Stomach acid is needed in the body to break down food and get rid of bad bacteria. It is made as and when you eat, but many hypothyroid patients have low stomach acid, which leads to GORD, GERD, acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion, acid regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, chest pain/discomfort, cough and even hoarseness.
Research has found that the older your body gets, the lower your levels of stomach acid can become, but many hypothyroid patients are surprised to learn that their acid reflux can be related to a poorly treated underactive thyroid/hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s.
Most common for those on T4-only medication like Levothyroxine or Synthroid, an inadequately treated underactive thyroid/hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s can be linked to these low stomach acid problems.
It seems that hypothyroidism can lower levels of stomach acid. This could be due to a lowering of parietel cells, lowering their ability to produce gastric acid (hypochlorhydria). Because of this, the absorption of important nutrients is reduced (such as vitamin D, b12, iron etc.), which can lead on to low or deficient levels of certain vitamins. Lowered levels of vitamins and minerals is common with hypothyroid patients and especially those with Hashimoto’s.
You may also find that low levels of stomach acid can cause a sensitivity to milk and/or gluten, too. So by fixing your low levels, you could see improvement in these sensitivities.
Low levels of stomach acid can lead to your doctor diagnosing you with gastritis, which is inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
So what can you do?
Make sure your thyroid is optimally medicated. Whether you’re on T4-only meds like Levothyroxine or Synthroid, a T3 and T4 combo or NDT, you want to aim for a TSH between 0.5-2, a T4 mid-range or a bit higher and a T3 in the top quarter of the range. Incorrect thyroid levels can cause low stomach acid. I was on Omeprazole for my daily acid reflux, but once I started NDT and corrected my thyroid levels, my acid reflux problems disappeared. It’s the case for a lot of thyroid patients; doctors just keep handing out more and more medications, refusing to acknowledge that it’s all linked, and that by giving meds for acid reflux, it’s not treating the cause – inadequate thyroid levels. You’ll find that getting your thyroid levels right could well correct or improve a whole host of other health conditions you have, too.
Apple cider vinegar is said to help raise low stomach acid. Adding a little to a morning drink is reported to be effective. I’ve read about a lot of thyroid patients using this brand – Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, 473ml
Checking for iodine deficiency and restoring any low levels may improve stomach acid production as well. It’s not wise to guess if you have low iodine levels, as supplementing it when you don’t need it, can make your hypothyroid situation worse and it can be dangerous, especially for those with Hashimoto’s, as reported by Dr Kharrazian.
Some people also find that adding a probiotic to their health regime helps, as it can help to balance out the bad bacteria.
You may find cutting out gluten helps, too.
As you correct your low stomach acid, the ability to absorb nutrients and minerals should also improve, as well as relief of acid reflux, heartburn etc. but when coming off medication for acid reflux, heartburn, GERD etc. make sure to do it with a doctor’s guidance, and wean off of them slowly to avoid nasty side effects.
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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018. Currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Diet and Nutrition, Reflexology and more, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.