Constipation: The Embarrassing Hypothyroidism Symptom That May Save Lives

Constipation: The Embarrassing Hypothyroidism Symptom That May Save Lives

June 2003, New York City

“Dana, we recommend the first colonoscopy at age 50. You are only 33 years old. I highly doubt it is necessary. However given your father’s recent colon cancer diagnosis and your current symptoms, we will schedule your colonoscopy.’

“Dana, we will begin the procedure now, it shouldn’t take long.”

“Dana, we removed a large size colon polyp. Fortunately it is benign. I can’t believe the size of this polyp considering you are only 33 years old. I don’t know what would have happened if you had waited until age 50 for your first colonoscopy. Thank your father. He may have saved your life today.”

I would like to thank my father for encouraging me years ago to speak with my doctor about a topic that was too embarrassing to discuss – my lifelong constipation. My dad is no longer with us, but I know he is watching over me right now as I type this article. By sharing our story, we may save the life of a reader here today. Thank you Dad.

My Lifelong Constipation

Constipation is a taboo subject that no one likes to discuss. However it is a very real issue for hypothyroidism sufferers. In order to make real change at Hypothyroid Mom, we must discuss all the issues including the most embarrassing ones. So here it goes.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism following the birth of my first son in 2006, however I have really suffered from hypothyroidism symptoms ever since I was a baby. To tell you the truth, constipation has been an issue ever since I can remember. I even landed in the emergency room from severe constipation once during a vacation.

In 2003, my husband and I decided to take a trip of a lifetime to Asia visiting Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cambodia. It was an incredible trip. However like all vacations, constipation was an issue during this trip especially when I returned home. This particular time I found some blood when I used the toilet, not a great deal but enough to catch my attention. It went away and I almost passed it off as normal from the constipation.

My father had been diagnosed with colon cancer that year. He insisted I get myself checked out. I went to my doctor with my symptoms along with my family history of colon cancer. At that time I was only 33 years old.

“Dana, the blood you experienced in your stool was from an internal hemorrhoid. In addition to your colon polyp, you have diverticulosis, pouches in the wall of the colon. Your chronic constipation is a serious health issue that needs to be resolved.”

Hypothyroidism & Constipation

Have you ever checked the drugstore aisle for laxatives and stool softeners? Have you ever noticed how many products are on those shelves?

Constipation is one of the classic signs of hypothyroidism. Without enough thyroid hormone, many of the body’s functions slow down. Hypothyroidism slows the action of the digestive tract causing constipation. Muscles line the digestive tract including the small and large intestines. The muscles contract to move the stool through the intestine to the rectum. Hypothyroidism can weaken the contraction of these muscles causing the stool to move too slowly.

According to the Thyroid Federation International,“Thyroid disease is very common with an estimated 300 million currently affected and 1.6 billion people at risk of thyroid conditions globally. It is estimated that over 50% of those affected could be unaware of it.” With millions of undiagnosed hypothyroidism sufferers worldwide and millions more insufficiently treated, is it really any wonder why the shelves for constipation remedies are stocked so high?

Looking back I’ve suffered from hypothyroidism symptoms including chronic constipation ever since I can remember. When I landed in the emergency room during a vacation from severe constipation, my thyroid was NOT tested. Even when my colon polyp was discovered in 2003, my thyroid was NOT tested. It took landing in the emergency room after my first son was born with excruciatingly painful kidney stones in 2006 to finally receive my hypothyroidism diagnosis.

Are you reading this article right now and suffer from constipation but you’ve never had your thyroid tested? Please get tested.

It wasn’t until I found a great thyroid doctor who listened to my symptoms and worked with me to find optimal treatment that I was finally on the road to overcoming the constipation that had plagued me my whole life. I knew the time had come to open up about my constipation and share with my doctor exactly what was happening. I am so happy I did.

How I Reversed My Constipation

We are each unique in how our bodies react to different substances. Consult with your doctor before trying any supplements mentioned at Hypothyroid Mom to be sure they are right for you and to determine the ideal dosage for you.

Optimal Thyroid Treatment

In mainstream medicine Levothyroxine drugs are the gold standard for the treatment of hypothyroidism. While these drugs work for some, for many they fail to relieve symptoms. Levothyroxine drugs contain T4 thyroid hormone only. Our bodies are supposed to convert that T4 thyroid hormone to the active T3 hormone our cells need. For many of us our bodies don’t convert T4 to T3 properly, leaving us symptomatic. Many of us do better on a combination of T4 and T3 thyroid hormone replacement treatment.

