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How Hypothyroidism And Constipation Are connected

Mar 12, 2016

You’re backed up. It’s uncomfortable and annoying, and you’ve tried seemingly everything—but to no avail. Could there be a missing piece you haven’t yet considered?

Could it Be hypothyroidism and constipation?

The most common thyroid disorder, hypothyroidism and constipation results in symptoms like:

  • Low Energy and Fatigue
  • Increased Sensitivity to Cold
  • Dry Skin
  • Weight Gain
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Brittle Nails
  • High Cholesterol
  • Memory Problems
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Aches and Stiffness
  • Thinning Hair
  • Depression and you guessed it—constipation.

These are just some of the most common symptoms, which are different for each person. But constipation is one issue that plagues many sufferers of hypothyroidism.

How Does The Thyroid Play Into hypothyroidism and constipation ?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the throat that has an enormous impact on how our bodies operate—and accordingly, how we feel. According to Dr. Jamie Coroon, N.D., “It stores and produces hormones that affect the function of virtually every organ in our bodies.” That’s quite a lot of impact.

Hypothyroidism is essentially an under-active thyroid gland. And when you consider the role that the thyroid plays in so many bodily functions, chief among them being your metabolism, heart, and body temperature, thenit makes sense that a sluggish thyroid would result in a slowing down of many of the systems in your body—including your digestive tract.

What’s The Connection?

The muscles that line the digestive tract of the small and large intestines contract to move stool through the intestines. Hypothyroidism weakens those contractions, so the stool moves too slowly through your system. This is how constipation can happen for those struggling with hypothyroidism—many of who may not even know it.

Constipation Is More Than Just Discomfort

severe constipation symptoms

constipation side effects

You already know constipation is no fun. But besides the discomfort, there are other reasons it’s important to address it. According to Chris Kresser, L.Ac., constipation can impair your body’s ability to clear out hormones from your system, resulting in rises in estrogen levels. This results in a decrease of free thyroid hormones available to the body, worsening the original problem.

Low levels of thyroid hormones equal low thyroid function, which slows transit time. This causes constipation, which in turn increases gut inflammation, infections, and malabsorption in the gastrointestinal tract. No good!

Magnesium to The Rescue

You may have tried stool softeners, laxatives, herbal teas, and the like to open the floodgates. But many people have had success using magnesium supplements to help their constipation.

Magnesium has a relaxing effect on blood vessels, muscles, and tension. So when we don’t have enough of it, we may feel tense and tight. Magnesium relaxes these constrictions.It soothes and relaxes the digestive muscles too, helping digestion work more efficiently.

Magnesium is a mineral that many of us are deficient in, yet it’s absolutely essential to a properly functioning system. It is a macro-mineral—1 of the 6 essential minerals that the body needs in large quantities. Even if you eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get enough magnesium from foods alone.

Diet Alone Won’t Cut it

In fact, the World Health Organization reported that 75% of all people don’t get enough magnesium through their diet.

In her book, “The Magnesium Miracle,” Dr. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., says: “To obtain enough magnesium from the diet takes special care and knowledge of magnesium-rich foods, but we still need to supplement with magnesium.”

We used to get adequate magnesium by eating foods that were grown in mineral-rich soils, as the minerals would seep into the foods during the growing process. But our soils are now depleted and don’t offer enough of the minerals we need to stay healthy and functioning optimally.

Mighty Magnesium

Supplementation is a simple, easy way to get the magnesium you need. For constipation, magnesium oxide may be the way to go. It is not very bio-available, so instead of being absorbed into your tissues and increasing overall magnesium levels, it stays bound in the GI tract to help things move along.

Dosage Ideas

The recommended daily dose (RDA) for magnesium is 300 mg per day. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., most of us get far less than 200 mg, and we actually need more like 400–1,000 mg, depending on the state of our health and level of deficiency.

Think about starting with 1 capsule (100–300 mg) of magnesium oxide or citrate before bed. Dr. Steve Clark, N.D., recommends starting with 1 pill, then increasing by 1 daily until stools are normal. Then stick to that dosage. He says not to exceed 900–1,000 mg per day. Too high of a dose can cause diarrhea or loose stools, so it may be best to start low and slow, and wait to see how you do.

Once you find the right dose that is enough to get things moving but not too much that you have loose stools, it might be a good idea to stick to that daily or nightly to keep things moving.

Note: If you have kidney issues, kidney disease, or severe heart disease, run this by your doctor before starting to supplement with magnesium. Those with kidney issues may have a hard time excreting byproducts of magnesium. If you’re taking medication or are at all worried about supplementing with magnesium, talk to your healthcare practitioner. Once you do begin supplementing, we hope you see the wonderful benefits magnesium can offer! Let us know how it goes for you.

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Kristin Muckerheide
Kristin is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Functional Medicine Practitioner. She has graduated from the world's largest nutrition school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Kristin loves helping people get happy and healthy, and encouraging and supporting those with chronic illness.