How Gluten Destroys Thyroid Health

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

A pile of bread. Gluten contains gliadin, a protein that is foreign to the human body which can negatively impact the thyroid health.I have already discussed my disdain for gluten in previous articles, citing numerous research studies reporting its negative effects on the brain and digestive health. Gluten is a very hard protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products, and most individuals today are sensitive — if not downright intolerant — to its structure. One topic frequently overlooked is the relationship between gluten consumption and thyroid disease. Although the connection between nutrition and thyroid health has been circulating in the medical and nutrition literature for years, it’s only recently that we’re seeing an increasing amount of scrutiny being placed on gluten’s effects on thyroid health.

The Problem with Gluten

Gluten contains gliadin, a protein that is foreign to the human body. The unfamiliarity leads to the initiation of an immune response, an action that is amplified in individuals with Celiac disease. Many people today are sensitive or intolerant to gluten, and an immune response is not just excluded to those with Celiac. Depending on the intensity of the immune response, an individual may notice little effect; for intolerant individuals, profound symptoms may present themselves immediately.

Through the years, wheat has been extensively cultivated and gluten has become much harder to digest. The wheat of our ancestors resemble nothing of what it is today, as evidenced by the ever-increasing cases of Celiac disease in the last 50 years. Individuals merely sensitive to gluten may experience symptoms that seem unrelated to wheat consumption. These symptoms include hormonal imbalance, skin issues, brain fog, fatigue, depression, arthritis, and migraines. Many of these annoying symptoms remain prevalent in the lives of many people today simply because it’s difficult to connect these symptoms to eating gluten-containing products.

Gluten and Thyroid Health: What’s the Connection?

To the body, gliadin looks very similar to transglutaminase, an enzyme needed to form chemical bonds throughout the human body. [1] While present in many organs, the thyroid possesses a higher concentration of this enzyme. When the immune system attacks gliadin, the antibodies also attack the thyroid. [2] As the immune response continues, the thyroid suffers damage for up to 6 months after gluten consumption.

Not only can digestive health suffer when people with Celiac disease or intolerance/sensitivity participate in prolonged gluten consumption, but thyroid health also drastically degrades. An inactive or underproductive thyroid can interfere with proper hormone synthesis and metabolism, and it can also affect weight and energy.

Thyroid Disease and Gluten Intolerance

Researchers have determined those with an autoimmune thyroid disease (ATD), especially Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism) or Grave’s (hyperthyroidism) disease, should be regularly screened for Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. [3] [4] A significant focus of research to date has examined the incidences of gluten intolerance in patients with ATD. Many patients with ATD do show an immune response to gluten, indicating a need to introduce nutritional approaches for individuals with chronic and debilitating autoimmune disorders.

Does Gluten Only Affect the Thyroid?

When gluten stimulates an immune response, other areas of the body can also be affected, such as the brain. Research has also found that patients with ATD suffer immune attacks on the endocrine system, the main system responsible for managing hormones. [5] In patients with Celiac disease, gluten is a known to be a prime trigger for endocrine disorders. [6]

Gluten and Hormonal Imbalance: The Hidden Link Behind Common Health Concerns

Any chemical, whether it be natural or synthetic, that interferes with thyroid and endocrine function creates an imbalance within the entire human body. That’s because these organs control hormone production, and malfunctioning hormones can interfere with metabolism, fertility, and mood. Even cardiovascular health is related to proper hormone function, making it crucial that you employ various health strategies (like avoiding gluten) to keep hormones in check. In this light, gluten may be contributing to many of our most common health problems in a much more significant way than previously considered.

One Final Thought

If you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder, it is imperative that you completely avoid gluten. For those who suffer from a gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten may be the best choice to protect your thyroid and overall health. Many people who have chosen a gluten-free lifestyle either by need or by choice report incredible and even dramatic improvements in their health. The best answer for all of us may be a gluten-free lifestyle, especially if we are seeking to balance hormone levels. Instead of wheat, choose gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and millet.

