Does Thyroid affect the Gut?
The thyroid and gut connection is very important as the health of one affects the other. Our body is a complex system with a million parts that all need to work together to achieve balance and optimal health.
When there’s an imbalance or inflammation in one part of your body, others need to find a way to adjust and take over in order for all the body functions to work. Sometimes, this can be done with minimum damage and effort, but other times it can go out of control and cause disease, a variety of dysfunctions, and send even more inflammation throughout your entire body.
A healthy thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones that help regulate and control your metabolism. When your metabolism is working well, it converts the food you eat into energy and absorbs all the necessary nutrients while getting rid of the toxins in your body. This way, your body is able to sustain strain, endure physical and mental challenges, push through workouts, and allow you to focus on your daily tasks, without any digestive discomfort.
When your thyroid function is impaired, the production of hormones doesn’t go as smoothly as it should and impacts your entire body. Whether your thyroid starts overproducing hormones or slows the production down, neither of the cases is good for your metabolism, and with it, your gut.
Hyperthyroidism and the Gut
In the case where your thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones, you develop a condition called hyperthyroidism. Since your thyroid is overactive, it causes your metabolism to speed up. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include a rapid heartbeat, weight loss, anxiety, and an increased appetite.
In most cases, hyperthyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disease called Graves’ disease which makes your own immune system attack your thyroid gland. It’s also accompanied by low acid production in the stomach, but with your metabolism sped up, it’s known to cause diarrhea.
Hypothyroidism and the Gut
On the other hand, hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormones or doesn’t produce them at all. In return, your metabolism slows down, there’s a great probability of weight gain, and it makes you feel fatigued and sluggish.
In most cases, it’s caused by another autoimmune thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which also causes your immune system to attack your thyroid, damaging it to the point that sometimes the only way to heal is to extract it surgically and start a lifelong hormone replacement therapy.
An underactive thyroid causes low stomach acid, malabsorption of nutrients, constipation, and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth).
Your gut is the name for your gastrointestinal system and your microbiome, a combination of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, parasites, viruses, and funghi. When your gut is in balance, these microorganisms work together so that your gut can perform all of its body functions in the optimal way.
The gut helps stimulate and support your immune system, synthesize vitamins and minerals B, absorb all nutrients, and helps break down toxins so that they don’t cause inflammation and wreak havoc in the body.
But, when your gut is inflamed and there’s an imbalance between good and bad bacteria and other microorganisms, that creates the perfect setting for a plethora of diseases, infections, and inflammatory conditions. Your immune system weakens and it’s unable to perform its function properly, allowing free radicals to cause damage in the body.
When your intestinal barrier is damaged due to inflammation, an infection, or an autoimmune disease like celiac disease, that allows antigens to pass through into the blood stream and activate the immune system to the point of attacking your own thyroid gland. That’s why keeping your gut healthy ensures your thyroid stays healthy too.
How to Support Your Gut Health?
The best way to support your gut and keep it healthy is through diet and lifestyle changes which will reduce inflammation and keep it at bay while at the same time nourish you with micro and macronutrients your body needs to thrive.
Some of the best foods that support your gut health include:
- Prebiotics – also known as dietary fiber, this group of nutrients act as food for your microbiome. They might not be digestible for nutrient uptake purposes, but their role is to feed your good bacteria and help keep them alive. Some of the best natural prebiotics include jerusalem artichoke, avocados, bananas, quinoa, oats, lentils, sweet potatoes, and dark chocolate.
- Fermented foods – this group of foods contains good bacteria which when enters your microbiome adds on to the healthy bacteria you already have, so you can balance out the bad. The most popular fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, kefir, and natto.
- Omega 3-rich foods – these include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies, as well as flaxseeds, and walnuts
- High-antioxidant foods – antioxidants help combat free radicals and their oxidative damage and including more of the foods containing them into your diet reduces inflammation, keeps your cholesterol low, controls your blood sugar levels, and helps you prevent the development of many diseases
- Superfoods – these powerful foods contain all of the best plant compounds in a tiny amount, helping you attack toxins, bacteria, viruses, and any sort of inflammatory agents from all sides. Some of the most incredible superfoods come from Peru and in their purest form, they can help support your health. My favorite superfoods include Criollo cacao, yacon syrup, maca, camu camu, ginger, lucuma, and goldenberries.
Foods and drinks to avoid:
- Ultra-processed foods
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils
- Excess sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Too much meat and animal products
- Fortified cereal and other processed carbohydrates
Other than food, there are other ways to support the health of your gut and with it, your thyroid:
- Abstain from negative habits like smoking and drinking alcohol
- Pay attention to your sleeping habits and improve the quality of your sleep
- Implement relaxing activities to help you unwind and reduce stress
- Perform regular yearly check-ups and micronutrient panels so you make sure you tackle any issues or deficiencies as soon as possible
- Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydration
- Educate yourself on the importance of specific foods and routines that can help support your health instead of causing harm
The thyroid and gut connection is indeed, a powerful one. A healthy thyroid promotes a healthy metabolism and a healthy microbiome supports optimal thyroid function. On the other hand, an impaired thyroid function causes your metabolism to either speed up or slow down, causing weight loss, weight gain, inflammation, bacteria overgrowth, and nutrient malabsorption. An imbalanced microbiome causes damage to the intestinal wall, activating your immune system and potentially developing thyroid disease.
There’s always so many things in play when one part of your body is not working properly, and when it comes to your thyroid and your gut, they’re so intricately connected that you cannot think of one without the other. Pay attention to your diet and implement some relaxing and unwinding routines into your day. That’s the best way to support your thyroid.