Could Gluten Be Affecting Your Thyroid?
The diagnosis of autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s Disease is rarely accompanied by nutrition advice. Rather, the patient is usually given a medication to help balance the thyroid hormones in the body. While medication can be an important part of health care for a person with a thyroid disorder, there is also a dietary change that may reduce the auto-antibodies and improve thyroid function: eliminating gluten.
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that in people suffering from Celiac Disease, Thyroid Disease is threefold higher than in people without Celiac Disease. Non-autoimmune, subclinical hypothyroidism occurred in 21 out of the 29 patient studied. After following a strict gluten free diet for 1 year the subclinical hypothyroidsim had normalized.
A review article from the Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine states “it is worth mentioning that HT (hypothyroid) patients with or without CD (celiac disease) benefit from a diet low in gluten as far as the progression and the potential disease complications concerned.”
In my clinical nutrition practice, the first thing I suggest to anyone suffering from a thyroid disorder is to eliminate gluten from their diet. In today’s food landscape it is easy to find gluten free forms of everything that you are used to eating, though that is not my recommended course of action. When something such as thyroid disorder spurs a person to changing their diet, I really support moving to a move whole foods diet, rather than just sliding from gluten containing breads and pastas to gluten free breads and pastas. While this lateral slide will certainly make a difference in those suffering from thyroid disorder and/or gluten sensitivity, increasing micronutrient status by eating more whole foods will be even more beneficial. It can also aid in weight loss, which a change from gluten containg bread to gluten free bread will not be likely to do. Both the study and the article mentioned above discuss adequate nutrient status, especially in the cases of Selenium, Iodine and Vitamin D to be important to reducing autoimmune status and improving clinical outcomes. Eating a diet rich in whole grains such as wild rice, quinoa, gluten free oats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables is the best option.
Foods high in Selenium include:
Foods high in Iodine include:
Sea vegetables such as kelp and dulse
Foods high in Vitamin D include:
Wild Caught Salmon
Milk and milk alternatives that are fortified with Vitamin D
It is important to remember that if you are eating a diet rich in whole foods and especially rich in plant foods, you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals a healthy person needs. Blood labs can assess any nutrient depletions you may have from a previously poor diet or an increased need, and can inform when you should take supplements.