Why do so many women have thyroid problems? Surprisingly, it looks like thyroid problems are closely tied to an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. This opens up a new set of treatment options that makes one ask which problem happened first, the bad thyroid or bad bacteria?
By age 65, roughly 10% of women develop low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. Without treatment they experience fatigue, constipation, depression, and weight gain.
But for some these symptoms never go away even with thyroid hormone supplementation. That is because something else is wrong, something the hormones don’t fix. It is the intestinal bacteria.
Until recently doctors would say that the cause of hypothyroidism was an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but they didn’t know the exact cause of that (genes? hormones? bad luck?).
But now we think the answer lies in a different problem that is associated with hypothyroidism, called Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (“SIBO”).
SIBO occurs when bacteria that should only live in the colon migrate upward into the small intestine. This bacterial overgrowth may be set in motion by antibiotics, diet, or infection.
Most adults and children with SIBO do not realize it, although many experience intestinal distress (constipation/diarrhea), food intolerance, eczema, hair loss, or they feel better on pre- or probiotics.
Yearly lab work and routine physicals don’t detect SIBO, but a knowledgeable physician will recognize it in your current symptoms and your detailed medical history.
SIBO is now understood to be a common trigger of many autoimmune disorders including the most common cause of hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
And through other bodily mechanisms, such as the Autonomic Nervous System, SIBO itself may cause the symptoms of fatigue, constipation, depression, and weight gain.
But in a reverse twist to this new explanation, it appears that that low thyroid function from other conditions (pregnancy, medications, and viral infections) can also cause SIBO.
Low thyroid function from any cause slows the forward propulsion of the intestinal tract (think of your intestinal tract as a conveyor belt that slows down).
And slowed intestinal propulsion of a wide variety of causes (hypothyroidism, general anesthesia, medications, scleroderma, diabetic neuropathy, physical or emotional concussions) are the common triggers of SIBO.
What is the big deal which one came first? If you have Hashimoto’s, it was likely triggered by SIBO. And if you have low thyroid function from any other cause, there is a good chance you now have SIBO.
The big deal is that you need to treat SIBO because it can trigger diabetes, depression, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, ADD, obesity as well as other autoimmune disorders (Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis).
So it isn’t about what condition came first, it is all about avoiding what condition will come next.
For further information you may call my office at 623-208-4226 or go to my website www.DrBuckeye.com. I am an internal medicine doctor with 30 years of experience with complex disease located in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area.
If you are currently experiencing thyroid problems or the warning signs of SIBO, the time for further disease prevention or disease reversal are right now.
© 2015. Dr. Patrick Nemechek and Jean Nemechek. All Rights Reserved.