The Thyroid Connection
The Thyroid epidemic is still a relatively unknown one, even though 1 in 8 women worldwide are expected to develop thyroid issues in their lifetime.
With thousands of people undiagnosed and misdiagnosed, in both developed and underdeveloped countries, this issue is one that cannot be ignored any longer.
As people develop several chronic health problems, many are unaware as to how these issues can be connected to a thyroid imbalance.
Many people suffer from multiple symptoms which could be related to thyroid imbalances. These symptoms can include weight gain, digestive disorders, hair loss, gynaecological issues, fatigue, and anxiety or depression. Yet, many patients (especially women) have not been properly assessed for thyroid dysfunction using a complete thyroid panel. As more complain of various health problems, it is alarming that these problems are often not linked to a potential thyroid imbalance. Having these imbalances such as Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism can lead to several other health issues connected to important glands and/or organs in the body and their respective functions.
Thyroid and the Liver
The thyroid gland produces two hormones, T4 (inactive), and T3 (active, ready to use in the body). The Liver plays a vital role in the conversion of T4 into T3, the active thyroid hormone. Not only that, thyroid hormones are essential for liver health as well. Many patients with Hypothyroidism have a non-alcoholic fatty liver (best described as a sluggish liver by doctors). Even though many a time the generic test results do not show liver markers to be outside the range, a fatty liver already indicates that the organ is not able to work to its full potential. As most people know, the Liver’s primary function is to detoxify our bodies. Given the environment we live in now, where the body absorbs toxins from the air, soil, food and commonly used products, currently more than ever, our livers are working overtime. So liver health is needed for thyroid health and vice versa. The best thing you can do to support your liver health is to lower the toxic burden it has. Using fewer chemicals, eating organic food, drinking less alcohol, and following a healthier lifestyle, in general, can do that.
Thyroid and the Gut
It is common knowledge that the gut is the epicentre of all health. 70% of our immunity lies in the gut, and many health problems can be traced to an imbalance of the gut flora and gut-related issues. 90% of all thyroid imbalances are autoimmune in nature (where the body makes antibodies against itself, in this case, the thyroid gland). Many people with autoimmune diseases also have what is called a “Leaky Gut” or as it is referred to in medical literature, increased ‘intestinal permeability’. A “leaky gut” causes partially broken down food particles to “leak” into the bloodstream causing an immune attack response from the body. A leaky gut can lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, headache and joint pains. Hypothyroidism also causes the digestive system to slow down, causing bloating, heartburn and constipation in many. The gut also plays a role in the conversion of T4 to T3, the active thyroid hormone.
The fact is that all our organs and glands are interconnected and work together. The thyroid gland plays a very important role in many functions of the body. It regulates our metabolism and is connected to every major organ in the body.
Thyroid and Food Intolerances
Even though thyroid imbalances are not known to cause food intolerances, the two conditions co-exist for many people. There is a suspected link between Hashimoto’s (Autoimmune Hypothyroid) and gluten sensitivities and/or celiac disease. Many with Hashimoto’s show a vast improvement in their symptoms once they remove gluten-containing foods from their diet. Eliminating gluten entirely from the diet also often leads to a reduction in thyroid antibodies. For many who have a leaky gut, dairy also imposes a problem. Dairy is known to increase inflammation and is not tolerated well by many people who have autoimmune diseases.
Thyroid and Vitamin Deficiencies
There has been a lot of research done lately showing a large number of people with Hashimoto’s who have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Most commonly, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron. Others include zinc, selenium and magnesium. These essential vitamins and minerals perform over a 100 functions in the body including cellular repair, converting food into energy, healing wounds etc. One of the leading causes of many of these vitamin deficiencies is due to damage to the digestive tract (often caused by a leaky gut). Inflammation in the gut and other gut issues cause malabsorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
Thyroid and Anxiety & Depression
Anxiety and depression are both symptoms felt by many thyroid patients. Mood swings, brain fog, insomnia, chronic pain, a general feeling of helplessness, and exhaustion are commonly experienced as well. It is estimated that there are almost 300 million people around the world, mostly women, with thyroid dysfunction, but nearly half are unaware of their condition. Many of them go to doctors with the above symptoms and are prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. These medicines, unfortunately, do not help many in the long run if the root of the problem (often thyroid dysfunction) is not addressed.
The fact is that all our organs and glands are interconnected and work together. The thyroid gland plays a very important role in many functions of the body. It regulates our metabolism and is connected to every major organ in the body. Therefore a thyroid dysfunction doesn’t stand alone, and cannot be treated in isolation. Most people with Hyper and/or Hypothyroidism experience a range of symptoms which do not get better just by taking a generic thyroid hormone pill to balance out the thyroid numbers. It is essential one works on improving the Liver, the gut and mental health issues, all of which are usually compromised in people with a thyroid imbalance. Finding a Functional Medicine based doctor and/or Practitioner to work with is a great way to start to identify and ultimately treat the underlying root causes contributing to one’s thyroid dysfunction.