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What is a leaky gut?
I used to think it was made-up medical slang to pray on poor suckers who would believe anything. Now, I know better.
I found that I had a leaky gut and that it was a major connection to my Hashimoto’s disease. It was amazing to learn that there could be inflammation and discord in my gut fueling the inflammation in my thyroid. It seemed unbelievable that healing my leaky gut would slowly heal my Hashimoto’s causing it to go into remission. However, this is exactly what I found. This is the leaky gut connection to Hashimoto’s.
I must say that I am now a believer in functional medicine and one of my first steps to finding this path was coming across a particular success story and book on Hashimoto’s.
MY FIRST STEP TO FINDING REMISSION
During my research for success stories online I had found Izabella Wentz’s blog which details her research into Hashimoto’s thyroiditis based on her own thyroid experience.
She is a pharmacist who is trying to bring awareness to healing Hashimoto’s and this is what inspired me to order her book, HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS: LIFESTYLE INTERVENTIONS FOR FINDING AND TREATING THE ROOT CAUSE .
I read her book in about 3 days because I was so eager to learn. I highly recommend purchasing this book. She does a wonderful job of hitting every part of what helped and what didn’t in her journey.
In the very beginning, her book gave me a fantastic jumping off point for understanding the leaky gut connection to Hashimoto’s.
WHAT IS A LEAKY GUT?
A leaky gut is a way to describe “intestinal permeability”. This is when the lining of the intestines has become damaged causing undigested particles of food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream.
Your digestive tract and your immune system are closely intertwined. The majority of your immune system resides in your digestive tract.
The body recognizes these ‘leaked’ substances as foreign and responds to them with inflammatory and allergic reactions such as irritable bowels, acne or eczema, chronic fatigue, development of food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies, or possible progression into autoimmunity.
If you would like to know what the signs of a leaky gut are you can read my article 12 Signs That You Have A Leaky Gut.
HOW DOES A LEAKY GUT PROGRESS TO AUTOIMMUNITY?
Generally, the partially digested particles are a form of protein that your body no longer is able to break down. Most times these undigested proteins can cause you to develop new food sensitivities, intolerances, or allergies to foods you eat the most.
Gluten protein from wheat in most cases is one of the main culprits for causing a leaky gut.
These new food sensitivities can have a number of strange side effects such as stomach pain, digestive issues (constipation/diarrhea), skin rashes, burning sensations on your skin or feet, or even joint pain.
Those are just a few examples- there are many more ways that your body can express it’s struggle with a food sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy. Or like me, you may have no symptoms at all until you stop eating them for 2-4 weeks and add them back into your diet.
LACKING DIGESTIVE ENZYME PRODUCTION
With a leaky gut, your body cannot not break down food properly because it cannot create enough of the necessary pancreatic enzymes for digestion. This can lead to malnutrition if it goes on long enough and degrades far enough. Pretty scary stuff!
If your intestines cannot absorb essential nutrients and proteins, several body processes slowly break down. This leads to many uncomfortable symptoms, hormone imbalances, and a weak immune system. It is the leaky gut connection to Hashimoto’s.
It becomes the butterfly effect of one failure after another as your body slowly degrades. Repairing your leaky gut as well as your production of digestive enzymes is essential for putting your Hashimoto’s into remission.
They have a test you can take for validating that you have a leaky gut, but I felt like I didn’t need a test for verification. In my research I had learned that most people with Hashimoto’s, if not all, have a leaky gut.
WHAT CAUSES A LEAKY GUT?
In many cases, a leaky gut is a result of a poor diet. If you are not eating enough good foods then your body cannot continue to create the enzymes it needs for the digestive process. This can lead to partially digested proteins and food allergies – especially to foods you consume regularly.
However, a leaky gut can also be caused by medications. Antibiotics kill the “good” protective bacteria in your gut along with the bad bacteria you are trying to remove from your body by using them.
It can take years to regrow the good bacteria in your gut. Some steroids and many over the counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can irritate the intestinal lining and damage the protective mucus layers in your intestines.
This ongoing damage can perpetuate the inflammatory cycle that leads to a leaky gut.
THE LEAKY GUT CONNECTION TO HASHIMOTO’S DISEASE
After reading Izabella Wentz’s book, HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS: LIFESTYLE INTERVENTIONS FOR FINDING AND TREATING THE ROOT CAUSE and many months of research, I finally admitted to myself that I had a leaky gut.
I bought this book hoping it wasn’t just another person trying to capitalize on the misfortune of others. Turns out it wasn’t! It was the real deal.
I highly recommend reading this book if you have autoimmune hypothyroidism to get an understanding of is going on inside of your body and the leaky gut connection to Hashimoto’s.
In my case, I believe my road to a leaky gut was a combination of diet and medications. I was always quick to reach for ibuprofen. Ibuprofen has been found to cause intestinal inflammation and possible stomach bleeding.
Also, as I have mentioned before, my immune system was extremely weak for many years causing me to rely on medication heavily for even a simple cold. I had always eaten pretty healthy, but I also had consumed quite a bit of sugary foods and other things that are known to cause inflammation such as alcohol (especially in college and prior to having my kids).
Taking this further, I believe my high activity level of swimming laps daily increased my body’s need for regular sources of good nutrients that I was not supplying. Your body will try to keep a homeostasis as it continues for as long as it can.
Usually a stressful event, such as my pregnancy, will be the tipping point into autoimmunity. And was it ever!
I will talk more about my specific experience with repairing my leaky gut in my next post, Part 7: Healing My Leaky Gut Stopped Hashimoto’s.
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