Why Proper Stomach and GI System Function is Critical for Thyroid Function
Most patients that I see have a few things in common.
1. They were diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
2. They take some form of thyroid hormone replacement.
3. They continue to experience some degree of thyroid symptoms despite conventional treatment.
Just like you, if they were not having symptoms, they would not be investing their precious time trying to educate themselves on what their doctor should already know.
When I consult with a patient with ongoing thyroid symptoms I know I must start searching and begin putting the pieces together if I am going to help that person. This can be hard for most patients to understand at first because they have been told to just take this thyroid medication and problem solved.
For most patients, that advice is dead wrong.
Sure, it is going to replace the hormone your body no longer can create, but it usually does not address the underlying condition and factors that play a huge role in the patient’s health. Taking some form of thyroid replacement is just the first step. It does not consider other possible mechanisms that could be contributing to your problem and symptoms.
Although I have talked about the gut-brain-thyroid connection in the past, I thought I should write another blog going over the stomach and GI connection again because it is critical to the improvement of your symptoms.
Gut microorganisms can affect thyroid function at all levels including:
- Thyroid receptor site resistance – where your hormone can’t actually bind to your receptors. This creates a classic presentation of ongoing thyroid symptoms despite being able to see normal amounts of hormone in the blood stream.
- Decreased T3 production
- Increased reverse T3
- Decreased TSH secretion from your pituitary
What does all of that mean? It means you have to look at more than just a patient’s TSH if get to the bottom of why they are having low thyroid symptoms.
If you ever experience bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea and you also have thyroid symptoms then you have to consider the impact that gut microorganisms are affecting your thyroid. Dealing with the gut issue is a necessity if you want to feel good again.
Every week I get several emails asking me that question. I usually respond by telling them that to start off with, I am not a Thyroid Doctor or Specialist. If I was, then we would not have the success with our patients that we have and we would not have all the testimonials if we only looked at the Thyroid. Instead, we look at the entire person as a whole, not just parts, and try to figure out why their body is not healing itself the way it was designed to do.
Many patients with autoimmune thyroid have their gland removed surgically. The problem is that the underlying immune dysfunction is still there. This often results in patients having difficulty utilizing their hormone replacement and as a result they continue to have the same thyroid symptoms. If this sounds familiar, there is hope.
Our approach is to focus on the immune aspect of this so that you can actually get relief of your thyroid symptoms.
So Where Do You Start?
1. Identify and remove the trigger(s) that aggravate the immune system (foods, chemicals, hormonal imbalance, etc.).
2. Quench the existing body-wide inflammatory cascade (with diet & lifestyle changes and specific supplements that down regulate pro-inflammatory processes and up-regulate anti-inflammatory processes).
3. Aid in the repair the GI tract barrier
4. Support the damaged autoimmune target with specific supplements and/or medical hormone replacement therapy (as in the case of thyroid and pancreas damage by co-managing the illness with your medical doctor)
5. Re-mediate any abnormal brain and nervous system function with Brain Based Therapy
It is important to consider that the thyroid gland has major influence in all of these areas:
- Enhances a portion of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system.
- Promotes breakdown of blood sugar, mobilizes fats, essential for protein synthesis, and enhances the liver’s synthesis of cholesterol.
- Promotes normal adult nervous system function and mood.
- Promotes normal functioning of the heart.
- Promotes normal muscular growth and function.
- Promotes normal GI motility and tone; increases secretion of digestive juices, particularly that of the gallbladder and the stomach.
- Promotes normal female reproductive ability and lactation.
- Promotes normal hydration and secretory activity of the skin.
Here are a few more key things to remember:
Bone: Deficiency of thyroid hormones lead to a decrease in bone development and an abnormal architecture of the bone that is created. Generally, a functionally low (which means low but not flagged as of yet) serum calcium is noted in hypothyroidism. Elevated thyroid hormones causes an increased serum calcium, as it pulls calcium from the bone, leading to increased risk of pathological fractures of the spine and weight bearing joints.
Gastrointestinal Function: Transit time is affected directly by thyroid hormones as is absorption of nutrients.
Male Hormones: Hypothyroidism has been linked to diminished libido and impotence. Although this condition is rarer in men, it must be considered in treating these conditions.
Liver and Gallbladder Function: Low thyroid function caused decreased liver clearance and gall bladder congestion through thickening of the bile, often also associated with an elevation of cholesterol.
Body Composition: As you may know all too well, low thyroid function causes an inability to lose weight. This is caused by a slowed conversion of glucose and fat into energy, and altering the way Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is metabolized in the body.
