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Could Wheat Be Destroying Your Thyroid?

Out of all of the diseases that are associated with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, autoimmune thyroid disorders are one of the most striking examples. In fact, the connection is so strong, that I’d urge anyone who has a problem with their thyroid not to “think” about eliminating gluten from their body, but to immediately cut all gluten from their diet.

Find out if wheat could be destroying your thyroid. If you are dealing with hypothyroidism you MUST read this! @ #hypothyroid #glutenfree #health

90% of thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature. This means, 90% of the people who have thyroid disease (and there are a LOT of us out there) have a problem with their thyroid because their immune system is mounting an attack against their thyroid. Scary!

So, what does this have to do with gluten? Maybe you’re wondering why I’m picking on wheat once again.

I’m picking on wheat again because there is a strong connection between gluten-intolerance and autoimmune thyroiditis.1  Researchers suggest all individuals with autoimmune thyroiditis be screened for gluten intolerance1  and some doctors are beginning to prescribe a gluten-free diet for all of their patients with thyroid disorders.

Why Are People with Thyroid Disorders at Risk for Gluten Intolerance?

The molecular structure of the thyroid and gliadin, one of the proteins found in gluten, is very similar. It’s so similar that when gluten gets through your gut and into your blood stream (a.k.a. poop in your blood), the immune system mounts an attack against the gliadin proteins since they’re not supposed to be there. Because your thyroid is seen as a similar molecule, your immune system also begins to attack against your thyroid.

How to Know if Gluten is a Problem

Gluten intolerance and celiac disease have been in the spotlight recently. Despite greater awareness and education  doctors often  don’t suspect gluten intolerance unless you have digestive problems. But, wheat sensitivity can take many many different forms. In 2001 The New England Journal of Medicine2 reported 55 diseases that could potentially be caused by eating wheat. This list has been expanded upon over the last several years.

If you don’t have digestive problems, but you do have thyroid problems, it’s still important you take seriously the fact that you very likely have a problem with gluten. Along with these essential thyroid tests, you may also want to test for a problem with gluten. But the tests for gluten intolerance and celiac disease can be unreliable until you’ve reached a very advanced stage of gut permeability.

On top of this (as if that wasn’t enough), some people who are at an advanced stage still won’t test positive to the antibody tests for gluten intolerance.

  • Some people’s immune systems are so worn down that they are simply can not produce any more antibodies. Thus the test appears negative.
  • Most people who have autoimmune thyroiditis have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. This type of thyroid disease actually suppresses your bodies ability to produce antibodies.

Will Cutting-Back on Gluten Help?

If you have autoimmune thyroiditis it’s imperative that you not just “cut-back” on gluten but eliminate it 100% from your diet. No cheating. Your immune system may continue to react to your exposure to gluten-containing foods up to 6 months after consumption!3

For this reason, it’s important for anyone suffering from autoimmune thyroiditis to completely cut gluten from their diets. You can not cheat just a little bit here and there and expect your body to heal. You may not immediately feel the effects of the cheats, but you are most certainly doing long-term damage to your body.

If you completely cut out gluten, over time there is evidence that you may  see a decreased need for your thyroid medications as your body heals.5,6

If you’re reading this post and you have thyroid disease, you need to give up gluten NOW. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to wheat-free living.

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  1. Great helpful post, Trisha! What do you think of Einkorn or sourdough wheat bread for people with Hashimoto’s? I’ve heard they are tolerated by people with some other gluten challenges.

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      We wrote about this a little bit in our book, but I do believe that ancient varieties of bread such as einkorn that are traditionally prepared in sourdough preparations are a great improvement over what is in most people’s cupboards. It is also true that some people that have issues with gluten can tolerate those better. But even if they see some improvement, we don’t know the long-term damage they may continue to be done under the surface.

      That said, I’d for sure not recommend it for anyone who has an autoimmune disorder. Most of us have eaten such a poor diet for so long our bodies really need to heal and need to be filled with healing foods. If you’re dealing with Hashimoto’s that’s a big indicator that something’s gone awry.

  2. I find this fascinating…I have had a thyroid condition for many years. I have Hashimoto’s disease also. I have 3 large nodules on the right side which I have had a biopsy done on and many smaller ones on the left side. Every time I go to my endocrinologist for a ultra sound, they find another nodule. I also have sleep apnea and use a cpap at night. I am so tired of being tired, the cpap doesn’t seem to help me although the Dr. has assured me that it is working to keep me from not breathing at night. I stopped breathing 6 times during the sleep study that I had done in 2009.

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      You should definitely consider that food could be playing a role in both of these issues. I don’t know a lot about sleep apnea, but have read that food intolerances can definitely play a role in sleep apnea. It makes sense. If you’re eating a food that irritates your body, it causes inflammation, which then causes the apnea. If you get rid of the offending food(s), the inflammation should eventually go away. It might be something to investigate! And definitely, if you have Hashimoto’s, consider the role it’s playing in your thyroid problems.

