Have you been dealing with hypothyroidism or are looking for a better way to help support gut health? Read this blog to discover how important gut health is for living a full life and how functional medicine can help you improve your health.
Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, can have far-reaching effects on various bodily functions, including digestion. The thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, and when its levels are imbalanced, it can lead to digestive issues. Many individuals with hypothyroidism often experience common digestive problems like constipation, bloating, and indigestion. Fortunately, by understanding the connection between hypothyroidism and gut health, we can implement strategies to alleviate these digestive problems and improve overall well-being.
In this short guide, we’ll explore problems associated with hypothyroidism and three effective strategies to support better gut health for individuals with hypothyroidism.
Common Problems Associated With Hypothyroidism
Often referred to as an “underactive” thyroid, hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The thyroid hormone also plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, energy levels, and various bodily processes including immune system function. As such, when thyroid hormone levels are imbalanced, a range of problems can arise impacting physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
A few common problems associated with thyroid disorders include:
- Fatigue and Lethargy
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms
- Problems with Gut-associated Lymphoid Tissue
- Weight Gain and Difficulty Losing Weight
- Cold Sensitivity
- Hair Loss and Dry Skin
- Impaired Cognitive Function
- Mood Changes and Depression
- Muscle and Joint Pain
- Menstrual Irregularities
- Elevated Cholesterol Levels
We should also note that one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease — an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. As such, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid disease, but Hypothyroidism itself is not considered an autoimmune disorder.
Additionally, Celiac disease can also affect the thyroid gland. And any of these autoimmune thyroid diseases may cause complications leading to hypothyroidism.
How the Thyroid Gland Affects Gut Health
While most people associate the thyroid with metabolism and energy levels, its impact extends beyond these aspects. And the intricate connection between the thyroid gland and a healthy gut is a topic gaining increased attention in the field of functional medicine.
The following includes a few examples of how an overactive thyroid can affect gut health:
Thyroid Hormones and Gut Motility
Thyroid hormones, particularly T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), play a crucial role in maintaining the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These hormones influence gut motility, ensuring the smooth movement of food through the digestive system. When thyroid function is impaired, as in the case of hypothyroidism, gut motility may slow down, leading to issues such as constipation and bloating — and issues with intestinal permeability.
Gut Permeability and Common Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases
The gut plays a significant role in the immune system, and the integrity of the gut lining is vital for overall health. And the role of the gut microbiome in autoimmune conditions is also significant. In conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disorder, gut permeability (leaky gut) can exacerbate the autoimmune response. Increased gut permeability allows harmful substances to pass into the bloodstream, triggering an immune reaction that may also target the thyroid gland, perpetuating the autoimmune process.
Gut Microbiome and Thyroid Function
The gut microbiome, a complex community of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, has a profound impact on overall health. Studies have shown a bidirectional relationship between the gut microbiome and thyroid function — the thyroid gut axis. An imbalance in the gut microbiome known as dysbiosis can also influence thyroid hormone metabolism and production. On the other hand, thyroid hormones also influence the composition and balance of gut bacteria.
Nutrient Absorption and Thyroid Health
Proper nutrient absorption is essential for supporting thyroid function and overall well-being. And the gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the food we eat — including essential minerals like iodine and selenium which are crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis. In addition, gut issues that affect nutrient absorption can lead to deficiencies that may hinder thyroid function.
Stress, Cortisol, and Gut-Brain Axis
Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut-brain axis, impacting both gut health and thyroid function. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that — when elevated long-term — can suppress thyroid function. Additionally, stress can alter gut motility and increase gut permeability, leading to digestive problems.
3 Functional Medicine Strategies to Help Alleviate Digestive Problems
By taking a proactive approach to address the connection between hypothyroidism and gut health, you can experience improved digestion and increased vitality on your journey to better well-being. Remember, small steps towards better gut health can lead to significant improvements in your overall health and happiness.
1. Eat Nourishing Foods for Gut Health
The foods we eat significantly impact our digestive health, especially for individuals with hypothyroidism. And a balanced diet rich in nutrients can promote better digestion — and provide essential support to the thyroid gland.
Consider incorporating the following foods into your diet for a healthier thyroid-gut connection:
- Fiber-rich Foods: Fiber aids in promoting regular bowel movements and alleviating constipation, a common issue for those with hypothyroidism. You can also add whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes to your meals to increase fiber intake.
- Probiotic Foods: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support gut health by maintaining balanced gut flora. As such, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics.
- Bone Broth: Rich in essential nutrients like collagen and amino acids, bone broth can help heal and soothe the digestive tract — reducing inflammation and discomfort.
- Selenium-rich Foods: Selenium is a vital mineral for thyroid function and gut health. As such, incorporating foods like Brazil nuts, seafood, and whole grains can help to ensure sufficient selenium intake.
2. Manage Stress and Prioritize Sleep
Stress and inadequate sleep can exacerbate digestive problems for individuals with hypothyroidism. Chronic stress triggers an inflammatory response in the body, affecting digestion and potentially worsening thyroid function. Additionally, insufficient sleep disrupts the body’s natural rhythms, leading to hormonal imbalances.
To manage stress and improve sleep quality:
- Practice Mindfulness: Engage in activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Establish a Sleep Routine: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body’s internal clock.
- Limit Caffeine and Screen Time: Minimize caffeine consumption, especially in the evening, and avoid screen time before bedtime to improve sleep quality.
3. Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner
If you experience persistent digestive issues related to hypothyroidism or thyroid disease, seeking guidance from a functional medicine professional is essential. This is because functional medicine practitioners can conduct thorough evaluations to identify specific factors contributing to your digestive problems.
- Medication Management: Ensure that your thyroid hormone medication is appropriately prescribed and adjusted as needed to optimize thyroid function and alleviate associated symptoms.
- Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies: Work with your functional medicine provider to identify and address any nutrient deficiencies that may be impacting your gut health and thyroid function.
- Customized Treatment Plan: A functional medicine professional can design a personalized treatment plan, including dietary recommendations, detoxification, lifestyle changes, and potential supplements, to support your gut health and overall well-being.
Remember that functional medicine takes a holistic approach to health, focusing on identifying the root causes of health issues rather than merely treating symptoms. When addressing the connection between the thyroid gland and gut health, functional medicine practitioners know that the gut microbiota influence thyroid function in many ways.
How Tri-Cities Functional Medicine Can Help With Thyroid Dysfunction
At Tri-Cites, we understand that all of our patients are different in every way. And what supports healthy thyroid function for one individual might have little effect on someone else. For example, some people notice positive changes in gut health when just slightly changing up their diet — while others don’t notice any change at all. This is why at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we strive to create a customized treatment plan — developed specifically for each person.
With your specific needs in mind, Dr. Radawi develops a plan to get you started. And our team will be with you every step of the way as you take better control of your health.
Dr. Radawi works with his team of health coaches and staff to provide a better alternative for those with health problems like hypothyroidism and other related conditions. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we want you to live a more abundant life while enjoying the benefits of excellent health.
Want to learn more about how functional medicine could help support gut health and improve digestive function? Take the first step:
- Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to the gut health concerns you are facing.
- Schedule a Free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
- After your discovery call — if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout Tennessee and into Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, Abingdon, VA, Grundy, VA, Asheville, NC, Boone, NC.