The Gut/Thyroid Link

by Dee Atkinson MNIMH

The gut is a delicately balanced and sensitive system, and often at the centre of many health conditions, so it’s not surprising that we feel things so acutely in that area. Hippocrates himself said that all disease begins in the gut and so it seems is the case with a raft of health problems from the obvious, such as IBS, to the less obvious like depression, type two diabetes and some thyroid disorders.

The intestine is the first line of defence for the immune system, screening what gets into our body and filtering out the bad stuff.  But when our gut is not operating as it should and becomes “leaky”, it can allow harmful large protein molecules to escape into the bloodstream. This, in turn, causes the immune system to attack these intruders, which results in inflammation. Research has found that these attacks by the immune system can play an important role in the development of conditions like Hashimoto’s Disease, a disorder that occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for the body’s needs.

Reduced thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, is often the result of Hashimoto’s disease. Thyroid hormones regulate our metabolism and, consequently, have an effect on nearly every organ in the body. This means that, without enough thyroid hormone, many of the body’s functions slow down. All too often, treatments for hypothyroidism concentrate simply on the thyroid, but this means that other triggers, like gut issues and imbalances, are missed.

All of this is just one of many reasons to look after our gut.  “Leaky gut” occurs when the lining of the intestine becomes more porous and permeable but there is still some debate about the causes of this. Antibiotics and over the counter pain medications are almost certainly culprits, as is a diet high in refined sugar, preservatives and processed foods. Coeliac disease is another major cause of leaky gut so if your thyroid is a problem then it’s a very good idea to cut all gluten out of your diet and get tested for the Coeliac disease.

Repairing the gut is vital and there are several ways to go about doing this.

1)    Take a digestive enzyme to help your body break down protein molecules which may exacerbate leaky gut.

2)    Take a probiotic daily to replenish the healthy bacteria in your intestines. In our shop we recommend and stock Quest Mega8 Biotix and Viridian Procare probiotics as well as probiotics from Bio-Kult and Optibac.

3)    You should also consider taking a pre-biotic, such as Molkosan or Slippery Elm, to prepare your gut so that the probiotics can work effectively as well as for general long term support.

4)    Try cutting out all gluten, dairy and caffeine from your diet; this will help you find out if you have an intolerance to any of these foods which are often responsible for triggering gut problems and will also give your digestive system a rest from dealing with these foods, which are often highly processed.

5)    Your gut is probably inflamed so you should be taking anti inflammatory herbs like Ginger, Chamomile and Turmeric to help heal the area. We can mix a soothing tea for you in our dispensary that can be used as part of your gut repair regime.

If you take care of your gut, and support its natural protective superpowers, then it will return the favour. As Hippocrates also said: “The natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

 

References:

Aviva Romm, MD. - The Gut-Thyroid Connection: 4 Steps for Breaking the Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Cycle

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Health information on Hashimoto’s Disease

SCD Lifestyle - Leaky Gut Syndrome in Plain English – and How to Fix It

Chris Kresser – The Thyroid-Gut Connection

 

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