Gluten Allergy and Thyroid Disease: What You Need to Know

What is the link between gluten allergy and thyroid disease? This is an especially important question for anyone suffering from an autoimmune thyroid disease, namely Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease. Research has found that someone with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) is at substantially higher risk of having celiac disease (an autoimmune reaction to gluten), while someone with celiac disease is more than four times as likely to have AITD.

Celiac disease also shares symptoms with Hashimoto’s (HT) and Graves’ (GD), specifically:

  • Constipation (HT) and diarrhea (GD)
  • Depression (HT) and/or anxiety (GD)
  • Fatigue (both)
  • Hair loss (both)
  • Infertility (both)
  • Joint pain (HT)
  • Miscarriage (both)
  • Weight loss (GD)

Understanding Autoimmune Response in Gluten Allergy and Thyroid Disease

The role of the immune system is to protect the body from outside invaders, such as toxins, bacteria, viruses and fungi. In the simplest terms, an autoimmune disorder is when the immune system mistakes part of the body for a foreign invader and begins attacking healthy tissues and cells.

In the case of celiac disease, ingesting gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) triggers an immune system attack on the small intestine that causes inflammation and a variety of intestinal and multi-system symptoms. In AITD, the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing it to produce either too little thyroid hormone (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or too much (Graves’ disease).

The main reason these three conditions are so closely linked is because the molecular structure of gluten closely resembles that of thyroid tissue, and the immune system’s antibodies can’t distinguish between the two. Therefore, when someone with AITD eats gluten, the immune system reads it as thyroid tissue and ramps up its attack on the thyroid. On the other side, when someone with celiac eats gluten, it triggers an inflammatory response that can last up to six months. This prolonged period of inflammation increases the likelihood of developing other autoimmune disorders, including AITD.

Testing for Gluten Allergy and Thyroid Disease

Typical blood tests for celiac disease include checking the levels of specific antibodies and human leukocyte antigens (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8). If these tests indicate celiac – or if they are inconclusive but you are experiencing symptoms – your doctor may also order an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.

For Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease, standard thyroid blood tests are not enough for a diagnosis. Hashimoto’s patients in particular can have thyroid hormone levels that are within normal range while experiencing debilitating symptoms. Your doctor will need to run blood tests that specifically check for thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Ab), thyroglobulin antibodies (TGB Ab), and thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies (TSH Ab).

Treating Gluten Allergy and Thyroid Disease

If you have celiac disease and/or AITD, you will have to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Because eating gluten can trigger autoimmune symptoms for up to 6 months, there are no “cheat days” for celiac and AITD patients. The good news is that many people are able to reduce their symptoms significantly and even put Hashimoto’s into remission by following a diet that eliminates gluten and other trigger foods.

At Anchor Wellness Center, Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM and her staff help you identify which foods are contributing to your autoimmune response and develop a nutrition plan that is tailored to you. We also use bioidentical hormones to treat your autoimmune thyroid disease more effectively and with almost no side effects compared to traditional synthetic medications.

For help treating your gluten allergy and thyroid disease, call Anchor Wellness Center today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Malhotra. As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can help you reduce your symptoms and improve your overall health.

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