What Happens When You Give Me Gluten

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I’m gluten-free. It’s a choice I made to hopefully halt my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, from progressing any further.

You may have heard about the hype for this new gluten-free ‘fad’ and you may even be one of the keyboard warriors I see writing comments below articles on going gluten-free, that read something like “Going gluten-free does NOT benefit you unless you’re celiac”.

Yes, yes it can.

Want to know how? OK. 

Why I Am Gluten-Free for My Thyroid Condition

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, more often referred to as just Hashimoto’s or Hashi’s, is an autoimmune disease and the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is estimated that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis causes about 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism. [1]

Hashimoto’s causes the body to attack and destroy its own thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. As time goes by, your  own body attacks and destroys your own thyroid as if it is the enemy and you become more and more hypothyroid. Unless something is done to halt these attacks, of course.

And this is where gluten comes in.

Due to molecular mimicry, gluten can trigger the same autoimmune reactions that cause you to have Hashimoto’s in the first place, since the cells of your thyroid are similar to the make-up of gluten, and it confuses your already confused body even more, increasing inflammation and antibodies as an attack on your thyroid is launched. This destroys more thyroid tissue, and so worse/extra hypothyroid symptoms occur overtime.

As a result, many Hashimoto’s patients eliminate gluten from their diet, and see good results. I am one of those patients.

When Italian researchers also put subclinical or ‘borderline’ hypothyroid people with coeliac disease on a gluten-free diet for one year, thyroid function normalised in 71% of them, with another 19% normalising their thyroid antibodies. The researchers concluded that in some cases, a gluten-free diet may single-handedly reverse the abnormality. [2]

The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naive Women With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study  also concluded that their results suggested a gluten-free diet may bring clinical benefits to women with Hashimoto’s. [3]

So, you may now understand a bit clearer why I’ve chosen to adapt my diet to be gluten-free and then why it upsets me when I am ‘glutened‘ and little care is taken to prevent this.

What Does ‘Glutened’ Mean?

‘Glutened’ is a term those of us who are gluten-free use when we accidentally ingest gluten and suffer as a result.

In my case, I experience stomach pain and cramps, sometimes along with unpleasant toilet trips, brain fog and mood swings, when I have consumed gluten, along with worsened hypothyroid symptoms.

When I consume gluten, although I come back as negative on tests to check for Coeliac Disease, it causes me discomfort as I have a sensitivity to gluten-containing products which worsens my autoimmune disease.

Each time I consume gluten, an attack launches against my already barely-functioning thyroid gland, which worsens my condition and encourages more function to be lost. It progresses the disease. It takes me closer to losing all thyroid function completely.

So now when you think I’m being fussy, trying to be ‘cool’ or awkward when:

  • ordering food at your restaurant and asking about gluten
  • eating around your house and asking what’s in the meal presented to me or politely refusing your offer of a chocolate biscuit

take a moment to realise what anxiety could lie at the bottom of that curry. I’ve already lost so much thyroid function and I’ve already lost so much of my life to this disease, why would I choose to lose more?

Respecting Another’s Health Isn’t Difficult

All I know is that I feel better off gluten, that my condition stays stable and that I am able to function more like a regular human being. Yet when I consume gluten, when a chef in a restaurant insists they only use gluten-free gravy, then I’m glutened and holding my stomach for the next few days and having a thyroid flare up, making me take time off work, people act as if I’m being overdramatic.

If I had a fatal nut or seafood allergy, and I ended up in hospital or worse over consuming it by accident, it would be a lot more serious. Yet gluten issues are often seen as a joke.

When someone next asks you about ingredients in a dish at your restaurant or your house, or you read another article about gluten-free cooking tips online, stop and think for a second before you try to tell others that gluten can’t be harmful to them or that you know their medical history.

Stop jumping on the bandwagon of it being cool to make jokes out of those who have to be gluten-free. Actually stop and think.

See also:

You, Me and Hypothyroidism Book CoverThe book You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, which is for those who know someone with hypothyroidism. It covers information on adjusting to dietary changes and many more of the effects of hypothyroidism.

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.

https://bmcgastroenterol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-230X-9-44

https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/autoimmune-thyroid-disease-and-gluten/

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3066320

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11280546

[3] https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/a-0653-7108.pdf

If you found this article beneficial, please take a moment to share it so we can help others get better with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, whilst also raising awareness. "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate."

Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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