Blood Sugar Regulation: Low thyroid slows the insulin response to glucose following eating carbohydrates or sugar and it also slows glucose uptake into cells and tissues, and slows absorption of glucose from the intestinal tract. In other words, your entire energy production system is slowed. It is quite confounding to your body and brain, in that the glucose is in the blood, but the tissues are not able to absorb it. This really confuses the pituitary gland and adrenal glands, resulting in a “stress physiology,” even if life is good.
Cholesterol: As mentioned earlier, low thyroid increases your cholesterol and triglycerides, so your doctor tells you your diet is poor. You become even more strict in your diet, and the tissue starvation (low glucose, low energy) gets worse, which makes the stress physiology worse, which makes your cholesterol higher, which prompts your doctor to put you on cholesterol medication, which interferes with energy production, which further stresses your physiology…whew! You are frustrated!
Depression: Low thyroid impairs the production of stimulating neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that antidepressants work on. Low stimulating neurotransmitters leaves you, as one of my professors described, feeling “lower than a snakes belly.”
Female Hormones: Low thyroid changes the way estrogen is metabolized in the body, shifting toward an estrogen metabolite that has been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Stress: Low thyroid slows the elimination of the stress hormone cortisol, which leaves you feeling stressed out, not because of “stress,” but because the stress hormone can’t be removed efficiently.
Detoxification: Low thyroid slows an enzyme critical for metabolic biotransformation, or detoxification, the process by which the body binds and removes all environmental chemicals, and normal byproducts of metabolism, including hormones. “Toxicity” further slows your metabolism, and leads to headaches and other toxic symptoms.
Digestion: Low thyroid reduces the release of Gastrin, which determines the output of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, leading to poor protein digestion, sour stomach, and GERD.
Thermoregulation: Regulation of body temperature is affected by low thyroid, resulting in hot flashes and night sweats, which is especially prominent in perimenopausal women. This is often blamed on estrogen dropping, but may be directly caused by low thyroid.
PMS and Infertility: Low thyroid affects the progesterone receptors, making them less sensitive to progesterone, which feels like low progesterone, although the progesterone levels may be normal. Since the activity of progesterone is diminished, the health of the uterus is insufficient for implantation in the second half of the female cycle, leading to difficulties getting pregnant and PMS. Low thyroid also reduces sex hormone binding proteins, leading to an increase in estrogen activity.
Anemia: Low thyroid, as mentioned affects protein metabolism, which then lowers the red blood cell mass, which carries oxygen to tissues for metabolism of energy. Yes, another mechanism for feeling lousy.
Homocysteine: Low thyroid slows a process called methylation, often evidenced by elevated serum levels of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine in the blood has been proven as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, and cervical dysplasia.
So if you have had your thyroid removed because of an autoimmune condition, and are still suffering, there is hope for you to get your body to heal itself and get your vitality and zest for life back.
It boils down to finding a doctor that knows what we just talked about and understands that you can still feel crummy, even though you have had your thyroid removed. Find a doctor that knows there are many other factors that play into the health of your thyroid hormones. One who is willing to examine you, look at all your health factors, and help you get your body to heal itself back up the way it was designed to.
And so my name is Gina and I’m an RN and I started seeing Dr. Heimlich in December after getting sick around September. I had this gradual decline in my health, mostly I was getting really swollen, I was getting sort of confused, losing my balance, getting exhausted, and it led eventually to my becoming – I thought I was depressed because I had some issues going on, some stressors and I went and got lab work drawn because I started getting muscle weakness.
When I got the results of my labs, it showed that I had severe hypothyroidism, I had really high cholesterol, I had high blood sugar, and I had some kidney failure. Moderate kidney failure.
So I went to a naturopathic doctor because I was feeling terrible and I was very unhappy with her, the way she wanted to treat me, she wanted to treat every single symptom and so I left her office very unsatisfied and that’s when I found Dr. Heimlich’s website. And I saw that he was interested in treating the root of the problem, not just all the different little symptoms and that rang true to me. So I went to see him. He went over all my blood work and everything. And he made recommendations, changed my diet, I followed his recommendations, and within three weeks I started feeling unbelievably better and now it’s July twentieth, so it’s been about seven months.
I just recently went and got my lab work redrawn and every single thing, everything, including my kidney problems , have gone back to normal, which the medical doctors, who I had worked with, were saying would never happen. So I really believe that he saved my life. His program is absolutely amazing. It’s something that you have to do – it’s a way for you to take responsibility. I really believe that if I would have started treating everything individually that I would have just circled the drain and gotten sicker and sicker.
And now I feel wonderful.