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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jeni St. Onge

The Thyroid and Gut Bacterial Balance (or Imbalance)

We have probably all heard about the importance of a healthy bacterial balance in the gut. It's the driving reason behind the use of probiotic supplements, which are very popular! But, did you know that the Thyroid can impact that healthy (or unhealthy) bacterial balance?

Let me break it down a bit.... We want to have a healthy balance of the right bacteria living in our digestive system. We want enough of the good stuff and we don't want an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. When that happens and we have an imbalance, we use the word dysbiosis. That can lead to us feeling bloated, having constipation and/or diarrhea (or alternating back and forth between the two!), Stomach pains, gas or pressure, and sugar cravings. Doesn't sound like fun, does it!?

When we have an overgrowth of either bacteria or Fungus in the Small Intestines, they have fancy names like SIBO for Small Intestines Bacterial Overgrowth or SIFO (for Small Intestines Fungal Overgrowth). This simply means that either Bacteria or Fungus have grown out of control in the Small Intestines. Why is this an issue? Because the diameter of the Small Intestines is small and as these bacteria overgrow, they ferment and cause gas which can cause and increased pressure and fullness. Certain types of bacteria are known to cause diarrhea and some to cause constipation, so you could have either or both of those overgrown and feel the symptoms of that.

If you read last week's blog post, we talked about constipation. That is at the heart of this issue. The slow transit time (time it takes food to make it through the digestive process) allows bacteria to feed on the food as it sits longer than it should. Often, people are constipated as a result of a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism). So, they have these digestive issues like overgrown bacteria or fungus and experience heartburn from the slowdown of food. So, they medicate their heartburn with antacids which raise stomach acid pH. This actually makes the problem worse because weak stomach acid doesn't kill the bacteria and fugus it is supposed to kill, so that makes it way to the Small Intestines and you have the SIBO or SIFO I described above.

One particular fungus that overgrows commonly is called Candida. I mention that because most people have heard about that and it can cause nasty sugar cravings. So many people struggle with those and perhaps have never considered the connection between the thyroid and constipation/slow transit time. Tackling the root cause can be a major win to help reduce or eliminate those awful sugar cravings!

The real fix for this is to fully evaluate the thyroid to make sure you have enough thyroid hormone for healthy bowel movement frequency. Also, looking at the diet to ensure proper hydration and fiber intake is very helpful. This will resolve the transit time issue. If you truly want to correct gut bacterial balance issues, you have to be moving food through the system quickly enough. Then, you need to look at performing a "Weed and Feed" type protocol designed to weed out the bacteria you don't want and replenish the bacteria you do want. You also need to ensure good healthy stomach pH levels so food can be completely digested.

When you are trying to naturally heal you thryoid, it is very important to look at gut health, this is just one of the many pieces to that puzzle, but it is an important one!

If you would like to speak to me about your thyroid or another health challenge you are having, you can reach out using this link below to have me give you a call. I will listen and try to help!

To your health,

Dr. Jeni

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