How to treat thyroid related conditions with maca

Take 1-1.5 tsp per day of our Activated Yellow Maca or 2-3 tsp per day of our Activated Chocolate Maca for a min 6-12 weeks. For recipe ideas of how to include maca in your daily routine download our recipe booklet here or watch our recipe channel here.

maca for thyroid

Maca and thyroid dysfunction

The thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system, sits at the base of the throat and produces thyroid hormones and calcitonin. Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood and bone maintenance.

The thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system, sits at the base of the throat and produces thyroid hormones and calcitonin. Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood and bone maintenance. Thyroid hormones are produced through a complex cycle and controlled regulatory feedback. First, the hypothalamus excretes a releasing factor (TRH) to stimulate the production of thyroid secreting factor (TSH) from the anterior pituitary gland. Then, TSH initiates the synthesis and release of thyroid hormone (TH) from the thyroid gland (Figure 1). The thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) and are partially composed of either three or four iodine molecules, hence an association with iodine-based treatments for thyroid related issues. High levels of TH reduce gene transcription of components for TRH and TSH production, reducing their relative concentrations and acting as a homeostatic feedback loop1. Breakdown of TH is done by proteins composed of selenium, and therefore is an essential dietary element in healthy thyroid function. A blood test for TSH is the primary means of screening for thyroid dysfunction2. Thyroid disorders are uniformly observed more commonly in women than men3.

maca and thyroid function

Figure 1. Thyroid hormone production

Hypothyroidism is when there are low amounts of TH. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in countries with sufficient iodine intake4. Conventional treatment is levothyroxine, a synthetic version of TH. Other conditions can cause low, but not deleterious effects of TH, for instance, menopause. Furthermore, it has been shown that rebalancing thyroid function can enhance libido.

Sypmtoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Weight gain
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Myxedema (an oedema-like skin condition)
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Decreased sweating
  • Memory loss

Common causes of hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Hormonal changes (menopause etc)
  • Following surgery or radioiodine therapy (supplemental iodine)
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Adverse drug effects (e.g. IL2, Lithium5)

Conversely, hyperthyroidism is characterised by elevated circulating free thyroid hormones. It is estimated that in Western culture, approximately 1.2 per cent of people have hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism6.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased heat tolerance
  • Hand tremor
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Sometimes:

  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness

Common causes

  • Graves’ disease
  • Inflammation of the thyroid
  • Overactive thyroid nodules
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Taking too much iodine or thyroid medication
  • Tumours

Either hyper- or hypothyroidism can induce a generalised enlargement of the thyroid (a goitre). Thyroid hormones during pregnancy are subject to variation and should be carefully treated and monitored by a physician3. An adequate supply of nutritional selenium, iodine, iron, and vitamin D support a healthy, functional thyroid7,8. Dietary supplementation may be sufficient to reduce the symptoms of low thyroid hormone.

The Peruvian root vegetable maca, is often taken for the prevention of chronic diseases and maintenance of healthy endocrine function9. Maca is a type of cruciferous vegetable in the Brassica family, which are species often contraindicated in those with thyroid issues. However, traditionally maca is consumed by chopping, sun drying, and cooking the roots, which breaks down the glucosinolates often found in Brassica plants10,11 and protects the thyroid gland. Cooking maca does not change the nutritional quality of the product. Primarily, chopping and heating reduce the activity of myrosinase that produces isothiocyanate12, often avoided by those with thyroid conditions. Isothiocyanates are believed to reduce iodine uptake into the thyroid as the gland is more selective for these molecules than iodine. Therefore, maca should always be cooked – a dogma to which all our products adhere. It is therefore important to use an activated (heat-treated) maca for those with thyroid issues. All our maca is activated so does not require cooking before use. In Peru yellow maca is commonly used to support a healthy thyroid function and is sun-dried and boiled into teas, broths, porridge of soups and taken daily.

How maca works to improve health for thyroid related conditions

Maca contains many compounds that can treat the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, for example, iron and selenium. In a safety trial, black and yellow maca extracts were shown to be well-tolerated and safe13. In women, it was demonstrated that thyroid activity was not reduced after taking activated (heat-treated) maca14. Studies like this confirm the safety of using maca in this patient group to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with thyroid dysregulation.

Taking our heat-treated maca powder can reduce symptoms of low thyroid function, such as fatigue , as shown in endurance tests15-17. Taking maca can also relieve depression18, a common symptom between hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Furthermore, maca has anti-inflammatory properties19, which can be postulated to reduce thyroiditis conditions. Activated maca can restore heathy levels of TSH, as seen in a small study of overectomised rats20. These studies suggest the that regular consumption of an activated (heat-treated) maca may benefit thyroid function-related symptoms, and won’t negatively impact thyroid function and thyroid hormonal levels.

