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. This article provides answers to some commonly asked questions about the relationship between IBS and thyroid disease.
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 therefore 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. Our thyroid glands are responsible for releasing hormones that affect the way our cells work throughout our bodies. 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 our bodies, including our digestive tract. Thyroid disease can therefore affect the functioning of the digestive system, resulting in a wide variety of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Could My IBS Really 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. While you're waiting, you can take this brief quiz, created by Mary Shomon, the About.com Guide to Thyroid Disease:
Does My Thyroid Problem Affect My IBS?
Thryoid 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.
The following articles provide a more in-depth look at the two types of thyroid disease and their relationship with IBS:
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 Gut" Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2010 44:6 402-406.
"Hypothyroidism" National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service website Accessed October 17, 2012.
"Hyperthyroidism" National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service website Accessed October 17, 2012 .
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.