A Surprising Natural Remedy for Thyroid Disorders
January is Thyroid Awareness Month, which is a perfect time to explore alternative therapies, such as cannabidiol (CBD), for thyroid health. More attention than ever before is focused on the many potential health benefits of CBD, and yet CBD for thyroid health rarely is discussed. Considering how interconnected the endocannabinoid system is with thyroid regulation, it seems likely that CBD may prove incredibly beneficial.
Despite the thyroid’s important function, most of us don’t truly understand its significance. Most people associate thyroid dysfunction with weight gain but have little understanding of the glandular system and its crucial importance.
In this respect, the thyroid is like the endocannabinoid system. Until it stops working, many people don’t even realize it exists. However, both the thyroid and the endocannabinoid system are incredibly important for many critical bodily functions.
The Truth About Thyroid Disease
The one truth about thyroid disease is there are many misconceptions. The signs and symptoms of either an overactive or underactive thyroid vary from one person to another, and also range in severity. The American Thyroid Association estimates that roughly 60 percent of Americans with a dysfunctional thyroid are undiagnosed.
Weight gain is a symptom of an underactive thyroid, but there are many other signs to look out for, including puffiness around the face, fatigue, depression, hair loss, and joint pain. Overactive thyroids come with an additional set of symptoms, including swelling around the glands, weight loss, itchiness, trembling and increased nervousness. As mentioned, these vary in severity from one person to another, but they most often target middle-aged women.
If you find yourself frustrated with weight gain, but have none of the other symptoms of thyroid disease, CBD still may support your weight loss efforts. The same goes for anyone suffering from fatigue linked to depression, since CBD may help alleviate mild to moderate depression.
Thyroid disease is a broad term that covers an array of different thyroid issues, such as Postpartum Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Primary Thyroid Lymphoma and many more. Above all else the thyroid is complicated, and so too are the treatments.
What is the Thyroid?
It’s not a coincidence that the symbol for many thyroid organizations, including the Thyroid Foundation of Canada and the American Thyroid Association, is the butterfly. The thyroid gland is literally a small butterfly-shaped gland located on the front lower neck. It's part of the endocrine glandular system, which helps regulate many vital bodily functions.
The thyroid is a powerful little hormone factory, pumping out hormones on a regular basis; regulating body temperature, menstrual cycles, body weight, muscle function, central and peripheral nervous systems, breathing, and heart rate. Although many people never consider their thyroid gland, it plays a rather critical role in their overall health.
When a thyroid stops producing the required hormones or, alternatively, goes into overdrive and produces too many hormones, these crucial bodily functions start unraveling. Although most often thyroid dysfunction affects women (only 20 percent of thyroid cases are in men), it can hit at any age. It can be especially disruptive when it strikes during puberty, menopause, and other significant hormonal shifts.
The reason CBD is an attractive alternative for thyroid therapy is mainly that the conventional options are intrusive, expensive, and only partially effective. For example, to treat an overactive thyroid, the standard options are using medication to reduce thyroid production, using radiation to kill thyroid production, or surgically removing part of the gland.
An underactive thyroid requires years, potentially a lifetime, of medication to re-balance its hormone production. It can take a very long time to get the proper balance right, which is frustrating for the patients merely seeking relief from their symptoms.
Using CBD for thyroid health is a novel approach to thyroid treatment. The preliminary research is hopeful, but definitely in its infancy. Only limited studies connect CBD to thyroid function at all. However, with that in mind, many studies are connecting the dots between the endocannabinoid system, thyroid function, and CBD’s influence on the endocannabinoid system in general.
What Could CBD do for Thyroid Disease?
First and foremost, cannabinoids from Cannabis Sativa L plant interact with the endocannabinoid system. Each cannabinoid has a different effect, but in some way interact with the two primary receptors, either CB1 or CB2. Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, concentrated in areas such as the gastrointestinal tract, immune system, central nervous system, and brain.
Learn more about how cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system here.
Research also has uncovered that there are receptors on the thyroid itself, as well as in an area of the brain that communicates instructions to the thyroid. This area is called the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Discovering cannabinoid receptors on both sides of the thyroid messaging system indicates that cannabinoids can influence thyroid function.
In an early animal study from 2002, researchers concluded that cannabinoids had both an excitatory and inhibitory effect on hormone production. Specifically, their study indicated the CB1 receptor controlled the output of two thyroid hormones: tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine. Their study concluded that cannabinoid therapy could influence thyroid hormone production.
A more recent study, published in 2015, uncovered evidence that cannabinoids could effectively treat malignant thyroid tumors. Malignant tumors of the thyroid gland are a re-occurring issue for many people with thyroid disease. Also, considering many forms of thyroid disease are thought to be an autoimmune disorder, CBD may have an even broader therapeutic role to play beyond hormone production and tumor reduction.
The exploration of CBD and thyroid disease is only in the very initial phases. The current evidence might be just the tip of the iceberg. If anything, it warrants a more in-depth investigation into how CBD targets thyroid function explicitly and, more importantly, regulates how it dysfunctions. Considering the invasiveness of many of the conventional thyroid therapies, uncovering an all-natural, yet effective, alternative therapy is in high demand.