Hypothyroidism Symptoms and Indigestion
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Hypothyroidism symptoms can sometimes include low stomach acid and poor digestion. Poor digestion is a major problem today. As nearly 44% of the population experience heart burn monthly and 20% of them experience it weekly. Heart burn is a paradoxical symptom caused by low stomach acid strangely enough, as you would think the problem based on its name, is caused by too much acid. What essentially is happening is the food isn’t fully broken down. So it begins to rot (putrefy and ferment) in the stomach and organic acids from the decaying food rise up and burn the unprotected tissue of the esophagus.
The top 2 medications sold in 2014 were a thyroid medication called Synthroid and an acid-blocking medication called Nexium. This doesn’t prove that one causes the other, but in my clinical experience, there almost always tends to be a link with poor digestion, low stomach acid, and chronic infection when it comes to hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.
Low stomach acid is commonly associated with hypothyroidism and or Hashimoto’s. Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCL) has a few different roles in the body, one being the first domino of the digestive process. HCL does this by lowering the pH in the stomach. This activates the digestive enzyme pepsin, which breaks down protein. The acidity produced from the stomach acid stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile salts, which are important for fatty acid break down.
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Low Stomach Acid (HCL) and Anemias Can Affect Your Thyroid
When we look at the common nutritional deficiencies associated with low stomach acid, iron and B12 deficiencies commonly show up. These types of deficiencies are also known as anemias. B12 deficiency is known as a macrocytic anemia because our red blood cells can’t mature properly and are stuck in a larger state. Red blood cells actually get smaller as they mature, so the immature ones stay bigger, hence the prefix “macro.”
Cool fact: The parietal cells in the stomach, which produce intrinsic factor (IF), are the same cells that produce hydrochloric acid (HCL). This is why the HCL and B12 connection is so common. When the parietal cells are injured, it makes sense that everything it produces will no longer be at optimal capacity.
When we are dealing with iron deficiency anemias, these are commonly known as microcytic anemias. Iron is needed to help carry oxygen to the cells in our body. Our thyroid gland needs iron to help make thyroid hormone. And our cells need iron so they can take up oxygen as well. When our red blood cells don’t get enough iron, they become very small, hence the prefix “micro.”
The Anemia Breakdown
- B12 anemia: You can’t produce healthy mature red blood cells. The same cells that help carry oxygen and nutrition all over your body for healthy metabolism. The same cells that produce
- Iron anemia: Iron is needed to make thyroid hormone and gives your hemoglobin the ability to carry oxygen throughout your body.
- A Common symptom of anemia is fatigue, which is the most common hypothyroid symptom as well. I hope you are starting to see the thyroid-anemia connection.
Our Gut Lining is Important for Nutrient Absorption
When there is an absence of HCL in our stomach, our food tends to not digest properly. When our food sits in our stomach, it tends to essentially rot. And then various organic acids rise off of it. The maldigestion of these food sources feed various bad bacteria in our gut, and gas is produced as a by-product. The next time you feel gassy after eating, you will at least know what’s happening on the inside.
The low amount of HCL and the increase in intra-abdominal pressure cause our esophageal sphincter to stay open. The acids from the rotting food now have the ability to rise up and touch the area of the esophagus that is typically walled off during healthy digestion. This is now the beginning of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If this area continues to get irritated, over time ulcers will begin to occur along with atrophic gastritis. It is nothing more than irritation of the stomach followed by a thinning of the stomach lining.
The thinning of the gut lining and the lack of HCL causes low nutrient absorption.
- HCL is needed to ionize and break down minerals, like selenium, iodine, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and chromium, into a suitable state so they can be taken up by the bloodstream.
- A healthy gut lining is needed to absorb these ionized minerals and also break down nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins (B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, and B vitamins).
- These nutrients are not only needed to make thyroid hormones, but certain nutrients, like selenium, are needed to convert and activate thyroid hormones (converting T4 to T3) and help quench the inflammatory by-products of thyroid hormone metabolism—hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).
- Eating a diet low in these essential nutrients in conjunction with poor digestion is a hormonal disaster waiting to erupt!
Nutrients Needed for Healthy Thyroid Function
- B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium, iodine, zinc, iron, and magnesium are important for healthy thyroid function.
- As your digestive problem gets worse, so does your thyroid problem because the nutrients you need to run your thyroid aren’t present in optimal levels.
Thyroid Hormone Is Needed for Digestion
Thyroid hormone has an effect on cellular metabolism throughout the entire body, including the gastrointestinal tract. Metabolism in the gastrointestinal tract has an effect on gastric motility. A slower thyroid can cause slower transit times, which can also contribute to dysbiosis or a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and indigestion.
