Ginger is not only a flavorful additive for cooking and baking, it also may improve health. In Chinese medicine, ginger is used to treat a number of conditions, from nausea and congestion to cancer treatment and prevention. Individuals suffering from thyroid problems may find that the compounds in ginger have a positive effect on thyroid function.
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The thyroid produces two different hormones that travel through the blood to all parts of the body: tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine. These hormones regulate the body's metabolism and tell the organs how slowly or quickly they should function. The pituitary gland controls how the thyroid functions. When the thyroid is producing too high a hormone level, it's called hyperthyroidism, which causes a faster metabolism. When there is too low of a hormone level being produced, it's called hypothyroidism, where the body's metabolism is slowed. Chronic inflammation in the body can damage the thyroid, and inflammation is associated with thyroid diseases, such as thyroiditis.
Nutrients in Ginger
According to the Whole Foods Encyclopedia, ginger has many key nutrients that help the body function. Ginger contains magnesium, which has been shown to be a critical to controlling thyroid disease. Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation and prevents the development of an irregular heartbeat. Ginger also contains potassium, a mineral essential to regulating fluids in the body. Other nutrients include Vitamin B-6, copper and manganese as well as the antioxidant compound gingerol. Because it helps regulate inflammation, ginger might also protect against inflammation-related thyroid disorders. However, more research is needed to know how well it works.
How to Use Ginger
Ginger can be used in different ways. Peeled and diced fresh ginger root can be added to soups and stir-fry dishes. The root can also be steeped in hot water or added to tea. Ginger in its powder form can be used in baked goods like cookies and muffins. Ginger has a spicy fragrant taste, and you can even find it dried and sweetened in natural food stores. Dried ginger can be eaten as is.
Side Effects and Precautions
Individuals suffering from thyroid disorders should check with their physician before incorporating ginger or any herb into their treatment plan. This is because herbs can interact with traditional medicines, supplements or other herbs. Although rare, some individuals may have a sensitivity to ginger, resulting in side effects including mild heartburn and an irritation in the mouth. According to the Natural Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, individuals with bleeding disorders or those taking blood thinners should not add ginger to their diet.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- "Journal of Medicinal Food"; Ginger -- An Herbal Medicinal Product With Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions; Grzanna R et al.; 2005
- "The Whole Foods Encyclopedia"; Wood, Rebecca; 1988
- The Hormone Foundation: Thyroid Disorders Overview
- Natural Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Ginger
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Thyroiditis
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginger
- "Your Thyroid and How to Keep It Healthy"; Barry Durrant-Peatfield; 2006