Autoimmune Thyroiditis and Gluten Intolerance

WholeWheatBreadThe list of health problems that gluten intolerance, including but not limited to celiac disease, can cause is a long one.

This is especially true in the autoimmune disorder list, which includes Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis.

AITD (Auto-Immune Thyroid Disease) and Gluten Intolerance

 There have been several studies conducted which have shown the strong link between gluten intolerance and autoimmune thyroid diseases or AITD such as Grave’s and Hashimoto’s diseases.

The researchers in the study highly recommend that anyone diagnosed with a gluten intolerance should also be checked for AITD and vice versa.

Apparently the cause is a case of mistaken identity. This is because gliadin, which is a type of protein found in gluten has a close resemblance with that of the thyroid. When gliadin penetrates into the bloodstream by breaking the protective barrier that is found in a person’s gut, the immune system will immediately target it for destruction.

After an intolerance occurs, if you keep on eating foods that contain gluten, your immune system will also keep on attacking your own thyroid.

Unfortunately, our body’s immune response to gluten may last for six months. Sadly, the 80/20 rule does not apply to gluten intolerance. This would mean that a diet that is “mostly” gluten-free does not completely put an end to this autoimmune attack.

If you really want to prevent the immune destruction of your thyroid, you have to be firm about being 100% gluten-free.

Laboratory Tests for Gluten Intolerance

Unfortunately, one cannot rely solely on standard lab tests to be able to confirm that they are gluten intolerant. Standard testing for gluten intolerance will only test for antibodies to gluten that are already in the bloodstream.

However, these antibodies in the bloodstream can only be seen when the gut has already become permeable enough for gluten to successfully pass through – and this is already an advanced stage of gluten intolerance.

This would indicate that standard lab tests can only detect advanced cases of gluten intolerance and doctors would miss a lot of gluten intolerance cases that are still in milder stages.

Stool Analysis

Stool analysis may prove to be very helpful in detecting earlier stages of gluten intolerance. This is because stool analysis can detect antibodies while they are still in the digestive tract and have not yet reached into the bloodstream. This was the same method used that helped experts discover the fact that almost 35% of Americans have a gluten intolerance.

Cheek Swab Test

Another method proven to be very helpful in testing gluten intolerance is the cheek swab test that helps determine certain types of genes that are linked to celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

Individuals who have HLA DQ genes were found to have higher risks of celiac disease, gluten intolerance and autoimmune disease compared to the general population.

It is unfortunate to note that many cases of gluten intolerance are left undetected or untreated because some doctors as well as patients have the misunderstanding that this condition only leads to digestive problems.

What many people do not realize is that gluten intolerance can also cause inflammation to the brain, respiratory tract, skin and joints in which the effects do not have any obvious symptoms of leaky gut.

If you have thyroid problems and suspect yourself to have a gluten intolerance, seek diagnosis immediately. Remember that earlier detection leads to earlier treatment which can largely reduce your risks of autoimmune diseases or AITD and other conditions associated with a gluten intolerance.

And know that there are treatments to help you if you have developed a “leaky gut” – which means that antigens from partially digested food proteins like glutens from wheat, rye, barley, etc. have gotten into your bloodstream and triggered immune responses. Look for a functional medicine physician (MD or ND) to help with specific natural remedies/treatments).

About the Author Kris Greenway

Natural Wellness Zone is a blog discussion of approaches to self care using complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies that make sense to help people dealing with a range of health challenges. Kris Greenway is a fellow patient who has researched and found more natural ways to deal with a long list of health problems, including type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, leaky gut, and arthritis. She includes information and updates from expert physicians to educate people about their natural wellness options.