Lower thyroid function can cause lower gastrin levels, which are needed to stimulate HCL production. When patients are brought up to normal thyroid levels, their HCL levels return.
“Fasting plasma gastrin levels measured by radoimmunoassay were found to be low in patients with hypothyroidism. The intravenous infection of arginine caused an increase of plasma gastrin in hypothyroid patients but was significantly lower than those in normal subjects. The decreased gastrin level in patients with hypothyroidism was significantly improved after the thyroid function was normalized by treatment.”
Low HCL and low thyroid levels can cause dysbiotic levels of bacteria in the intestinal tract. About 20% of T4 (inactive) thyroid hormone is converted to T3 acetic acid (AC) and T3 sulfate (S). The conversion of T3AC and T3S into active T3 requires an enzymes called sulfatase. The only problem is, sulfatase is found only in healthy bacteria.
In essence 20% of your thyroid hormone conversion is dependent on healthy digestion as well as a healthy gut biome. It’s amazing the interconnectedness between your hormonal system and your gut. It makes sense why Nobel Prize-winning physician Dr. Mechnikov is quoted as saying, “Death begins in the colon.”
The Infection Connection
The bacterial infection H. pylori is a common infection in the United States and is infamous for causing stomach acid. H. pylori also secretes an enzyme called urease. Urease breaks down urea into ammonia, which can have an effect on lowering your HCL levels.
“In conclusion, gastric acid secretion, as a quantifiable marker for gastric atrophy, was only partially reversed after eradication in the majority of the H. pylori-positive patients with marked body atrophy plus profound hypochlorhydria, despite of long-term follow-up over 5 years.”
In other words, depending on how much damage is present in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract, it may require outside sources of exogenous HCL and/or use of Swedish bitters to help regain the patient’s own HCL productions.
The majority of thyroid conditions diagnosed in this country are Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. This condition is a little different from your primary hypothyroid condition as it’s the patient’s immune system that causes the damage. Giving someone the standard of care treatment, Synthroid, will not stop the autoimmune thyroid destruction.
Research shows a significant correlation with the eradication of H. Pylori and a reduction in thyroid antibodies. It’s as if the H. Pylori is a contributing factor to the autoimmune thyroid condition.
If you are trying to get to the root cause of your thyroid condition, click here for answers!
Duke, J. A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985
Healthy Digestion! How Much Fat and Protein Should I Be Eating?
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
How much fat do I need?
Your body has specific feedback loops that are intimately tied with satiety (feeling full). It’s interesting to know that fat and protein produce specific neurochemicals that make you feel full. Some of these neurochemicals are known as peptide YY, adiponectin, leptin, Ghrelin and CCK. These chemicals have an intimate feedback loop to the appetite centers of our brain. If you eat too many of these foods you will start to feel nauseous.
If you think back to some of the famous Pringles commercials of the 1990’s where they would say, “Once you pop, you can’t stop!” Or just think back to your college days, how many times do you remember eating a whole pizza to yourself ? It’s very easy to eat foods in excess that don’t produce a neurochemical signal to your brain telling you you’re full. The food industry knows this, and that is one of the reasons why they’ve taken most fats out of the food and added refined sugar and artificial sweeteners in their place. it’s wrong to even refer to these items as food, as Michael Pollan poetically puts it, they are more like “Edible food like substances.”
When you wake up in the middle of the night craving something; do you find your self craving a grass fed steak with asparagus? Or are you craving some potato chips and Häagen-Dazs ice cream? You’ll find the underlying denominator in all these cravings is refined sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates.
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How much protein do I need?
My personal recommendations are 0.5 to 1 g per pound of body weight. Many people convolute this formula using kilogram conversions and refer to lean body mass, in my opinion this just makes it more confusing. In general the recommendations above are adequate and nearly everyone can calculate their needs within just a few seconds.
Therefore a 200 pound man would need anywhere between 100 g of protein to 200 g protein depending on activity level and particular goals. If this person were training and trying to increase their muscle mass I would recommend staying at the 1 g side.
Strength coaches such as Charles Poliquinn even go as far to recommend 2 g per pound of body-weight. For your average everyday person 0.7 grams per pound is a safe starting place, you’ll find it’s probably far more than what you’re eating currently.
