Most people think of weight issues or fatigue symptoms when the topic of thyroid disease is discussed. It’s true, these symptoms are prevalent but there are other symptoms that are commonly experienced as well. Digestive problems, in particular, are intertwined with the complicated, body-wide effects of thyroid disease.
Hypothyroidism can have a negative effect beginning in the stomach. When thyroid hormone production and/or absorption is low, this restricts the stomach’s ability to manufacture a hormone called gastrin. Gastrin is responsible for the production of hydrochloric acid, also known as stomach acid.
Having sufficient stomach acid is crucial to our digestion. When food is not broken down well enough, this can cause the small intestine to not allow it to pass. In essence, the food can stagnate and begin to rot in the stomach producing symptoms of heartburn.
This lack of stomach acid can also cause impaired absorption of vital nutrients including vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. When this occurs, anemias can develop as a result of the underlying hypothyroidism. Note: It is important to be evaluated if you have chronic heartburn. Self-treating with antacids can be harmful and counter-productive if you actually need more hydrochloric acid in your stomach, not less.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Many of the thyroid patients seen in our office exhibit what’s commonly known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). LGS can be the causative factor behind many digestive symptoms including bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. Essentially, LGS describes an intestinal lining that has become too permeable or “leaky.”
“What causes leaky gut syndrome?” The primary reason appears to be food allergies, especially gluten sensitivity. Food allergens can have a negative impact on a protein called zonulin. Zonulin modulates the permeability of the intestinal wall.
When the intestines are not able to fully restrict what trespasses through the digestive tract, unwanted particles of ingested food and other substances can end up in the bloodstream. This, in turn, can cause our immune system to become alerted and cause a condition called autoimmunity.
Digestive problems can be a clue to an underlying thyroid issue.
In fact, the most common thyroid problem in the U.S. is actually an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
When experiencing chronic thyroid-related or digestive symptoms, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who can determine the underlying problem. Often, treatment can be focused on what body systems need attention and positive results for the patient can be provided.