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How Thyroid Disease Causes Digestive Problems

Most people think of weight problems or symptoms of fatigue when discussing thyroid disease. True, these symptoms are common, but there are other symptoms that are also commonly experienced. Digestive problems, in particular, are intertwined with the complicated effects of thyroid disease throughout the body.

Hypothyroidism can have a negative effect that begins in the stomach. When thyroid hormone production and / or absorption is low, this restricts the stomach’s ability to produce a hormone called gastrin. Gastrin is responsible for the production of hydrochloric acid, also known as stomach acid.

Having enough stomach acid is crucial for our digestion. When food is not broken down well enough, this can prevent the small intestine from letting it pass. In essence, food can stagnate and begin to rot in the stomach producing heartburn symptoms.

This lack of stomach acid can also cause disturbances absorption of vital nutrients including vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. When this occurs, anemias can develop as a result of the underlying hypothyroidism.

Note: It is important to be evaluated for chronic heartburn. Self-treatment with antacids can be harmful and counterproductive if you really need to more hydrochloric acid in the stomach, no less.

Many of the thyroid patients seen in our office exhibit what is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome (LGS). LGS can be the causative factor for many digestive symptoms including bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. Basically, LGS describes an intestinal lining that has become overly permeable or “leaky.”

“What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?” The main reason seems to be food allergies, especially gluten sensitivity. Food allergens can have a negative impact on a protein called zonulin. Zonulin modulates the permeability of the intestinal wall.

When the intestines cannot fully restrict what goes through the digestive tract, unwanted particles from ingested food and other substances can end up in the bloodstream. This, in turn, can make our immune system alert and cause a condition called autoimmunity.

Digestive upset can be an indication of more serious problems, such as thyroid diseases and autoimmune diseases. In fact, the most common thyroid problem in the US is actually an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

When you experience chronic thyroid or digestive symptoms, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who can determine the underlying problem. Treatment can often focus on which body systems need attention and positive patient outcomes can be provided.


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