The only individuals that need to worry about their protein consumption are people who have kidney damage or kidney disease. Proteins do not create kidney damage on a healthy kidney, but if your kidney is already impaired, the extra glomular filtration may be to much for the kidney to handle. Adding extra fats into your diet have a net neutral effect and can be a good alternative if you have kidney damage.
Many people ask about the acid load of protein. As long as you eat enough high quality vegetable and fruit emphasis on the vegetables, the alkalinity created from the vegetables will be more than enough to balance out the acidity of the meat proteins. The most acidic proteins are soy, grains, casein and egg whites; all other whole animal proteins provide an adequate amount of phosporus which will help neutralize it from it’s calcium leaching effects.
I recommend starting off your day with the first 30 to 60 minutes consuming at least 30 g of protein. Below are different food choices and their protein amount per 4 ounces. FYI the palm of your hand is about 3 ounces, so something slightly bigger than your palm is a good estimate.
Beef- 32 gms. Lamb- 30.2 gms.
Turkey- 32.6 gms. Chicken- 33.8 gms.
Calf liver- 24.5 gms. Venison- 34.3 gms.
Salmon- 29 gms. Scallops- 23 gms.
Shrimp- 23.7 gms. Cod- 26 gms.
Tuna – 34 gms. Sardines- 22.7 gms.
*Tofu- 9.2 gms. Egg- (1) 6 gms.
*Lentils- 1cup 17.9 gms. *Dried peas- ½ cup 6 gms
*Cottage cheese- ½ cup 14 gms. *Yogurt- 1 cup 12.9 gms.
*Kidney Bean- 1 cup 15.4 gms. *Pinto Beans- 1 cup 14 gms.
*Lima Beans- 1 cup 14.7 gms. *Black Beans- 1 cup 15.2 gms.
*Garbanzo- 1 cup 14.5 gms. *Navy Bean-1 cup 15.8 gms.
Walnuts- ¼ cup 3.81 gms. Almonds- ¼ cup 7.62 gms.
Cashews- ¼ cup 5.24 gms. Almond Butter- 2 TBSP. 7 gms.
Cashew Butter- 2 TBSP 5 gms.
*Please keep in mind that beans are two thirds starch. So for every 1 g of protein you get from beans (legumes) you end up consuming 2 g of starchy carbohydrate. This is one of the main reasons why I don’t like legumes or beans as a quality protein source. I also don’t recommend getting your protein from dairy sources like cottage cheese and yogurt. The casein proteins in these foods can create inflammation and stress the immune system. These dairy foods in their raw form are far superior to their pasteurized, homogenize and refined alternatives.
What do I do if eating all this protein and fat is causing me digestive problems?
Your stomachs main job is to digest protein. It does this by producing HCl and pepsin which help decrease the pH in your stomach. As the acidity in the stomach decreases, this provides a more favorable environment to help break down protein. As the acidic chyme (pre-broken down protein and food in the stomach) are released into the small intestine, this signals a release of bile from the gallbladder and pancreatic enzymes from the pancreas. The bile from the gallbladder is an emulsifying agent which helps break down this newly entered fat in the small intestine. If the chyme from the stomach is not acidic it will not trigger a release of bile when it enters the small intestine.
As you can see there’s an intricate domino effect occurring in our digestion processes. Healthy digestion in the stomach is the first domino that needs to fall. This domino then triggers healthy digestion in the small intestine. The next domino that falls is healthy absorption of these broken down nutrients in the small intestine and healthy bacterial fermentation and re-absorption of electrolytes in the large intestine. if one Domino doesn’t fall they can mess up the whole chain!
If you have a digestive problem the first thing I would recommend is supporting your body with hydrochloric acid, enzymes, pancreatic support and bile salts. This greatly aids in your body’s digestive abilities, which helps you to break down, utilize and assimilate all of the great food your putting your body. if your digestion is impaired it’s common to have bloating, gas, stomach burning or Gerd, belching, nausea and skin problems.
Some individuals have a gastrointestinal infection ranging from a parasite, bacteria (H-Pylori is a common one), fungus or viruses. it’s important to mention that everyone is entitled to having more than one infection, the more infections you have, the longer the recovery time.
If adding in digestive support doesn’t do the trick you should be screened for an infection either way. The goal isn’t to use natural supplements to cover up symptoms, the goal is to get to the underlying cause of the problem.
The last thing you want to do is use any type of proton pump inhibitors or acid blockers to fix the problem. This may help some of the symptoms in the beginning, but in the long run you are opening yourself up to major problems!
If you need help figuring out your diet and getting your digestion back on track, feel free and schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here. This will at least give you the opportunity figure out the next steps you need to take to help improve your health!