Learn why gut testing is important for your thyroid
“One in eight women can expect to develop a thyroid disorder at some point during their lifetime” – Amy Myers, MD
The thyroid is an endocrine gland that stores and secretes hormones that affect the function of virtually every organ in the body. This butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck is especially recognized for regulating the metabolic rate, which can in turn, controls whether you gain or lose weight.
Do you know what symptoms to look out for?
(Under-active thyroid) symptoms: Fatigue, weight gain or trouble losing weight, heat intolerance, dry brittle hair or hair loss, puffy face, depression, memory problems, higher cholesterol, muscle aches, brain fog, constipation, irregular menses and slower bowels
(Over-active thyroid) symptoms: Weight loss or trouble gaining weight, heat intolerance, tremors, irritability, nervousness, irregular or rapid pulse, sleep disturbances, frequent bowel movements, bulging eyes, thyroid gland enlargement
There are two main autoimmune diseases that also commonly affect the thyroid. Hashimoto’s disease is the leading cause of Hypothyroidism (under-active) and Graves’ disease often results in hyperthyroidism (over-active).
In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system produces antibodies that attack its own tissue leading to inflammation, deterioration or malfunction of the thyroid gland.
Common Causes of Thyroid Problems
Common causes of Thyroid problems can include: autoimmune disorders, genetics, stress, hormonal imbalances, Gluten, poor diet, nutrient deficiencies (especially Iodine, Zinc, Selenium), gut issues and Inflammation.
Working with an integrative doctor to identify the underlying root cause of the thyroid dysfunction is the most effective approach. With the right testing of the thyroid, gut and adrenals, careful symptom management, an accurate diagnosis, and customizing a treatment plan to address the actual cause(s) of thyroid dysfunction, can help people to get remarkable results.
Thyroid stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels are usually tested to determine if a person has thyroid issues, but these results alone miss critical information about thyroid metabolism. Pituitary dysfunction, autoimmune issues, Thyroid Binding Globulin issues, Thyroid resistance or under conversion of inactive T4 to active T3 would not show up with this standard testing.
To get the full picture, it is good to test TSH, T3, T4, FT3, FT4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid Antibodies as a minimum.
Why you should test the gut
There’s a strong connection between gut health and thyroid function. Systemic Inflammation in the gut that could be caused by parasites, fungal overgrowth, SIBO, low stomach acid, bacterial infections, leaky gut etc. can not only increase cortisol levels but can also reduce the conversion of T4 to T3.
Why you should test for Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut)
Intestinal Permeability (leaky gut) is commonly at the root of many autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune thyroiditis and Gluten is a contributing factor.
When you have gluten sensitivity but continue to consume gluten, the body will respond by producing Zonulin, a chemical that signals the tight junctions of the intestinal walls to open up, creating permeability and exposing the bloodstream to harmful foreign molecules (toxins, bacteria, microbes, partially digested foods etc.).
Every time your body is exposed to a dangerous outside invader, your immune system memorizes the structure and protein sequence, so that it can develop the perfect defense and try to recognize it in the future. Unfortunately, the immune system’s recognition system isn’t perfect; and as long as a molecule’s structure and protein sequences are similar enough, the immune system can be fooled into attacking it.
Gluten and casein are the most common hypothesized causes of molecular mimicry due to its structural similarity to the thyroid tissue. A breach in the gut barrier will cause the immune system to go on high alert, react with an inflammatory response, and this can eventually lead to a mistaken immune attack on the body’s tissues, including the thyroid gland.
Why you should test the adrenal glands
The adrenal glands are part of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the stress response. Chronic stress impairs thyroid function in many ways, including reducing thyroid receptor cell sensitivity, weakening immune barriers that can exacerbate autoimmune diseases, reduce conversion of inactive T4 to active T3, depress hypothalamus and pituitary function and of course high or low cortisol can cause hormone imbalances that affect the thyroid hormones. With a functional approach, thyroid disorders and the HPA axis would be addressed in tandem.
Iodine and Selenium
Iodine and selenium can support thyroid function but caution must be taken if combined with pharmaceutical thyroid medications as it could result in over stimulation or undesirable side effects (e.g. anxiety, heart palpitations or rapid pulse, shakiness, insomnia, irritability)
Sea vegetables such as Kelp, spirulina, wakame, arame, nori and hijiki can be beneficial sources of Iodine and 1-2 brazil nuts daily can provide a good amount of selenium. Other sources of selenium include wild tuna, organic chicken, eggs, shitake mushrooms, and turkey.
There are known foods that have a reputation for contributing to thyroid dysfunctions. Raw Goitrogenic foods can inhibit the uptake of Iodine, and disrupt thyroid fucntion. These include most cruciferous vegetables and some fruits, such as; kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, collards, spinach, watercress, peaches, strawberries and peanuts.
Steaming the vegetables reduces the goitrogenic effects, For example, steaming crucifers until they are fully cooked reduces the goitrogens to one-third the original value but should still be restricted to one portion per day. . Boiling crucifers for 30 minutes destroys 90 percent of the goitrogens. Raw green juices and smoothies should of course also be limited for people with hypothyroidism especially if an Iodine deficiency has been identified.