Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Gluten | Gluten-Free Society

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The Gluten Thyroid Connection

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 thyroid disease and gluten…

…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 sensitivity in the medical literature.  The connection between thyroid disease and gluten is well established.  How does gluten contribute to thyroid disease

Relationship Between Gluten, Selenium, and the Thyroid

Selenium is crucial for the following different functions…

  • 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.

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 looking at thyroid disease and gluten sensitivity as a potential causal relationship.  Patients with gluten sensitivity should also be checked for nutritional deficiencies – especially 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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Gluten Free Warrior Commentary


12 responses on “Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Gluten

  1. Sharon says:

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

  2. 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!

  3. Kim says:

    Is gluten in oats? Is cous cous gluten free?

  4. 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!

  5. Diane Malone says:

    I have been having severe stomach cramps with the pain being simultaneously in my back. This has lead to a weight loss of 40 lbs. I don’t want the weight back, but I haven’t done anything to lose it. I have undergone several tests including an ultrasound of my gall bladder area, a CT scan of this area, also. My gallbladder was removed about 30 years ago; 2 endoscopies, one of them being an ultrasound endoscopy, and a colonoscopy, plus numerous blood tests. All tests came back negative, but malnutrition was found. I am taking Levothyroxine, Sertraline, Omeprazole, Colestipol all 1 x daily. I also take Endocet 10/325 up to 4 x daily or as needed, Soma, 2 x daily,both for back pain & muscle spasms & Requip, 3 x daily for RLS.

    I have absolutely no energy, and could. easily sleep all day. Lately, what brings the pain on, is if I move around which causes my back to hurt thus triggering my stomach pain. What does relieve the pain is drinking something warm to hot and laying down with a heating pad, placed either on my stomach or back. It generally takes about 15 minutes to an hour for the pain to subside.

    Could this possibly be connected to gluten intolerance with Hypothyroidism Are there any particular tests that you will suggest? I am at my wits end and am willing to do just about anything to rid myself of this problem! One more thing for you to consider in this history……………I had 2 lower back surgeries in 2011, with the 2nd one resulting in a fusion.

    Any help or suggestions you can give me, will be greatly appreciated.


    Diane Malone
    [email protected]

    • Ruth says:

      Diane – I was getting the same: bad stomach ache & simultaneous backache every time I ate anything, for a number of years. (I do have hypothyroidism, so can’t lose weight.) The described pain happens only once in a while, NOW: I did give up gluten & dairy, & coffee & most sugar. I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, quinoa, & salmon. The best to you.

    • Maggie says:


      Cut out the omeprazole. If you are taking it just for acid reflux, you may find that you are actually low in stomach acid and you will be suffering from malabsorption issues.
      Get you vit B12, vit D, vit A, iron, folate and ferritin tested, make sure you get the results from your GP along with the range.
      You then need to take supplements to bring you up to the top end of the range on all.
      Do a bit of research to provide you with the knowledge you need to supplement optimally

  6. Lyndsey Herrand says:

    Thank you for posting this article. It’s always interesting to me to see how CD is connected to so many other AD. I would however, love to hear thoughts on the relationship between Graves Disease and CD. I see so many articles stating the correlation between CD and Hypothroid, but not the other end of the spectrum. Can you point me to any research studies pertaining to this? Thank you!

  7. Lucia says:

    I have learned to take care of myself through a healthy diet. I rarely have to see doctors and i can list the kind of conditions I have treated myself with just keeping an eye of what I put in my body, for example, Sindrome of irritable colon. I make it clear, I have great respect for doctors but the food industry is killing more people than doctors are able to cure.

  8. Tigra says:

    Since being diagnosed with CD I have been gluten free for about 8 months & sugar free for about 6 months. My GP has just reduced my thyroxine tablets from 1.25 to 1.00mgs.thrilled about that. However iBS has just flared up horribly and had such excruciating pain two days ago that had me doubled over had to escort to Mebeverine. Just drinking a glass of hot water with ginger is soothing me more. In spite of cutting nightshade veg, bean & lentils from my diet I have not lost weight. ( about 40 lbs overweight). Had life saving mitral valve repair about 10 years ago & take candestartin & aspirin to keep blood flowing & support my heart. Also CFS back with avenge cue after two year remission. Now my GP wants me to take a station as cholesterol too high. Any advice/ support gratefully received.

    • Carol says:

      When IBS symptoms strike I find Fennel Tea helps ease the cramps and bloating. Fennel tea is sometimes hard to find, so I order online from Heather’s tummy care. Great site for IBS issues.

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