Does Gluten Cause Thyroid Disease?

Gluten And Thyroid Disease

Whatever health concern you have, the solution is often found in the diet and how the body reacts to certain foods. For many people the cause of their health problems may be the grain products they are eating and enjoying every day. Widely used in the food industry gluten containing grains are in fact common triggers of many health conditions. There is a strong connection between gluten and thyroid autoimmunity.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition when the immune system produces antibodies against gluten proteins and causes damage to the villies in the small intestine. There are three types of protein that can induce an autoimmune reaction:

• Gliadin in wheat type of grains
• Hordein in barley type of grains
• Secalin in rye

Semolina, spelt, triticale, soy sauce, regular backing flours, breads, pasta, pastries, deserts, malt and many other foods contain gluten. Gluten is found in other grains such as corn, however it does not affect patients with celiac disease.

Gluten intolerance

Celiac disease is a full-blown gluten intolerance with physical intestinal damage that could be confirmed through endoscopy. However, you could be gluten intolerant and not necessarily have celiac condition. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity produce antibodies to gluten but do not have damage to the villies. The majority of people are gluten intolerant and never develop celiac disease.

Patients reacting to gluten have common physical symptoms that often are difficult to define and could be attributed to other diseases. Some people have a silent celiac condition when they do not experience any symptoms or have minor or non-specific health abnormalities that make the diagnosis more difficult. It is estimated that about 97% of Americans who have celiac disease are unaware that they have this medical condition and remain undiagnosed.

Health complications

Low levels of iron could be an indicator to check for celiac disease. The damage to the intestine can be so advanced that the nutrients such as iron, calcium, proteins, vitamins B and others are not being properly absorbed leading to malabsorption and iron-deficiency anemia.

If you suspect that you may be gluten intolerant, it is important to get gluten test because with time health complications such as osteoporosis, malabsorption, low bone density and others can develop. If left undiagnosed and untreated gluten intolerance can result in autoimmune conditions, cancer, depression, infertility and neurological disorders.

Individuals who have genetic predisposition for celiac can develop it at any age. Those who have family members with celiac, associated autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, learning disorders and dermatitis herpetiformis are at the highest risk and should be tested.

Gluten and thyroid disease

glutenPrevalence of celiac disease was noted to be in up to 4.5% in Grave’s and 13% in Hashimoto’s disease. The coexistence of celiac and autoimmune thyroid disease is partly due to a common genetic predisposition.

Both celiac disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are reported to be associated with the genes CTLA-4, HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 and share common trigger of the disease gluten.

Gene testing confirms the genetical predisposition to gluten intolerance and could help to prevent the disease, confirm the diagnosis or identify gluten as a trigger of thyroid autoimmune disease.

In gluten intolerance damage to the small intestine occurs causing gluten to leak into the blood stream. This process is known as leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability which causes the antibodies to raise and injure a wide variety of human tissues.

This way gluten can trigger Hashimoto’s disease and many other autoimmune conditions. In fact, 90% of chronic illnesses and unexplained symptoms are caused by leaky gut syndrome. It is highly advisable to get tested for increased intestinal permeability in order to confirm or rule it out as a cause of autoimmune thyroid disease.

Undiagnosed and untreated many gluten intolerant individuals develop malabsorption where  the nutrients, minerals and fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K will not be properly absorbed from the food despite adequate diet.

Vitamin A and D deficiencies contribute to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease because the active form of thyroid hormone T3 cannot enter into the cells and perform its metabolic action. Restoring the intestinal balance, healing the leaky gut and supplementing with emulsified vitamin D and A can help to improve the hypothyroid symptoms.

Moreover, in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis celiac disease affects thyroid autoimmunity due to impaired absorption of selenium. Adequate selenium levels can protect against autoimmune thyroid disease and goiter development in adults. Studies show that treatment with selenomethione for 6 months reduces TPO antibodies and decreases the severity of Hashimoto’s disease.

Gluten intolerance and celiac are life-long health conditions. Even though there is no medication available to cure the disease, it is possible to restore your health. Following the strict gluten-free diet can eliminate the symptoms and allow the intestines to heal.

With time patients who follow gluten-free diet can improve the symptoms of malabsorption and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome). Supplementing with high quality micronized L-Glutamine speeds up and helps the healing process.

However, it is important to make dietary changes first and know when is the right time to use supplements, because supplements alone will not help. The following life changing video from doctor of Functional medicine Karen Brimeyer explains how to heal the leaky gut syndrome naturally and permanently. To watch the video click here


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Why is the thyroid so prone to autoimmune disease? Horm Res Paediatr. 2011;75(3):157-65. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

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Does celiac disease trigger autoimmune thyroiditis? Nat Rev Endocrinol.2009 Apr;5(4):190-1.

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