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Thyroid Thursday #87: Hypothyroidism and Gut Health: Part 1 – Rejuvagen Center

Hey, everybody, it’s Dr. Balcavage, we’re back for another edition of  Thyroid Thursday. Today, I want to talk about hypothyroidism and your gut health. I’ll probably do a number of these, but let’s say this is part one.

Remember, when we talk about hypothyroidism, we talk about two causes of hypothyroidism. There’s cellular hypothyroidism, which means there’s not enough thyroid hormone reaching your cells. That’s what triggers your hypothyroid symptoms. And, second is glandular hypothyroidism, where the gland is not making sufficient thyroid hormone.

Now, the number one cause for that is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s an autoimmune attack on the thyroid tissues. Now, the number one cause, or if you look at the literature and the research, is thought to be that there’s loss of cell tolerance, which is what we’re going to talk about today, and the gut’s role in loss of cell tolerance. But really, I think the number one reason is, it’s a secondary response to some type of danger, okay? And that definitely goes along with what we’re going to talk today, okay?

So, other things that can cause glandular hypothyroidism is too much or too little iodine. Iodine is critical for thyroid hormone production. There could be toxins that block iodine transport, or cause damage to the thyroid gland. Chloride, fluoride, bromide, even excessive estrogen, and xenoestrogens. There’s lots of things that can trigger it, and we’ve done a bunch of videos on those already. Toxins can do it, we talked about that, and then organisms like viruses and bacteria can cause an autoimmune attack. Thyroid gland dysfunction, that kind of goes along with our secondary response to some type of danger.

So, let’s talk about the gut’s role in causing hypothyroidism, especially Hashimoto’s. 70% of the immune system surrounds your GI tract. The GI tract health and function is critically important. It’s the one place where we put all kinds of foods and things into the system, and they have the greatest ability to get into the peripheral body. The immune system is constantly in a state of checking out your food proteins, making sure that hey, those are proteins that we’re not reactive to, those things are good, and keeping surveillance. They’re keeping an eye on the bacterial balance, making sure that problematic bacteria don’t overgrow. Even the commensal bacteria, what we call the good bacteria, if they need to be stimulated they get stimulated, if they need to be knocked down, they get knocked down a bit. The immune system is also monitoring the toxins that are produced by these bacteria. Both commensal and pathogenic organisms can produce toxic substances that, as long as they’re kept within a certain range and they stay within the GI tract, it’s not a big deal. But, if those levels of toxins get excessive and get out of the GI tract, they can really create a number of issues, especially autoimmune thyroid disease.

The GI immune system is always producing some products as enzymes and things, to help manage these things. Butyrate’s a great example of that. You eat dietary fiber, the bacteria in your GI tract increase a product called butyrate, and then butyrate keeps one of the bacterial toxins called LPS under control. LPS is associated with all kinds of issues. And LPS stands for Lipopolysaccharides. So, any time there’s a dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the gut flora, doesn’t mean you have to have pathogenic organisms, what we would typically associate with GI disease, but even commensal bacteria, bacteria supposed to be in the GI tract. If they overgrow or under grow, it can create a state of what we call dysbiosis. Just an abnormal balance of the bacterial flora.

This dysbiosis in the gut biome can cause an increased activation of the immune system. The immune system can get upregulated. And when the immune system is upregulated, it’s thought that that’s when we lose self tolerance. If the immune cells, instead of kind of managing or knowing what our own tissues are and not attacking those, actually loses tolerance to those tissues and actually starts to attack our own tissues, okay? When we start attacking our own tissues, we produce these things called self-antibodies, and the tissue that’s most sensitive, to that is really the thyroid gland. And I’ll talk about why that is in future podcasts. When the immune system is over-activated, that’s when we typically see increased food sensitivities, increased food intolerances, and increased likelihood of allergy responses.

What could cause dysbiosis?

What’s causing this imbalance in your gut flora? Well, it’s a lot of our lifestyle things.

Emotional stress
If you have a lot of emotional stress from family, finances, relationships, poor self thinking, that can change your gut flora. The emotional stress increases your fight or flight hormones, that can change your bacterial flora. When you change the bacterial flora, you have dysbiosis and then you can get an upregulation of the immune system.

Just one round of antibiotics can wipe out, or really significantly reduce the balance of bacteria in your gut. Bacteria can grow back, but whether it grows back appropriately is the problem. And more on that subject, even natural antimicrobial substances, herbs and things that we typically use in functional medicine to try and knock down organisms, can also be problematic as well.

Environmental Toxins & Glyphosate
Then we have medications that can produce it, lots of toxins in your food, in your water. The number one toxin we talk about with creating gut problems is glyphosate from Roundup. Glyphosate is an antibiotic, so it changes your gut flora. And if you’re constantly consuming processed foods, or foods and water that’s contaminated with glyphosate, you’re constantly creating disruption in the GI tract, increasing the upregulation of your immune system, and increasing the likelihood of developing autoimmunity, allergies, and food intolerances.

Then we see increased or decreased exercise. People who don’t exercise, that definitely, has a role in the health of your gut flora, and those who are excessive exercisers. Endurance athletes specifically. You can really create some problems in your gut biome. But exercise has been shown over and over again, as long as it’s not excessive, to be very beneficial in normalizing gut flora.

Diet plays a huge role. Depending on what you eat determines what kind of bacteria that you grow in your GI tract.

Disrupted Sleep
The last one is disrupted sleep. If you have altered or disrupted sleep, it’s been shown in literature and research that it changes your gut biome, and once you change your gut biome. You can get that upregulation of the immune system, increased likelihood of autoimmunity, via loss of self tolerance, and then increased allergies and food intolerances.

So, what should you do?

Four things.

  1. Eat a whole food diet. That’s one of the best things to do. Everybody can start there. Eat more whole foods, eat less processed foods.
  2. Probiotics. If you’re going to do probiotics, I really recommend the spore-based probiotics versus just your basic, off-the-shelf probiotic. Most of them aren’t shown to do what we think they do. But I would definitely recommend more of the spore-based probiotics.
  3. Limit antibiotics and antimicrobials as much as possible. You can knock things down with these things, but you have to help restore good flora at some point. And whether you’re taking an antibiotic on a regular basis, or you’re taking antimicrobial products from a functional medicine practitioner on a regular basis, those things are going to disrupt your gut flora.
  4. See a Functional Medicine Practitioner (like myself), and get a functional GI test done. A functional GI test tells us what’s growing in the GI tract, it gives us an idea of acids and enzyme production, the health of your immune system, and inflammation in the GI tract. These tests are typically not done in an allopathic practice. If you go to a gastroenterologist they’re not running these tests. What they’re running are pathology-based tests, looking for disease. And that’s okay, but if you don’t have a disease, then you’re going to get diagnosed with a functional GI disorder. The only way to really diagnose a functional GI disorder is do a functional GI test, which isn’t done in allopathic medicine

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Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Balcavage, owner and founder of Rejuvagen. If you’re struggling with health issues or have questions, let’s chat. You can schedule a 15-minute call with me to get started.