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Using Ashwagandha to Reverse Subclinical Hypothyroidism

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a condition with mildly elevated TSH, the hormone which increases to provide feedback when thyroid levels are low, but unlike hypothyroidism, the levels of peripheral thyroid hormones (T3, T4) are normal in subclinical hypothyroidism. The condition may occur as a result of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. Stress may also be a factor; chronic stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can be detrimental to thyroid hormone activation. A person with subclinical hypothyroidism may experience the same symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, weight gain, and depression, despite having normal thyroid levels. There may also be thyroid antibodies present in subclinical hypothyroidism, which indicates the possibility of being linked to autoimmune disease. Using T4-containing thyroid hormones to treat this condition does not have consistently positive results and is not recommended. However, herbs may prove to be beneficial for subclinical hypothyroidism, as shown in a recent study on ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is a traditional Indian herb which is categorized as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body find balance, rather than push a bodily function in an extreme direction. This balancing factor makes adaptogens very safe to use and applicable to a variety of conditions, especially those related to hormone disorders. It is particularly helpful for supporting the adrenals during chronic stress and normalizing cortisol, the stress hormone. Ashwagandha has been shown to help relieve anxiety, high blood pressure, immune deficiency, and inflammation. It also can help moderate thyroid levels, depending on the condition.

This recent study conducted in India investigated the effects of ashwagandha on subclinical hypothyroidism. The people who participated in the study had elevated TSH levels and normal T3 and T4 levels. They were not taking nutrients or hormones to treat their condition. The patients were divided into 2 groups and took either ashwagandha or placebo for eight weeks. At the end of the study, it was found that the group taking ashwagandha had a significant reduction in TSH levels as compared to placebo. They also had an increase in their T3 and T4 levels so that they went back to normal.

The results of this study suggest that the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha can help normalize thyroid hormone levels in subclinical hypothyroidism. It may work by balancing the thyroid directly, as well as supporting the adrenals by moderating cortisol. Ashwagandha may prove to be an important component for thyroid treatment, especially when stress is a significant factor.

Volume 00, Number 00, 2017, pp. 1–6
DOI: 10.1089/acm.2017.0183

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