  3. Thanks for this post. I have been fighting some sort of illness for the past 2 years and it has been so tough to find anyone that won’t think I am crazy! Finally got my food allergen test panel done and WOW! I am allergic to wheat, diary, eggs, gluten, gliadin, the works! I have been officially diagnosed with celiac disease and malnutrition because all of my minerals and vitamins are deficient. Also, to add insult to injury, my thyroid numbers have just started “the climb.” I was put on the generic and it did nothing. Have been switched to Synthroid and we shall see what comes of that. Thanks for the info on this! I am SOOO glad I am not alone! I am planning to have my doc go ahead and test for Hashimoto’s – there may be a link here as I had ANA triggers back about 18 months ago. Serious autoimmune craziness all after having baby #3. This has been so serious it even caused us to have a miscarriage this past November. The worst part of all of this is that I have been screaming (figuratively) that I am not well and that something was wrong. I was continually told it was my vegetarian diet (too many carbs) or I was suffering from postpartum depression. Never did anyone truly listen and it cost a life. God is with me and has been with me. He has guided me to be my own health advocate and give me the resolve to get to the bottom of this! My family needs me!

  4. Very interesting! My naturopath just diagnosed some thyroid issues. I’ve already been gluten-free for close to a year, but this is great encouragement to keep it up.

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      Even if you don’t notice a difference, it doesn’t mean it’s not making one! Your thyroid problems may have been much worse had you been eating gluten for the past year. I hope you and your naturopath are able to get your thyroid regulated. I know it can be a challenge.

  5. Ann Humphries says:

    Thanks for this post. I took Synthroid for years but hated the side effects and finally refused to take it any more. An alternative doctor told me my pituitary gland was the cause of the problem and gave me a pituitary supplement which seemed to help. Now that I am off gluten, I don’t have any problem with my thyroid. But most regular doctors won’t ever prescribe a gluten-free diet because then they couldn’t sell you Synthroid!!!

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      That’s fantastic that you were able to heal your thyroid using a gluten-free diet! I am off gluten, but still need to take natural desiccated thyroid in order to keep my thyroid regulated. It’s amazing how diet can heal/destroy your body.

  6. I have/had Hashimoto’s. I have been on Synthroid for almost 10 years now. As I’ve learned more about nutrition, I became convinced that I could heal from this. I began the GAPS diet almost 6 months ago with the express intent of “healing and sealing” my gut to recover from Hashimoto’s. My Thyroid Antibodies number went from 112…down to 22…and now it is below 20 (normal). My doctor and I are in the process of decreasing my thyroid medicine right now! We’re taking it slow…and I’m so hopeful and thankful!

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      That’s marvelous! Thank you for the comment. It’s so nice to hear these stories. They are so encouraging to others who are looking for healing!

  7. I suffered from fatigue since my kids were born. Every doctor over 20 years insisted that I was depressed, put on so many antidepressants even though I would say I wasn’t. Also put onto thyroid meds which I felt no difference, but as long as you are in the “range” they don’t do anything else. It took moving and research that lead me to s new doctor that specializes in Bio identical Hormones, also he tested me for hosimotos which came out positive. Well going gluten free, helped me loose a few pounds but with the change of diet and the hormone replacement its been s year and I am feeling a lot better than I have for 20ish years. Hasimotos is something that you are born with and having kids, which messes with your hormones, kicked the immune disease in motion. Don’t settle for what your doctors are saying if what they are doing is not making you feel better.

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      That’s great! It’s amazing what a difference diet can make. How wonderful you’ve found a good doctor. How did you go about finding your doctor?

  8. I am celiac& my Dr. says my thyroid is fine but I am so tired all of the time. Have been trying to eat gluten free but live in a small town so there aren’t many places to get the gluten free food & sending for them is so expensive. I’m also very cold all of the time. Can you advise me on what I should do?
    Thank you for any help you can give me.

    • Trisha Gilkerson says:

      Hi Eleanor,
      I’m so sorry to hear you’re feeling so poorly. It is very important that you completely stay away from gluten if you’ve been diagnosed as celiac. If you don’t, you will cause great damage to your body! My suggestion is to focus on whole foods. Foods that are healing. Most of the “gluten free foods” are both expensive and NOT good for you. They won’t heal your body. Focus on high quality meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and bone broth.

      I’m not sure what kind of tests your doctor has run, but typically doctors only test TSH (this is not a great indicator of thyroid function). I was able to post on my friends blog about the tests you need to request your doctor to run when checking for thyroid problems. Check this out and see if it’s helpful.

      I hope you’re able to find some answers as to why you’re not feeling well. I know how frustrating that is!

  9. Great overview! So glad that so many are getting the word out now. Since my diagnosis, I have learned much about this topic and many others at Hashimoto’s 411, a Facebook group and website. For those of you with thyroid conditions, you may want to join us there and learn more. It’s a gluten-free zone! =D

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing about the facebook group. There are a number of really good resources for those of us dealing with thyroid disorders!

      • Thanks for the response! I just read the article again and will share it there, in case I didn’t already. Memory is better but still pretty bad, ha! =)


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