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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2004 December;50(4):305-16


language: Italian

Thyroid-intestinal motility interactions summary

Pustorino S., Foti M., Calipari G., Pustorino E., Ferraro R., Guerrisi O., Germanotta G.


Thyroid diseases may be related to gastrointestinal motility symptoms. Such symptoms can vary in degree and, sometimes, are the only clue of a thyroid disease or, at least, the first. The mechanism by which the thyroid hormones can influence gastrointestinal motility, even if not still completely elucidated, can be found in a synergism between a direct effect of the thyronins and an indirect effect mediated by cathecolamines on the muscle cell receptors. Neck discomfort and dysphagia are common findings in patients with thyroid diseases. Hyper- and hypothyroidism can impair esophageal motility, modifying pharyngo-esophageal structure and/or muscular function and interacting with the neuro-humoral regulation of the esophageal peristalsis. Oesophageal motility alterations, observed in patients affected by small non-toxic goiter, are less understandable. At the gastro-duodenal level, basic and postprandial electric rhythm alterations have been observed in hyperthyroid patients, often associated with delayed gastric emptying, too. In such patients, the autonomous nervous system dysfunction may even modify the neuro-hormonal mutual regulation (vagal influence decrease) of the gastro-duodenal myoelectric activity. Hypothy-roidism may cause a delay of the gastric emptying too, but such pattern may also be related to an associated autoimmune disease or to an independent chronic modification of the gastric mucosa. Diarrhoea and malabsorption are common findings together with hyperthyroidism, whereas constipation is frequently observed in hypothyroidism.The clinically most demanding situation is certainly the secondary chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome, which involves the bowel in most cases, but may also show up by means of a mega-small bowel or a mega-duodenum, or even all of the above. In conclusion it may be stated that: 1) thyroid diseases may be related to symptoms due to digestive motility dysfunction. 2) Any segment of the gastrointestinal trait may be involved. 3) The typical clinical manifestations of the thyroid illnesses may be borderline, missing or concealed by other intercurrent illnesses, especially in the elderly patients. 4) Motility-related digestive symptoms may conceal an underlying, easily misdetected, thyroid disease and must be therefore carefully analyzed.

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