It wasn’t until I found a great doctor open to exploring the thyroid drug options to find what was right for me that my constipation began improving. It wasn’t a quick fix. For me it took about 6 months to reach optimal. My doctor did comprehensive thyroid testing including TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. My doctor prescribed natural desiccated thyroid and it changed my life. She retested my levels regularly in the beginning and increased my dosage each time until one day I felt incredible. All my hypothyroidism symptoms had improved including my life-long constipation. I felt so good I cried.

If you are reading this article right now and you suffer from chronic constipation but you’ve never been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, please get your thyroid properly tested. If you are being treated with thyroid medication but you still suffer from common symptoms like constipation, take a closer look at whether you are being optimally treated.

Fiber-Rich Foods

A diet too low in fiber was also to blame for my sluggish digestive tract. While I included fiber-rich foods to my diet, I realized that I wasn’t consuming enough. The average adult needs between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day to ward off constipation. To avoid bloating and cramping, I increased my fiber intake gradually and made sure to drink plenty of fluids.

I had no idea how many delicious high fiber foods there were to eat.


When I first started reading about the connection between gluten and thyroid, I was reluctant to make the switch. I grew up with my Italian mom who makes the best pasta on the planet, so you can imagine the idea of going gluten-free was not easy for me. However once I gave it a try and noticed not only my constipation improving but also my other hypothyroidism symptoms, I was hooked.

Eliminate Dairy

In my research, I’ve read about the connection between dairy and constipation. I decided to give dairy-free a try. While this did not have a significant effect on my constipation, I still included it here in this article especially given all the food sensitivities and intolerances that I hear about from Hypothyroid Mom readers. We’re all different in terms of what works best for us, so it’s well worth a try.

Healthy Oils

Omega-3 oils help lubricate the intestines so stool can move more easily through the colon. I increased the intake of fish oil by taking cod liver oil daily, careful to select mercury-free brands, and I’m amazed at how this has helped.


Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are naturally present in the digestive tract. Beneficial bacteria are necessary to properly digest food and to absorb nutrients. When you are looking for a good probiotic supplement, choose one that contains a mix of a number of different probiotic strains. I take a probiotic supplement from a brand called Bio-Kult Probiotic.

Warm Lemon Water

A few years back I had consultation services with an Ayurveda specialist in NYC. For constipation, she recommended drinking warm water with lemon in the morning. The warm water stimulates the muscles lining the intestinal walls to contract and keep the stool moving and lemons help flush out toxins.

Lemon juice alkalizes the body. Yes lemons are acidic outside the body, but inside the body they have an alkalizing effect. An alkaline body helps prevent disease and maintain wellness.

I take my thyroid medication with plain water first thing when I wake up. Then I wait at least an hour to have breakfast to ensure nothing interferes with the absorption of my medication. I have warm lemon water just before my breakfast. (I wait several hours after taking my thyroid meds to take other medications, supplements, and vitamins to ensure there is no interference with the thyroid hormone absorption.)


Magnesium has been a real life-changer for me. All the things that I’ve mentioned above have been helpful in improving my constipation. However the real change came when my doctor tested my magnesium and found it to be far below the normal range. Nutrient deficiencies including magnesium are a common issue for those of us with hypothyroidism and should be tested.

Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. Constipation is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. Muscles line the digestive tract. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and helps the stool move more easily.

Other symptoms of low magnesium include:





restless leg syndrome

heart palpitations

poor heart health


brain fog



kidney stones

ringing in the ears

muscle cramping

eye twitches


I struggled with eye twitching for over ten years. An eye exam showed my eyes were fine and yet I had the constant twitching. Guess what…my eye twitching (along with painful persistent headaches) went away once I started on magnesium.

Serum magnesium is the test routinely taken in the doctor’s office and in the hospital but this type of testing misses a large percentage of people with magnesium deficiency. Thankfully I have a doctor that tests my red blood cell magnesium levels called RBC Magnesium which tests the level of magnesium inside of the red blood cells. Have you had your RBC Magnesium level tested?

In order to gauge my dose of magnesium my doctor had me start at a low dose and work up until I experienced loose stools and then backed off slightly. She advised I take magnesium glycinate. There are many different magnesium supplements available in stores but not all of them are easily absorbed. Magnesium glycinate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium.

I take Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate every night before bed (it helps me sleep too). I also rub Magnesium Oil on my body (my doctor has me rub it on my legs) to increase my magnesium levels. I now go ‘number 2’ regularly every day. That’s a miracle for me.

