There is a huge connection between leaky gut and thyroid issues. Believe it or not, the two go hand and hand and not only thyroid conditions but autoimmune conditions as well. In this post, I am going to break down the top five reasons why leaky gut causes thyroid issues and why it is so important to address any type of gut issue such as leaky gut at its source.
I will also talk specifically about how leaky gut can lead to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and then some steps that you can take today to heal the gut and take the right steps towards uncovering potential gut health issues.
To start, let’s jump right in and talk about why leaky gut is commonly associated with autoimmune disease.
#1 Leaky Gut is Often Associated with Autoimmune Disease
Did you know that it is impossible to have a healthy body without a healthy gut? This is because the gut houses nearly 70% of our immune system. More and more research is coming out on the importance of taking care of the digestive system as it plays an integral role in the overall health of our body, and this is especially true for anyone with any type of autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. With autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, there is a very large chance that leaky gut is also present as well. (1)
With leaky gut, those tight junctions in the gut become “leaky” and allow things like undigested food particles as well as other harmful toxins and microbes to enter your bloodstream. When this occurs, the immune system goes into high alert as what is being leaked into the bloodstream is recognized as a foreign invader. With the immune system being triggered, inflammation also sets in. Unfortunately, when leaky gut is not addressed and this pattern continues for long periods of time there is tremendous stress put on your immune system. After a period of time, your immune system may begin attacking your own body tissue unknowingly as it is so overworked and stressed from all the foreign particles coming in. This is where autoimmune disease can set in and things like Hashimoto’s can develop.
This is just one of the many reasons leaky gut causes thyroid issues and a major reason why it is so important to tackle leaky gut from a holistic approach to be sure it is being addressed appropriately. Overlooking leaky gut or being misdiagnosed could be the difference between catching it early enough to prevent an autoimmune condition or it getting bad enough to where autoimmunity sets in. This is also where functional medicine comes in as leaky gut is something that many functional medicine practitioners are very educated on and can help set you on a path to recovery and healing your gut.
#2 Leaky Gut Can Cause Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
One of the missing pieces many modern medical professionals miss when diagnosing leaky gut happens to be vitamin and mineral deficiencies. When a patient comes to my practice with a deficiency, looking at the gut is one of the things that I always address. Why? Because with conditions such as leaky gut there is a large possibility that the reason the deficiency is present is due to the fact that the body is not absorbing what it needs to appropriately. The answer could be leaky gut in many of these situations.
Ongoing inflammation in the gut can cause things like iron deficiency anemia, B12 deficiencies, as well as a number of different mineral deficiencies. These can cause things like fatigue, muscle pain, bone issues, and even hair loss. This is one of the reasons why leaky gut can cause thyroid issues. When the body is deficient in vitamins and minerals and particularly things like iron, and selenium, thyroid hormone balance can be thrown off.
The body needs iron in order to synthesize thyroid hormone so when anemia is present, patients could ultimately end up dealing with a thyroid condition. Selenium is another essential mineral for thyroid health and if one is deficient they can suffer from thyroid consequences. Selenium helps with the conversion of T4 to T3 and it is also an important mineral for overall immune health.
With any type of deficiency, your body is at risk for not performing at the optimal level that it needs to be to keep all body systems happy and healthy. If leaky gut is present it is essential to address it and get you on a path to health so that vitamin and mineral deficiencies do not occur and ultimately lead to complications with your thyroid health.
#3 Leaky Gut is Often Triggered by Inflammation
One of the causes of leaky gut happens to be inflammation. Inflammation can cause those tight junctions in the gut to become “leaky.” As we talked about before, once foreign particles begin leaking into the bloodstream, the immune system starts to make antibodies against what is viewed as foreign invaders. Your immune system begins to attack things like undigested food particles that may have never been an issue for you before, but now are being targeted as foreign since they are entering the bloodstream as larger molecules. This is also where food sensitivities set in for those with leaky gut.
The problem with these antibodies is that they can get into different tissues in the body and then trigger an immune reaction there as well. Next, autoantibodies may be created which can set you on a path for chronic inflammation. This is again where an autoimmune condition can occur. If the inflammation is triggered in the thyroid then Hashimoto’s or other thyroid diseases could occur. If the antibodies begin to attack the gut, gut conditions can arise. Any area of the body can be affected by leaky gut, it all depends on where the antibodies go and where the inflammation sets in.
