Top 3 Herbs to Fight Thyroid Symptoms

Marie Parks

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 main culprit—an underactive thyroid—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 not fun to deal with on their own, the dangers of suboptimal thyroid function can be deadly, as it increases the risk for coronary heart disease,2 advanced chronic kidney disease,3 and major depression.4,5

Why Your Thyroid Is So Important

Your thyroid is involved in many roles, primarily regulating metabolism and burning fat for energy, which is why people who have an underactive thyroid tend to gain weight and feel tired for no reason.

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 to release 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

(Keep in mind that thyroid function is actually much more complex than we’ve outlined!)

So, to answer the question—there are three main causes of suboptimal thyroid function:

  1. There’s not enough T4 produced.
  2. There’s a decreased conversion of T4 to T3.
  3. There’s too much rT3 being produced.

How To Improve Thyroid Function

While a trip to the doctor may result in a prescription for Synthroid and Levoxyl, these are just T4, and not everyone converts T4 into T3, so they’ll still have undesirable symptoms. There are medications that contain both T4 and T3 such as Nature-throid, Armour thyroid, and Westhroid. Also, Cytomel, which is synthetic T3 is another option for doctors.

Medications may be necessary for certain individuals to maintain sufficient thyroid function (with a doctor’s prescription).

However, research has shown the ability of three natural herbs that address the three main causes of suboptimal thyroid function. Here they are:

1. Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogenic herb, as it helps restore balance to the body.8,9 Containing bioactive compounds, ashwagandha has shown to increase levels of T3 and T4.10,11 Subjects with an underactive thyroid and bipolar disorder taking 500 mg ashwagandha for two months had an up to 24% increase in T4 levels!12

Another beneficial effect of ashwagandha is its ability to combat stress.13 Stress releases the hormone cortisol which increases the inhibitory rT3.14,15 Therefore, by counteracting stress, ashwagandha supports thyroid function and improves quality of life!

2. Guggul
Guggul is a sap extract from the Indian myrrh tree and was traditionally used for treating slow metabolism.16 It contains molecules that have strong thyroid-stimulating properties.17 Guggul has also shown to help convert T4 into T3.18,19

3. Korean ginseng
Korean ginseng is also an adaptogen and contains ginsenosides that’ve been shown to reduce levels of inactive rT3. In a study that enrolled subjects with congestive heart failure with low levels of T4 and T3 and high levels of rT3, after supplementing with ginsenosides, the participants had a significant decrease in rT3 and significant increases in T4 and T3.20

Other benefits of Korean ginseng are its ability to help regulate skin temperature (a common symptom of an underactive thyroid is cold hands and feet) and improve energy and sexual function (both of which are associated with low thyroid function).21-24

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!

References:

  1. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2004 Oct;16(10):422-5.
  2. Br Heart J. 1981 Aug;46(2):202-6.
  3. Eur J Endocrinol. 2011 Jan;164(1):101-5.
  4. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1992 May-Jul;17(2-3):215-21.
  5. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Aug;58:114-9.
  6. Available at: http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works. Accessed April 13, 2016.
  7. Acta Med Austriaca. 1996;23(1-2):17-30.
  8. Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem. 2010 Sep 1;10(3):238-46.
  9. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-46.
  10. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998 Sep;50(9):1065-8.
  11. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Nov 1;67(2):233-9.
  12. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec;5(4):241-5.
  13. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62.
  14. Br J Psychiatry Suppl. 1996 Jun (30):123-8.
  15. Reg Anaesth. 1984 Jan;7(1):1-10.
  16. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jul 13;142(2):319-30.
  17. Planta Med. 1984 Feb;50(1):78-80.
  18. Phytother Res. 2005 Jan;19(1):78-80.
  19. Life Sci. 1999;65(12):PL137-41.
  20. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1999 Apr;19(4):209-11.
  21. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Dec 2;158 Pt A:25-32.
  22. J Sex Med. 2010 Apr;7(4 Pt 1):1469-77.
  23. Endocr J. 2004 Jun;51(3):311-5.
  24. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2008;5(6):50-5.

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Why Standard Cholesterol Tests Fall Short

Marie Parks

You receive a call from your doctor’s assistant telling you the cholesterol test you took came back fine. You happily go on with your day with this news and forget about it until your next checkup…without knowing that you’re missing some pretty critical data.

Knowing your cholesterol levels is definitely important, but this information is just scratching the surface compared to other crucial cholesterol-related health markers that can be tested.