For weeks I went back and forth on whether this was a topic that I wished to write about here on Hypothyroid Mom. It is very embarrassing to talk about my constipation and I hesitated about sharing it. However I hope that by writing about my personal experience, those of you suffering with constipation will see how important it is to discuss with your doctor. I am not saying that everyone will have colon polyps, hemorrhoids or diverticulosis from chronic constipation as happened to me or develop colon cancer, but an unresolved constipation issue could put your life at risk and should be discussed with your doctor.

By shining light on our symptoms, even the most embarrassing ones, we will CONQUER them!

READ NEXT: A dental exam uncovers undetected hypothyroidism in a young girl

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini M.A., Ed.M., founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. Hi Dana, Thanks for such an open and informative article. I have struggled with hypothyroid symptoms for all my life, but have only recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. Constipation has been the biggest problem for me – sometimes it’s worse than others and it feels like my digestive system simply shuts down, resulting in nothing happening in the bathroom department and as a result I can hardly bear to eat because my stomach becomes so distended. For years, I have eaten no gluten, dairy or sugar; I have removed foods I am intolerant to, I take probiotics, digestive enzymes, magnesium, eat lots of veggies and healthy oils and still Nothing. I feel terrible and don’t know what else to try. I am on 50mcg of Levo (teva) and I’m wondering if I should try NDT. Please could you suggest anything else I could try? (The only thing that ever seems to help is a hot, sunny holiday – Vit D?) Thank you so much.

    • I finally switched from levo to nature thyroid prescription and it seems to be much better with my bowel functions. Check with your doctor.

    • If you haven’t already, switch to NDT! I tried armour then naturethroid and now I’m on NP thyroid and already after just one day I can tell a difference. Finally went this morning all on my own with no laxatives

  2. Thank you for sharing !
    I ended up in my doctor’s office (GI) today due to sudden acute constipation. I am doing all I can: drink water, take daily magnesium 325mg, Miralax with my water, priobiotics, mostly no gluten, no dairy (I occasional slip off the restriction if we go out and I don’t have control of what REALLY is in my food)…
    I became alarmed by this sudden increase in constipation and discomfort… also, my stool was FLAT ???
    Then I finally put two and two together.. We went away for Thanksgiving and upon arrival back home I ran out of my T3 medication… I had to wait for an appointment to see the MD, the office staff wouldn’t call in my refill (I had complained since about this and the interruption of my medication due to their lack of willingness to give me 5 more days of meds…)… All together I am off the meds for 10 days and finally today my compounding pharmacy delivered my T3… I hope that in few days I will restore my intestinal motility and go #2 more easily… What an experience !!! The withdrawal caused me headaches, tiredness, dizziness, sudden increase in my anxiety… but I guess I underestimates its effect on my constipation… Lesson learnt !

  3. Thanks for enlightening us with your experience and further positive actions! I’m a male 39 and was diagnosed recently with TSH levels in 300. Since I started levothyroxine and quit gluten experienced that my poop now is consistent and long, according to internet posts, it falls under next to perfect shape. Wonder if it’s due to levothyroxine or quiting gluten. My doctor has also put me on Omeraprazole, been taking for last few months but planning to stop it given any side effects of long term use. I think stopping acidity is good but worried about its long term use and especially at this age!! Any thoughts?

    • Hello, this is Dana Trentini from Hypothyroid Mom. I can’t imagine how poorly you felt with a TSH as high as 300. That would explain the constipation as the body’s systems slow down and that includes the digestive system with hypothyroidism. Going gluten free can make a major difference in constipation as well. As for Omeraprazole, it belongs to the family of medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat conditions like ulcers and GERD. It is interesting that many hypothyroid people struggle with acid reflux and put on stomach acid lowering medications when the problem may be too little stomach acid. Here is more information to help you in your discussion with your doctor:

  4. Thank you, thank you , thank you!! My son and I are both constipated all the time!! I have been searching and this article brought it all together for me!! I always suspected I had a thyroid issue and have several of the symptoms. Thank you for writing!

  5. I’m 20 years old, just recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It all happened because I was sleeping 11hrs a day and napping on top of that even though I was on a VERY high dose of Wellbutrin for my depression.

    Anyway, we’ve started me on synthroid and had my blood tested since then. My TSH and T4 levels are back in the normal range though I’m still experiencing symptoms so we are going to increase the dosage…HOWEVER my T3 hormone moved independently in the opposite direction of the others…so we can’t increase the dosage until we figure out what’s causing that. I have been suffering from constipation and recently experienced what I think to be a partial rectal prolapse. I have another blood test this week and see the doctor Monday. I’m very scared as rectal prolapse is quite uncommon in people my age…so I hope it can be explained by the thyroid issue…

    • Hi Bri,

      So your T3 went really low? You may have a conversion issue from T4 to T3. You are taking T4 only (Synthroid.) I take T3 only (liothyronine or Cytomel) due to my conversion issue. What you want to get tested are these: Free T3, Free T4 and Reverse T3. Consult the website for optimal lab results and how to achieve them. I pray you get your answers!