References (6)
  1. Griffin M1, Casadio R, Bergamini CM. Transglutaminases: nature's biological glues. Biochem J. 2002 Dec 1;368(Pt 2):377-96.
  2. Naiyer AJ1, Shah J, Hernandez L, Kim SY, Ciaccio EJ, Cheng J, Manavalan S, Bhagat G, Green PH. Tissue transglutaminase antibodies in individuals with celiac disease bind to thyroid follicles and extracellular matrix and may contribute to thyroid dysfunction. Thyroid. 2008 Nov;18(11):1171-8. doi: 10.1089/thy.2008.0110.
  3. Hakanen M1, Luotola K, Salmi J, Laippala P, Kaukinen K, Collin P. Clinical and subclinical autoimmune thyroid disease in adult celiac disease. Dig Dis Sci. 2001 Dec;46(12):2631-5.
  4. Sategna-Guidetti C1, Bruno M, Mazza E, Carlino A, Predebon S, Tagliabue M, Brossa C.. Autoimmune thyroid diseases and coeliac disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998 Nov;10(11):927-31.
  5. Akay MN1, Akay G. The presence of the antigliadin antibodies in autoimmune thyroid diseases. Hepatogastroenterology. 2003 Dec;50 Suppl 2:cclxxix-cclxxx.
  6. Kumar V1, Rajadhyaksha M, Wortsman J. Celiac disease-associated autoimmune endocrinopathies. Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 2001 Jul;8(4):678-85.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • DrTruth

    Dr. Group,

    Be honest with your consumer-base. You really have no formal NATUROPATHIC training, you just use the credential. No matter how many people you say you have helped, you are not competent to practice naturopathic medicine. Quit taking financial advantage of the publics naiveté to determine who is a legitimate naturopathic doctor and who is using the credential and merely a chiropractor, like yourself. Thanks for your honesty. Take care.

  • Jon

    I had thyroid cancer that was caused by eating gluten for many years while not knowing that I was gluten intolerant.

  • Levi Ratzlaff

    Not disputing the info here at all, but I’ve been seeing a number of things coming up lately about the pesticide used on wheat just prior to harvest causing issues in the human body that are being attributed to celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Can you attest to or direct me to any health studies indicating control groups subjected to non-pesticide treated wheat vs regular?
    Also, do you know of any sources to get wheat seed from the bygone time when we could eat it with less issues?

  • You bring up a good point that we touched on in this article:

    I’m not immediately aware of any companies that have heirloom wheat seed… anyone???

  • Teresa

    Have been gluten free for about 1 yr. Wish I had known about this a lot earlier n my life as I’ll be 70 this year. I feel like I have turned back the clock in the way I feel. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and have suffered with it for most of my life, not knowing. Thank you for this posting !!!

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  • June Alberty

    I have had thyroid surgery and have never been right since with my body??? My hair went thin and my skin is dry and itchy.. I did away with wheat and all grains however no difference with they synthroid that I take daily for no thyroid working… Now my meds are two much however I thought they were finally at the right dosage but test showed too low not at 150 and to high at 200 but doctor said I needed testing first and so I am waiting on him. I was thinking of what I can do to keep my thyroid levels correct besides the testing that I have to do.. Can you help with those that have no thyroid and the synthroid has never worked. I take turmeric daily and coconut oil daily also I am taking DE daily to help with my non accomadating meds instead of thyroid and the thyroid was working properly before surgery had knots as big as fist so they took out completely and put me on synthroid and has really never replaced thyroid function before when working right?????? Help if you can pls to let me know what I should be asking doctor and why cannot get the right dosage???? Thank you anyone that can help with this?????

  • sspiker02

    is your thyroid medicine gluten free?

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  • Tia

    Synthroid isn’t gluten free!! Try Tirosint or have a compounding pharmacy make your Synthroid gluten free. I have Celiac and Hashimoto’s and do really well with it. Good luck!!

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  • 1st ladys 1st lady yeaaahh

    Organic wheat cant be harvested this way.

  • 1st ladys 1st lady yeaaahh

    I had similar issues years ago before i got the right dose of synthroid after finding a great endo. His approach was to listen to the patient and the symptoms instead of just going off of numbers on labwork. Hopefully you can get the dosing right to resolve these symptoms.

    My good doctor retired and i have been considering transitioning to desiccated thyroid and off synthroid. I am nervous i am going to have anoter bad endo who will not listen to me and follow lab numbers only instread.

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  • b st

    i’m so sorry but thank u for sharing that. it’s vital that ppl understand how serious it can become.

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