Lactose intolerance is commonly found in people who suffer from Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Hypothyroidism. Lactose intolerance is to be distinguished from sensitivity to dairy, another very common issue in many thyroid patients. Lactose intolerance (which is the inability to break down lactose in the GI tract because of a deficiency of an enzyme) causes inflammation and an overgrowth of bacteria in the GI tract, resulting in an abnormal intestinal environment. The GI inflammation often results in malabsorption of nutrients and diarrhea.
Significant improvement in symptoms of lactose intolerance occurs just 2 to 3 weeks after restricting intake of lactose in Hypothyroid patients. Restriction of lactose often results in a lowering of TSH levels. In many patients, this means that the requirement of thyroid hormone medication goes down because of better absorption of thyroid hormone by the GI Tract.
It is a general recommendation that those suffering from an autoimmune thyroid disease stay away from foods containing lactose, especially those produced from cow’s milk. In addition to lactose intolerance, dairy products contain protein that often irritate the immune system and thereby can promote the occurrence of symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, and brain fog. Avoiding dairy products will help thyroid patients improve and even resolve symptoms and improve their quality of life.