Unfortunately, most doctors don’t perform these additional tests routinely. Hopefully, by getting this information out, more people will request these tests or find a laboratory where they can have them done. The information can truly be lifesaving.

Standard Cholesterol Tests are Limited

A typical cholesterol profile includes the basic measurements like total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL)—also known as the “good cholesterol”, and low density lipoprotein (LDL)—otherwise known as the “bad cholesterol.”

These values are good to know, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as they provide the total amount of cholesterol in the LDL particles...but they do not tell the number or size of LDL particles that are circulating in your blood.

Particle Size Matters

Why does the size of LDL particles matter? Picture a basket of baseballs and beach balls…which balls will be easier to slide past the goalie to score a goal? Just like the baseball, small, dense LDL particles more easily slide into blood vessels and start the process of dangerous plaque formation.

Therefore, it’s more favorable to have a low particle number count combined with large and buoyant LDL!

How to Measure Particle Number and Size

While LDL particle count and size aren’t included in a standard cholesterol test, they can be directly measured by a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy test.

Three More Must-Do Cholesterol Tests

Oxidized LDL is more likely to enter into the arteries, triggering inflammation and plaque build-up. Also, another reason you don’t want to have too many small and dense LDL particles is because these oxidize easier. When an apple is cut up, it turns brown and decays after about 10 minutes as a result of oxidation…you don’t want that happening to your LDL!

Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is a test that’s particularly important, especially for those with a family history of cardiovascular disease. MPO is an enzyme that’s released when white blood cells are attacking…usually foreign invaders, so this is a good sign. However, high levels of MPO may be a sign that this attack response is taking place in your arteries due to the presence of oxidized LDL, which results in inflammation and plaque formation. Elevated MPO is a double-edged sword because it also oxidizes other LDL as well as your beneficial HDL.

F2-Isoprostanes are produced as a result of oxidation and cause a cascade of cellular damage. Studies have indicated that people with higher levels of F2-isoprostanes are up to 30 times more likely to develop heart disease!

The Bottom Line

Don’t wait until it’s too late to know this essential piece of health information so that if necessary you can start taking action!

There are other tests (and blood panels that combine various tests) in addition to those discussed in this blog that may be helpful depending on your health status and history. If you'd like more info, contact our Wellness Specialists at 1-800-226-2370 - they'll happily point you in the right direction.

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Lactoferrin May Prevent Dry Eyes

Marie Parks

Cataracts typically occur as we age, and result in clouded, impaired vision. Cataracts are also the most common cause of blindness worldwide .1,2

In fact, about three million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year.3 While there are very few complications with cataract surgery, many people suffer from dry eye as a result of the operation.4-6

If you’ve ever undergone any type of surgery, you know that you’re usually given pre- and post-operation instructions to help heal as fast and safely as possible. This new research on lactoferrin offers hope for improving the healing process that takes place after cataract surgery.

Dry eye is characterized by insufficient tear quantity and quality, and can result in pain, irritation, and poor vision.

Lactoferrin and Dry Eye Prevention

Sure, there are a variety of lubricating eye drops on the market that you can resort to…but why not avoid having to use them by dodging dry eye altogether?

Your tears naturally contain a glycoprotein complex called lactoferrin. People with dry eyes not related to surgery tend to lave lower levels of lactoferrin. This makes sense as lactoferrin has shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, as well as the ability to enhance cellular growth for healing.7

Inflammation and eye irritation are common responses to surgery. Oral lactoferrin shows the ability to ease ocular inflammation and therefore reduce the occurrence of dry eyes after surgery.

Lactoferrin’s Effectiveness is Proven in Humans

After having cataract surgery, half of the patients were given lactoferrin supplements. The quality of the subjects’ tears were measured using “tear breakup time.” Higher quality tears are able to wet the eye surface and lubricate it quickly.

After 60 days, the group not receiving lactoferrin had worsened tear breakup times. On the other hand, the group taking the lactoferrin supplements had improved tear breakup times, which exceeded the non-supplemented group by almost 77%.7

Not only did the tear quality get better—so did the quantity. By day 60, the group supplementing with lactoferrin was producing almost 95% more tears!

Also, none of the subjects reported any side effects with lactoferrin supplementation. The drops that are used to manage dry eye can sometimes be painful due to the preservatives used and can also cause eye damage if they contain tetrahydrozoline.8 Therefore, this non-drop option may be wonderful news for such people.

More Dry Eye Support

There are nutrients in addition to lactoferrin that can help alleviate dry eyes besides eye drops. Maqui berry extract contains delphinidins, which protect the tear-producing glands of the eyes.9,10

With this recent research, there’s no reason anyone should suffer eye discomfort.

