I absolutely love what I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes that’s why I love it, it always keeps me guessing. As soon as you feel like you have it all figured out, something new blows your mind wide open. Healing is a process that involves MANY layers and it’s not always straightforward. Understanding the intricacies of nutrition alone is constantly keeping me on my toes. Once you add each person’s bioindividuality into the equation, figuring out what’s going on can sometimes feel like serious detective work! Mix in all the misinformation and contradictions out there and it can leave you feeling defeated. With my own issues, I’ve often wanted to tear my hair out trying to figure out what’s up.
One of my core values is to help others dig deep into the root causes of their illness in order to truly find a place of healing. As a practitioner, that means you always have to keep and open mind. You never know what concepts, ideas and discoveries lie just beyond the horizon that will change everything you thought you knew about a particular disease or symptom. When I started learning about how our gut flora affects our health, so many connections started opening up. If it weren’t for that understanding, I never would have been able to heal myself from an autoimmune hypothyroid condition.
Exposing ourselves to a more holistic, interconnected view of the body can open up a whole new world of possibility when it comes to healing. This week I wanted to discuss a topic that demonstrates this idea perfectly: How a bacterial overgrowth in your intestines, called SIBO, can be directly contributing to your hypothyroidism. Two seemingly disconnected parts of the body are not only intimately linked, but understanding their connection may be crucial to finding health. Even if you don’t suffer from hypothyroidism, understanding how to break down a health issue in this way is vital to understanding how to heal from just about anything.
What is SIBO?
SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Typically, you shouldn’t have much of a bacterial population in your small intestine. Your large intestine is the one that houses most of our bacterial flora. When the digestive system isn’t functioning properly though, sometimes it can invade the small intestine.
SIBO has been implicated in everything from IBS to fibromyalgia. It can contribute to deficiencies in B vitamins, iron, and digestive enzymes.
How do I know if I have it?
The most sure-fire way to know if you have SIBO is to test for it but symptoms include nausea, bloating, vomiting diarrhea, weight loss, joint pain, fatigue, rashes, and skin issues. Chances are if you’ve been addressing gut issues with diet and supplementation and still aren’t getting better, it could be SIBO. Again, testing is best and you can do this either through a naturopath or functional medicine doctor. You can also order a test kit for at home use from The Thyroid Pharmacist.
What does this have to do with my thyroid?
Something that’s becoming more and more clear to me is the connection between underlying infection and chronic disease, specifically autoimmune disease. We have this idea that, with autoimmune conditions, the immune system simply attacks itself. That seems a little underdeveloped to me. It makes complete sense to me that the immune system would go a little haywire due to an lurking pathogen. There are quite a few bacterial infections that can trigger autoimmune thyroid issues epstein barr virus, H. Pylori, and yeast overgrowth have all been implicated in hypothyroid autoimmunity. While SIBO isn’t exactly a pathogen, it is an infection in some ways and can have the same effect. It turns out that about half those struggling with Hashimotos and autoimmune hypothyroidism also suffer from SIBO and that common prescription medications for the disorder can cause SIBO.
What can I do about it?
When it comes to SIBO, the intricacies of nutritional protocol become apparent. The dietary approach basically “starves” the bacteria from your small intestine by eliminating the stuff they eat. Starchy carbs, high fiber, and prebiotic foods should be eliminated. Prebiotics such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion, garlic, leek, onion, and asparagus, all sound perfectly healthy but it’s not that simple. For those with a healthy small intestine, they’re fine but for those with SIBO, they feed the bacteria causing problems.
When I see clients with SIBO, my biggest recommendation is a cleanse. There are a lot of diets out there that will help the issue but they tend to be complicated and really nit picky. It’s for good reason, but I find that focusing on what you can eat- a selected amount of nutrient dense cleansing foods, makes the process a lot easier.
Here is a list of foods that those with SIBO should avoid for now:
Apples, mango, pears, canned fruit, watermelon, avocado, green capsicum, lychee, longan, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, cruciferous vegetables, fennel, garlic, leek, okra, onions, shallots, spring onion, mushrooms, corn, white potatoes, fructose, HFCS, chicory, dandelion, inulin, pistachio, legumes, all artificial sweeteners, xylitol, sugar, and ALL grains.
Supplementing for SIBO
Antimicrobial herbs are the go-to for anyone dealing with SIBO. Oregano oil, garlic, grapefruit seed extract, and berberine containing compounds like goldenseal or oregon grape root are options. Taking them continuously over a 30-60 day period may be necessary.
Finding a good strong probiotic is also key! It’s important to continue to populate your gut with good bacteria (make sure to take it away from the antimicrobial herbs).
Every time I help a client work through a discovery process like this and help them learn how to heal, I learn SO much. I hope this article helps even just one person understand the underlying root cause of their symptoms. If you’re still out there struggling to unearth the cause of yours, keep pushing! The answer is out there and you can and WILL find it!