  6. Nina Henderson says

    Is weight loss part of the symptoms? And thanks for the information!

    • Hi Nina, Weight gain is the most common weight-related symptom of hypothyroidism but there are also people with hypothyroidism that have normal weight and others lose weight too quickly. It unfortunately affects us all differently. Wonderful to have you at Hypothyroid Mom.

  7. I’m a 67-year-old woman who has had Hypothyroidism since 1995. I was on Synthroid for several years, but I always had symptoms, but luckily I didn’t have constipation. I switched to NP Thyroid (I believe this is a version of Armour Thyroid but has less fillers). I was doing pretty well, and now since January of 2018 I could tell something was starting to get off kilter, so I wondered if my Thyroid was at fault. I saw my doctor and had my TSH tested, as well as my Free T-3 and Free T-4. My TSH was 3.67 so that explained the constipation. I feel best when the TSH is between 1.0 and 2.0. I’ve been on the new dose schedule that my doctor gave me for 11 days now, and I’m more constipated now than I have ever been in my life. My diet hasn’t changed from before, but now I am taking into account the types of foods I do eat. Miralax doesn’t even help me anymore. If this doesn’t improve by next week, I will be contacting my doctor again. I’m going crazy thinking I have colon cancer, but I have no other symptoms. I’m due for a colonoscopy in 2020, and my last one 8 years ago was fine. I’m thinking the extreme change of Thyroid medicine is causing this (new dose is 100 mg. more each week than previously). I, too, was always uncomfortable talking with my female doctor about my constipation. At this age, I don’t care anymore. If someone else is experiencing this from an increased dosage of Thyroid medication, keep track, and if it doesn’t improve, contact your doctor again and keep on the doctor until it is rectified.

  8. Wandasue says

    Hello I also have trouble going to the bathroom it’s been like this since I gave birth to my daughter in 1994 it’s just Gorton worse I feel so bloated and have a bad burning sensation on my right side every elyear for the past 4 years February march April the burning returned on the right side feeling like something leaking can’t sleep good never comfortable driving a car is bad and I’m told there was a cyst one year a ulcer another kidney stones this last time but they where on the left side in the ct scan well the pain is the right side I can’t handle daily life anymore cause I feel I’m carrying something around in side me and it’s twisting and punching and leaking burning it terrible no one gets it even had a ablation done..i try to go to the bathroom sit there and go and one little subcence comes out and it feeling like I just delivered a baby….ive been so miserable it keeping me from work and DAYLY life. No one listens the do scan and say everything looks fine… it not fine when there pain everyday and u feel like there something in there…i called someone different and he setting up for me to do coloscope April 25 cause he had planed vacation when I seen him march 28th for 3 weeks that the earliest I can get in..i gave myself a intama today one little size of dime came out that’s as scared what u think might be happening inside or going down or on..thanks a million

  9. hi – Anyone have any suggestions for me? I have Graves disease and was severely huperthyroid causing a thyroid storm, had overdose of RAI to make sure my gland was dead, then became severely hyperthyroid. My TSH was 75 and I was so constipated that it gave me a rectal prolapse which caused anal mucous leakage. No matter what I took or ate, nothing helped me go to the bathroom. When my TSH went down to 13 on a higher dose of Levoxyl I was still constipated butkind of managable. Now that I am considered “in range” but still have many hypo and some hyper symptoms??, I have started to have looser BMs which is not good for my prolapse and I have mostly been eating the RAT diet along with a few cautiously eaten foods. I am just hoping that the severe constipation did not cause SIBO. ASny suggestions would help. Thanks

  10. Linda Wilson says

    Thanks so much for your article. I too have an underactive thyroid. I have been on synthroid for about 30 years. Recently, I rejoined Weight Watchers and added dairy, nonfat yogurt, because it was free on the diet. That was a big mistake. I have ditched the dairy. I also stopped eating oats for breakfast. That was another big mistake. I need the morning fiber. I am so glad I found your article. Everything you have said is right on point. I too take my take my thyroid medication early in the morning on an empty stomach and wait an hour. Several times, since rejoining WW I didn’t do that and that was another big mistake. I have also realized I needed to add magnesium to my daily routine. Finally I stopped using olive oil for the diet and that was another big mistake. We need good fats in our diet. I will follow your suggestion about coconut oil. Thank you so much. I have lost twenty pounds, but now I need to lose wight the thyroid way.

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