Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s frequently present with a condition called leaky gut (aka, intestinal permeability). This is a big deal because 70% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut! Tissues in the gut store the kinds of immune cells that can produce antibodies against what the body sees as foreign invaders. Sometimes that means the immune system is attacking viruses or bacteria, but when you have autoimmunity those same cells can attack you.
Now, no one knows if leaky gut causes Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune disorders or if leaky gut is a symptom of autoimmunity but when it comes down to the potential for increased quality of life, does it really matter? Healing your gut can change your life for the better when you have Hashimoto’s. In fact, healing the gut is literally the key to remission for some people!
What Is Leaky Gut
This surprisingly common and now medically acknowledged condition is essentially the result of inflammation that can be caused by caused by foods like gluten, soy, dairy, and sugar. Some people are particularly sensitive, though not allergic, to these foods and their intestinal lining can become inflamed after eating them. That causes the gaps between cells to enlarge, allowing everything from undigested food particles to toxins to leak into the bloodstream.
The body, predictably, mounts an immune response against the foreign particles. Sometimes that immune response can include attacks against the body’s own cells and the result may be migraines, eczema, fatigue, arthritis, bowel issues, and issues absorbing essential nutrients.
In the case of Hashimoto’s, leaky gut can be a double whammy for anyone still eating gluten. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein part of gluten, looks a lot like the thyroid molecule, so when gliadin leaks through the intestinal wall the body perceives it as thyroid tissue and mounts an autoimmune attack on the thyroid specifically, leading to a Hashi flare up.
What Causes Leaky Gut
In many if not most cases, leaky gut is caused by diet and lifestyle choices – and frustratingly, these choices may be different for everyone. The foods that cause one person to have an inflammatory response or autoimmune flare up may not affect another. That said, as noted above, gluten is a common culprit.
Other conditions that can cause leaky gut include infections, fungus, certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, alcohol, stress, and even strenuous exercise.
How to Heal Your Gut
The simplest way to begin healing the gut is to eliminate gluten and excess sugar from your diet. Many studies have linked Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with gluten intolerance, so you may find you feel a lot better off gluten even if you’re still having some gut issues. Here are some great tips to help you reduce your sugar consumption!
Then try replacing foods like corn, dairy, soy, processed vegetable oils, refined sugar, and food additives with gut-friendly alternatives. These days, gluten free grains, coconut oil, and other healthy alternatives are so easy to come by that it’s not necessarily a chore to change the way you eat when your goal is healing Hashimoto’s.
Next, make sure you have plenty of beneficial gut bacteria by adding probiotic rich foods to your diet. Many people find that fermented vegetables are a familiar and tasty way to rebalance gut bacteria.
Eliminating toxins from your diet and from your home can help reduce instances of inflammation. We are exposed to so many heavy metals, household chemicals, environmental pollutants, and preservatives every day, is it any wonder our bodies are going haywire? Reducing your exposure can only be beneficial.
Talk to your doctor about adding supplements like L-glutamine, Quercetin, Bromelain, Tumeric, and milk thistle to your diet.
And then make a focused effort to reduce the stress in your life. Having a chronic illness is stressful enough so find ways to eliminate sources of stress. Learn to say no to unnecessary obligations. Practice self care. Make time for sleep. Remember that your health is a priority!
We understand that there’s a lot to think about as your work toward healing Hashimoto’s and that it can seem overwhelming. But healing your gut is a relatively simple step you can take that can make your life so much better in the long term.