PROTEIN DIGESTION AND HASHIMOTO’S
Nutrient depletions are a common issue in Hashimoto’s . Often, people with Hashimoto’s will become deficient in nutrients required for proper thyroid function. Why is that?
Hypothyroidism, in itself, will lead to poor extraction of minerals and vitamins from our food sources. Thyroid hormones determine our metabolism throughout the entire body. As such, the digestive tract is not spared, particularly the intestines. Lack of sufficient thyroid hormones makes nutrient extraction more difficult and less efficient, and can in itself lead to nutrient deficiencies.
A lack of thyroid hormone leads to low temperatures that not only make us uncomfortable in breezy situations, but can also have an impact on hormone synthesis and other important body processes such as digestion, hair growth, skin turnover and regeneration, wound healing, etc.
Most people with thyroid conditions and adrenal fatigue will have low stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCl), which is necessary to break down protein. This is known as “achlorhydria.” The lack of adequate digestive enzymes leads to a depletion of amino acids, iron, zinc and other nutrients obtained from protein. Symptoms include gas, heartburn, bloating, and heaviness in the stomach after eating a protein meal.
Achlorhydria, constipation, and incomplete digestion of fibrous plant materials have been associated with hypothyroidism.
Liver function tests may be disturbed in up to 50% of people with hypothyroidism, leading to reduced output of bile, which helps us digest lipids. Notably, bile stones and gallstones are also more common in Hashimoto’s.
People with Hashimoto’s are also five times more likely to be diagnosed with Celiac disease. Recently, gluten intolerance has been described as a spectrum, with only the most severe cases of damage being diagnosed with Celiac disease. Additionally, some people with Hashimoto’s may present with a celiac-like intolerance to milk proteins (whey and/or casein), egg proteins (ovalbumin), or soy proteins.
Many of these cases are undiagnosed, and when people continue to eat these foods, they are damaging their intestines and robbing themselves of vital nutrients. It sounds surprising, but even people who are overweight may be completely malnourished and nutrient depleted because of the foods they eat. Food intolerances will be discussed in greater detail in future posts or can be found in my book if you would like the information sooner.
Low Stomach Acid
The use of digestive enzymes, probiotics, as well as supplemental acid may be needed to help digest protein. Betaine with Pepsin is a supplement used to raise stomach acid levels and is available for purchase in capsule forms.
Dose: Betaine with Pepsin should be taken after a protein-rich meal, starting with one capsule per meal. The dose should be increased by one more capsule at each meal, until symptoms of too much acid are felt (burping, burning, etc.). At that point, you will know that your dose is one capsule less than what resulted in symptoms.
Betaine with Pepsin Titration Example:
Meal No. 1: One capsule, no symptoms
Meal No. 2: Two capsules, no symptoms
Meal No. 3: Three capsules, no symptoms
Meal No. 4: Four capsules. felt slight burning in throat
Correct dose is: Three capsules per meal
Many people will be amazed how much more energy they have after they start taking digestive enzymes with their meals. I know I felt like a brand new person after starting Betaine with Pepsin.
The digestive enzymes should stimulate your body’s own production of acid, and help you extract nutrients from your food. After some time, you should be able to get off the enzymes as your own body begins to produce enough digestive acid. Alternatively, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar can also help to produce more digestive acid.
Correcting the bacterial imbalance in the intestines will also help with producing enough digestive enzymes. I will be blogging about other nutrients that are depleted, as well as additional interventions to improve digestion (like diets and probiotics) in future posts.