I recently got a really great question about the use of ginger for cooking, and what relationship ginger shares with your thyroid overall. If you were ever curious or concerned about whether or not you should be cooking with ginger, this discussion is for you.
The question I got was as follows: Hi Dr. C, I love your recipes but see that they use ginger. Don’t we have to avoid ginger if we have thyroid problems?
I am super happy to dive into this question for you and to help make sense of it for you. Let’s discuss the facts, the sides of the argument, and what it means for you…
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Ginger: Safe Or Unsafe?
There are really two sides to this argument that I see out there.
On the one hand, there are some things that can affect your thyroid health. These are things that you wouldn’t expect and are completely counterintuitive.
On the other, there are many things that are talked about that engender a lot of unnecessary fear (in my opinion). That, by itself, is unproductive because it makes us worry for little reason.
Can Ginger Be Bad For Your Thyroid?
There are two distinct ways that I often see this written about.
The first one concerns issues with TH1 (otherwise known as immune regulatory cells). The general idea here is that, for some time, it was thought that TH1 and TH2 ratios were important drivers of autoimmunity (and, therefore, thyroid disease).
Extending that theory, the thought was that many people with thyroid disease have too much TH1 activity (otherwise known as TH1-dominant).
Key Insight: A concern here was that ginger was thought to raise TH1 activity in the body.
To put all this together, if you have thyroid disease, if your TH1-to-TH2 ratio is important, and you are TH1-dominant, it was believed you would want to avoid other TH1-dominant things (like ginger).
By 2015, the entire theory of TH1 and TH2-dominance between a driver of autoimmunity (or being relevant in general) was pretty well discredited.1 It is no longer an idea or theory that is taken seriously (even though, at one point, it was).
Key Insight: Even at the time, I noted a lot of conclusions being drawn that were simply too far ahead of the research. It was plausible, but it was too definitive for the time.
While I can understand the desire to create a “good list” and a “bad list” to individualize choices, all of these things did not pan out. That’s why the idea of TH1 and TH2 ratios simply isn’t a strong argument to write off ginger just yet.
Further Case Reports
After performing a deep dive into the data, I did find a case report that was written about a woman who seemed to develop subacute thyroiditis after ingesting 1 tsp of ginger in honey for 10 days.2
Here are some additional details to really help us break this down:
- The case involved a 34-year-old female
- She experienced thyroid pain and swelling
- In addition, fever and racing heart
After being treated with NSAIDS, beta blockers, and steroids, her condition seemed to improve. Then, a year later she ate ginger candy and these symptoms showed up yet again.
But, they resolved quickly on their own and seemed to go away.
Let’s start by breaking down the condition of “subacute thyroiditis.” This is not related to Hashimoto’s disease, and not an autoimmune version of thyroid disease.
We do not know exactly why it happens, but it seems to be driven by viral infections. Some people who get a cold or the flu, they develop this acute issue within the thyroid.
You might even consider it a cold for your thyroid. It is sore, you may feel drained, and your thyroid function is altered. That said, it is also self-limiting.
Key Insight: Overall, it is very rare and does go away on its own. There is no data suggesting a connection to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or hypothyroidism.
Altogether, in this particular case, there was no mechanism known by which ginger could have made this happen. We know a lot about what ginger does in the body, but none of the things which it does are at all related to the way subacute thyroiditis happens.
The best evaluation is that this case was more likely to be a coincidence, not correlation, which means that ginger likely did not have much of a role to play.
Ginger: The True Superfood
Based on the data we have, it is difficult to build a case against ginger being harmful to our general health. The data has either been dismissed or is truly coincidental and invalid as a basis for guiding our thoughts on ginger.
What we know about ginger is that it is a good thing, even a great thing! It is one of the true superfoods out there, and I want you to know a bit more about it.
The basic stuff is that “ginger root” is not a root, it is a rhizome (the stem). In fact, you can even plant the version you buy at the store and grow your own ginger.
In terms of toxicology, it is right up there with carrots in terms of how toxic it can be for us, or in this case how low in toxins it is. Because you may be able to get too much, but it is more of an irritant than a toxicant.
Human Studies On Ginger
So, now that we know the basics, what does the data tell us about ginger? I pulled together some of the most impactful studies about ginger to help guide our thinking today.
There have been papers showing that ginger helps the rate of:
- Increasing lipolysis (fat breakdown)
- Suppression of lipogenesis (fat formation)
- Lowering intestinal fat absorption while controlling appetite3
Ginger can also help with:
- Metabolic Syndrome (Read More: Healing Your Adrenals)
- Sports Performance
- Type Two Diabetes (Read More: Preventing an Underactive Thyroid From Causing Diabetes)
In addition, it can also help with:
- Nausea and vomiting for those undergoing chemotherapy or who are pregnant
- Acting as a “gastroprotective,” meaning that it is protective for the stomach
- Cutting the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Acting as a radioprotective (protecting from the side effects of radiation)
Pretty great stuff, right? That is only a shortlist of what human studies have been provided in terms of the benefits of ginger. They are real and very effective.
How Should You Consume Ginger?
Now that we know about ginger, and that it is completely okay to consume, how should we go about introducing it into our daily lives?
There are multiple ways, so let me share some inspiration with you…
Including ginger in your tea is a great start, but ginger can also be used in recipes, such as:
- A wide variety of Asian-style dishes
- Desserts of all kinds
- An aromatic accompaniment to things like fish and poultry
One of my favorite ways of keeping ginger around is by tossing the stem in the freezer. This is a great way to save your ginger before it goes bad, and is as simple as using a microplane to shave it when you are ready to use it in any recipe.
Dried Or Fresh Ginger?
Most of the data that we have is on dried ginger. However, both dried and fresh ginger are quite similar. Dried ginger is only a little bit higher in shogaol (which is known to be the most cancer-preventive).
The fresh alternative is a little bit higher in gingerol, which is where a lot of the benefits show up. Dried still has gingerol, of course, but the fresh version has more of it.
If you swap out one for the other in a recipe, please know that they are not equal amounts and you may need to do some converting to result in the right taste.
My Favorite Ginger Recipe
I want to leave you with one of my favorite recipes involving ginger: my homemade ginger ale!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1.5 cups chopped, peeled ginger – about 1/2 pound
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup allulose (or stevia/lo han/xylitol to taste)
- 4 cups of mineral water, chilled
- 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Once you have all that prepared, simply follow these basic directions:
- Simmer ginger in water for 40 minutes, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Strain liquid removing solid ginger.
- Return water to pan.
- Stir in remaining ingredients.
- Refrigerate until chilled.
- Mix in sparkling water.
This is a great way to easily enjoy some ginger, and is one of my all-time favorites. Overall, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think!
Ginger & Your Thyroid
After today, I want you to know that you are more than welcome to enjoy ginger in your diet. It is completely safe for you, and your thyroid, and also has a whole host of other benefits.
If you are still concerned about your thyroid, though, I hope you’ll try out the Thyroid Quiz today (Click Here: Take The Quiz). It should give you some great insight on your thyroid, and what you can do to optimize your health starting today!
1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK285552/
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2876930/
3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29193411
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Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.