Are Leaky Gut Syndrome & Hypothyroidism Connected? + 5 Ways to Heal

Dr. Jolene Brighten Digestion, Thyroid Comments

You may have heard that leaky gut syndrome is why you developed hypothyroidism in the first place. Leaky gut syndrome is  involved in the development of hypothyroidism or more specifically, autoimmune hypothyroidism  (Hashimoto’s) in the majority of cases.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the number one cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. And while not all causes of hypothyroidism are well understood, we do know that if you have an autoimmune condition, then your immune system is not behaving as it should.

And where is the majority of your immune system located? Your gut!

Autoimmunity, Leaky Gut Syndrome & Hypothyroidism

It has been estimated that your gut houses anywhere from 70-80% of your immune system. This aspect of the immune system, known as the gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), can become triggered by infectious agents, food particles, and other proteins that make their way through the lining of the intestine in a condition known as “leaky gut.” Exposure to these “non-self” proteins or antigens stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies.

The job of antibodies is to tag foreign proteins for destruction. However, in the case of molecular mimicry, the amino acid sequence of the non-self protein that has been tagged for destruction closely resembles an amino acid sequence of self proteins, aka your body tissues. When this happens, your immune system can mistake your tissues as foreign and begin to attack the target tissue, in addition to causing inflammation in the body.

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This how leaky gut can cause you to develop antibodies to your thyroid.

The job of the gut mucosa or intestinal lining is to allow nutrients to pass through for absorption and utilization in the body. At the same time, the intestinal lining should keep harmful proteins from entering. But in cases of leaky gut, these proteins are able to cross this protective barrier and trigger an inflammatory response.

Over time, after repeat exposure, the body will respond by creating antibodies, which can set off a cascade of autoimmune destruction of the thyroid tissue — resulting in Hashimoto’s and eventually hypothyroidism.

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome:

NSAIDs.

Long-term, regular  use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen can cause damage to the intestinal lining.

Antibiotic Use.

Antibiotics disrupt the normal healthy bacteria in your gut and leave it susceptible to harmful organism overgrowth.

Mom’s exposure to antibiotic due to C-section or Group B Strep will cause disruption of both mom and baby’s gut. Antibiotic use in general can disrupt intestinal flora and gut lining for 6-12 months.

Birth Control Pill.

The pill induces inflammation and leaky gut within the intestines and increases the risk of autoimmune disease. Read more about Birth Control Pill Side Effect here.

Chronic Stress.

Stressors from work, life, and even exercise or strict dieting can alter your microbiome and lead to leaky gut. Learn how to de-stress today.

High Sugar Diets.

Diets high in processed grains and sugars can lead to damaging hormonal swings, not to mention feed yeast, bad bacteria, and pathogens in the gut. There are so many reasons to cut down on the sugar.

Read more about how to curb your sugar cravings.

Low Fiber Diets.

Diets rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble, have been shown to reduce the risk of developing many gut pathologies, including leaky gut.

5 Ways to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome for Hypothyroidism

#1 Test! Don’t Guess!

If you think you may have intestinal permeability, contact your doctor and discuss these tests:

  • IgG and IgA Food Intolerance Testing: Leaky gut can cause an array of food intolerances. Learn more about food intolerance testing here.
  • Intestinal Antigenic Permeability Screen: A simple blood test to evaluate intestinal permeability to large molecule which inflame the immune system.
  • Urine Test: After drinking a carbohydrate solution you will need to collect your urine for 6 hours. Urine that contains high amounts of the sugar is considered a positive for leaky gut.
  • Stool Culture and/or SIBO Testing (Lactulose Breath Test): Gut infections or bacterial or yeast overgrowth can make intestinal permeability worse. It’s important to dig deep to find the root cause of your condition.

#2 Figure Out Food Intolerances

An elimination diet can help you determine if you have food sensitivities that are making you feel ill.  

We use the following therapeutic diets in my practice when helping people determine their sensitivities.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
  • FODMAP
  • Basic Elimination Diet: eliminating the top 8 allergens

In my clinical practice I have all of my patients work with my Functional Medicine Nutritionist during an elimination diet to not only help us get the best data, but to also support my patients in the journey. They are trained experts in thyroid nutrition and design their meal plans to deliver the most thyroid supportive foods during the elimination phase and beyond. 

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#3  Get the Thyroid On Point!

If your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally or you are being under medicated, you will not be able to heal your gut until this is corrected. Read more about The Thyroid Gut Connection here.

#4 Try Healing Herbs

Slippery elm, aloe, DGL, turmeric and marshmallow root can help heal the intestinal lining and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, they can help you resolve leaky gut.

#5 Eat Your Probiotics

Beet kvass, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, turmeric root, ginger and lots of plant based foods give your gut and microbiome what it needs to heal and function optimally.

And while you’re at it…Drink Bone Broth!!! Bone broth is one of the most healing foods that you can consume when you are aiming to heal leaky gut. In my practice I recommend patients make their own with this recipe or purchase a quality bone broth from a local store or online retailer like Kettle & Fire.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and hypothyroidism can be a lot to navigate on your own. Partnering with an expert such as a Functional Medicine practitioner will help you understand the specific needs of your body and help you create an individualized plan for healing.

Wast this helpful for you? Reach out to me on my Facebook page and let me know if you’ve been struggling with this or have possibly been misdiagnosed. I’m here to help you.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.