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cataract.html. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  2. Br J Ophthalmol. 2003 Jul; 87(7): 820–828
  3. Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/cataract-statistics/. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  4. Korean J Ophthalmol. 2009;23(2):65-73.
  5. PLoS One. 2013;8(11):e78657.
  6. Cornea. 2007;26(9 Suppl 1):S16-20.
  7. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(10):Nc06-9.
  8. J Am Optom Assoc. 1989 Mar;60(3):207-10.
  9. Food Chem. 2013;139(1-4):129-37.
  10. Panminerva Med. 2014;56(3 Suppl 1):1-6.

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How Taurine Boosts Brain Function


There is an undeniable link between the head and the heart. Cardiovascular function is associated with brain disorders, and vice versa. Not surprisingly, taurine's major benefits also involve both the heart and brain.

Taurine is listed as a "nonessential amino acid" because since it’s manufactured in the body, it theoretically doesn’t need to be consumed in the diet. However, “nonessential” shouldn’t imply “inessential.” As you'll soon learn, taurine is quite essential.

One of its earliest identified roles involves protection against dilated cardiomyopathy. Insufficient intake of taurine has been linked to the development of this condition, which prevents the heart from pumping an adequate blood supply.

Inadequate blood supply to the brain has been associated with various disorders. Additionally, it’s been shown that the brain or cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients have markedly lower levels of taurine.1,2

Taurine Slows Down Brain Aging

Taurine has been shown to play a role in the regeneration of the central nervous system, and researchers have concluded that it plays an important role in slowing the aging of the brain.3,4

Taurine has been shown to prevent the death of neurons and block mitochondrial dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease.5 This neuroprotective role conveys that taurine supplementation can help forestall age-related cognitive decline.6

In an Alzheimer’s disease model, taurine decreased the build-up of amyloid-beta plaque and improved cognitive defects.7

Recent research has demonstrated that taurine significantly increases the production of neuronal cells in the brain.8

In another study, taurine positively influenced the dentate gyrus, which is the area of the brain’s hippocampus involved in memory (that usually deteriorates with age).9

Taurine’s Brain Health Benefits

Taurine also has shown the ability to reverse toxin-associated reduction in neurite growth.10 Neurites are the axons and dendrites that project from neurons, which facilitate the transmission of messages from one neuron to another.

As mentioned previously, taurine positively impacts the cardiovascular system, which is profoundly involved in brain function. Taurine has been shown to improve glucose homeostasis, whose impairment can lead to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that may also impact the brain.11

Taurine is present in animal-based foods like beef, fish, and eggs. Vegetarians and others who avoid animal products have the option of using readily available and inexpensive taurine supplements.

The Bottom Line

Taurine, though labeled as nonessential, may be a critical substance for maintaining optimal brain as well as cardiovascular function as we age. Consider supplementing with it!

References:

  1. Arai H et al. Neurobiol Aging. 1984 Winter;5(4):319-21.
  2. Molina A et al. J Neurol Sci. 1997 Sep 10;150(2):123-7.
  3. Hu S et al. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 1997 Mar;26(2):98-101.
  4. Lima L et al. Nutr Neurosci. 2001;4(6):439-43.
  5. Sun Q et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 May 9;447(3):485-9.
  6. El Idrissi A et al. Amino Acids. 2013 Oct;45(4):735-50.
  7. Kim HY et al. Sci Rep. 2014 Dec 12;4:7467.
  8. Hernández-Benítez R et al. Dev Neurosci. 2013;35(1):40-9.
  9. Gebara E et al. Stem Cell Res. 2015 May;14(3):369-79.
  10. Chou CT et al. Amino Acids. 2015 Apr;47(4):735-44
  11. Santos-Silva JC et al. Amino Acids. 2015 Aug;47(8):1533-48.

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How to Fill the Fiber Gap

Marie Parks

Are you getting enough fiber? Even if you’re eating “healthy,” you may be a part of the population that falls into the “fiber gap” and falling short of the suggested intake, which can wreak havoc on your digestive and immune function.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a daily fiber intake of 28 grams for men and 22 grams for women over 51 years old.1 However, the average American takes in only around 16 grams of fiber per day.2

Not everyone enjoys the foods that are rich in fiber. Luckily, there’s an endless array of fiber supplements on the market. But which form (or forms) is best? We’ll tell you about three different fibers that offer immune support and improved intestinal health.

Why is Fiber so Fabulous For Your Health?

