Can Healing The Gut Heal Your Thyroid?
Have you heard that your gut health is key for healing your thyroid issues? New research emerges every day that shows us just how crucial gut health is for long-term wellbeing. But does that mean that fixing your gut is going to fix your thyroid condition?
The answer is: it depends. The state of your gut, how severe your thyroid concerns are, and how committed you are to healing all play a role.
But there is a good chance that addressing your gut health could at least prevent further issues arising, and even relieve some symptoms.
Why is poor gut health so common?
Put simply, our modern diet and lifestyle is the reason for gut issues.
Some of the common factors that affect gut health include:
A diet high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugar
Low fibre and plant intake
Food allergies and intolerances
Overuse of antibacterial and antimicrobial products
Poor sleep habits
Elevated stress levels
Insufficient time outside in nature and sunshine
Medications such as antibiotics, steroids and reflux medication
Birth by C-section
Early weaning onto solid foods
As you can see, everyone is exposed to at least some of these factors throughout life.
How the gut affects your thyroid
The gut plays an extensive role in our overall wellbeing. So it's no surprise that there are several ways that your gut health can influence your thyroid health.
The key mechanisms include:
Inflammation - if the gut becomes inflamed, that inflammation can spread throughout the body. As the thyroid is a vulnerable gland, it is often one of the first victims of inflammation.
Leaky gut - this is a common condition in an imbalanced gut. It allows undigested proteins and particles to pass into the bloodstream. This triggers an immune reaction. The immune reaction leads to more inflammation, and can also end in an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto's.
Nutrient deficiencies - the gut is where we consume and absorb almost all of our nutrients. If the gut is not healthy, the absorption rate of essential vitamins and minerals will drop. This includes the nutrients that are critical for thyroid function.
Immunity - the majority of the immune system actually resides in the gut. If the gut is unhealthy, the immune system will not be working optimally. Pathogens such as viruses can take hold and do significant damage to your thyroid. There may also be parasites in the gut that are able to trigger autoimmunity.
The good news is that supporting your gut health can support your thyroid. By reducing inflammation, balancing immunity and getting plenty of nutrients in, you may be able to improve your symptoms significantly.
Some studies even suggest that you could put thyroid disease into remission through diet and lifestyle modifications!
How to nourish your gut health naturally
Healing the gut is not a simple process - it can take years. It's also best if you undertake the journey with an experienced practitioner to guide you through. But if you want to start working on your gut health, here are some tips to get you started.
Ditch the gluten
Everyone in the world doesn't need to eliminate gluten. But if you have thyroid disease, it's the first step to take for your gut and your thyroid's sake. Gluten can be inflammatory for the gut, and is particularly problematic for people who have autoimmune issues.
Rule out intolerances
One of the common symptoms and causes of gut issues is food intolerances. When we eat something that we're intolerant to, it causes inflammation and gut irritation. This can trigger the immune response and flare thyroid symptoms.
To allow the gut to heal properly, you'll need to remove any intolerances that are causing problems.
Did you know we can identify intolerances using a hair test? Click here to learn more about hair testing.
Give fermented foods a try
Part of encouraging gut health is introducing good bacteria into the gut. One way that we can do this on a daily basis is fermented foods. Fermented food and drinks include:
A little bit of bloating and mild digestive symptoms can be normal when you first introduce fermented foods into your diet. That's why I suggest incorporating small amounts when you start out. For example, you might start with a shot-glass of kombucha or a teaspoon of sauerkraut per day.
But if you have a severe reaction to a small amount, or your symptoms persist for more than a few days, stop using them immediately and seek professional advice. This can be a sign of an underlying digestive issue such as SIBO.
Boost up your fibre-rich foods
The bacteria in our gut rely on fuel, just like any other organism. But the interesting thing is that the good germs in the gut prefer different foods to unhealthy germs.
Good bacteria prefer fibre as their fuel. Unhealthy bacteria thrive on processed carbohydrates and sugars. So the simple step to take is boosting up fibre-rich foods.
Eat plenty of wholefoods such as:
Legumes and beans
Pseudograins such as quinoa
If you're not used to a good amount of fibre, start slow and build up. Otherwise, you might end up with a tummy ache, bloating and gas! This is like your good bugs are having a party with a banquet while your bad bugs throw a tantrum.
Move your body
Humans are designed to be active throughout the day. Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle has thrown this out the window!
By not moving regularly, you slow down your lymphatic flow and digestion. But this link goes both ways! The research has found that exercise can actually modify the gut by improving the number and diversity of good bugs in the microbiome.
Find a way to get moving - whatever you can do regularly and enjoy is best.
Get a good night of rest
Another two-way street is the one between your gut bacteria and sleep. How you sleep affects your gut health, and the state of your gut can influence how well you sleep.
The good news is that improving your sleep is relatively easy to do. Head here for some simple tips for a great night of sleep.
Take time to chill out
The gut-brain axis is one of the most important connections in the human body. Your gut can influence your nervous system and brain chemicals. But if your gut is unhealthy, managing your stress levels can help to bring it back under control.
Everyone has a different preference for relaxing. Just remember that binge-watching Netflix is not actually relaxing for your body, even if you feel like you can switch off your brain!
My go-to management technique is meditation. There are countless studies that support the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for stress management, mental health, sleep and even digestive conditions.
Get some sunshine
It might not be the first remedy that comes to mind for your gut. But the research shows that sun exposure can be a game-changer for your gut health.
One study found that just 3 sessions of UVB exposure - the ultraviolet rays responsible for vitamin D synthesis - can improve the diversity and balance of gut microbes.
Getting a dose of sunshine is particularly important during winter. You want to get outside around lunchtime and expose as much skin as possible for 10-15 minutes. In summer, you want to be more careful, as you might end up with some wicked sunburn!
If you live somewhere that daylight is shorter and sunshine is rare, a vitamin D supplement may offer similar benefits.
Investigate potential gut conditions
Sometimes, the reason goes deeper than just poor gut health. For example, parasites, dysbiosis, SIBO and candida are some gut conditions that can cause widespread inflammation and immune responses.
If you've been dealing with digestive issues for some time, working with a practitioner can help you uncover any underlying issues.
If it's time to heal your gut and get your thyroid issues under control, I'm here to help. Click here to book an appointment.