Thyroid Clues Part III: The surprising alliance between the thyroid and the gallbladder
In the Westernized, insurance directed medical culture, medical complaints tend to be compartmentalized. A thyroid disorder is navigated by an endocrinologist and gallbladder disease is managed by a gastroenterologist……. and rarely the two shall meet! And yet, that’s not how the body works. Every organ plays an important role elsewhere in the body, and having the knowledge of a diagnosis can easily be used as a clue to shore up defenses in hopes of avoiding a secondary diagnosis. I’ve wondered if more people knew this truth, would they put in the personal work to prevent the collateral damage and in doing so, perhaps even bring the primary disorder to heel?
The thyroid and gallbladder have an “Odd Couple” relationship…at first thought, you wouldn’t imagine that one could have a powerful impact on the other (and vice versa), and yet they do.
One of the jobs of thyroid hormones is to bind to the smooth muscles of the gallbladder which then facilitates contraction and causes a release of bile into the small intestine. If someone is (even mildly) hypothyroid over a period of time, gallbladder emptying will become inefficient and sludge begins forming within the organ. Gallbladder (aka biliary) sludge is a real culprit and can cause significant problems in that semi solid form. Sludge is also fodder for gallstones. Interestingly, gallbladder sludge can also accumulate as a result of HYPERthyroidism, though the mechanism of action is different.
If bile is sludgy, very little of it will be in usable form, so the body becomes less able to digest fatty foods. Burping or belching may occur often, and stools may start to lighten up in color (to a lighter brown or clay colored). Bloating may also occur, especially after a fatty meal. Lipid panel (lab work) results will also begin changing. It’s not uncommon for patients to develop higher LDL (cholesterol) than previously exhibited.
Bile is also important in the absorption and metabolism of fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K as well as essential fatty acids. Without bile, deficiencies may quietly slide into play.
Additionally, bile acts as an immune signaling agent in the gut microbiome. It binds to special receptor sites within the gut to help control intestinal inflammation and help facilitate the metabolism of toxins in the gut.
Meanwhile, thyroid hormones and gut bacteria also have their own intricate relationship. According to recent studies (2019 and 2020), the microbiome plays a significant role in the activity of thyroid hormones, and a gut with a healthy microbiome supports healthy thyroid function. Of special interest is regular incorporation of probiotic strains Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus into the diet, as both have been shown in studies “to lead to fewer thyroid medication dose adjustments, allow for possible dose reduction, and having less serum hormonal fluctuations.” Young Living’s Life 9 probiotic contains 4 strains of Bifidobacterium and 4 strains of Lactobacillus (9 strains total with 17 billion colony forming units!). Supporting the gut makes the thyroid happy too!
An estimated 600,000+ gallbladders are removed each year, so odds are high that someone reading this would ask…. “What if I don’t have a gallbladder?”
Let’s chat about that! T4 is converted into T3 (the more active form of thyroid hormone) in the liver, and properly metabolized fats (usually accomplished with bile) are needed to make that magic happen. As a result, not enough usable T3 is made, and metabolism ultimately slows down. If the gallbladder has been removed, then fats will not be broken down properly without some help from outside sources. Essentialzymes-4, Detoxzyme, Allerzyme, and Essentialzyme all contain the digestive enzyme lipase (among other digestive enzymes) which supports proper fat digestion and metabolism…… AND thyroid health!
Do you see the sludgy slope? ….The thyroid is off which in turn throws the gallbladder off, which in turn throws the gut microbiome off! That’s some hard slogging through sludge right there.
Women👩 are far more likely than men to have a combination of thyroid / gallbladder issues. Excess estrogen (aka estrogen dominance ) can compete with thyroid hormones at the thyroid receptor sites. Not only can estrogen dominance potentiate hypothyroidism, it can also be a factor in gallbladder distress by blocking the thyroid receptor sites on the gallbladder. Estrogen dominance is an enormous problem in our world for both men and women because of all the synthetic estrogen like compounds found in everything from plastics to body care products (Thank goodness Young Living has a full line of all things personal care for us that are safe to use!) Estrogen dominance is also driven by use of birth control and hormone replacement therapy. Even strong hormonal changes in pregnancy can trigger a gallbladder issue, which as we’ve just seen, can then stress the thyroid. Full circle friends!
The complexities of the body is fascinating! God gets all the credit for our uniquely and wonderfully made us!