The Thyroid-Gut Connection
The thyroid is a small organ that secretes hormones that controls the body’s temperature, heartbeat and brain processing, in addition to basically maintaining homeostasis throughout the body. This little organ has a big job to do, and unfortunately it can malfunction, creating a host of problems.
As the thyroid is in the neck, many may not realize the importance the gut plays in thyroid health. The GI (gastrointestinal) tract does much more than process what we eat. It contains about 70 percent of our immune system, and 99 percent of our neurotransmitters are created in the intestines. Also, an important conversion takes place in the intestines: This is where the body converts T4, a thyroid hormone, to T3, another thyroid hormone. Many patients with a thyroid hormone imbalance also have digestive issues, which makes perfect sense.
The GI tract is lined with lymph tissue. When this tissue becomes stressed or inflamed, the adrenals release cortisol. Cortisol is a very important hormone, but too much of it creates havoc. The thyroid reacts to higher-than-normal levels of cortisol by decreasing its own hormone production. Constantly producing too much cortisol will eventually exhaust the adrenals, leading to adrenal fatigue.
The liver has a significant role in thyroid function. The majority of our thyroid hormones are converted into active forms in the liver. When the GI tract is compromised, the liver is also impacted. A liver in this situation is limited in its ability to metabolize thyroid hormones, but subsequently allows thyroid-disrupting hormones back into circulation.
When the thyroid malfunctions, the result is either too little or not enough hormones being produced. Hypothyroidism is a weak and underactive thyroid, and most often results in fatigue, weight gain, heartbeat issues, cold intolerance and memory problems. High cholesterol and heart trouble can also be affected by hypothyroidism, which may lead to serious complications. Now, if the thyroid is producing too many hormones, symptoms could be weight loss, tremors, heat intolerance, sleep disturbances and fatigue. Hyperthyroidism essentially speeds up bodily functions because of the increased levels of secreted hormones. This can put a lot of stress on vital organs.
A healthy thyroid is often taken for granted. We don’t realize how hard it has to work until it stops working properly. Most will suffer silently for years before seeking help, but, even then, a correct diagnosis can take time. Many conventional physicians only treat the symptom, a system that never addresses the root cause of a condition. This means a cure is almost impossible. This is where a naturopathic physician becomes invaluable. They understand the delicate web of relation within the body, including the thyroid-gut connection.
Paul Stallone, NMD, founded the Arizona Integrative Medical Center, located at 8144 E. Cactus Rd., Ste. 820, in Scottsdale. He combines natural/alternative/conventional treatments for each patient’s needs. For more information, call 480-214-3922 or visit DrStallone.com.