Hypothyroidism and Gallbladder Disease
It's pretty obvious where your gallbladder disease came from if you are a couch potato and eat fast food regularly. But if you're vegetarian, eating whole, organic foods, work out 5 times a week, have a non-stressful job, no financial worries and a happy family life then you really may wonder: "Where did these gallbladder symptoms come from?"
Perhaps the issue is an underlying thyroid problem. And just maybe the above couch potato syndrome stems from a slow thyroid as well! Research studies show that there is evidence linking hypothyroidism to gallstones, to delayed emptying i.e. biliary dyskinesia or low-functioning gallbladder, sluggish and reduced bile flow.5
Thyroid hormone relaxes the sphincter of Oddi which controls the dumping of bile into the small intestine. When the sphincter is tense due to lack of this thyroxine, less bile is allowed into the small intestine. Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction may also promote gallstone formation. This may explain why people with hypothyroidism have an higher incidence of common bile duct stones as well.2
People with gallbladder dysfunction also tend to have other co-existing symptoms with the gut, be it constipation, diarrhea, leaky gut, food allergies or parasites. Since 20% of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine or T4 is converted into its usable counterpart, T3 in the gut, you can see that getting our digestive disorders healed and the good gut flora flourishing is paramount to optimal thyroid function.
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair thinning/hair loss
- Morning headaches that get better throughout the day
- Foggy brain
- Loss of memory
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intolerance to cold
- Low body temperature
- Poor circulation/numbness in hands and feet
- Muscle cramps with no exertion
- Weight gain and difficulty losing it
- Decreased appetite
- Gallbladder diseases such as gallstones
- Chronic digestive problems such as low stomach acid
If you add some of the following symptoms to the above list, consider the autoimmune disease attacking the thyroid called Hashimoto's Disease:
- Heart palpitations
- Increased pulse without exertion
- Anxiety, nervousness
- Night sweats
- Weight loss and difficulty gaining weight
- Muscle and joint pain
Then add some of the symptoms from below as well since Hashimoto's can have mixed symptoms of both either simultaneously or alternating. Note that you can have difficulty loosing weight or difficulty gaining weight with Hashimoto's. If you have normal weight with symptoms of hypothyroid, it is very likely that your immune system is causing the problem. If you sometimes have symptoms of hyperthyroid, followed by periods with symptoms of hypothyroid, chances are that it is Hashimoto's and it is the immune system that's at fault.
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Intolerance of heat
- Tremors of hands
- Hair loss
- Missed or light menstrual cycles
- Shortness of breath
Approximately 50-80% of people with symptoms of hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. So if you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease, either hypo or hyper, read about Hashimoto's.
Hashimoto's was discovered in 1912 by a Japanese physician named Hakaru Hashimoto and is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly recognizes the thyroid tissue cells as foreign and begins attacking and destryoing them. It produces antibodies to the thyroid. And as you may recall, once you have antibodies towards a specific "invader" you have it for life. Even though thyroid tissue is not a foreign invader, the immune system sees it as so. For a better understanding of why this might happen, ready Datis Kharrizian's book "Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal?" (See right.) The why is important to understand in the management of your thyroid, your gallbladder disease and many other symptoms you may be experiencing. It is quite common to get tested for Hashimoto's and have it be negative, only to test again later and have it come back positive. There are several reasons for this. I'll mention two. One is that, as in any autoimmune disease, it comes and goes in expressing itself. That is, it may be more active or less active at different times. On the other hand, if the immune system is struggling, fighting infection or inflammation in other parts of the body, it may not be even healthy enough to make the antibodies towards the "invaders" that it normally would.
How do I know for sure what I have?
So if you have all the symptoms of Hashimoto's, just assume you do have it and start treating it with diet. And get under the care of someone who knows how to work with this both medically and nutritionally. You may need two practitioners here, an M.D. and a natural practitioner or one who does both. If your practitioner does not take you off gluten and off iodine, look for one who does. And he or she can run the blood test for you.
You want more than a simple TSH and T4 and even more than T3 lab test to assess the many possibilities of thyroid imbalance. You also want a test for thyroid antibodies. With gallbladder problems the possibility of excess hormones and of gut inflammation leading to under-conversion of T4 to the active T3 are just two complications that are possible. More in-depth thyroid testing is necessary. To look for Hashimoto's you also want a test for the two thyroid antibodies - TPO and TG (also known as TAA). Check for both, not just one.