Why is Gluten ‘bad’?

‘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 90% of people with an underactive thyroid, have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. A common symptom of this autoimmune disease is gluten sensitivity. img_7833

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

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:

Why?
Gluten is said to apparently 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.

As Chris Kesser explains here:
The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you.. eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

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.

Dr Kharazzian has also commented on how having Hashimoto’s and consuming gluten can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to  brain fog.

According to Hashimoto’s Healing, immune cells in the brain called microglia, are responsible for this;

These cells also respond quickly to pathogens and injury, accumulate in regions of degeneration and produce a wide variety of pro-inflammatory molecules. That’s right, they cause inflammation.
Thyroid hormone has a major influence on them. It can help keep them calm and modulate them. This is why some people with Hashimoto’s notice that their brain fog really improves once they are given thyroid hormone. For many others, this doesn’t help at all. If this is the case, there is something else driving the inflammation and the immune attack.

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.

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.”

The Arthritis Foundation has also published information regarding the link between gluten sensitivity, joint pain, and arthritis conditions.

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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 or allergic to gluten, or are just interested in giving gluten-free a try to see if it helps your fatigue, aches and pains, etc. 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 want to avoid: gluten, wheat, barley and rye.

You do need to completely eliminate it and not just ‘cut back’.

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:

http://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/top-7-hashimotos-food-myths

https://theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2016/05/14/the-difference-between-gluten-intolerance-and-gluten-sensitivity/

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

http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/2014/02/24/how-gluten-impacts-mental-health-with-kelly-brogan-md-gfs-podcast-03/

http://hypothyroidmom.com/12-shocking-symptoms-of-gluten-sensitivity/

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

https://chriskresser.com/the-most-important-thing-you-may-not-know-about-hypothyroidism/

https://theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2016/03/20/march-is-autoimmune-disease-awareness-month-hashimotos-thyroiditis/

https://chriskresser.com/the-gluten-thyroid-connection/

A good book – https://wordpress.com/post/theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/296

If you found this article informative, useful, helpful or in other words are grateful you stumbled across it, please consider helping me keep The Invisible Hypothyroidism running, so that we can carry on building a strong community, spreading awareness and helping each other. Running the site comes at the expense of my personal time and money from my own pocket. You can make a one-off or monthly donation to support me keeping this website going, by clicking the button below.

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I run a Facebook group, called Thyroid Family: Hypothyroidism Advice & Support Group. This group is for underactive thyroid/hypothyroidism patients only, and not medical professionals or anyone else. If you have any questions on living with hypothyroidism, or want some support, help or advice, please join us. 

I also run a group for the spouses, partners and other halves of hypothyroid patients, called Hypothyroid Patients Other Halves – Support & Advice Group. This is for the other halves only and not patients. 

-Rachel

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