While most doctors prescribe antacids to lower stomach acid for heart burn and acid reflux, the real culprit may be that your stomach acid is already too low. This is called hypochlorhydria and it plays a role in autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Sufficient stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is necessary to:
Protect the body from pathogens. When we consume food, bacteria and other microorganisms come along with it. Stomach acid helps neutralize the ones we don’t want in our bodies. HCl also acts as a barrier against bacterial and fungal overgrowth of the small intestine. This is important to preventing inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream where they can trigger Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Activate pepsin. HCl triggers the production of pepsin, which helps break down proteins to be absorbed in the small intestine. When proteins are not adequately digested, they can escape into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation food sensitivities.
Digest proteins. If you have ever made ceviche or marinated meat in vinegar or lemon, you can see how acid breaks it down. Our stomach acid works much more quickly and efficiently than this.
Activate intrinsic factor. Stomach acid helps activate intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein made in the stomach that is necessary for absorption of vitamin B12.
Stimulate delivery of bile and enzymes. Adequate stomach acid stimulates release of bile from the liver and gall bladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas. This also supports digestion of carbs, fats, and vitamins A and E.
Close the esophageal sphincter. Located between the stomach and the esophagus, the esophageal sphincter protects the delicate tissue of the esophagus from the strong acids of the stomach.
Open the pyloric sphincter. Stomach acid helps open this gateway between the stomach and the small intestine.
Absorb vitamins and minerals. Absorption of folic acid, ascorbic acid, beta carotene and iron are made more bioavailable by HCl in the digestive tract. Low stomach acid can cause poor absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese, selenium, vanadium, zinc, molybdenum and cobalt.
The gut is the seat of the immune system and all of these functions are vital for healthy gut function that can help you manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and prevent inflammation and flare ups. If you want to get to the root cause of your thyroid or acid refulx problems, schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with Dr. Celaya.
Hypochlorhydria is under diagnosed
An estimated 90 percent of the population suffers from hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), yet most of us have never heard of it.
When stomach acid is too low your body cannot digest food thoroughly. The food in the stomach begins to rot and putrefy, the small intestine attempts to reject it, and the rotten food moves back up into the esophagus. While the food is not acidic enough for the small intestine, it is far too acidic for the esophagus.
In addition, low stomach acid leads to bacterial overgrowth, gut inflammation, increased food sensitivities, and higher risk for inflammatory disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Key hypochlorhydria signs and symptoms include:
- Burping, bloating, gas after meals
- Upset stomach after eating
- Nausea when taking vitamins and supplements
- Indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux
- Desire to eat when not hungry
- Undigested food in stool
- Gut infections
- SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Deficiencies of vitamin B-12, calcium, and magnesium
Taking supplemental HCl can help support your own production and help you better digest your food. Take just enough so it doesn’t cause burning. If taking even a little bit causes burning, you may have ulcers and an H. Pylori infection, which are not uncommon with hypochlorhydria.
Schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation for more advice on improving your digestion, relieving your heartburn symptoms, and managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
If you’re getting your TSH levels checked to monitor your thyroid health, it’s best to get that done in the morning. Otherwise, your results may come back normal even though you have hypothyroidism.
All the body’s hormones follow a daily rhythm, including thyroid hormone. This means there are times of the day when it naturally higher or lower. Researchers tested the blood of hypothyroid subjects both before 8 a.m. and again between 2 and 4 p.m.
In hypothyroid patients both untreated and on thyroid medication, TSH dropped was substantially lower during the afternoon test. This means an estimated 50 percent of people with hypothyroidism are not being diagnosed.
In the untreated group, TSH was 5.83 in the morning and 3.79 in the afternoon. In the treated group, TSH was 3.27 in the morning and 2.18 in the afternoon.
A 2004 study also showed late morning, non-fasting TSH was 26 percent lower compared to the early morning, fasting TSH. This means even a late morning blood draw could result in a failure to diagnose. Do you really want to know what is going on with your thyroid? Schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
TSH blood test timing and functional medicine ranges
The timing of your blood draw plays an important role in reading a thyroid panel. However, there is more to it.
Even with an early morning blood draw, many doctors will still fail to diagnose hypothyroidism because they use lab ranges that are too wide and that do not reflect genuine thyroid health.
Many doctors still use a hypothyroidism TSH range of 0.5 to 5.0 even though the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends 0.3 to 3.0.
In functional medicine, we use an even narrower range of .25 to 1.25. We also know that only looking at TSH can miss hypothyroidism.
For example, TSH may be normal but other thyroid markers are off. That’s why it’s important to order a thyroid panel that includes total and free T4 and T3, reverse T3, free thyroxine index (FTI), T3 uptake, and thyroid binding globulins. Many conditions can cause poor thyroid function, including inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and chronic stress. Ordering these other thyroid markers provides more insight into such imbalances.
