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Thyroid and Gut Health: Constipation and Slow Transit Time

Did you know that there is a connection between your Thyroid and the Health of your Digestive system or gut? There absolutely is! In fact, without addressing gut health, it's very hard to resolve the root cause of Thyroid issues and vice versa. I am going to end up spending a few weeks breaking down all the ways Gut health and the Thyroid are related, but I wanted to begin with a discussion on Constipation and Slow Transit Time because I know many people with Thyroid issues have trouble with constipation, so let's break it down...

The gut environment helps you effectively utilize thyroid hormone. So, if you are experiencing a slow down in the rate at which food moves through the digestive system, you may not be processing thyroid hormone properly. What exactly is a slow transit time? It simply means that your food is not moving through your system at the right rate. It takes longer for foods to travel from your mouth to the end of line (the toilet). If that is severe, a big fancy word called gastroparesis is used. The Mayo Clinic defines that as "A condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But if you have gastroparesis, your stomach's motility is slowed down or doesn't work at all, preventing your stomach from emptying properly." (1)

To explain that more plainly is to say that there are muscles that contract to push food down the digestive tract. It's like squeezing the food along. Much like the flexing of a muscle when you perform something like a sit up. The muscles that control the digestive system, however are not voluntary (thank goodness, or you would have to think about making them work!). When this slows down, food doesn't empty from your stomach like it should and move down the small intestines and ultimately the large intestines. Hence the feelings of acid reflux, bloating, fullness and constipation.

Why should we care about that? Back to constipation. Not having regular bowel movements can feel terrible. You get bloated, feel full, and perhaps sick to your stomach. In addition, when the transit time of your food is slow, it can back up and cause things like heartburn and reflux, and even bacterial overgrowth as food sits too long in your gut and rots and ferments. Many people will also say that they lose their appetite because they just don't feel hungry. If you aren't emptying your stomach, it's no wonder you aren't hungry. That is something I see all the time. People with Thyroid problems gaining weight, but eating very little and having almost no appetite.

In addition, if you are not having regular bowel movements (at least once per day) you are likely to also have some degree of toxicity. As your liver breaks down toxins, they become water soluble and you urinate them out or they fat soluble and you eliminate them. If your elimination is slow, these toxins sit in the gut and can be reabsorbed. Toxicity can mean fatigue, headaches and weight gain. Nobody wants that!

Optimal amounts of Thyroid hormone mean optimal bowel movements. Ideally, those are happening 1-3 times per day and do not resemble diarrhea. Having low levels of thyroid hormone (Hypothyroidism) means these typically happen less frequently, and higher levels of Thyroid Hormone (Hyperthyroidism) mean that these will happen more frequently.

If you have or suspect you have a thyroid issue, it's very important to have it evaluated from a functional standpoint. That means looking at all the Thyroid markers (I look at 8 markers when I run a panel) and considering what the root cause issues are. Unfortunately, most people are evaluated with 1 or 2 lab markers and given only a medication that does not help with any of the root cause issues like digestion. It's a catch 22. The Thyroid can slow down digestion, and digestion can be a trigger for Thyroid damage. You really need to be looking at both and unpacking the whole thing if you want to feel better.

If you have any questions about that and want to reach out, please feel to click the button below so that we can schedule a time to talk. I'll listen and see if there is anything we can do to help!

To your health!

Dr. Jeni


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