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Thyroid problems? Gluten may be to blame

Posted on March 21st, 2008 by Alison Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

There has been much research on the relationship between celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease, and a new study out of Italy confirms that indeed celiac disease “is significantly increased in patients with thyroid autoimmune disorders.”

People with either Hashimoto’s Disease (also known as hypothyroidism) or Grave’s disease (also known as hyperthyroidism) should be screened for celiac disease, according to doctors and researchers knowledgeable about the relationship between the two disorders.

A 2005 study found that the prevalence of celiac in patients with Graves’ disease was 4.5% as compared with 0.9% in matched healthy controls. A 2007 Dutch study found that 15% of people with Hashimoto’s disease has positive blood work for celiac disease, and 4.8% had villous atrophy (flattened villi in the intestines), a higher number as compared to the general population.

According to Dr. Peter Green, in his book Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic, celiac disease may predispose a person to thyroid disease, meaning that celiac disease actually happens first, but that doctors will more often test for thyroid disease first. Therefore, celiac disease is being missed in people who are being treated for their thyroid problems. And to make it even more confusing, many of the symptoms of these thyroid diseases can also be symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance — fatigue, feeling run down, feeling cold, constipation, weight gain, weight loss, just to name a few. Interestingly, many of the people with thyroid disease who test positive for celiac have “silent” celiac disease, meaning that they don’t have the obvious gastrointestinal symptoms.

Can a gluten-free diet improve thyroid conditions? If a person has celiac disease or gluten intolerance underlying a thyroid disease, then the person must be gluten-free to relieve other symptoms and to lower the risk of developing other autoimmune disorders. Whether or not it will reverse the thyroid disease just depends on the individual. According to one study, most patients with hypothyroidism normalized after a year of following a strict gluten-free diet and so, the researchers concluded, “gluten withdrawal may single-handedly reverse the abnormality.”

Related reading:
Symptoms of celiac disease

Testing for celiac disease

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  1. Very interesting…thankyou!! I have Hashimotos Thyroiditis since I had my first child 4 years ago after a stressful labour (thats what I put it to!). I have been getting worse on my medication in that I cannot shake the tiredness and many other gastro related indicators…
    I’m pretty sure this is it so have made an appointment to get the tests done.
    Hoping to feel 100% soon!

  2. Had gotten Lyme Disease and was treated for that. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with Graves disease. I was
    prescribed methimasole and i took it for 1 yr. While I was seeking further treatment for the Lyme, I had blood work done and was told that I was positive for Celiac. I was also having alot of migraine headaches so I began a gluten free diet and the headaches went away and my thyroid level is back to normal and has been for 4 years. Thank you Jesus

  3. Just read this article and wanted to share my story. I’ve been “on the verge” of being hyperthyroid for the past 4 years. I had my daughter nine months ago and found out that she was allergic to the gluten and dairy in my breast milk bc she develops eczema whenever I ate either. So apparently the gluten and dairy were getting into my blood via leaky gut caused by my intolerances. Sadly, babies inherit their mothers intestinal flora, mine is/was not in good shape, so she suffers from the same allergies and has the same poor unbalanced intestinal health. I have not been tested for celiacs or gluten intolerance but I know I have one or the other bc it I eat gluten I get bloated and I have common gluten reactions, I’m not going into details. But having been gluten and dairy free for 6 months, I am no longer on the verge of being hyperthyroid, the levels are now normal. I explain this by figuring I have had a gluten intolerance or celiacs for a long time and never knew it until I had my daughter.

  4. I was diagnosed with celiac disease two months ago. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto about 25 years ago. I developed neuropathy about 1 1/2 years ago which led to many tests and finally celiac testing. I don’t have usual symptoms of someone with celiac but I fit into the research done by Dr. Green. I hope others benefit from this information and at least have blood work done. I hate to think I’ve had celiac disease my whole adult life and didn’t know it! It all fits now. Infertility, osteoporosis, low weight, and fatigue.

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