Always include a test for autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
In addition to these markers, anyone with symptoms of hypothyroidism should also test for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
Why? About 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases in the US are caused by Hashimoto’s. To screen for Hashimoto’s, order TPO and TGB antibodies.
Thyroid medications may be necessary to support thyroid function, but they do not address the autoimmunity attacking the thyroid gland. Failing to manage Hashimoto’s increases the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases such as pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, and Type I diabetes. It will also make it more difficult to manage your symptoms.
Want to see if Dr. Celaya is the right fit for you? Schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya to talk about your thyroid.
If you struggle with chronic exhaustion, insomnia, poor immunity, and persistent low blood sugar symptoms, you likely have poor function of the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys and secrete stress hormones. However, your conventional doctor may have told you there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue based on guidance from The Hormone Foundation. What they may not understand is that there is a continuum of adrenal function and that the brain plays a role in adrenal fatigue.
The debate about adrenal fatigue versus primary adrenal insufficiency
The term “adrenal fatigue” has become a household word in the chronic illness world, and for good reason. The adrenal glands are our frontline against stressors large and small. In our constantly chaotic and nutritionally-depleted lives, these hard-working little glands can become worn down, sometimes to the point of barely working, right along with the areas of the brain that govern them.
What’s confusing is a recent statement by The Hormone Foundation which claimed adrenal fatigue does not exist and is not supported by any scientific facts, and that primary adrenal insufficiency is the only real version of adrenal dysfunction.
However, according to integrative physician Richard Shames, MD, both adrenal fatigue and primary adrenal insufficiency exist along the same continuum but are separated by the severity of symptoms and treatment methods. In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue can also be referred to as mild adrenal sufficiency.
If you really want to know about your adrenal health, schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
Primary adrenal insufficiency is caused by damage to the adrenal glands, such as by an autoimmune condition like Addison’s disease that attacks and destroys adrenal tissue. Primary adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed through blood tests and can be treated with medications that replace adrenal hormones.
Symptoms of primary adrenal insufficiency include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite with weight loss
- Craving salty foods
- Dizziness, low blood pressure
- Feeling lightheaded when standing up
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort
Adrenal fatigue describes when lab tests don’t support a diagnosis of primary adrenal insufficiency but a person still experiences adrenal-related symptoms such as:
- Excessive fatigue and exhaustion
- Non-refreshing sleep
- Feeling overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stress
- Craving salty foods
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brain fog
- Poor digestion
Functional medicine practitioners diagnose adrenal fatigue by considering symptoms as well as results from a 24-hour saliva cortisol test.
Current blood tests are good at diagnosing severe forms of adrenal insufficiency such as Addison’s disease but not mild adrenal insufficiency, or adrenal fatigue.
This debate between adrenal fatigue and primary adrenal insufficiency is reminiscent of the former debates about “mild” hypothyroidism. Twenty years ago, many endocrinologists denied mild hypothyroidism as a true diagnosis because they believed that as long as a patient was within conventional TSH reference ranges they could not possibly be sick.
However, doctors trained in functional medicine recognize that a functional reference range — a narrower TSH range that reflects optimum thyroid health — means that a serious thyroid problem can exist within the conventional TSH range.
As testing and recognition of adrenal fatigue, which affects many people, continues to gain medical acceptance, we will start to refer to it as mild adrenal insufficiency.
The role of the brain in adrenal fatigue
It’s important to understand the brain plays an important role in adrenal fatigue. This explains why nutrients to support your adrenal glands may not go the full mile when the real problem is happening between your ears.
Adrenal fatigue has at its roots poor function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis refers to the feedback loop between your body and areas of your brain that govern adrenal function. Unrelenting stress beats up this entire system, not just the adrenal glands, and it is more complicated and involved that simply low cortisol. The problem is compounded by the brain’s predilection for efficiency, in this case becoming so efficient at stress until the tiniest thing triggers a big stress response. Or, you are so advanced you are too tired to respond to anything.
How the adrenals become fatigued
When our bodies experience stress, no matter how small or large, our adrenals pump out hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to help us fight or take flight. Our bodies are designed to return to baseline after a stressor so the nervous system can return to a “rest and digest” state necessary for daily function.
However, in our chronically stressed modern lifestyles, our bodies are constantly reacting to stressors, many we are not even aware of, such as dietary triggers, toxins, and even electromagnetic frequencies.
This constant state of high-stress hormones damages tissues in the body and brain and is linked to:
- Suppressed immunity
- Low energy
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Increased belly fat
Removing all stressors in life is impossible, but there is much we can do to support adrenal function and buffer the damage of stress.
Adrenal adaptogens and phosphatidylserine are two natural routes that especially support the HPA axis and the brain’s ability to handle stress.
There are so many issues related to adrenal problems. To get to the root cause of your problems, schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.