Is There a Link Between IBS and Thyroid Disease?

Doctor checking thyroid of patient
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If you find yourself dealing with both IBS and thyroid disease at the same time, it's understandable to wonder if there is a connection between the two health problems. Although there are numerous health problems that IBS patients experience at a higher rate than others, thyroid disease is not one of them. There's no evidence that having thyroid disease causes a person to develop IBS.

Given that, it's entirely possible for thyroid disease to contribute to unwanted digestive symptoms.

Your thyroid gland is responsible for releasing hormones that affect the way your cells work throughout your body. When the thyroid is not functioning properly, this release of hormones is either excessive, resulting in hyperthyroidism, or deficient, resulting in hypothyroidism. These hormones are involved in the metabolism of all of the cells of your body, including your digestive tract. Thyroid disease can, therefore, affect the functioning of the digestive system resulting in a wide variety of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Find out If Your IBS Really Could Be a Thyroid Problem

As part of the routine diagnostic workup for IBS, it's essential that doctors rule out the presence of thyroid abnormalities; this should have been done initially through routine blood work. If you are concerned that you have not received the correct diagnosis, you need to speak with your doctor. You might want to take an online quiz to see if you have symptoms of a thyroid problem.

Does Your Thyroid Problem Affect Your IBS?

Thyroid disease can affect motility within your digestive tract. Typically, but not as an absolute rule, hypothyroidism results in problems with constipation, while hyperthyroidism results in diarrhea. Theoretically, if your thyroid disease is being treated properly, this effect on your bowel functioning should be eliminated.

However, you may still experience symptoms due to the dysfunction associated with your IBS.

  • Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid): Graves' disease is the most common type of hyperthyroidism. It can result in increased appetite, dyspepsia, fat malabsorption, and, in about a quarter of patients, diarrhea. Intestinal motility is increased when the hormone levels are high and the lining of the intestine may secrete more fluids, leading to diarrhea. An increased appetite can result in eating high amounts of fat, which speed up the motility of the colon.
  • Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid): People with an underactive thyroid may feel abdominal discomfort and bloating that they might think is due to IBS. The action of the gut is slowed, which can lead to constipation and less frequent bowel movements. Sometimes this can lead to bouts of diarrhea due to bacterial overgrowth.

A Word From Verywell

Getting proper treatment for thyroid disease should help relieve that factor in your digestive symptoms. Make sure you work with your doctor to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment for your conditions.

Sources:

Daher R, et.al. Consequences of dysthyroidism on the digestive tract and viscera.  World Journal of Gastroenterology 2009 15:2834-2838.

Ebert E. The Thyroid and the GutJournal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2010 44:6 402-406.

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism.

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