with hypothyroidism. In the study, participants were given 100 mg of daily ginger powder consumption. The study concluded that patients who were supplemented with ginger not only lost weight, but their lipid levels also decreased. Why did this happen?
Well- if we can’t stress this, one key aspect enough is that your thyroid controls your metabolism! This includes your cholesterol. When we’re able to dial in and optimize your thyroid, inadvertently, we’re able to lower your lipids! This is why ginger supplementation may be promising in not only hypothyroidism but also any metabolic disorders like NAFLD, diabetes, obesity, and hypercholesterolemia.
If you do suffer from a sluggish metabolism, stubborn weight gain, or hypothyroidism, you can find benefits in adding ginger to your daily diet. While we would suggest consulting with your doctor if you want to start ginger supplementation, you can start cooking with ginger and adding it to your favorite dishes. You can even start making ginger, lemon, and honey tea, which can help increase metabolic function but can also help support a healthy immune system. Feeling like you’re having sluggish digestion and some constipation? Try finishing off your meal with some ginger tea!
And remember- one man’s medicine can be another man’s poison, so always air on the side of caution and consult with your physician before making any drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle.
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