Thyroid Health: How Your Gut Health Influences Your Thyroid Hormones
Did you know that if your gut health is impaired, it can interfere with the function of your thyroid and cause thyroid hormone disturbances and other bodily symptoms?
Yes, your gut and your thyroid is intimately connected. They need eachother to thrive. This is why you have thyroid symptoms, but your labs keep reflecting normal. It's because your gut function is impacting your thyroid health.
And, chances are if you've made a trip to your endocrinologist for your thyroid concerns (especially if it's autoimmune related) you've likely heard that your condition is genetic, there's a prescription and synthetic drug for it, and that's about all you can do. I'd even venture to guess that there was no mention of your gut health at all…let alone the thyroid-gut connection.
You may be wondering why would your endocrinologist talk to you about your gut? In the conventional medicine paradigm, the endocrinologist's job is to care for your hormones, while the gastroenterologist cares for your gut. But, not in my world as a functional naturopathic pratitioner - my job is to always get you to look at the whole picture and address the root cause!
And I'm here to tell you that they are connected, and you must address both if you are to restore the function of your thyroid.
Your Gut & Thyroid Hormone Conversion
About 20% of thyroid hormone conversion takes place in the gut and it is the job of your healthy gut flora to make sure you get the amount of active thyroid hormone (T3) you need. The majority of the hormones your thyroid gland produces is mostly T4, which is inactive. It requires other tissues, like your gut to convert it to its active hormone T3, which is responsible for your energy, metabolism, body temperature, nervous system and much more.
The bacteria in your gut can affect thyroid hormone levels via an enzyme called intestinal sulfatase. Within the digestive tract, T4 is converted into two forms of T3—T3 sulfate (T3S) and triidothyroacetic acid (T3AC). Bacterial sulfatase in the gastrointestinal tract is the enzyme that converts T3S and T3AC into the active T3 that the cells use.
The conversion of T3S and T3AC into active T3 requires an enzyme called intestinal sulfatase. The health and balance of intestinal bacteria and flora is important in maintaining optimal thyroid hormone levels.
Micronutrients & Thyroid Health
Several nutrients play a key role in healthy thyroid hormone levels. Your gut microbiota influence the uptake of minerals relevant to the thyroid including iodine, selenium, zinc, copper and iron. All of them play a role in supporting thyroid function and there is a clear link between thyroid dysfunction and altered levels of these minerals.
Iodine deficiency can impact thyroid hormone levels. Iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and an average adult body contains around 15 to 20 mg of iodine, mainly located in the thyroid gland. Iodine is absorbed in the stomach, duodenum, and jejunum.
Copper and iron are both necessary for thyroid hormone production, but in some cases, low stomach acid that accompanies hypothryoidism may lead to deficiencies in both. Iron is also essential for efficient iodine utilization and thyroid hormone synthesis, storage and secretion. Iron deficiency anemia can be found in those with low thyroid hormone (hypothyrodism) too, and is reported to be diagnosed in up to 60% of patients.
Zinc and selenium absorption can also impacted thyroid hormone function, without these two micronutrients, the conversion from T4 to T3 can be impaired. Zinc deficiency affects the thyroid gland on multiple levels: zinc deficiency impairs TRH synthesis, but also TSH, T3, and T4. Selenium is an essential trace mineral, involved in the immune system and in several thyroid functions.
All of these micronutrients are often deficient or low in patients with hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disorders, which further contribute to poor thyroid function. Supplementing with these nutrients as part of a comprehensive thyroid supplement may be an important step in healing your thyroid.
It is important to speak with your healthcare provider about potential nutrient deficiencies.
Healing Your Gut to Improve Thyroid Health
You must heal your gut if you are going to improve thyroid health, balance your hormones and reverse your autoimmune condition.
As a naturopathic practitioner, I work with women in developing a holistic treatment protocol that is specific to their individual needs. It is also important to ask your health care provider for the proper lab testing to create a more targeted treatment plan, which can also catapult your healing. I recommend working with a health care provider who understands the importance of conventional and functional lab testing and can interpret them in conjunction with your symptoms.
Love and health always,