It's hard enough to have symptoms like fatigue or lack of motivation when
you are suffering from hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's, but it is common
to have stomach problem too. Normally, the stomach pH is very acidic but
hypothyroidism tends to slow metabolism in general which, among other
things, causes the parietal cells in the stomach to produce less stomach
(hydrochloric) acid. Proteins cannot be properly digested in this environment
and food putrefies. Secondary organic acids are produced and these acids
can be too acidic even for the tough lining of the stomach.
Over time, lack of proper stomach acid production can lead to
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and ulcers.
In my clinical experience, the majority of hypothyroid patients also have
abnormal cortisol levels at different times of the day. Cortisol is one of
the many hormones involved in the web of chemical events that affect thyroid
metabolism. Cortisol, too, lowers hydrochloric acid production. It thins the
mucous that protects the stomach lining and it inhibits the normal cellular
repair of the stomach. These three factors all can contribute to the poor
digestion experienced by so many hypothryoid patients.
In this way, hypothyroidism indirectly causes gas, bloating, stomach pain,
burning, heartburn, bad breath and other unpleasant symptoms. Poor acidic
content can also interfere with the absorption of B12, iron and folic acid,
which can cause anemia.
When a patient presents with these symptoms we analyze their blood work for
markers that suggest poor protein digestion. We use functional ranges
instead of conventional laboratory ranges because they are generally
narrower. This is useful for detecting abnormal metabolic shifts in
individuals (Lab ranges cannot tell whether a marker is normal and healthy,
only that the marker is within a range established by 95% of the population
of the lab.).
The good news is that once properly diagnosed low stomach acid is usually
fairly easy to correct.