Not only does fiber fill us up so that we’re less likely to overeat,3 it supports various other aspects of health. Interestingly, a large study showed that individuals with the highest fifth of fiber intake had a 22% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause.4 That’s a pretty good reason in itself.

Fiber isn’t completely broken down by the human digestive tract. Don’t worry—this is a good thing! The undigested fiber gets fermented by beneficial bacteria living in the colon, which is important because there are breakdown products (byproducts) that are formed as a result of the fermentation process.5

These byproducts are mostly the short-chain fatty acids acetate, propionate, and butyrate that nourish and protect cells that line your colon wall, which is key for improved digestive health and immune function.6-8

Fiber also fights the culprit of many age-related diseases—metabolic syndrome (the combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, imbalanced blood lipids, and loss of blood sugar control). Various studies have shown the ability of fiber to help with all of these factors.9-19

Baker’s Yeast Balances Immune Function

Baker’s yeast provides a unique type of fiber called beta-glucan, which optimize your response to diseases and infections by “priming” your immune system.20

There are numerous ways that the immune system gets supercharged such as improving the function of T cells (white blood cells that fight disease)21 and increasing salivary immunoglobulin A (your body’s first line of defense against cold and flu viruses).22

Beta-Glucans to the Rescue

Your immune system is particularly susceptible to illness due to strenuous exercise and during times of stress. Two human studies have proven beta-glucans to be effective during these vulnerable times to reduce cold, flu, and upper respiratory symptoms, as well as boost overall well-being!23-26

For you allergy sufferers who have an overactive immune response to certain allergens…supplementation with beta-glucans was shown to modulate immune function, and therefore provide a reduction in allergy-related symptoms!27 Relief is in sight!

Fulfill Health Goals with Additional Fibers

Psyllium fiber and fiber from the fruit of the Baobab tree bring additional benefits to the table. Psyllium aids in the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids, which gives it the ability to reduce inflammation in the colon.28,29

Psyllium plays a large role in combating metabolic syndrome by supporting healthy levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.30-33 Additionally, since psyllium seed husks swell in water, it’s demonstrated to be effective for constipation34 and reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).35-38

Baobab fruit powder also helps to fight against metabolic syndrome.39-40 And it has unique prebiotic properties by promoting the growth of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which is a beneficial bacteria strain important for supporting intestinal health.41

The Bottom Line

Without sufficient fiber intake, your risk for a myriad of health issues increases. Beta-glucans, psyllium, and Baobab fruit can help close the fiber gap and ensure optimal health.

References:

  1. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf. Accessed April 5, 2016.
  2. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(5):642-8.
  3. J Nutr. 2010;140(4):737-44.
  4. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(12):1061-8.
  5. Scand J Gastroenterol. 1994;29(10):916-22.
  6. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-35.
  7. Nutrients. 2011;3(10):858-76.
  8. J Biol Chem. 2003;278(28):25481-9.
  9. Atherosclerosis. 1982;45(1):1-10.
  10. Drugs. 1990;39(6):917-28.
  11. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(6):1061-5.
  12. Br J Nutr. 1996;76(1):63-73.
  13. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41735.
  14. Am J Med. 1994;97(6):504-8.
  15. Diabet Med. 1996;13(4):358-64.
  16. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;65(1):107-13.
  17. Am J Cardiol. 1997;79(1):34-7.
  18. J Diabetes Complications. 1998;12(5):273-8.
  19. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(4):188-205.
  20. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606.
  21. Immune Netw. 2011;11(4):191-5.
  22. J Diet Suppl. 2013;10(3):171-83.
  23. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(3):478-86.
  24. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27162/. Accessed April 5, 2016.
  25. Available at: http://www.doveclinic.co.uk/downloads/contributedocs/Lifestylestresspaper.pdf. Accessed April 5, 2016.
  26. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012;31(4):295-300.
  27. Food Sci Nutr. 2013;1(1):90-101.
  28. Gut. 1992;33(9):1229-33.
  29. Clin Nutr. 2003;22(5):463-71.
  30. J Diabetes Complications. 1998;12(5):273-8.
  31. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41735.
  32. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(10):1269-71.
  33. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002;56(9):830-42.
  34. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Sep 15;92(6):500-4.
  35. Nurs Res. 2001;50(4):203-13.
  36. Evid Based Nurs. 2002;5(2):56.
  37. ACP J Club. 2002;136(1):23.
  38. Bmj. 2009;339:b3154.
  39. Nutr Res. 2013;33(11):888-96.
  40. Food Funct. 2010;1(2):149-55.
  41. J Dairy Sci. 2014;97(5):2591-9.

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