Leaky (unhealthy) Gut And Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid ~ Why They Go Hand In Hand
Do you suspect you have a thyroid condition or maybe you know for certain? You have terrible fatigue, constipation, cold feet or hands, hair and skin problems, weight fluctuation, and brain fog that don’t seem to be getting any better despite eating well, sleeping, and trying to focus on what you’re doing. You are one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from Hypothyroidism! But is it really just a simple thyroid problem or is there more to the story?
If you were diagnosed with hypothyroidism via an elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, TSH, or you have some of the above symptoms you most likely have an immune disorder called “thyroiditis” or “Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism”. The American Endocrine society states that 90% of people diagnosed with hypothyroidism suffer from autoimmune thyroid. But what causes it?
Like many problems in health, we need to “look to the gut” to understand why our immune system is so flared up and starting to attack our own tissue.
While researchers were studying Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the gut they uncovered the “holy trinity” of autoimmune conditions. That is, that anyone with autoimmunity must have three things: 1) genetic predisposition, 2) an environment in the gut ripe for problems and 3) had a triggering event that turned on their genes to start making antibodies against their own tissue: it goes something like this:
Mary was born via C-section and did not breast feed very well. She took antibiotics for infections had many yeast infections. Unfortunately Mary wiped out 80% of her immune system, which is actually the healthy bacteria in the gut. Mary had kids, went through a highly emotional and stressful life event and she began to notice symptoms. Weight gain, gut problems, fatigue, feeling out of sorts and wanting to just lay in bed and let the world wash over her. On top of that, Mary’s hair was thinning, she was constipated and life felt like an endless fog that she was trying to part. Sound familiar? Mary had developed Leaky Gut and was suffering miserably. Her doctor told her “take this thyroid hormone the rest of your life”. Though she did take the medication, her symptoms persisted and her doctor said “there is nothing I can do for you but my friend the psychologist can give you his drugs if you would like”.
So what happened to Mary? As I mentioned the gut is the root of the problem. Many people in life have gut changing events like antibiotics, poor breast-feeding or elevated stress that suppresses our immune system. Add high sugar, high fat standard American diet, not enough fiber and the constant deadline driven society that we live in and the gut barrier begins to break down.
Our small intestine consists of 25 feet of tubing that has a shag carpet lining called the “microvilli”. This is where we absorb our food and where the outside world interacts with the inside world. This barrier has the surface area equivalent to a doubles tennis court! It is covered by an immune system barrier called secretory IgA. This helps to grab onto bacteria and food and slows down items as they try to pass through our barrier. Stress begins to wear this immune system down and we have large food molecules trying to get into our body coupled with bad bacteria and yeast. What prevents a flood of material into the gut are protein called “tight junctions”. These guys are the glue between our enterocytes, the single cell layer that separates the outside GI tract from the inside. What keeps these guys tight? Vitamin D! Vitamin D, which is also called “the sunshine hormone”, keeps these tight junctions working normally and with low levels coupled by inflammation in the gut we start to widen the space between cells. Then, materials start to pour through, more inflammation results and we call in the immune system to defend ourselves!
Guess what? Leaky gut just started!
Now our immune system recruits “antibodies” which are lock and key proteins that fit around invaders, foods or bacteria and help to flag and destroy threats to our immune system. Unfortunately, this process is supposed to be short term and our immune system gets tired as it constantly deals with a barrage of foods and bacteria coming through the small intestine cells. When we get fed up with this process we start to turn our attack against the gatekeepers, those tight junctions, which help regulate the flow of traffic. Our immune system is pretty smart overall but because it is getting so overwhelmed with this leaky gut it starts to attack the very structures that are regulating traffic, the tight junctions. Then over time as the process continues these newly formed “self antibodies” flow through the rest of your bodies’ circulatory system and find their way into and around thyroid tissue (or joint, nervous system, cardiovascular, etc.). It just so happens that the tissue in your gut look very similar to thyroid tissue and BANG! Now you are creating antibodies against the gut tissue and thyroid. In research it’s called “molecular mimicry” but in real life it’s called Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism because now your immune system is attacking your own tissue and with nothing to stop the process you begin to suffer from thyroid symptoms: brain fog, depression, fatigue, hair loss, constipation and weight gain. Sound familiar?
The bad news is this can move on and target other tissue like joints, nerves, skin and even the brain. The good news is functional medicine can create a targeted approach to address the underlying cause and get you feeling optimal again! But, this process is not for everyone. It takes work, diet changes and supplementation that help heal not only the gut, but also the inflamed immune system. This is why Dr. Autoimmune developed a specific program to heal the gut and immune system for optimal results.
Here is what it looks like:
- Set an appointment if you qualify and submit your paperwork 24 hours in advance.
- We conduct a comprehensive neurologic and metabolic examination with a full health history case review – the functional medicine process.
- The Report of Findings – Your results are explained to you with your spouse so you don’t have to play “telephone” to them and they can get their questions answered.
- If we accept you for care and you are ready to tackle your health challenges, we begin a program that may consist of one, or all of the following:
- A 5R elimination provocation diet customized to your needs
- Additional lab work to uncover more triggers and mediators
- Custom, pharmaceutical grade supplementation to speed healing
- Therapies such as PeMF or cold laser to encourage tissue healing
- Brain therapies like neurofeedback or functional neurology
- Environmental assessments and recommendations for remediation
- Lifestyle changing recommendations to promote self-regulation
- Exercise prescriptions to promote anti-inflammation
- Nutritional coaching to create lasting changes
- Applied kinesiology examination and treatments
- Exit strategies so that you maintain your newfound health
Everyone is evaluated thoroughly and the recommended program reflects what is absolutely critical to solve the process, not just bandage it. Our goal is to repeat labs at 8-10 weeks and definitively show regression and eventual remission. Isn’t that what we all want? To see symptoms resolve but also know deep down we healed at the cellular level so we can thrive, not just survive!
If this peaks your interest please call to talk to our new patient coordinator about setting up an appointment. Join us and let your health soar! Just call 303.882.8447 today and take advantage of our $299 new patient special!
Supporting complex, chronic thyroid and autoimmune diseases in the Denver-Boulder area,
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP