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How Thyroid Therapy Can Heal Your Gut & Improve Thyroid Function

Does a Happy Gut Mean a Happy Thyroid?

What does your gut have to do with your thyroid gland? More than you might suspect. In fact, if you’re experiencing thyroid-related health issues, there’s a good chance your symptoms can be traced right to your gut — specifically, to the trillions of microbes living within it (collectively referred to as the gut microbiome). Maybe it is time to consider thyroid hormone therapy in Tampa, FL.

Thyroid Therapy Tampa FL

According to recent research and what we have observed in our own clinical practice, restoring thyroid health often comes down to healing the gut.

Understanding the Importance of the Gut Microbiome

More than 100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi (yeasts), live on and within our bodies.

The densest and most diverse populations live in the gastrointestinal tract (the gut), where they play a vital role in digestion.

It’s where they break down the food we eat (especially complex carbohydrates and fiber), thereby enabling the body to extract nutrients from it more readily.

Some microorganisms even synthesize essential vitamins, notably vitamin K and B group vitamins including biotin, cobalamin, folates, nicotinic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamin.

A healthy gut with a balanced and diverse population of microorganisms also prevents pathogenic (harmful) bacteria and fungi from overpopulating the gut and causing diseases such as stomach ulcers (caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria) and increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut — often caused by the fungus Candida albicans).

Studies have also linked a diverse gut microbiome to improved heart and brain health, enhanced weight management, lower blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of diabetes.

Microbial dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) makes the gut more susceptible to infection from pathogenic microbes, and has been linked to numerous chronic diseases ranging from obesity to inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) to multiple sclerosis (MS).

Investigating the Connection Between the Gut Microbiome and Endocrine Health

Since the early 1900s, the medical community has suspected a connection between microbial dysbiosis and thyroid health and function. Modern research has provided evidence to support this suspected connection:

  • In a 2014 study, participants with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) had significantly lower levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and significantly higher levels of Enterococcus species compared to healthy controls.

  • In a 2007 study, 54 percent of people with a history of autoimmune hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) tested positive for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), compared to 5 percent of healthy controls. In healthy individuals, microorganisms are concentrated in the large intestine.

    In SIBO, certain microbes infect the small intestine and proliferate, causing bloating, gas, distention, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

  • Germ-free rats (raised in sterile conditions and lacking gut bacteria) have smaller thyroid glands than those of rats raised conventionally.

  • In one study, rats fed kanamycin — a broad-spectrum antibiotic — had significantly lower iodine uptake by the thyroid.

  • Lactic acid bacteria supplementation in broiler chickens increased blood plasma thyroid hormones, and Lactobacillus reuteri supplementation improved thyroid function in mice.

  • Microorganisms residing in the gut recognize and often respond to endocrine molecules, including thyroid hormones.

  • Microbial dysbiosis often causes inflammation of the gut lining, leading to truncation of the villi — small fingerlike projections that increase the surface area of the gut lining, which is responsible for transporting nutrients to the body.

    This truncation reduces the absorption of certain nutrients, including iodine and selenium, which are essential for thyroid health.

  • Some microorganisms living in the gut compete with the thyroid for essential nutrients. For example, an overabundance of certain microorganisms competing for selenium can negatively impact the synthesis of selenoproteins (proteins that includes a selenocysteine amino acid residue), resulting in thyroid dysfunction.

While this evidence highlights the impact of dysbiosis on the thyroid, thyroid dysfunction can also trigger or contribute to dysbiosis.

Thyroid hormones stimulate gut motility — the contraction of smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, which is responsible for moving food and waste products through the tract. Reduced motility and constipation create an ideal environment for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

6 Steps to Heal Your Gut and Improve Thyroid Function

Here are six steps for restoring balance to your gut microbiome, healing your gut, and, as a result, improving your thyroid function:

  1. Review/adjust any medications you’re taking. Certain medications, such as antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can cause or contribute to dysbiosis. Stopping or reducing these medications may be an important first step.

  2. Get tested/treated for SIBO or intestinal pathogens. Getting tested can confirm or rule out SIBO or infection by intestinal pathogens.

    If dysbiosis is detected, we can treat it with antibiotics or antifungals (natural or pharmaceutical as needed) and restore a healthy balance through diet and supplementation with prebiotics and probiotics. We recommend the following three tests:

    • SIBO breath test: The Aerodiagnostics SIBO test checks for hydrogen and methane gas levels in the air you exhale before and after drinking a glucose or lactulose solution. You can collect your breath samples at home and mail them to the lab for testing.
    • Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus (GI MAP) stool test: This non-invasive stool test uses DNA technology to identify parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and it assesses overall digestive function. This test shows the composition of gut microbes, so we can work on re-establishing a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut.
    • Great Plains Organic Acids Test (OAT): This simple, non-invasive, at-home urine test checks for yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract. (See our previous post, Diagnosing the Root Causes of Illness with the Organic Acids Test, for details.)

  3. Check/treat your home, car, workplace, and HVAC system for mold. Water-damaged buildings (and vehicles) can harbor bacteria and fungi (yeasts) that can colonize your digestive system and trigger dysbiosis.

    Testing and treatment for toxic mold can improve digestion and immune function, in turn helping to combat diseases of the thyroid. (See our previous post, “Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment of Mold-related Illness.”)

  4. Eat plenty of fermentable fiber (prebiotics). Fermentable fibers are in foods such as cassava, sweet potato, and plantains. Gut bacteria ferment these fibers and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

    SCFAs have been shown to inhibit enzymes closely involved in epigenetic regulation — determining whether a gene is expressed or not. Among other things, SCFA-mediated inhibition of these enzymes increases the expression of thyroid receptors.

  5. Take probiotics or eat fermented foods: Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir, contain lactic acid bacteria, which have been shown in some studies to improve thyroid function.

    High-quality probiotics that contain these bacteria can also be helpful.

  6. Heal your gut: In addition to restoring a healthy balance to your gut microbiome, take steps to help your body repair any damage to the gut lining: Identify and avoid inflammatory foods, manage stress, and eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of gut-healing foods such as bone broth.

    For some people, healing the gut may be sufficient to alleviate thyroid symptoms.

For more about restoring thyroid health, read our two-part series: Restoring Thyroid Health Part 1: Hypothyroid” and “Restoring Thyroid Health Part 2: Hyperthyroid.”

Thyroid Therapy Tampa FLMore important, if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, or another thyroid-related condition, or if you have any of the symptoms described in our previous thyroid posts, BioDesign Wellness Center strongly encourages you to consult with a functional medicine practitioner for testing and treatment.

Even if you’re receiving conventional treatments that provide some symptomatic relief, your thyroid health and function will not improve (and will probably continue to deteriorate) until any underlying issues are diagnosed and treated. If you’re in or around Tampa, Florida, contact us for an initial consultation.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about understanding the importance of the gut microbiome is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.