Do you know why gluten isn’t recommended for thyroid or autoimmune patients?
Most Americans eat gluten-containing foods every day, if not at every meal. From breakfast cereals, toasts and pancakes at breakfast to pasta, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, muffins and other baked goods, many foods are made from gluten-containing grains. Wheat, barley, rye and most oats as well as their flours are sources of gluten. Some people are intolerant to gluten, and many autoimmune conditions, including thyroid disorders, can be caused or worsened by exposure to it.
Gluten intolerance affects at least 6 percent of the population and results in different symptoms in different people, depending on your genetic predisposition. A paper published in March 2011 in “BMC Medicine” shows associations between gluten intolerance and gastrointestinal problems triggering symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, anemia, behavior changes, infertility and thyroid problems. If you suffer from thyroid problems, ask your doctor to be tested not only for celiac disease but also for various forms of gluten intolerance and sensitivity. (Have your antibodies tested)
Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist and author of “The Healthy Skeptic,” reports that 90 percent of cases of hypothyroidism have an autoimmune origin that is strongly associated with gluten intolerance. Most people with hypothyroidism are prescribed various medications to compensate for the lack of thyroid hormones, but few doctors do the test to determine whether your thyroid disorder has an autoimmune connection or not. Ask to be investigated to determine whether your thyroid problem is autoimmune, which is a good indication that gluten may have a role to play.
The reason gluten may be problematic if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition is because the molecule gliadin, which is the protein part of gluten, resembles the protein in your thyroid gland. If you are intolerant to it, your body develops antibodies against gluten. By definition, an autoimmune condition results from your own body attacking and destroying one of your own organs or tissues. The antibodies that your body develop against gluten may mistakenly attack your thyroid gland because of its similar structure, causing you to develop an autoimmune form of thyroid disorder, often called Hashimoto’s thyroid disease or Grave’s thyroid disease.
If your thyroid disorder is associated with an intolerance to gluten, going on a GF diet could help your thyroid gland naturally function better. If you don’t eat gluten, your body won’t need to produce antibodies to attack it and these antibodies won’t confuse your thyroid gland for gluten. Whether you have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or not, it is safe to eliminate gluten from your diet for a month to see if you notice improvements in the function of your thyroid gland and symptoms. If you notice improvements, staying on your gluten-free diet may help you and your thyroid gland stay healthy.
**Originally featured on Livestrong.com**