The Thyroid – Gallbladder Connection.

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Anatomy of the gallbladder.

Did you know there is a strong thyroid – gallbladder connection? This is an example, once again, of how everything in the body is connected. Importantly, nothing operates in isolation. First, let’s take a quick look at hypothyroidism. After that, we’ll look at its link with gallbladder disease.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder in Australia, affecting 1 in 33 and is more common in women than in men.   The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmunity.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Hair thinning/hair loss
  • Depression
  • Morning headaches that get better throughout the day
  • Foggy brain
  • Loss of memory
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Low body temperature
  • Poor circulation/numbness in hands and feet
  • Muscle cramps with no exertion
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing it
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Chronic digestive problems such as low stomach acid

Low thyroid function also contributes to gallbladder diseases such as gallstones.

The thyroid – gallbladder connection is impacted in 3 key ways:

  • ONE: Bile is released into the bile duct and then flows into the duodenum (small intestine) through the sphincter of Oddi.  The sphincter of Oddi  is a small muscle at the end of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct.   T4 (thyroxine) relaxes the sphincter of Oddi, allowing bile to flow through to the duodenum.  If there is not enough T4 the Sphincter will not be able to relax enough, impeding the flow of bile out of the gallbladder.    Then bile accumulates and saturates forming sludge and, eventually, stones.
    • Even subclinical hypothyroid function (in the reference range, but low end) increases risk of stones in the bile duct.
    • Anyone who has been diagnosed with gallstones in the bile duct should have their thyroid function tested (TSH, T4 and T3).
  • TWO: Low thyroid hormone slows down cholesterol metabolism in the liver (one of the key ingredients in many gallstones).  This can lead to an increase in bile and cholesterol that saturates the liver and gallbladder.  
  •  THREE: The contraction of the gallbladder slows down when there is insufficient thyroid hormone (T4).  As a result the filling of the gallbladder and release of bile is impaired.  This can lead to formation of stones in the gallbladder and or the bile duct.

How to nourish your thyroid – gallbladder connection

If you have known gallbladder disease, or a history of gallstones, please get your thyroid function tested.  To give you a more accurate sense of your thyroid function, ideally include thyroid antibodies and thyroid receptor antibodies (as well as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T3, and T4).

On the flip side, if you have low thyroid function, first and foremost work with a thyroid informed naturopath who can help you improve and potentially fully restore thyroid function. 

Secondly, support your liver and gallbladder with a liver and gallbladder friendly diet. This looks like unprocessed foods, low sugar and minimal grains.  Focus on an abundance of brightly coloured veggies, well sourced animal proteins and good fats. 

Next, include liver-loving foods such as beetroot, cinnamon, turmeric, lemon, grapefruit and globe artichoke. 

Use herbs that stimulate bile flow and liver function in the form of teas or tinctures (like this Liver and Gallbladder tea).

Importantly, stress is a BIG driver of both thyroid and digestive (including gallbladder) dysfunction. So, find ways to reduce and better manage your stress. 

Last but not least, be sure to check out my liver and gallbladder flush – an online liver and gallbladder flush program with a super supportive community.

Eating colourful vegetables, lemon and grapefruit all support liver and gallbladder function.

 

References

Walsh JP. Managing thyroid disease in general practice. Med J Aust. 2016;205(4):179-184.

Inkinen J, Sand J, Nordback I. Association between common bile duct stones and treated hypothyroidism. Hepatogastroenterology. 2000 Jul-Aug;47(34):919-21. PMID: 11020848.

Rassam Ghadhban B, Najim Abid F. The prevalence and correlation between subclinical hypothyroidism and gall stone disease in Baghdad teaching hospital. Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2018 Nov 30;37:7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.amsu.2018.11.017. PMID: 30546871; PMCID: PMC6282189.

Laukkarinen J, Kiudelis G, Lempinen M, Räty S, Pelli H, Sand J, Kemppainen E, Haglund C, Nordback I. Increased prevalence of subclinical hypothyroidism in common bile duct stone patients. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Nov;92(11):4260-4. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-1316. Epub 2007 Aug 28. PMID: 17726069.

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