Restoration Health

The Gut-Thyroid Connection

You know that your body is a symphony of conversations, right? Bones, tissues, organs, and glands, are all part of an ongoing symphony of conversations your body has day after day. The information is relayed at lightning-speed, anticipating needs, preparing for the expected and the unexpected, always well ahead of time.

One very important communication channel is the one between your gut and your thyroid, since research shows that the health of the gut plays a key role in helping maintain healthy thyroid function. But the secret weapon in this process is your gut’s trillion-plus population of microbes; they are responsible not only for maintaining a strong immune function, but are also involved in the creation of thyroid hormones.

Inside the gut lining is a single layer of cells called intestinal epithelial cells. This layer is covered with tiny, slender vascular projections called villi, that help maximize absorption. These structures increase the surface area for delivering nutrients into your body. When your gut is inflamed, these villi cannot fully absorb the nutrients your body needs, including vital minerals and nutrients like iodine and selenium—the lack of which can impair the body’s ability to make thyroid hormones and negatively impact overall metabolic health.

Another way gut health can influence thyroid hormone production is via the trillions of ‘tiny but mighty’ gut microbes found throughout your digestive tract. Surprisingly, they are responsible for the production of approximately 20% of your thyroid hormones. If the gut lining is inflamed due to irritation, intestinal hyperpermeability or infection, the microbes become imbalanced (known as dysbiosis) and don’t do a very good job of producing thyroid hormones, leaving you feeling less than optimal.

By percentage, your intestinal cells are largely bacterial in nature and contain a certain substance on their cell surface known as Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). When there is a microbial imbalance in your gut, LPS causes significant damage and inflammation within the gut and can escape through your intestinal walls into your bloodstream. Bacterial LPS can also impair your body’s ability to produce valuable enzymes that activate thyroid hormones. Even more potentially damaging, LPS has been known to decrease production of important thyroid receptors, particularly in the liver.

Maintaining a healthy gut should be a priority when trying to optimize your health. Signs of dysfunction include bloating, gas, food sensitivities, constipation and more. Eating nutrient-rich meals that include gut-healing foods like raw kefir and sauerkraut, engaging in positive stress-management activities, and regular exercise along with self-care strategies can keep the gut healthy and potentially alleviate thyroid problems in the future.

Ronda Nelson

Ronda L. Nelson, PhD, MH is a holistic nutritionist and master herbalist who helps support and restore optimal health for those who are looking for alternative options with regard to their overall health and well-being.

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