Issue # 238 September 18, 2014
Welcome to KnowYourThyroid.
Today, I am sharing an article I found on hyperbiotics.com. There is more and more research connecting the health of our thyroid to the health of our gut. Learn how improving your gut health will also improve your thyroid health.
Could Your Gut Health Be the Root of Your Thyroid Problems?
If you are aware of the importance that gut health plays in immune system function, then you will not be surprised to learn that thyroid function has an intricate relationship with gut health as well. This is not a simple linear process, however. Problems with the gut can cause thyroid issues and vice-versa. Probiotics, our beneficial resident gut microbes, are key players in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract and thyroid function. While that seems like a tall order, understanding the thyroid’s role and its connection to gut health should clarify how a healthy balance of gut bacteria can prevent serious thyroid dysfunction.
Why is the thyroid gland so important?
Most people understand that the thyroid has something to do with metabolism, but we depend on this gland for many other important processes. Here is a short list of the major functions that the thyroid controls:
– Heart rate
– How fast food moves through the GI tract
– How fast and how efficiently cells replicate in the body
– Amount of muscle strength
– How fast the body uses calories (metabolic rate)
If the thyroid is dysfunctional, it affects every cell in the body, and someone with a diseased thyroid often suffers a myriad of symptoms besides being over or underweight. A faulty thyroid can cause a number of other serious diseases as well. People with overactive thyroids are running on “high” all of the time. The excess of thyroid hormone causes the heart to beat faster, cells to die and replicate faster, and digestive and metabolic processes to work at a higher rate. Hyperthyroidism caused by autoimmune disease is treatable but not curable, and it can shorten one’s lifespan dramatically.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism slows everything down. One may suffer chronic constipation from slower digestion; a reduced metabolism can cause obesity, which is a risk factor for many health problems as well. Slower cell turnover can inhibit wound healing, which increases one’s risk for infections.
How the thyroid works 101
Before we jump into the connection between gut and thyroid health, it is important for us to understand the purpose of this gland and the hormones involved in its processes. The thyroid gland, which is located beneath the “Adam’s apple” of the throat, works in concert with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus region of the brain. Here is a break-down of the functions of each:
Pituitary Gland- responsible for synthesizing, storing, and releasing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), a chemical that regulates the thyroid’s functions. The pituitary gland “tells” the thyroid when to make and release its primary hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxin (T4).
Hypothalamus- tiny region of the brain that drives hormonal production and controls body temperature, hunger and thirst, and circadian rhythms (biological clock). The anterior part makes neurohormones, which are hormones that stimulate production of other hormones. One of these neurohormones is thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release TSH.
Thyroid gland- produces, stores, releases T3 and T4. T4 is a prohormone, which is a chemical catalyst or regulator needed by other hormones. Prohormones are essential, but they have very little hormonal effect on their own. T4 is converted to T3 in the gut using intestinal sulfatase, an enzyme that is produced by the probiotic flora of the gut.
Here is where gut health becomes important!
We rely on our gut bacteria to release intestinal sulfatase, an enzyme needed for converting the prohormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3. People with probiotic imbalance may not have enough of the enzyme on hand to make adequate levels of T3. While an over or under-active thyroid is diagnosable with blood tests measuring TSH levels, poor T4 conversion in the gut can produce symptoms of hypothyroidism that will not create anomalies in blood work.
Consequences of inadequate T3/T4
The tissue in the gut, or gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), makes up 70-80% of the body’s total immune tissue. This is why we say that the gut is our “second brain” and why it is so important for immune system functions. GALT is made of immune cells, such as T and B-lymphocytes, also known as “killer white cells”, which fight antigens by making antibodies. The gut lining also protects the body from harmful foreign substances and pathogens by keeping gut contents from entering the bloodstream.
The thyroid hormones TSH and TRH are important for the growth and health of GALT. T3 and T4 hormones are important for protecting the gut lining from gastric ulcers. When one’s T3 and T4 levels are too low, he or she is vulnerable to inflammation and stress-related ulcers, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome and increased cortisol levels. The hormone cortisol is important during stressful situations, but too much can suppress active T3 production, which leaves excess inactive (and useless) T3 in the system. This is why traditional thyroid function tests will not reveal hormonal imbalances caused by leaky or inflamed gut tissue.
Gut and thyroid health are entwined
If your gut is unhealthy, you have a higher risk of developing Hashimoto Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys thyroid cells. Those suffering from this disease may have alternating periods of hypo and hyperthyroidism, which wreaks havoc on all of the body’s systems. Hashimoto’s disease, like many inflammatory conditions, can also lead to an inflamed, leaky gut.
What causes Hashimoto’s disease? There are numerous triggering conditions for this autoimmune disease including:
– Insulin resistance
– Celiac disease
– Gluten intolerance
– Inflammatory bowel disease
– Irritable bowel syndrome
– Hormone fluctuations caused by pregnancy or menopause
– Chronic infections
– Any number of chemical sensitivities and allergies
We have covered the relationship between many of the above conditions and proper gut flora balance in previous articles. Since any of these problems could increase one’s risk for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you can understand how your guts probiotic colonies can help prevent thyroid dysfunction as well. Additionally, high quality probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods can help repopulate and repair a broken microme, heal a leaky gut and reduce symptoms of thyroid malfunction. The key here is to make sure that you choose foods with live cultures and supplements that provide a wide range of probiotic strains.
Pro-15 supplements deliver billions of live flora, and the patented bio-Tract technology ensures that most of the bacteria survive stomach acids and make it to the intestines where probiotics are needed most. Furthermore, Pro-15 biopearls do all of this without artificial ingredients, chemicals, preservatives, GMOs, and common allergens like wheat, gluten, eggs, casein, and soy.
*The information in this article is for editorial purposes only and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
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