March 28, 2013

Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Gluten


Gluten Plays a Role in Autoimmune Hormone Disease?

Fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, bloating, dry skin, and joint pain are all symptoms that can persist even while on a gluten free diet.  One of the biggest reasons why has to do with gluten’s impact on your thyroid gland.  The thyroid makes hormones that regulate your metabolism, and when this gland isn’t working properly, neither are you.  Keep reading to learn what you can do…

Thyroid and gluten hydraMore medical research makes the connection between gluten and thyroid disease…

…The results of previous studies have indicated that the prevalence of CD is increased in patients with other autoimmune disorders such as: autoimmune thyroid diseases, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and Addison’s disease. A coincidence of the above diseases constitutes autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS). The high prevalence of CD in APS is probably due to the common genetic predisposition to the coexistent autoimmune diseases. The majority of adult patients have the atypical or silent type of the disease. This is the main reason why CD so often goes undiagnosed or the diagnosis is delayed.

The authors go on to state that if gluten sensitivity is not diagnosed many of the additional consequences are -

  • haematological (anemia)
  • metabolical (osteopenia/osteoporosis)
  • obstetric-gynaecological (infertility, spontaneous abortions, late puberty, early menopause)
  • neurological (migraine, ataxia, epilepsy)
  • increased risk of malignancy, especially:  lymphoma, small intestine, mouth, and esophageal cancers

Source: Endokrynol Pol. 2012;63(3):240-9.

Different People React to Gluten in Different Ways

Much like the side effects from a drug differ in different individuals, side effects from gluten exposure in people can also differ greatly.  There are over 200 conditions linked to gluten to date in the medical literature.  How does gluten contribute to thyroid disease

  • It plays a role in the production of active thyroid hormone (see chart below).
  • It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate immune function.
  • It plays a role in blood viscosity (reduces excessive clotting of the blood).
  • It drives the most powerful antioxidant system in the body.

Relationship Between Gluten, Selenium, and the Thyroid


In previous posts we have discussed how going on a gluten free diet can lead to fat loss. This is one of those mechanisms as hypothyroid disease is a common manifestation of gluten intolerance.

Other Nutrients Important for Thyroid Function -

  1. Iodine – this mineral helps the body build T4 (the hormone that doctors commonly measure that floats through the bloodstream)
  2. Vitamins D and A - these fat soluble vitamins allow T3 (the active hormone) to communicate with your DNA and increase your metabolism.
  3. Zinc & Magnesium – these minerals help your body make TSH (the hormone made in your brain that tells your thyroid gland to make T4).
  4. Protein – most Americans eat too many carbs and not enough protein. Protein is absolutely necessary to form the backbone of thyroid hormone. It also carries the hormone through the blood stream to your tissues.

What Can You Do If You Have Been Diagnosed with Hypothyroidism?

Have your doctor perform the following tests -

  1. Iodine loading test (urine test)
  2. Spectracell (vitamin and mineral deficiency blood test)
  3. Reverse T3 and thyroid antibody testing
  4. Genetic testing for gluten sensitivity

It is time for doctors to start ruling out gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and nutritional deficiencies in patients with thyroid disease. If your doctor will not investigate these areas for you, look for a functional medicine doctor who will.

If you think that this information will help someone you love suffering with a thyroid problem, please forward this along.

If you want free instant access to our definitive guide to gluten, sign up below:

It is time for doctors to start ruling out gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in patients with thyroid disease. It is time for doctors to start recognizing the therapeutic benefit of a gluten free diet. If you think that this information will help someone you love suffering with a thyroid problem, please forward this along.


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4 Responses to “Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Gluten”

  • Sharon says:

    Many thanks, Dr. O!
    No idea why I needed to wait 8 or 9 months for this important article to be posted.

  • J.B.Riekstins says:

    I did cut out all grains within the last 9 months after becoming more and more intolerant of many foods. Now, after following this program with very few relapses, I have seen my eyebrows grow back in, all normal colored, not white, and my snow white hair is now quite silvery, going to salt and pepper, because I have so much hair growing back in, all in a dark color–so much so that it shows up in photos. I am now slowly regaining some tolerance for some of the foods I could not eat one year ago, like eggs, and small amounts of yogurt. I also do not react violently to accidental ingestion of tiny amounts of grain like I once did, but I do not eat grain if I can help it!

  • Kim says:

    Is gluten in oats? Is cous cous gluten free?

  • xam says:

    Although gluten does seem to be a problem for many people, i think many people’s real problem lies elsewhere. The modern western (especially US) diet includes almost no foods which reinforce good probiotic bacteria levels within our gut (yogurt does, but many people don’t eat the right kind, or enough of it). All our milk products have been pasteurized, wiping out almost all the nutrients & probiotics that were once contained within it. Combine that with the fact that many people eat far too much sugar / processed foods, & many people end up living with a condition called ‘leaky gut’ (also caused by increased usage of antibiotics). Our intestinal linings literally become leaky, and small particles enter the blood stream, which the immune system has to get rid off. This leads to a general level of inflammation & poor health (feeling tired, difficulty losing weight, etc), and ultimately sets off autoimmune diseases, allergies, and serious health problems down the road. Try taking a probiotic (a good kind with a high active culture and strain count), & cutting out too much sugar & processed food. This alone will probably ‘cure’ many people’s ailments, and you might even still be able to indulge in a gluten filled snack once in a while. Good luck!

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