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Thyroid Conditions and Digestive Problems

If you are struggling with a digestive condition, isolating the source can seem like an impossible task. It could be a food allergy, bacterial infection or nutritional deficiency.

On the other hand, it could be something seemingly unrelated.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It is responsible for making and distributing thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and help the body use energy. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it can cause a wide range of problems including digestive issues. Many people with chronic gastrointestinal problems cannot find relief because they have an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

Hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone in the body, causes bodily functions to speed up. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are a racing heart, nervousness, hand tremors, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and an enlarged neck. Digestive symptoms of an overactive thyroid can include difficulty swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, liver problems, H. pylori bacterial infection and weight loss.

Hypothyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone in the body, can cause the body’s processes to slow down. This may cause symptoms such as fatigue, dry skin, depression, constipation, forgetfulness and weight gain. Digestive symptoms of an underactive thyroid can include dyspepsia (chest pain), low stomach acid, poor absorption, constipation, gallstones, anemia and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

The thyroid gland can have a significant impact on the gastrointestinal system. A common misconception is that diet causes chronic digestive trouble and weight changes, but this may be an oversimplification. Thyroid conditions and their resultant symptoms are often complex and require ongoing treatment by an endocrinologist.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, so make an appointment with an endocrinologist or gastroenterologist if you think you may have a thyroid condition. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, an estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, and about 13 million cases are undiagnosed. One appointment may provide the necessary insight to alleviate your digestive problems and put you on the road to better health.

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