Note: There is no upper limit with maca and everybody is different, so it is important to find your ideal dose that is right for your body, for some this may be less than the recommended for others it may be more. If you experience positive health benefits then we suggest you continue treatment at that ideal dosage. The material provided on this website is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice or be a treatment for any medical condition. Users should consult a health professional if you have any concerns about your health, are starting any health or nutritional related treatment, or for any questions you may have regarding your own or any other party’s medical condition. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Bibliography

1. Chiamolera MI, Wondisford FE. Minireview: Thyrotropin-releasing hormone and the thyroid hormone feedback mechanism. Endocrinology. 2009;150:1091–1096. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19179434

2. Esfandiari, N. H., & Papaleontiou, M. (2017). Biochemical Testing in Thyroid Disorders. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 46(3), 631–648. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2017.04.002 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5957513/

3. Gessl A, Lemmens-Gruber R, Kautzky-Willer A. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2012;(214):361-86. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-30726-3_17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23027459

4. Mincer DL, Jialal I. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. [Updated 2019 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459262/

5. Berber, E. (2019). Causes of Hypothyroidism. [online] EndocrineWeb. Available at: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hypothyroidism/causes-hypothyroidism [Accessed 23 Sep. 2019].

6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2019). Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid) | NIDDK. [online] Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism [Accessed 23 Sep. 2019].

7. Köhrle, J. (2015). Selenium and the thyroid. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, 22(5), 392-401. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26313901

8. Hu, S., & Rayman, M. P. (2017). Multiple nutritional factors and the risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroid, 27(5), 597-610. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28290237

9. Valentová, K., & Ulrichová, J. (2003). Smallanthus sonchifolius and Lepidium meyenii-prospective Andean crops for the prevention of chronic diseases. Biomed Papers, 147(2), 119-130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15037892

10. Fenwick, G. R., Heaney, R. K., Mullin, W. J., & VanEtten, C. H. (1983). Glucosinolates and their breakdown products in food and food plants. CRC Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 18(2), 123-201. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398209527361

11. Kapusta-Duch, J., Kusznierewicz, B., Leszczyńska, T., & Borczak, B. (2016). Effect of cooking on the contents of glucosinolates and their degradation products in selected Brassica vegetables. Journal of Functional Foods, 23, 412-422.

12. Barba, F. J., Nikmaram, N., Roohinejad, S., Khelfa, A., Zhu, Z., & Koubaa, M. (2016). Bioavailability of glucosinolates and their breakdown products: impact of processing. Frontiers in nutrition, 3, 24. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2016.00024

13. Gonzales-Arimborgo, C., Yupanqui, I., Montero, E., Alarcón-Yaquetto, D., Zevallos-Concha, A., Caballero, L., & Gonzales, G. (2016). Acceptability, safety, and efficacy of oral administration of extracts of black or red maca (Lepidium meyenii) in adult human subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Pharmaceuticals, 9(3), 49.

14. Meissner, H. O., Reich-Bilinska, H., Mscisz, A., & Kedzia, B. (2006). Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women – Clinical Pilot Study. International journal of biomedical science :June IJBS, 2(2), 143–159.

15. Shin, S., et al., Gelatinized and fermented powders of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improve physical stamina and epididymal sperm counts in male mice. J. Emb. Trans, 2008. 23: p. 283-289. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291889082_Gelatinized_and_fermented_powders_of_Lepidium_meyenii_Maca_improve_physical_stamina_and_epididymal_sperm_counts_in_male_mice

16. Choi, E.H., et al., Supplementation of standardised lipid-soluble extract from maca (Lepidium meyenii) increases swimming endurance capacity in rats. Journal of Functional Foods, 2012. 4(2): p. 568-573. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464612000436

17. Lin Zheng, B., et al., Effect of Aqueous Extract from Lepidium meyenii on Mouse Behavior in Forced Swimming Test. 2001. p. 258-268. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-2002-0803.ch018

18. Ai, Z., et al., Antidepressant-like behavioral, anatomical, and biochemical effects of petroleum ether extract from maca (Lepidium meyenii) in mice exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress. Journal of medicinal food, 2014. 17(5): p. 535-542. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24730393

19. Zheng, W., et al., Lepidium meyenii Walp Exhibits Anti-Inflammatory Activity against ConA-Induced Acute Hepatitis. Mediators Inflamm, 2018. 2018: p. 8982756. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30647537

20. Meissner HO, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. Int J Biomed Sci. September 2006;2(3):260–272.

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Treating With Maca