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Originally published on 13th September 2016 Last updated on 17th December 2018
‘Gluten-free’ is a phrase I’m sure you’ve seen a lot lately. It seems to be the latest popular diet to be on, but why?
If you have hypothyroidism, specifically Hashimoto’s, it’s worth knowing why so many thyroid patients report that being gluten-free helps them.
It’s reported that around 90% of people with hypothyroidism have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. 
A common symptom of this autoimmune disease is gluten sensitivity.
Did you know that you could be sensitive to gluten i.e. have it still cause you symptoms or problems, but not be Coeliac?
As hypothyroid patients, it’s actually quite likely that we do have gluten sensitivity.
You could have had the tests done by your doctor to check for Coeliac Disease, and it come back negative, yet you suffer from symptoms such as:
- Mood swings/Depression/Anxiety (Research and studies confirm that gluten intolerance can be linked to depression, anxiety and mood disorders)
- Brain fog
- Aches and pains
- Acid reflux
- Joint pain
- Skin issues
- Swinging lab results and feeling hypo then hyper and vice versa
- Poor gut health/Leaky Gut, also meaning low absorption rate of minerals and vitamins
- Rubbish immune system
- Dental Issues
Gluten is said to trigger the same autoimmune reactions that cause you to have Hashimoto’s in the first place, since supposedly, the cells of your thyroid are similar to the make up of gluten, and it confuses your body, increasing inflammation and antibodies as an attack on your thyroid is launched, destroying more thyroid tissue, and so worse/extra hypothyroid symptoms occur. As a result, many Hashimoto’s patients eliminate gluten from their diet, and see good results.
Worsening thyroid hormone levels over time as well as swinging test results, are thought to typically be due to the ongoing destruction of your thyroid gland, which obviously causes it to not work properly (hypothyroidism). Lowering thyroid antibodies is believed to stop or slow this down. One particular source which is great for info on this is Izabella Wentz, who believes in setting Hashimoto’s in to remission, and even promotes the idea of not needing thyroid medication once this is achieved.
Consuming gluten can also lead to leaky gut, where holes form in the gut lining and when food is ingested, gluten in this instance, it allows small particles to leak into the bloodstream, leading to symptoms of gluten sensitivity like those listed above. The immune system sees these particles as foreign entities and creates antibodies and mounts an attack not only on the foreign protein, gluten, but also on thyroid tissue because of its close resemblance to gluten. Eek!
If you often have low levels in vitamins (B12, D, Iron etc.), it could well indicate Hashimoto’s and/or damage to the gut (leaky gut) caused by consuming gluten.
This is where eliminating gluten from the diet can help dramatically, also likely helping a leaky gut, since gluten can cause inflammation. So, cutting out gluten may also help to relieve brain fog.
Thyroid Pharmacist Izabella Wentz conducted a survey amongst thyroid patients in May 2015, that showed that 86% of people who went gluten-free reported an improvement in digestive symptoms. Notably, only 3.5% of the respondents were actually diagnosed with celiac disease, thus it confirms what a lot of thyroid advocates and specialist doctors have been saying all along: That you do not have to have coeliac disease to benefit from a gluten-free diet! 
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. 
The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naive Women With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study concluded that their results suggested a gluten-free diet may bring clinical benefits to women with Hashimoto’s. 
Joint and muscle aches? Gluten-caused inflammation can cause joint and muscle pain in some people.
Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of gluten sensitivity. And research does show links between the two diseases.
It is believed that even if you do not have a sensitivity to gluten right now, you can develop it any time later on in life, since we’re very likely to have some kind of adverse effect to gluten eventually if not already, having Hashimoto’s. Dr Datis Kharrazian explained this in a seminar I watched for the Healing Hashimoto’s summit, held June 13th-20th 2016.
If you think you could be sensitive to gluten, or are just interested in giving gluten-free a try to see if it helps your fatigue, aches and pains, etc. may try eliminating it from your diet for at least 3-4 months and keep a log of how you feel (you should also ideally retest your antibodies, TPOAB and TGAB, to see if they come down. You can order these tests online here and here).
However, there are huge benefits in screening for coeliac disease before removing gluten. For example, diagnostic tests for coeliac disease require you to be on a gluten-containing diet so that the test can detect any antibodies to gluten. If you are already on a gluten-free diet when tested for coeliac disease, you will need to reintroduce gluten for several weeks before the blood test, in order to get accurate results. Having a formal diagnosis of coeliac disease, if you have it, is also important.
Also, if coeliac disease is confirmed, as well as lifelong, strict gluten-free diet a longterm treatment plan will also need creating by your doctor and dietician to ensure you’re still getting the right nutrients from other foods. Monitoring of any intestinal damage and healing, as well as vitamin or mineral deficiencies is also recommended.
When gluten-free, you need to avoid: gluten, wheat, malt, barley, oats (unless GF oats) and rye. Read my guide on how-to go gluten-free here.
And an important note: as someone who personally has a history of eating disorders / disordered eating myself, I am aware that the information in this article could be triggering if you’ve previously / are currently restricting foods. Do know that I will never suggest that any of us HAVE to cut out ANY food types, so I present this info for each of us to make that decision ourselves if we still have ongoing thyroid symptoms or struggles to manage the condition.
Some people may begin removing one or two foods from their diet and enter down a slippery slope in to disordered eating behaviours, so if this is you, and you start to feel anxious about food or much of your time and energy is preoccupied with this, please seek out support from a trained professional and be cautious about altering your diet. Disordered eating needs to be taken more seriously and I don’t wish to contribute to more people struggling with this.
I’m not a fan of massively restrictive diets which can encourage disordered eating behaviours, and thus, create more stress which, in turn, isn’t great for our health either.
Have you tried going gluten-free?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at: