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Gut-Thyroid Connection

Gut-Thyroid Connection

One of the most amazing things about the human body is the connection between all the different systems within the body. I really like to emphasize that everything is connected because often times we are sent to see a specialist who specializes in just one area of the body. 

For example, it is really tempting to go see a doctor specializing in thyroid health for suspected thyroid problems. Just remember that they often ONLY look at the thyroid and then prescribe medication or therapies dedicated solely to the thyroid.

If we take a global approach, we can see that there are MANY other factors that contribute to thyroid health and that improving the health of other areas in the body, like the microbiome, can help us improve thyroid function too!

Let's take a look at how improving gut health can also improve thyroid health!

It is hard to believe that all the microbes that live in our gut can be so involved in our thyroid function and metabolism, but these microbes are actually very intertwined with our physiology and actually recognize and respond to our stress hormones AND to our thyroid hormones. This means that our gut bacteria have the ability to regulate our metabolism in response to these signals!

So it may come as no surprise that when our gut microbial community is happy and balanced, they help convert inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3) right in our gut to help improve our metabolism.

BUT, on the flip side, when our microbial community is less than optimal, it can actually reduce thyroid function and slow our metabolism.

One of the main ways that our gut microbes can contribute to poor thyroid function is by increasing endotoxins in the gut.

An endotoxin, aka lipopolysaccharide (LPS), is the major component of the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. LPS provides structure and protection for the bacteria.

"The liver plays an important physiological role in lipopolysaccharide (LPS detoxification," so normally LPS is not an issue in a person with a healthy liver, and LPS can be excreted without causing problems.

There are two mechanisms where LPS can become a problem and therefore lead to poor thyroid function:

Poor Liver Function

When our liver is not functioning optimally, LPS is not removed from our system in a timely manner and this build up of LPS in the gut leads to suppression of our thyroid gland and suppression of our immune system.

Ok, now let's take this back to our gut...

The second mechanism where LPS can become a problem is if we have intestinal permeability aka "leaky gut."

When our gut is "leaky," LPS can move into the blood stream and wreck havoc on our thyroid function by inhibiting our body's ability to convert inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3).

But wait, because LPS is going to give us a double whammy, active thyroid hormone needs to find cell receptors to activate cellular activity and LPS has been shown to decrease thyroid receptors.

This is a HUGE problem because less circulating active thyroid hormone AND a lower number of thyroid hormone cell receptors means lower thyroid function.

So what can we do?

  • Adding prebiotic foods like onions, leeks, garlic, apples, oats, asparagus, and cacao help feed our good bacteria and keep them happy.

  • Eating fermented foods (if well tolerated) and/or taking a spore-based probiotic can help improve gut health and reduce endotoxin load. ( Talk to your practitioner - not all probiotics are made for every body.)

  • Adding in gut healing foods like bone broth, gelatin, and collagen can help soothe and heal a "leaky" gut. 

Simple steps in the right direction is the name of the game.

 

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