Informational Posts

Should Thyroid Patients Avoid Gluten?

Should Thyroid Patients Remove Gluten?
Originally published on 13th September 2016
Last updated on 12th October 2023

‘Gluten-free’ is a phrase I’m sure you’ve seen a lot in the thyroid community. 

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. [1]

A common symptom of this autoimmune disease may be gluten sensitivity.

Rachel sitting cross legged on grass

Did you know that you could be sensitive to gluten i.e. have it still cause you symptoms or problems, but not be Coeliac?

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:

You could still be gluten sensitive.


One theory we see a lot is that gluten is said to 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 the body, increasing inflammation, which can mean worse or extra symptoms. However, this theory is yet to be conclusively proved (or denied).

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 the ability to put Hashimoto’s in to remission.

However, other possible reasons for thyroid patients feeling better on a gluten-free diet include:

  • that eating naturally gluten-free usually means a reduction in processed, high sugar foods overall
  • that a gluten sensitivity can lead to poor gut health, which can be indicated by a low absorption rate of minerals and vitamins. For example, low levels of B12, D, Iron etc.

Thyroid Pharmacist Izabella Wentz conducted a survey amongst thyroid patients, which showed that 86% who went gluten-free reported an improvement in digestive symptoms. Notably, only 3.5% of the respondents were actually diagnosed with coeliac disease. It could be that some of these respondents were undiagnosed Coeliac, have gluten sensitivity or, as touched on above, were just consuming a much less processed diet. [2]

When Italian researchers also put subclinically 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. [3]

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. [4]

Joint and muscle aches? Gluten-caused inflammation can cause joint and muscle pain in some people.

WebMD states that:

Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of gluten sensitivity. And research does show links between the two diseases.

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 could also 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.

Read about the thyroid symptoms that disappeared for me after I went gluten-free.

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:






About Author

Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts and at events about the many aspects thyroid disease affects and how to overcome these. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her bestselling books include "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate" and "You, Me and Hypothyroidism".

1 Comment

  • Fitoru Keto
    May 15, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Nice read! This definitely gave me a better understanding about gluten and why it’s so bad for our health. Thank you so much for posting!


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