One year ago I got my routine blood work done and I was pretty disappointed. 34 years old, 6'6, less than 10% bodyfat and on a consistent low carb diet with plenty of good quality food. My thyroid stimulating hormone was elevated and my active thyroid hormone was low.
As I peeled back layers I kept coming back to my gut health. Yes, there is a connection between your thyroid health and your gut health.You can not have optimal thyroid health if you do not have optimal gut health and vice versa.
How Does Your Gut Health Impact Your Hypothyroid?
Your gut health impacts your immune system health. When I consult with people I almost always suggest they go on a low carb, high fat diet and they almost instantly feel better. That's success right? No,are they managing their symptoms more efficiently or are they actually healing their gut and thyroid? Maybe both. Studies show that a carbohydrate restriction diet can lead to a 40-45% improvement in thyroid autoimmunity. Though I'm speculative as I think a lower carb approach is just managing the whatever issues exist.
The gut-thyroid connection is real. There’s study showing that by treating a bacteria known as H.pylori, you can significantly improve hashimotos disease. Since up to 90% of your hormones are made in your gut, it should come as no surprise that people with leaky gut seem to suffer from high thyroid stimulating low and low T3. While the exact processes are many, what you need to know is that any bacteria in the gut will cause fluctuations in thyroid hormone, insulin levels, blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
When you can significantly improve your gut health, you will have less hypothyroid symptoms, need less thyroid mediation due to increase absorption of your thyroid medication and have a higher feeling of general wellness.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth And Thyroid Health
One recent paper showed that there is a strong correlation between SIBO , small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and hypothyroid disease.What’s the connection? One strong risk factor for the growth of SIBO is slow gut motility which allows the bacteria to fester and grow. Does this lead your body to readily using up selenium which is needed for thyroid health? Maybe.
It may also simple be a result of long term stress that slows down digestive function and allows SIBO to grow and wreck havoc on your gut health. Either way, there’s a connection with your gut and thyroid. Your thyroid hormone strongly impact the strength of the tight junctions that make up your digestive tract and small intestine. As these tight junctions are weakened, you develop leaky gut which allows a lot of parasites and bacterias to pass through the digestive tract.
An imbalance between good and bad bacteria significantly impairs your thyroids ability to convert from inactive thyroid, T4 to the active T3. About 20% of that conversion happens in the gut. Another reason that we need a happy gut.
Testing For Thyroid Dysfunction.
How often does your doctor test various thyroid markers including T3, T4, Reverse T3, TSH and other markers without looking at your stool and testing for yeast, candida or H pylori? These bacterias matter. If we just look at basic thyroid blood markers then we'll have an incompletely picture of what's truly impacting the thyroid.
Low stomach acid and gut health.
Low stomach acid increases intestinal permeability and inflammation.Contrary to what is often seen in the mainstream media, you need stomach acid for healthy digestive function. Studies show a strong link between low stomach acid and autoimmune thyroid disease. If you lack stomach acid, which is common with todays stressful lifestyle. then numerous bacterias can grow in that low stomach acid environment.
Constipation As A Clue Into Thyroid Health
Constipation or lack there of, diarrhea, are both clues into your thyroid health.
Have you been constipated recently for an acute period of time? Well constipation limits hormone clearance via stool and causes elevations in estrogen that increases thyroid bind globulin (TBG). TBG binds to free thyroid hormone and renders it useless which presents as low thyroid on a blood test. Want worse news? Poor thyroid health increases constipation and allows bacterial overgrowth to occur. That’s a double whammy.
If you have impaired thyroid heath you may also experience reduced bile flow that causes digestive stress when you consume higher fat foods such as avocados,bacon or eggs. If you have diarrhea shortly after consuming these foods, it may be an indication of SIBO.
SIBO, Leaky Gut and Thyroid Health
What came first, SIBO or Leaky Gut? Hypothyroid or Leaky Gut? No one truly knows but it's safe to assume that all three are tightly integrated together with the primary cause being carbohydrate malabsorption as a result of bacterial fermentation. You eat starchy carbohydrates which increase gas levels which is why an elimination diet works so well.
Supplements for thyroid health and leaky gut
I try to combine nutrients for gut health and thyroid health together to avoid suggesting numerous products.
1) Selenium reduces thyroid autoimmunity
2) Vitamin D3 has been shown to reduce thyroid autoimmunity and there also seems to be a link being leaky gut and low vitamin D levels.
3) Digestive Enzymes with Betaine HCL for proper nutrient absorption and stomach acid production.
4) CoQ10. Interesting enough, the coQ10 used in studies was not ubiquinol so it’s more cost effective. In addition, coq10 has also been shown to increase athletic performance.
5) Oil of Oregano and Berberine for individuals suffering from diarrhea based conditions and allicin garlic if you are constipated
Where To Get Started
My entire goal when I work with any individual who has an impaired thyroid and gut health is the following.
1) Put them on a elimination diet to see if their symptoms and quality of life improves. After 30 days I begin to reduce certain foods that were previously problematic. Are they still gassy? Are they still bloated>
-I may also suggest a gut health stool test to really drill in on any bacterial overgrowth.
2) Begin providing a cocktail of nutrients for gut health suggested above.
3) Use anti microbial herbs starting with oil of oregano
4) Modify lifestyle factors such as sleep and sources of stress
5) Add in adrenal support herbs to reduce the overall stress response.
6) It's also important to note that you MUST modify your exercise volume and intensity or else you'll continually beat up your gut.