You’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease so you know you have to work on the health of your thyroid but did you know that you have to work on your gut too? Maybe you have some constipation, diarrhea, gut pain or maybe you don’t but either way you have to heal your gut to heal your thyroid.
I was “lucky” not so lucky to have loads of gut issues since my teens. When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at 45 years old it wasn’t really a surprise to me although it was a shock. I knew something was not right with my digestive system so knowing there was a link to my thyroid helped me to formulate a plan to get my health back and I’m gonna help you to do the same.
Why Your Gut Is So Important To Your Thyroid
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut”, and the more we learn about chronic health issues the more we realize how true this is. Our gut, more formally called the gastrointestinal tract but since we’re all such good friends we’ll call it our gut, starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. In between it includes our:
- Small intestine (all 22 feet of it)
- Large intestine (colon cuz we’re friendly)
- Anus (asshole for those we don’t like so much)
Your gut is responsible for:
- Digesting and absorbing nutrients
- Aiding in the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to active T3.
- Housing 70% or so of your immune system,
- Removing waste
- Producing hormones that regulate blood sugar which affect how the thyroid gets nutrients
- and so much more
If you’re having hypo (low T3) or hyper (high T3) symptoms this is a definite sign that something’s not right in your gut.
The Gut Has Its Own Nervous System
Yep. The gut has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system. This is a part of the autonomic nervous system that operates independently of the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain). There are millions of nerve cells lining your gut that send messages to the brain. You may have heard the term gut-brain axis. This is what they’re talking about. This is the 2 way communication between the gut and brain and the effects that each has on the other.
Any malfunction of the enteric nervous system can lead to digestive problems but there’s also a lot of evidence that a malfunction can cause many other problems in different parts of the body including the thyroid.
The pituitary gland is located in the brain. The pituitary gland makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid how much hormone to make to control metabolism in the body. If the gut isn’t functioning properly then the pituitary gland might not be either which in turn means your thyroid isn’t either. Makes sense, right?
So what can you do about this?
4 Things You Can Do Now To Heal Your Gut
Below are 4 things you can start doing now to help heal your gut. The great thing is they have benefits reaching out further too. Inflammation can be localized but usually is also systemic which means if you have inflammation in one part of your body you probably have it all over. As we reduce the gut inflammation you will also reduce inflammation in other parts of your body too, including your thyroid.
Stop eating foods that are causing inflammation.
There are some general foods that we know cause inflammation so removing them will help heal your gut.
- Gluten (proteins found in grains like wheat, rye and barley) can cause inflammation even if you don’t have celiac disease. There has been a good amount of research about Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) where the proteins cause gut inflammation.
Gluten also has a molecular structure similar to the thyroid cells. If you have Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease where there are antibodies attacking the thyroid cells it is believed that eating gluten will cause more inflammation due to something called molecular mimicry.
Molecular mimicry is when proteins look similar enough to the immune system that it thinks they are the same and will attack it. Even if you don’t have Hashi’s or Graves the inflammation can still be caused by gluten so avoiding it is a good idea to heal your thyroid and gut.
- Dairy has proteins like casein and whey, that can cause an immune response just on their own and because of molecular mimicry. These proteins have a similar structure to gluten and you know gluten isn’t good for your thyroid.
- Soy has proteins that can be mistaken for gluten as well. Also 90% of soybeans in the US are genetically modified which is no bueno for your health.
- Nightshades are fruits and veggies that have compounds in them that can cause inflammation. Foods like eggplant, tomatoes, white potatoes and peppers are nightshades. Not all people are sensitive to nightshades so I recommend taking them out of your diet for a period of time and see if you feel better.
Stop putting poisons in your body.
- Alcohol is a poison. Yes, a poison. Poisons cause inflammation because your body knows that they are gonna hurt you even if your brain tells you that they’re fun. Your liver has to break down alcohol to make it safe to excrete. The breakdown products irritate the sensitive cells of your gut lining. If you’re drinking alcohol no matter how fun or how relaxed it makes you feel it is gonna do damage. If you’re having thyroid, adrenal or gut issues you already have damage so don’t add to it.
- Pesticides used on foods penetrate into the food beyond the surface so even if you wash your food you’ll still be ingesting some. Pesticides are also poisons meant to kill bugs so they don’t destroy the plants. If you are ingesting them guess what happens to you? Buy organic whenever you can to minimize your ingestion of pesticides.
Eat gut healing foods
- Bone broth, grass fed meats and pasture raised poultry are full of amino acids which are the building blocks to all proteins in our body and necessary for healing. Bone broth contains gelatin which has the amino acids glycine, glutamine and proline which are beneficial to your gut.
- Soups made with bone broth and organic root veggies are easy to digest and soothing to the gut lining. The veggies supply prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria to help them flourish.
- Beans like mung, lentils and split peas are full of soluble fiber that binds to bile made in the liver and flushes it out in your poop. Bile emulsifies fats so we can digest them but it also binds excess hormones, chemicals, and heavy metals to excrete them. The trouble is 95% of your bile gets reabsorbed in the small intestine so if you don’t have something to bind to it and bring it out when you poop all of the nasty stuff will get recirculated too. Soluble fiber is the magic binder that brings out the bile and bulks up your poop so that you keep regular bowel habits. It also forces your liver to make new clean bile so that you can get rid of more of the nasty stuff.
The 3 beans I mentioned are the easiest to digest but go ahead and eat chickpeas, black, pinto, kidney or any other legume except for peanuts. They’re technically a legume but don’t have the soluble fiber you’re looking for.
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi are great for feeding the good bacteria in your gut and helping to balance out the microbiome. Caution if you aren’t used to eating ferments start slowly. I recommend starting with drinking a tablespoon of the liquid from sauerkraut for a few days just to get your body used to it and to mitigate any negative reactions. If you tolerate it, work your way up until you’re albe to eat a few tablespoons of the actual sauerkraut with meals every day.
Implement stress management techniques daily.
Ever notice when you’re feeling anxious your stomach hurts? Or when you’re angry you start to shake? Yep that’s the physiological effects of psychological stress.Psychological stress will 100% cause physiological effects so it is imperative that you manage your stress levels. Your gut is very sensitive to this. Remember that whole gut-brain axis? This is where that stress can have negative effects on your gut.
Increased hormones and neurotransmitters released in response to stress can cause diarrhea, constipation or pain in the gut. They can also negatively affect the balance of the microbiome in the gut which can affect the immune system as well. No bueno.
- Deep breathing, even for 1 minute, has a profound effect on the stress response in your body. I use the Breathwrk app every night before bed and have noticed that I’m sleeping better.
- Restorative yoga focuses on deep relaxation by remaining in supported poses for 3-5 minutes or longer to get the brain and body into a deep state of relaxation. This relaxes the nervous system and the stress response in our bodies.
- Meditation even for 2 minutes a day can help you to handle stress better.
- Walking in nature, laughing or hugging somebody you love are also simple things you can do which will have big benefits on decreasing stress.
Want more information and support for healing? Reach out to me by email or on Instagram and let me know how I can help. Also join my private Facebook group Thyroid, Adrenal and Gut Healing for Women.