Updated: Nov 4, 2019
If your child has Down Syndrome, then you know how important monitoring the thyroid function is. The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck and it is one of the most important glands for the growth and development of the body. The thyroid secretes hormones that enter into the nucleus of the cells of almost all major organs and increases the metabolic rate by increasing the number and size of mitochondria within the cell. Mitochondria are usually referred to as the cell's powerhouse because they are responsible for the production of ATP, the energy that our bodies use to function and thrive.
Unfortunately, people with Down syndrome tend to have lowered thyroid function. Lowered thyroid function can wreak havoc on the body causing a delay in growth and mental development, a lowered body metabolism and lower IQ, especially verbal IQ. Having a proper functioning thyroid is therefore paramount in maintaining and promoting the health of your child with Down Syndrome. While taking a synthetic form of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, may be necessary for those with lowered thyroid function, there are additional options when it comes to helping to stimulate the thyroid naturally.
Here are three herbs that can help to promote thyroid health. Always be sure to speak with your local naturopathic doctor before giving your child any of these supplements.
Bacopa monnieri: I've written about bacopa and it's effects on the thyroid gland here. Bacopa is one of my absolute favorite herbs especially since it has such a wide range of benefits for those who have Down Syndrome. Bacopa is thought to help the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone, specifically T4 which is converted to T3, the active hormone the body uses to carry out its functions. It is also a nootropic herb which means that it helps to enhance cognition, or mental ability. Bacopa helps to enhance cognition through increasing the repair of damaged neurons (brain cells) and encouraging the growth of new ones . There is evidence that bacopa helps improve memory and learning.
While bacopa has thyroid stimulating abilities and nootropic abilities, it also is a powerful anti-oxiadant which helps to reduce oxidative stress or free radicals which are usually increased in a person with Down Syndrome. Greater oxidative stress leads to accelerated aging and potentially dementia which people with Down syndrome suffer from at higher rates than the typical population. There is also emerging evidence suggesting that bacopa may even have a beneficial effect on certain cancers . Adding bacopa to your child's supplement regimen can be extremely helpful to reduce the chances that he/she will develop dementia in the future while benefiting the thyroid and improving cognition.
Glycerrhiza glabra: G. glabra better known as licorice is a delicious way to help support the adrenal glands as well as the peripheral conversion of T4 to T3. T4, as described above, is the more abundant storage form of thyroid hormone in our bodies, but T3 is the powerful active hormone that the body needs. T4 is usually converted to T3 in the peripheral tissues and licorice helps with that conversion by balancing adrenal function and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Glycerrhiza glabra also protects the mitochondria, the cell's powerhouse from oxidative stress. People with Down syndrome are prone to more oxidative stress than the typical population. High oxidative stress reduces the much needed conversion of T4 to active T3 hormone. G. glabra helps to minimize the amount of oxidative stress on the body and helps to promote optimal conversion of T4 to T3 .
Withania somnifera: Also known as Ashwagandha, W. somnifera has long been touted as a beneficial herb for the thyroid. Research shows that people suffering from subclinical hypothyroidism, low thyroid function that has not yet been formally diagnosis as thyroid dysfunction, benefitted greatly from taking Withania. Within 8 week of treatment, TSH, T3, and T4 levels were significantly improved .
Although the way ashwagandha works to benefit the thyroid, its mechanism of action, isn't yet fully known, there is belief that it stimulates the thyroid itself to produce more T4. As the thyroid produces more T4, it will have the building blocks needed to produce the powerful T3. This will allow the body to use the thyroid hormone that it needs to grow and thrive. There has been a case of thyroid toxicity with the usage of withania so it is always best to see your naturopathic doctor before giving any of these supplements to your child.
If your child is suffering from low thyroid function, consider adding these herbs to their supplement regimen for an easy gentle boost for thyroid health
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