Is your IBS affecting your thyroid?

I notice that a high percentage of my thyroid patients also complain of digestive stress: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, reflux and gut pain.  One patient who I have been working with and is becoming educated about the importance of gut health for proper thyroid function told her endocrinologist that she believed her IBS was connected to her hypothyroidism.  Her doctor’s response was to laugh it off, saying ‘You know, everybody says that!” As if it was an absurd and invalid observation. Woman with tummyache

What irks me about this response is not that the doctor does not see a causative relationship. Certainly correlation does not equal causation.  What is troubling is that she completely dismisses any possible correlation.  A good scientist, as medical doctors should be, would look at this and think “Wow, all of my thyroid patients have gut issues. Maybe there is something here that needs to be investigated.” But that thinking requires getting outside the traditional boxed-in thinking that all body systems are separate. Unfortunately many doctors still do not believe that the leg bone is connected to the hip bone…well you get the idea.

In fact we know now that most Hashimoto’s patients have immunological or genetic sensitivity to gluten, and that immune reactivity to gluten can prompt an immune attack on the thyroid.  We also know that most autoimmune patients have intestinal permeability, a condition also known as ‘leaky gut’ where the gut barrier is inflamed and allows larger than normal molecules to slip into the bloodstream, prompting an immune reaction.  Some top researchers believe that a ‘leaky gut’ is in fact a necessary condition to develop an autoimmune disease.

There is a similarly high correlation between gluten, leaky gut and IBS. Most IBS sufferers do better on a gluten-free, if not grain-free diet. Here’s another thing though: you need a healthy gut to efficiently convert thyroid hormone to an active and usable form for the body. With a lot of gut inflammation and dysbiosis, this conversion does not happen so well and you can have symptoms of thyroid imbalance, even if your thyroid itself is working fine.

If you are having digestive difficulties along with low energy, brain fog, stubborn weight gain, low mood or motivation, feeling cold, dry skin, muscle pains or any of the other many symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, you may have an undiagnosed thyroid problem.

If you’d like to learn more about the root causes of your chronic disease conditions, sign up for one of our periodic free workshops on our events page, or call us at Functional Health and Acupuncture Institute for a consultation.