In the areas of natural and functional medicine, there is a widely held understanding that all disease (and thereby all healing) begins in the gut. And for good reason!
The gut performs the all-important role of digesting and absorbing the nutrients we take in, but it is also responsible for helping the immune system recognize foreign invaders from self-antigens, thereby facilitating the control of pathogens and preventing autoimmune reactions.
Interestingly, the fetal origin of the thyroid gland is the same as the stomach, digestive tract, and tongue. Because of this shared cellular origin, it would seem to make sense that improving digestive function often leads to a significant improvement in thyroid symptoms.
This is encouraging news for those experiencing gut and thyroid issues!
While not everyone dealing with Hashimoto’s or leaky gut will experience bloating, stomach pains, irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux, most people with Hashimoto’s do have some degree of intestinal permeability.
Even those who have no apparent gut symptoms may be experiencing intestinal permeability, and for anyone living with an autoimmune condition, addressing gut function might be the best place to start to bring healing to the body.
If we can reverse leaky gut, we can prevent or reverse autoimmunity.
What is Leaky Gut?
When functioning as they are designed to function, our healthy human intestines serve the role as both a barrier and a filter. A layer of cells form a mucus barrier, consisting of intercellular tight junctions similar to thread fibres that come together to form a piece of cloth.
The intestines open and close their tight little junctions to allow nutrients to be absorbed from the food that passes through our gut and blocks the absorption of toxins like partially digested food, pollen, feces, dead cells, and bacteria that we certainly don’t want circulating around our bodies.
But what happens when those intestinal tight junctions become damaged and loose?
Those toxic substances become absorbed into the bloodstream, causing the body to recognize them as foreign invaders. This causes inflammation in the body as it begins to attack the intruders, and eventually leads to autoimmunity.
There are numerous factors that can cause intestinal permeability, and discovering which trigger (or triggers) is damaging your gut is key to restoring its function. These factors include:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Capsaicin (in “spicy” peppers)
- Dental infections
- Enzyme deficiencies
- Food sensitivities
- Gluten Gut infections
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Nutrient depletions Psychological stress
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth(SIBO)
- Sinus infections Strenuous exercise Stress Surgery or trauma Toxins
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