The thyroid and the gut; seemingly unrelated, but could actually be the missing link to understanding Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases.
The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck and is vital for proper metabolism function and body temperature regulation (along with other responsibilities). The gut, also known as the gastrointestinal tract, is the long tube that starts at the mouth and ends with the anus. In addition to digesting food and providing nutrients, the gut also houses over 70% of the immune system.
So, how are these two things possibly related and how do they explain autoimmune disease?
It really starts with a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome or intestinal hyperpermeability. This is a condition in which the intestinal barrier is unable to keep certain substances within the gut and they leak into the bloodstream. The gut, or more specifically, the small intestine is usually able to determine what should be released into the blood stream and lymph system and what should be passed along to the colon for elimination. When it becomes too permeable, the wrong things get through such as bacteria, parasites, undigested food, fat and even toxic waste.
This leads to an immune response. Because the immune system believes these particles to be foreign invaders, it feels the need to protect the body. While the motive is correct, this unfortunately leads to a hyper functioning immune system that can begin “defending against” other substances that are similar to those in foods and bacteria such as proteins in the human tissue, even the thyroid tissue.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition in which the body mistakes the thyroid tissue as a foreign object and begins “protecting” itself by destroying the tissue. This can lead to a couple of issues problems: 1) Hypothyroidism, a low-functioning thyroid gland or 2) Goiter, an inflamed and enlarged gland.
In order to lessen your risk of Leaky Gut Syndrome, you may want to be aware of the common causes which include,
- Celiac disease
- Chronic alcoholism
- Long-term or frequent use of antibiotics
- Food allergies
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only connection between the thyroid and the gut. Similar to the Leaky Gut scenario, an individual suffering with hypothyroidism can be wreaking havoc on their gastrointestinal system. One of the symptoms associated with low-functioning thyroid is constipation, one of the less-discussed symptoms. Constipation allows toxins from the stool to irritate the gut lining leading to inflammation and leaky gut.
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, it is important to regulate your gut health and speak with your physician about any supplements/probiotics you can take to help heal the gut or get things moving.