Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function?

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 12;12(6):1769. doi: 10.3390/nu12061769.

Abstract

A healthy gut microbiota not only has beneficial effects on the activity of the immune system, but also on thyroid function. Thyroid and intestinal diseases prevalently coexist-Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and Graves' disease (GD) are the most common autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) and often co-occur with Celiac Disease (CD) and Non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS). This can be explained by the damaged intestinal barrier and the following increase of intestinal permeability, allowing antigens to pass more easily and activate the immune system or cross-react with extraintestinal tissues, respectively. Dysbiosis has not only been found in AITDs, but has also been reported in thyroid carcinoma, in which an increased number of carcinogenic and inflammatory bacterial strains were observed. Additionally, the composition of the gut microbiota has an influence on the availability of essential micronutrients for the thyroid gland. Iodine, iron, and copper are crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis, selenium and zinc are needed for converting T4 to T3, and vitamin D assists in regulating the immune response. Those micronutrients are often found to be deficient in AITDs, resulting in malfunctioning of the thyroid. Bariatric surgery can lead to an inadequate absorption of these nutrients and further implicates changes in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and T3 levels. Supplementation of probiotics showed beneficial effects on thyroid hormones and thyroid function in general. A literature research was performed to examine the interplay between gut microbiota and thyroid disorders that should be considered when treating patients suffering from thyroid diseases. Multifactorial therapeutic and preventive management strategies could be established and more specifically adjusted to patients, depending on their gut bacteria composition. Future well-powered human studies are warranted to evaluate the impact of alterations in gut microbiota on thyroid function and diseases.

Keywords: Grave´s disease; Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; Non-celiac wheat sensitivity; celiac disease; gut microbiota; iodine; iron; probiotics; thyroid; thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Review