How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Gluten And Your Thyroid Might Be In A Fight
Hi folks. Today we’re going to be talking about gluten. I know, I know; gluten may not have quite the same appeal as vaginas, but let’s just say this: if the last How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass piqued your body curiosity, then this installment will (hopefully, as is my intent) appeal to your intellect. Though, if it makes you feel any better, I was visualizing vaginas as I wrote this.
This is the kind of information that may just completely blow your mind, only because when I first began reading up on gluten in connection to my Hashimoto’s, it felt like I’d hit the treasure trove of top-secret health stuff — revolutionary things pharmaceutical companies don’t want us to know about. I pulled an all-nighter, researching, and the next day, completely eliminated gluten from my diet (and believe it or not, haven’t looked back since). For me, the evidence and results are that convincing.
Remember that, as always, this information is science-based, which is a really important thing to keep in mind because, in my humble opinion, gluten gets a too- “holistic” name: we tend to associate it (and the omitting of it from our diets) with oh-so trendy young/spiritualist/yoga-going moms who buy weird cookies and baking mixes from their local health food store all in the name of Mother Earth and intuition. But trust me, the gluten-free (GF) lifestyle is sooo much more mainstream (and convenient and affordable and non-trendy) than you could ever imagine and should you choose to adopt it, you’ll be in the good company of millions and millions of GF peeps worldwide.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains including rye, wheat, barley, some oats (due to cross-contamination concerns), spelt, and triticale, though it also gets added to alot of processed foods (in the form of derivatives and synthetic flavorings and various aliases) and alcohol, beauty products, stickers and stamps, and even some thyroid medication. Pretty much, it’s everywhere and if you weren’t specifically looking out for it, you’d probably be consuming it in high doses.
Gluten can potentially cause an array of symptoms that vary according to the individual and that are calibrated on a spectrum of sorts: ranging from a mild food allergy or intolerance, to the precipitation of other diseases, or to full-blown autoimmune Celiac disease. Alot of people’s immune systems react negatively to this protein. In fact, recent information from Johns Hopkins show that nearly 1 in every 100 people suffer at the hands of gluten. That makes Celiac twice as common as Crohn’s disease, ulceric colitis, and cystic fibrosis combined — totaling about 3 million people in the U.S.!
But what exactly do gluten and Celiac have to do with thyroid disease and/or autoimmune disease?, Well, for one thing, because the autoimmune response is still not completely understood, there is currently little or no treatment to arrest the process of self-attack and destruction. It is hypothesized, however, that certain proteins cause the inflammatory reactions that manifest as autoimmune disease. So when it comes to gluten (which happens to be a protein), the theory is that ingestion causes the inflammatory immune system response. Because grains were not cultivated until just 10,000 years ago during the first Agricultural Revolution, (mere split seconds ago, evolutionarily) our bodies may not have yet evolved to accommodate grains and gluten and their proteins. (I’ll go into this idea in depth in upcoming weeks).
The secondary reasoning for the link between autoimmune disease and gluten is that in the intestines of a person with a gluten allergy, the villi — long hair-like arms that absorb nutrients — become blunted, thereby causing little to no absorption of vitamins, minerals, etc. This absence of essential nutrients that fuel the body is thought to be linked to an array of diseases. , Or, specifically, it’s thought that people with thyroid disease can have damaged small intestines which block the absorption of the thyroid hormone/medication. , So, eliminating gluten causes the stomach to heal, allowing for the appropriate amount of hormone to be absorbed.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting and all food science-y: the gluten protein and the yeast cell (which we talked about last week) are so similar in structure and composition that they can work in unison to precipitate each other and really make your system all fucking crazy. So, perhaps if yeast overgrowth is one of the root causes of your various symptoms, eating wheat can actually make your yeast worse!, And vice versa — eating yeast or sugary foods can sometimes make gluten sensitivities worse. Very often, the two go hand-in-hand, especially in the chronically-ill or immunocompromised person.
Once I eliminated gluten from my diet, my Hashimoto’s TPO (the number of antibodies in my blood work) was reduced so greatly that it is no longer out of range, and in fact is on the lower side of the “normalÃ¢â‚¬ scale. The little headaches I was getting after eating wheat or pasta completely went away, I lost ten pounds, and my TSH kept stabilizing so much so that my doctor has slowly decreased my medication dosage. , , And in my opinion, this is revolutionary because after nine diagnosed months of hell, an incredibly high dose of Synthroid that actually scared some doctors, and off-the-charts TSHs & TPOs, my body normalized. (Oh, and the two times I accidentally ate gluten since swearing off it, I’ve gotten really sick.)
According to what kind of thyroid disease you have — hyper or hypo, Graves’ or Hashimoto’s, or the many others — your goal may either be to gain weight or to lose weight. , The really interesting thing about a GF diet is that it is known to do either, according to what your body needs. , It has a funny way of stabilizing your system so that whether you need to put on a few pounds because you’re in the throes of a hyper fit, or you need to lose substantial weight due to an under-active gland, it mysteriously does both.
As always, there’s much more to this story so below are some invaluable links to medical and scientific research that delineates the relationship between gluten and/or Celiac disease and thyroid conditions. And I’ll go into more specifics on the gluten-free lifetsyle-diet in upcoming articles, but until then, I’ve also included a blogroll on GF cooking and recipes.
Until Next Week,
Gluten Intolerance and Thyroid/Autoimmune Disease:
- Johns Hopkins
- University of Maryland School of Medicine
- American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association — Current Autoimmune Research
- Stop The Thyroid Madness
- Reuters: Thyroid Disease Often Seen With Celiac Disease
- Thyroid Disease — Why Do Celiacs Have It?
What Should I Eat?:
GF Recipes & GF-Living Blogroll:
Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com,