More than 2,000 years ago the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” But it’s only recently that health experts have completely understood what Hippocrates taught so long ago. Many studies have been done that further prove the link between your thyroid gland and your gut health.
Your Gut and Its Important Functions
The “gut” refers to the hollow tube that passes (with lots of twists and turns, of course) from your mouth to anus. This allows anything that you consume by mouth to be excreted through the other end of the gut if it’s something that cannot be digested.
This is the most basic and possibly most important role of your gut – to prevent any foreign objects or substances from entering inside your body. Like a gatekeeper. Another critical role is as host 70% of the immune tissue inside the body. This part of the immune system is collectively called GALT (Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue).
The GALT consists of different types of lymphoid tissues that are capable of storing immune cells (i.e. the T & B lymphocytes). These lymphocytes defend your body by producing antibodies, which fight against bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful foreign substances that are identified as disease-causing by your immune system.
How Leaky Gut Syndrome Can Lead to Autoimmune Disease
If you suffer from leaky gut syndrome (when your intestinal barrier becomes permeable) then it also becomes easier for large protein molecules to enter into the bloodstream. This is a big problem.
These large, incompletely digested protein molecules don’t belong outside of your gut. If they manage to make their way through this now too-permeable gut lining, your immune system will immediately tag them for destruction.
Unfortunately, in their attempt to protect your body against diseases-causing microorganisms, these attacks made by your immune system army may also lead to the development of autoimmune disease.
It’s like your immune army’s ability to recognize the enemy becomes confused by the presence of material that’s not supposed to be there. And it begins attacking your body’s tissues that it means to protect from harm.
One of these autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease), a disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid tissue. Hashimoto’s nearly always leads to a low thyroid condition, affecting metabolism, skin and hair, brain cognition, and energy levels.
It occurs more frequently in people who have an additional autoimmune dysfunction, and people with Hashimoto’s tend to also have other autoimmune disorders. (Maybe we should look for a shared root cause?)
According to the National Institute of Health’s website:
In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and interfering with its ability to produce thyroid hormones. Large numbers of white blood cells called lymphocytes accumulate in the thyroid. Lymphocytes make the antibodies that start the autoimmune process.
Hashimoto’s disease often leads to reduced thyroid function, or hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for the body’s needs. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism—the way the body uses energy—and affect nearly every organ in the body. Without enough thyroid hormone, many of the body’s functions slow down. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
Thyroid Hormones Help to Protect Your Gut
The tight junctions between cells in your stomach lining and small intestine lining are strongly influenced by your thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 play a crucial role in protecting the mucosal lining of your gut from ulcer formation caused by stress.
Studies reveal that people with gastric ulcers were found to have low levels of T3 and T4 hormones while their reverse T3 hormones were also in abnormal levels.
Gut Bacteria is Involved in Converting Thyroid Hormones
The gut bacteria are also very helpful in the process of converting inactive T4 thyroid hormones into the active form known as T3 hormones.
About 20% of your T4 is being converted into an active form (T3) inside your gastrointestinal tract. The “converter” is an enzyme known as intestinal sulfatase, which is produced by healthy gut bacteria.
When there is an imbalance between the amount of beneficial bacteria and the amount of pathogenic bacteria in your gut (intestinal dysbiosis), the needed conversion of thyroid hormones will be reduced.
As a result, most people who have poor gut health also suffer from the symptoms of thyroid problems.
Symptoms of Thyroiditis
paleness or puffiness of the face
joint and muscle pain
inability to get warm
difficulty getting pregnant
joint and muscle pain
hair loss or thinning, brittle hair
irregular or heavy menstrual periods
slowed heart rate
Fortunately, both gut health and thyroid insufficiency can be successfully addressed naturally, and at the same time.