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Should you be gluten free if you suffer from hypothyroidism?

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April 2, 2015

A study released in January through the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism found that Hashimoto’s patients with atypical celiac disease (i.e., no digestive complaints but + antibodies) required 49% more thyroxine (T4) to achieve the same TSH levels as non-celiac Hashimoto’s patients. After following a dedicated gluten free diet (GF) for 11 months their TSH levels dropped precipitously and hovered near the same thyroxine requirement as the non-celiac Hashimoto’s patients.

This study is the first of its kind to study how going GF can affect the ability to create thyroid hormones comparing 2 groups suffering from Hashimoto’s. It is crystal clear now in the literature that there is a strong correlation between gluten consumption and Hashimoto’s, both as a trigger for onset and an exasperating factor which continues the vicious up and down immune roller coaster.

Clinically, I have yet to meet a Hashimoto’s patient who has not been affected by gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. But, what is the difference between Celiac and gluten sensitivity? Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition affecting the villi of the small intestine as a direct result of the consumption of gluten containing foods like wheat, spelt, rye, or oats.

Celiac disease has been linked to over 200+ disease conditions and has been estimated at increasing risk of death by 39% (JAMA, Sep 16 2009). Gluten sensitivity is defined as any immune response to gluten not causing celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity has been shown to increase risk of death by as much as 35% (JAMA, Sep 16 2009).
The difficulty with this condition is yet to be recognized by the standard medical community, and patients are lucky to have 2 antibodies screened by their primary care! Whether its gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, the immune system becomes the victim with a patient’s weak link, thyroid, gut, joints or skin, etc. receiving devastating consequences.

Have you ever felt like you were in a fog? Maybe just feeling a little detached or not quite yourself? Have you ever heard of “leaky gut”? These problems are connected and the very mechanism behind auto-immunity is immune system stimulation creating leaky gut, and subsequent inflammation and the degradation of the gastro intestinal barrier.

Once this process is started (yes, gluten is one of the triggers for leaky gut), it can be a downward spiral of inflammation that affects ANY barrier, including gut, lung or brain. Did you know there was a brain barrier? The blood brain barrier is a layer of capillaries, barrier cells and microglial cells which monitor the defense of this critical interface.

With a breach in gut barrier function, the blood brain barrier may be compromised as well. This switches on the microglial cells and begins a vicious circle of inflammation and cell death which for many, leads to “brain fog”, anxiety, memory loss depression or fatigue.


In my clinical experience, there is no such thing as 99% gluten free. The immune system is smart, and after years of abuse and the development of gluten sensitivity, it can no longer tolerate gluten in the diet! After just one exposure, antibody formation to gut, skin, thyroid, joints, etc can lead to 3-6 months+ antibody formation. There is no such thing as “cheat days” or the occasional desert with wheat in it.

Consuming this protein will completely derail efforts to heal and maintain optimal health! But my doctor said I could eat wheat! Wrong! Just because you were tested and the antibodies for Celiac disease are negative does not mean you are OK to consume gluten. Fortunately for those suffering from classic Celiac disease traditional blood testing can be 92-98% accurate.

But, most patients suffer from gluten sensitivity and the antibodies, which are positive, are never screened. At Dr. Autoimmune we use a panel from Cyrex Laboratories, which scans 24 different immune antibody reactions. It is the most comprehensive test on the market and doesn’t just count on a few sub fractions of the potential problem. But, the test is not necessary if you do not have the financial means and you would rather just start a GF diet.
Strict adherence to a gluten free diet is the first, and possibly most important step in addressing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroid condition. It may not cure you and you may still be suffering from leaky gut after gluten elimination but if you are curious about the process of going gluten free, want testing or just want to talk about your condition; contact Dr. Autoimmune and we can start helping you towards optimal health!

Yours in health,
Ian Hollaman, DC

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