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Your Thyroid and Acid Reflux

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

You might be reading this title, thinking... What?! How are those related. I have (or think I have an issue with my thyroid) and I also have Acid Reflux or GERD. That's a fancy way to say heartburn. My doctor never told me those two things could be connected. Well, let me connect a few dots for you...

When you have a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism), your digestion slows down. You can refer back to the article on "Your Thyroid and Constipation" for more on this topic. When this happens, food sits in your stomach longer. Because it's not moving through properly, it can come back up (Reflux). As it does this, stomach acid comes with it and it burns. So, the medical solution is antacid medications like Proton Pump Inhibitors or acid blockers. That does nothing to solve the issue and actually has a huge long term consequence. If you read the box or pamphlet on those meds they will tell you not to use them for longer than a few weeks! Most people are on those for years. Very dire side effects like malabsorption (not being able to break down nutrients and absorb them) and even bone density loss can be seen with this. So, I think we need to understand this and fix the root problem!

So, we have the food sitting in the stomach longer than it should and we also have a situation where stomach acid quality is not as good as it should be. That means that the stomach acid loses some of it's potency with time, stress, and some other things. As people age (in this case 35 and older), their stomach acid becomes less acidic. That sounds like a good thing, right? Actually, no... When the acid becomes weak, it doesn't do it's job of breaking down food so we can absorb nutrients, or killing off things like bacteria (like H Pylori that can cause digestive issues). If the food doesn't break down completely and then sits in the stomach longer than it should, it can cause that reflux situation where you feel it coming back up.

Low thyroid hormone levels can cause us to produce less stomach acid as well. Everything slows down when we have low thyroid hormone levels as it downregulates our body much like turning down a thermostat does to temperature. Many people who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism are on a prescription T4 thyroid hormone medication like Synthroid (#3 prescribed medication in the US at this time) - Over 100 Million people are taking this right now. Many of those people also take an acid blocking medication; over 68 million Americans are taking a medication like that right now. If you take an acid blocker and a thyroid medication at the same time, you can decrease the absorption of the thryoid medication (which is a T4 only medication) and also decrease the absorption of the nutrients like zinc, selenium, etc. that help you convert T4 (an INACTIVE form of thyroid hormone) to T3 (the ACTIVE form of the hormone). That means that when you have your labs done, they test only the TSH and T4 levels and they look fine, but you still feel bad because you lack the nutrients needed to convert T4 to T3. I have an article that you can read that shows all the markers I look at when evaluating a thyroid so I can see if not only T4 levels look good, but also T3 levels. Many times, people have fine levels of T4, but are not converting to T3 so they have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, but look great on paper.

I hope this connected a few dots for you. Thyroid issues are a passion for me. I see so many people struggling and not getting the help they deserve from the medical community. I want to change that. If I can help you or someone you know, please use the link below to schedule a time for me to give you a call so I can listen and see if I can help.

To your health!

Dr. Jeni

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