IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN THE THYROID AND THE GUT?
Science has known that there is a connection between the gut and thyroid since the 1950s. However, the understanding of it’s importance comes from more recent discoveries. Traditionally, medication has been the only treatment for thyroid conditions. Now most doctors believe that a holistic approach to diet and lifestyle may play a more vital role in treatment.
In many cases, gut dysbiosis (bad bacteria) and autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s, are symbiotic. Therefore, addressing the root cause of inflammation, and improving gut health is absolutely necessary for treatment, and possible remission. Getting your gut to a healthy ratio of 80% probiotic to 20% dysbiotic bacteria will improve your metabolic function ability.
A study conducted in 2019, found that patients with thyroid cancer and nodules had an increase is dysbiotic strep bacteria when compared to probiotic. The study concluded that probiotics should be used to treat and prevent thyroid cancer, because of the strong association to autoimmunity.
HOW DOES THE THYROID COMMUNICATE TO THE GUT MICROBIOME?
THE HYPOTHALAMIC PITUITARY THYROID AXIS
The Hypothalamic Pituitary Thyroid (HPT) axis is a complex neuroendocrine system that regulates the body’s metabolism, growth and development, and internal organ function. It is responsible for the production and release of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for maintaining balance in the body’s metabolism.
The HPT axis starts in the hypothalamus, a small area of the brain that releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). TRH travels to the pituitary gland, a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain, and signals it to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then travels to the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, and signals it to produce and release the thyroid hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid hormones play a vital role in regulating the body’s metabolism, energy expenditure, heart rate, and temperature. Once the thyroid hormones are balanced, they signal back to the hypothalamus and pituitary glanda to regulate the production of TRH and TSH, forming a feedback loop that maintains the body’s optimal functioning.
This feedback loop can become dysregulated by bad bacteria, which can impair gland function. Dysbiotic bacteria can also cause gut permeability, which increases autoimmunity. The more autoimmunity there is the more stress put onto the HP axis.
THE HYPOTHALAMIC PITUITARY ADRENAL & HYPOTHALAMIC PITUITARY GUT AXISES
The ‘HPA’ axis stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. Notice how ‘adrenal’ and ‘thyroid’ are used interchangeably. Respectively, HPG represents the Hypothalamic Pituitary Gut axis. See the pattern? The hypothalamic and pituitary are glands in the brain. The word that follows identifies the gland in the body where the feedback loop is communicating.
In response to stress, the adrenals release the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in the body will disrupt the conversion of T4 into T3, affecting the thyroid, slowing down your metabolism.
HOW CAN I USE MY GUT MICROBIOME TO IMPROVE THYROID FUNCTION?
The microbiome has effect on digestion, as healthy bacteria is needed to produce good acids. Healthy bacteria makes is difficult for bad bacteria to flourish. Good bacteria excretes toxins (endotoxins, lipopolysaccharides, lithocholic acid, etc.). Bad bacteria excretes vital nutrients, such as zinc, magnesium, Vitamin A, etc.)
A well rounded approach works best. Sticking to a diet high in fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir, will help healthy gut bacteria thrive. Keeping stress low will help regulate the HP axis in positive way.
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