Hypothyroidism and Leaky Gut

Hypothyroidism and Leaky Gut

Ever heard the saying, “heal your gut, heal your health?”

Theoretically, it would make sense.

Your digestive function is your only access to nourishing foods and because the food you eat is designed to be the fuel for your body, having a healthy, functioning digestive system is imperative to healthy thyroid function and  good health.

But what breaks down the health of the digestive system in the first place?

You might be tired of hearing it but the answer is stress.

Stress is at the root of all disease.

In our last blog we explored how stress (a physiological reaction) affects the health and function of the thyroid.And in order for your gut to be healthy and well balanced, you must have a healthy thyroid.

How can we say this in a more simplified way?

If your thyroid is being suppressed your gut is being suppressed. If your gut is being suppressed, your thyroid is being suppressed.

The effects of stress on the thyroid and the gut are a vicious, vicious cycle and if you stand any chance of healing your gut this nasty cycle of events is essential to break!

Despite tremendous efforts there has been case after case of bloating, gas, diarrhea along with an assortment and long list of other digestive issues where no food elimination diet, no amount of drinking broth and no detoxification attempt made has been enough

If you want to heal your gut you have got to get your body out of chaos!

The digestive tract and function is a top to bottom process (meaning if something is out of balance from the get go, everything following will be too) and a portal for nutrients from the environment to gain access to the circulatory system.

Before this transfer occurs, the foods have to be reduced to very simple molecules by a combination of mechanical and enzymatic degradation. The resulting sugars, amino acids and fatty acids are then transported across the lining of the intestine, known as the epithelium and into the blood.

Like any well-run factory, proper function of the digestive system requires robust control systems. Control of the digestive system is achieved through a combination of electrical and hormonal messages originating in the GI systems own nervous and endocrine system as well as from the central nervous system and other endocrine organs such as the adrenal and thyroid glands.

According to Hans Selye MD, with stress more than 50% of gastric juices are halted and peristaltic movements is inhibited (leading to constipation) as blood is shunt away from the gut and to the extremities in preparation for fight or flight. Remember, from an evolutionary point of view, stress is the body’s signal to run like hell and digestion is not a priority when running for your life.

Excess cortisol not only reduces the production and secretion of hydrochloric acid (HCL) , an essential piece to the signals being sent down the tract, it also compromises the body’s first line of defense, secretory IgA (ie. your immune system). Salivary enzymes, acid levels in the stomach gastric acidity and surface mucous production not only assist in digestion but are an essential tool to protecting the inside from the outside.

The reduction in enzyme production leads to stagnation in the gut, which then leads to the body relying on bacteria to break down foods instead of the intended digestive enzymes.

Over time this leads to the formation of toxic by-products (endotoxins), bacterial imbalances or dysbiosis, a sluggish liver and the recirculation of estrogen, which eventually damage the intestinal walls. Furthermore, low stomach acid, increases intestinal permeability, inflammation and infection resulting in a number of GI issues including leaky gut.

Imbalances in gut bacteria interfere with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to active to active thyroid hormone T3 explaining why those experiencing thyroid like symptoms have normal labs.

The GI tract is heavily laden with 70-80% of all immunoglobulin producing cells (GALT -gut associated lymphoid tissue). In fact, the intestine possesses the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body.

Thyroid hormones influence tight junctions in the gut. These tight junctions are closely associated areas of two cells whose membranes join together to form the impermeable barrier of the gut. Normal thyroid levels have been shown to protect gut mucosal lining from stress induced ulcer formation while also influencing the development of the GALT.

The influence of thyroid hormones on the gut is immense. Low thyroid hormones make it difficult to heal the gut, while an inflamed and leaky gut contributes to many illnesses including hypothyroidism. After exploring the interrelationships between cortisol, thyroid health and the effects these have on the immune system,  we can begin to understand how specific digestive diseases such as leaky gut may be associated with autoimmune thyroid processes, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Can food choices exacerbate the issue?

Yes. 100%

Think about it.

If your ability to produce digestive enzymes is being compromised, food choices then become a very big conversation.

Consuming excess amounts of foods high in PUFA’s such as raw veggies, grains, greens, nuts and seeds are extremely damaging to the cells and place a tremendous amount of stress on a compromised digestive system.

In addition, these foods are:

  • anti-thyroid and immunosuppressive
  • non-digestible and a huge burden on the liver
  • have similar actions to estrogen, which stimulates the stress reaction

Part of the healing process must include consuming metabolic foods your body can digest and avoiding those with properties known to burden the digestive system.

Over time and as your resiliency begins to build back up and digestive processes are restored, incorporating these foods in moderation and with proper preparation are not as much of a burden.

Here are some minor things you can do to begin the process of restoring balance and healing your gut:

  1. Eliminate the ingestion of nuts and seeds, as well as their respective oils.
  2. Cut way back on veggies, always over cook them and pair them with a fruit or root. Veggies are not a metabolic carbohydrate and metabolic carbs in the proper amounts and in proper balance are essential to restoring thyroid function.
  3. Utilize more fruit (preferably cooked) in your diet. Cooking your fruit assist in the digestive process while also helping to regulate blood sugar, break the stress cycle and up regulate thyroid hormone conversion.
  4. Drink homemade broth 3x per day with an optimal carbohydrate (fruit or root)
  5. When eating root vegetables, always overcook them and pair them with a fruit.
  6. Always eat 1-2 RAW carrots per day. Fiber in carrots are non-digestible and aid in the absorption and elimination of toxins and estrogen.
  7. Breathing exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and massage the gut. Try breathing a 5-5 (inhale-exhale) tempo for 5min, 3x a day

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