As you can see, it all began with inflammation. Leaky gut starts with inflammation and then ultimately triggers inflammation in various areas of the body leading to further complications and even autoimmune diseases. It is very important to work with a skilled practitioner if you suspect you may be dealing with leaky gut as it can be tricky to detect. Many times, someone can consume a reactive food and not have any type of reaction for 24 hours. This can make it difficult to pinpoint what is causing the reaction if you are unsure what to look out for. There may also be a number of foods causing a reaction and worsening leaky gut so I always like to take a thorough look at what my patients are eating and then look at potential inflammatory responses.
#4 Leaky Gut can be Caused by Gluten Consumption Which is Also Linked to Thyroid Issues
Over the past couple of years, gluten free diets have become increasingly popular and I believe that they are here to stay. While some people may view gluten free diets as just another “fad diet” I think it is incredibly important for my patients to remove gluten from their diet lifelong and especially those who have leaky gut or a thyroid condition.
There are many things we need to worry about with gluten. For one, gluten can certainly lead to leaky gut. When we consume gluten, a chemical called zonulin is triggered and then released. Zonulin tells those tight junctions in your gut to open which can ultimately lead to leaky gut. (2) When these tight junctions open, gluten can pass through those junctions along with any other undigested food particles and microbes. For this reason alone, it is very important to keep gluten out of the diet and especially if leaky gut is suspected. Leaky gut can lead to autoimmune disease so we definitely do not want to include any foods that could potentially lead to thyroid conditions or other autoimmune disorders into our diet.
Secondly, gluten is also a major issue for anyone who suffers from a thyroid disease as gluten closely resembles your own body tissues including the thyroid. When gluten is consumed by someone with thyroid disease, the immune system will respond by destroying gluten especially in the case of leaky gut. However, the immune system may also end up attacking the thyroid as the immune system may mistake your thyroid for gluten molecules.
Another point I would like to talk about here is that gluten can cause inflammation and unfortunately, inflammation is the leading cause of nearly all disease. While inflammation is a necessary component of the immune system, and our bodies natural response to targeting anything that should not be in the body, chronic inflammatory states can lead to major issues like autoimmunity.
A large majority of the population suffers from a gluten sensitivity and many of these cases go undiagnosed. This means that each time someone consumes gluten who doesn’t know they have a sensitivity, inflammation is triggered. This can cause the immune system to go haywire and can lead to a state of chronic inflammation. The only way to give your immune system the break it needs to recover is to remove gluten from the diet. The trick here is that gluten must be removed completely. This is so important because as it turns out, gluten consumption can actually spike your gluten antibodies for three whole months! (2) This means that even eating it once in a while can lead to serious issues among those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.
The bottom line here is to remove gluten from the diet. Not only is it damaging for someone who already has a thyroid condition, but it can also cause leaky gut which is another cause of autoimmune disease so there is truly no reason we should have this food a part of our diet.
#5 The Gut Houses 70% of the Immune System
As I have already mentioned, the gut houses a large majority of our immune system. Without a healthy gut, it is nearly impossible to achieve overall health which is why an unhealthy gut can lead to thyroid issues.
The portion of the immune system that resides in the gut is referred to as the GALT which stands for gut-associated lymphoid tissue. The GALT is home to different types of lymphoid tissues that store things like immune cells and these immune cells will produce the antibodies that attack particles in the body that are recognized as foreign invaders. (3) This is a protective function of the gut but when leaky gut is present, this function doesn’t work the way that it should. When particles seep into the bloodstream, as you now know, the immune system starts to attack and then autoimmune diseases can arise. When the gut is unhealthy the body is unhealthy which is why it is so important to take the proper dietary and lifestyle steps necessary to protect these tight junctions in the gut and to allow the GALT to function the way it needs to in order to keep the body healthy.
If you suspect you may be dealing with leaky gut or you have a thyroid or other autoimmune condition, here are some steps you can take today to help heal the gut.
Steps to Heal the Gut
- Get tested for food sensitivities
- Get tested for gut infections and leaky gut
- Eliminate processed and artificial foods
- Eliminate refined sugar
- Cut out gluten, grains, and dairy from the diet
- Enjoy more grass-fed animal products and wild caught fish
- Enjoy bone broth
- Enjoy more fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, and kimchi
- Add coconut oil to your diet
- Reduce any sources of chronic stress
- Eliminate as many environmental toxins as possible
If you are suffering from any health related issues, I am currently accepting new patients. To start the testing process and discover what is driving your health issues and to get on the road to recovery call our office at +1 (866) 498-1958 to schedule your initial consultation.
(1) Amy Myers. Understanding the True Cause of Autoimmune Disease
(2) Amy Myers. 3 Important Reasons to Give up Gluten if you have an Autoimmune Disease
(3) Chris Kresser. The Thyroid-Gut Connection
5 Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Common in Thyroid Conditions. Natural Endocrine Solutions