How Your Thyroid Affects Your Gut Health?

January 31, 2022

There are very few thyroid issues that do not also affect the gut. This article aims to explain all of the thyroid-gut connections, as well as how they should affect your treatment plan.

What Is The Thyroid & Its Connection To Gut Health

Your thyroid is a gland located in the neck just below the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple). It has two lobes that release hormones into your bloodstream that help regulate your metabolism.

The thyroid controls how quickly or slowly you use food energy, even how fast you burn calories. Thus if something is wrong with your thyroid hormone levels, you can expect difficulties with many bodily processes, including digestion and absorption.

Thyroid hormone affects the digestive system by increasing the speed of food passing through, promoting peristalsis, and reducing gut transit time.

Since thyroid problems seem to affect so many aspects of one’s gut health, it is important when treating thyroid issues to treat gastrointestinal symptoms as well.

How Thyroid Issues Can Become More Serious

The thyroid’s hormones can affect the development of gut tissues. Suppose thyroid hormones are not available during embryonic development. In that case, it can lead to aganglionosis (where all or part of the bowel is without nerve cells), leading to a condition called Hirschsprung disease

In turn, an underactive thyroid gland contributes to inflammation in your gut tissue because thyroid hormones reduce inflammation, which can lead to: 

  • Changes in gut bacteria
  • An unhealthy microbiome
  • Low stomach acidity
  • Changes in gut cell structure and function
  • Altered intestinal motility (wave-like patterns of activity that move gut contents along)

A Thyroid Issue Can Affect Gut Microbiome

Since thyroid issues can cause inflammation in the gut, it will change your gut microbiome by decreasing the number and diversity of bacteria that live in your gut. 

This can lead to other thyroid problems such as autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), thyroid cancer, and thyroid abscess. As a result, doctors believe that an impaired microbiome plays a role in thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease (hyperthyroidism). 

It is important to note that since both an unhealthy microbiome and thyroid issues decrease stomach acidity, hypothyroidism causes delayed stomach emptying, leading to severe bloating and constipation because food stays in your digestive tract for more extended periods.

A thyroid condition can also lead to lactose intolerance because thyroid issues decrease gastric acid production. With thyroid issues, your body makes less stomach acid; therefore, you may not digest the sugars in dairy products well. Lactose intolerance is a common problem for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or thyroid cancer because these conditions reduce the effectiveness of enzymes that naturally help break down lactose.

What Does This Mean For Treatment?

Since thyroid problems seem to affect so many aspects of one’s gut health, it is important when treating thyroid issues to treat gastrointestinal symptoms as well.

Your thyroid affects your gut microbiomes, but you can help support thyroid health by treating an unhealthy microbiome which, in turn, will improve thyroid function. 

Your gastroenterologist can recommend how to best treat gut and thyroid issues, while also working together with other physicians (endocrinologists especially) who are involved in your thyroid treatment plan.

Gastro Florida Can Help You Maintain Your Gut Health

Do you need more information and care to help with your gut & possible Thyroid symptoms? Gastro Florida’s team of professionals is here to help. Set up an appointment with us today, servicing several areas throughout Florida.