Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, has a widespread and notable impact on many bodily functions. One of the most common issues associated with hypothyroidism is disruption of the digestive tract in the form of constipation. The discomfort, inconvenience, and sometimes lengthy duration of this intestinal trouble can be hugely frustrating. Those who are suffering from chronic constipation may benefit greatly from learning more about hypothyroidism, its intestinal influence, and practical methods of relieving constipation.
A Brief Look at the Thyroid and Hypothyroidism
The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck that influences bodily function through the release of various hormones. The two most important being the inactive form, thyroxine (T4), and the active form, triiodothyronine (T3). On its own, T4 does not influence bodily processes. However, once it is converted to T3 it begins to have an impact. When T3 reaches the appropriate systems, cells, or tissues, it increases activity in the area. This energizing effect is why many people refer to the thyroid as the body’s throttle or gas pedal. However, because of its impressive influence, thyroid dysfunction can result in major disruption.
In the case of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, the thyroid is simply unable to keep up with the demand for thyroid hormone. This may be caused by a number of factors including poor signaling, reduced conversion of T4 to T3, inhibited hormone transport, and many others. Regardless of the underlying cause, hypothyroidism triggers a decline of bodily activity that can result in a systemwide slowdown. In many cases, those with hypothyroidism experience gastrointestinal issues with one of the most common being constipation.
How Poor Thyroid Function May Cause Constipation
The thyroid influences many different processes including digestion, intestinal motility, and waste elimination. Therefore, it plays an important role in the occurrence of constipation.
The process of digestion requires that the intestinal wall absorb liquids from the foods we consume to form more manageable waste in the form of stool. However, removing too much fluid from food products can make stools difficult to move. As waste products begin to take shape, muscles in the digestive tract contract to transport the newly formed stool to the rectum where it can be safely removed. In cases of hypothyroidism, the intestine may not be able to move these products forward.
If the thyroid is unable to produce the hormones necessary to activate the intestinal muscles, contractions will be too weak to move stool and other substances through the intestine. This can effectively slow down or completely halt the digestive process. Such blockage results in constipation. If thyroid-related constipation is left unresolved, waste may remain in the digestive tract for an extended period and increase the risk of more severe issues including hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction.
If you are suffering from chronic constipation, it is important to consider the possibility of hypothyroidism. Constipation caused by poor thyroid function is unlikely to improve without first optimizing thyroid function. Therefore, the first step to resolving thyroid-related constipation should be to seek out appropriate testing and treatment from a knowledgeable thyroid doctor.
6 Ways to Alleviate Constipation
In addition to resolving underlying thyroid dysfunction, there are several ways to support healthy intestinal motility. Below are practical methods to help alleviate constipation.
Drink More Water
As mentioned above, if the intestine removes too much water from the foods we consume, constipation is likely to develop. It may be possible to counteract overly aggressive absorption by increasing the amount of fluids, specifically water, in your system. Ideally, people with constipation should drink 64 ounces of water or more every day while avoiding dehydrating or highly caffeinated beverages such as coffee.
Take the Opportunities When they Arise
Those who are constipated may rarely experience the urge to evacuate their bowels. As such, when the body signals or presents an opportunity to do so, it should be taken. The most common times to experience signals of bowel movement is 15 to 45 minutes after eating. This is the best opportunity to have a bowel movement because the colon is most active, and the body is prepared to release. Ignoring such signals can reduce their impact and make defecation more difficult in the future.
Change Your Medication
Constipation is a common side effect of many medications. As such, it is important to be aware of any drugs you are currently taking that may contribute to poor intestinal motility. If you are already on such medications, speak with your doctor about changing the dose or using a different product to avoid intestinal stoppages.
Laxatives are likely the first thing that comes to mind when considering treatment for constipation. This is likely because they are easily acquired and can support greater intestinal motility. However, in the case of chronic constipation it is important to take proper precautions before recklessly self-medicating. Most laxatives are habit forming, meaning it is best to use them only for a short time and under the care of a trained physician.
A powerful way to support greater intestinal wellness, digestion, and movement is by using a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are collections of numerous living microorganisms that support the digestive tract. Typically, probiotics include a large number of bacteria that support digestion and nutrient absorption, which helps soften stools and relieve constipation. However, it is important to supplement carefully as inappropriate use of probiotics may actually make constipation worse.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber improves intestinal motility and may help break up blockages in the large intestine. Therefore, eating high-fiber foods can be greatly beneficial for those suffering from any form of constipation. Ideally, individuals get 28 to 35 grams of fiber every day by eating foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, beans, berries, as well as most fruits and vegetables. However, those with hypothyroidism should be careful to avoid over-consuming raw goitrogenic foods as they may further inhibit thyroid function.
Combat Constipation by Supporting the Thyroid
Hypothyroidism is a serious condition that can have a powerful negative impact on digestion. As such, the occurrence of hypothyroidism is frequently accompanied by gastrointestinal issues such as constipation. Resolving thyroid-related constipation requires thorough treatment and individual optimization of thyroid function. You may be able to support digestive wellness and improve intestinal motility by employing the various methods mentioned above. If you suffer from chronic constipation, be sure to have your thyroid checked and intestine supported through positive lifestyle changes and treatments.
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