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The Thyroid and Digestion

Guest Post by Tara Beck

If you’re reading this article, it is likely that you are one of the millions of people who are currently struggling with a thyroid disorder.  Thyroid disorders have reached near epidemic levels in recent years, yet we still know very little about proper diagnosis and treatment.  The lucky few who are succeeding in healing thyroid conditions, seem to be doing it mostly on their own through research, trial and error, and often a leap of faith.

If you find yourself with any type of thyroid disorder, (Hypothyroid, Hyperthyroid, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Thyroid cancer) it is vitally important to study and learn as much as you can about this beautiful and complex gland yourself. 

Modern medicine often falls short of effectively treating the root cause of the thyroid condition, and there are some excellent books written about incredibly helpful alternative approaches and treatments.

One interesting point that has surfaced in my own research and experience is the frequent correlation between thyroid disorders and digestive disorders.  If you have a thyroid condition, it is very likely that you also have a fairly long-term digestive disorder.  It’s one of those “Chicken or the egg” questions about which came first: the thyroid imbalance or the digestive imbalance?

Thyroid health is largely determined by a proper balance among the brain, the thyroid and the gut.  Long ignored and minimised, the gut is now being understood as an important foundation for our immune system, our overall health and a requirement for optimal thyroid function.  For example, one of the frequent symptoms of Hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s is constipation.  And constipation can likewise contribute to a sluggish thyroid.  Which condition came first is really a moot point because both require our attention.

The large intestine is the last stop for our food before exiting the body.  After our food has been broken down and processed, it goes through the large intestine to be removed from the body as waste.  With a thyroid condition, however, our colon can become sluggish and leads to constipation.

Depending upon the severity of the constipation, our large intestine can get backed up even further, and waste can actually move back up into the small intestine, interfering with the ileocecal valve that normally only allows waste to move downward and out.  Regular constipation can eventually lead to a failure of the ileocecal valve, and waste can back up even further into the small intestine.

At this stage, your health can begin to deteriorate rapidly, because the role of the small intestine is absorbing and assimilating.  If waste pushes back up into it, the small intestine will absorb waste toxins into the body, which can cause skin rash, bloating, and a number of other conditions.  If the situation persists, the intestinal lining itself can eventually be compromised, allowing waste to enter the blood stream and cause even more severe problems.

The blood will recognise this foreign matter as a danger and develop antibodies to fight it off, but if the lining of either intestine is damaged, the flow of waste into the blood stream will continue unabated.  The body will then be in a constant state of alarm, producing endless quantities of antibodies against what?  Well, against whatever food you happened to eat that day.  In theory, any food, no matter how nutritious it may be, could then be viewed by our immune system as a threat, leading to chronic autoimmune conditions.  If you suffer from constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, or pain in the abdomen, the above scenario may be relevant for you.

In these situations, the typical advice is to add more fibre to your diet (in the form of whole grains or a fibre supplement usually composed of psyllium husk), but this can actually make things worse since grains can be difficult to digest, and our digestive system is usually already overwhelmed with a modern diet high in grain.  Making matters worse, today’s grains are not grown nor prepared anything like they were in ancient times.

Our ancestors, even up to our grandmother or great grandmother, would soak, sprout or ferment grains, often for days before consuming them.  Our fast-food world has used science to shorten the preparation of grains, but they have done nothing to make the food more digestible.  The food industry really has little to no incentive to properly research the impact of modern production methods on the nutrition and digestibility of the food products they sell, so very few studies have ever been published on the topic.

Even though we have been here less than 100 years, our immune system has been developing through the numerous generations that came before us, and it evolves far more slowly than our technology does.  With all of these foods and food-like products (genetically modified, chemically treated, packaged, processed, and stripped beyond any remnant of a living, whole food) that are so common in our food supply today, it’s no wonder our digestive system is struggling.  But once we understand that our digestive system is the key to our immune system, and how incredibly important that is to our overall well being, we can begin to make choices that will forever impact our health.

Below are a few of my favourite tips to support and heal your digestion.  If any of these tips sound vaguely familiar, it may be because this is how everyone ate 100 years ago.

Add fermented foods to each meal.  Think of sauerkraut, kimchee, whole milk plain yogurt, lacto-fermented condiments such as chutney and homemade lacto-fermented dressings.  Condiments were created as digestive aids, and before modern mass production, they were always fermented in some way.  This came from ancient wisdom that our digestive system needs a little help digesting the food we eat.  By adding small amounts of fermented foods to each meal, we are giving ourselves living enzymes, probiotics and prebiotics that help the food to be broken down, enable the nutrients to be accessed, and give our digestive system a boost. Sadly, in order to produce these condiments quickly and cheaply, manufacturers today have dropped fermentation from the process and added sugar (or even worse, high fructose corn syrup) as a sweetener to trick our brains and taste buds without any redeeming nutritional value. Here’s a recipe for flu-prevention kimchee that is easy and delicious. 

  • If you don’t have a fermented food to add to each meal, consider taking a probiotic and digestive enzyme.

  • Before, during and/or after eating, give your spleen meridian a thump by vigorously thumping the sides of the rib cage at about the level of the bra line. The spleen helps metabolize all we eat and experience, so thumping here gives a surge of energy to spleen to help compensate where our diet or digestion lacks.

  • To stimulate digestion, do the daily energy routine.  

  • Also, for a quick support to the intestines, rub the lymphatics deeply with as much pressure as you can tolerate on both the inner and outer thighs, beginning from the upper thighs working all the way down to just above the knees.

  • Take a stainless steel spoon and rub the rounded side of the spoon on the inside of the cheeks, on the inside of pursed lips, and then flip the spoon over and gently rub it on the gums. This is great for TMJ as well, and helps support digestion.

  • Use a stool in your bathroom….aka squatty potty. Before modern toilets, we would squat which is the ideal posture for bowel movements. By simply having a stool in the bathroom, you can have the convenience of tall modern toilet, with the good posture that opens the root chakra and allows for easier movement.

  • Lastly, imagine that it is 100 years ago and enjoy a great meal with family or friends while expressing gratitude for the food and for all those who participated in bringing that food to your table.  Feeling gratitude and pleasure in a meal, creates an energetic synergy between your body and your food, assisting in digestion and allowing the food to truly nourish you.

With love, Tara

About the Author: Tara Beck is an Advanced Energy Medicine Practitioner and founder of Energy Passage.


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