Hypothyroidism: Causes, Management, and a Links to Gut Health

Hypothyroidism is a condition with a wide variety of symptoms that interfere with the quality of life. Especially in the beginning, it can be difficult to attribute symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, and depression to a physical health problem. Furthermore, the causes of underactive thyroid vary. In some cases, thyroid dysfunction is closely related to gut health. Therefore, treating gut health with probiotics and a selective diet may prove beneficial. It is essential to treat an underactive thyroid to lead a healthy life.

Key takeaways:
  • arrow-right
    The thyroid gland and the hormone it produces affect a wide range of bodily functions.
  • arrow-right
    Hypothyroidism symptoms may take time to develop and present; therefore, a person may not know they have the disorder for months or years.
  • arrow-right
    Untreated hypothyroidism can be deadly.
  • arrow-right
    It is safe and important to take thyroid hormones during pregnancy.
  • arrow-right
    Hypothyroid symptoms can mimic GI health imbalance. Treating gut health could decrease the need for hypothyroid medications.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones affect many bodily functions — from heart rate to weight. When this small gland is not working correctly, it can significantly and detrimentally impact all organ systems. Severe thyroid dysfunction can have deadly consequences. Some studies have shown a link between gut health and thyroid dysfunction. For example, in some cases, controlling bacterial overgrowth in the gut reduces thyroid symptoms. Medical management is key to controlling hypothyroidism.

Signs and symptoms

Initially, symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain, can be subtle, and a person may not know they have an underactive thyroid. Some other common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Mood disorders
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dry skin, thinning hair

A medical professional will order blood tests to diagnose hypothyroidism and likely prescribe Levothyroxine, a thyroid hormone replacement. Newly diagnosed hypothyroidism requires blood tests every 6-8 weeks to monitor thyroid hormone levels. Doctors use these blood tests to pinpoint the correct dosage of the thyroid hormone. After stabilizing the hormone, levels can remain stable for years. Routine monitoring is an important care aspect for a person with hypothyroidism.

Causes of hypothyroidism

There are many reasons for diagnosing an underactive thyroid, including a family history of hypothyroidism. Treating hyperactive thyroid or thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine increases the risk of an underactive thyroid. Also, Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, leads to hypothyroidism. In addition, being diagnosed with type 1 or 2 diabetes increases the likelihood of hypothyroidism.

Certain medications increase a person’s risk of developing underactive thyroid, including certain cancer medications, heart medications, and medications for bipolar disorder. Whatever the cause of hypothyroidism, proper treatment is crucial for a balanced and healthy life.

Myxedema coma: a deadly consequence

Left untreated, hypothyroidism can have deadly consequences. Myxedema coma is a severe form of hypothyroidism that can lead to seizures or coma and requires hospitalization. Signs of myxedema coma include all the signs of hypothyroidism. Additional symptoms include puffy eyes, a slow heart rate, confusion, and swelling of the arms or legs. Doctors treat myxedema coma with medications to increase thyroid hormone levels and decrease seizure risks.

The thyroid-gut health connection

Underactive thyroid symptoms often mimic other disorders. One recent study linked thyroid health to gut health. According to the authors, GI dysfunction and thyroid dysfunction share similar symptoms. Therefore, treating GI symptoms can reduce or eliminate the need for thyroid medications. The study found that patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) had symptoms mimicking hypothyroidism. Scientists found that treating SIBO decreased or eliminated the need for thyroid medication. The literature review highlighted several points, including:

  • GI dysfunction mimics thyroid dysfunction symptoms.
  • GI disorders are 15 times more common than thyroid disorders.
  • Treating GI symptoms can sometimes resolve thyroid symptoms.

Because studies suggest a link between thyroid dysfunctions and gut health, gut health is worth exploring in patients with a thyroid condition.

The thyroid hormone controls a wide variety of bodily functions. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms can be subtle, but not treating an underactive thyroid can lead to deadly consequences. The causes of hypothyroidism vary; they include treatment for hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. Because thyroid health is connected to gut health, treating gut health can affect a person’s thyroid. Proper treatment for hypothyroidism can help a person lead a normal life.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked