Avoiding gluten has been implicated in nearly every autoimmune condition. What does this mean? And how does this make sense for Hashimoto’s and the thyroid? These are the questions many have, and most people I come across do not understand why I avoid gluten. They think I am following some crazy fad diet. There is always science behind what I do. And following a specific nutrition protocol by a RD is never a fad diet.
Here is a diagram from Dr. Aristo Vojdani. We are about to get science-y!
This may be a little confusing for some, but also know that this picture does not explain the entire gluten-autoimmune connection.
First, know that “Leaky Gut” aka intestinal permeability always exists with autoimmune disease.
Now, look at the picture where the tight junctions are. In autoimmune states, we always have some level of permeable junctions meaning that there are some food molecules and/or food chemicals that get through those tight junctions. The majority of the time, this is gluten. Then, the body recognizes the gliadin peptides (gluten) as foreign and starts attacking them, AND attacking other parts of the body (in this case, the thyroid).
In fact, many grains are a problem for those with autoimmune conditions. For me, I currently avoid all gluten containing grains, but also quinoa and millet. Why? My MRT LEAP testing results came back showing I had sensitivities to wheat, quinoa, and millet. Everyone is different, and what causes inflammation in one person could be very different in another. That is another reason why LEAP MRT is important for autoimmune states. It helps narrow down what is causing inflammation and helps to eliminate it! This greatly reduces symptoms as well.
Did you know: Excess gluten consumption can be a triggering event for Hashimoto’s
Overall, the main takeaway is that eating gluten increases the autoimmune attack, and increases the attack and destruction on the thyroid. Yes, there may be some people who can still eat gluten, or may do well just avoiding wheat. The only way this can be done is through testing, and trial, and checking your symptoms. My thoughts are that those who still eat gluten may be at the very early stages of any autoimmune disease and may not have much intestinal permeability.
Get Tested Before Eliminating Gluten
One more word of caution:
We always recommend getting tested for Celiac’s disease before going gluten free since the incidence of Celiac’s is higher in those with autoimmune disease. Some may be somewhat asymptomatic and can still have Celiac’s. If you go 100% gluten free, they can not detect the gluten antibodies in your system and you will also begin to heal. Then, you will not get a correct diagnoses.
- Mori, K. Does the gut microbiota Trigger Hashimoto’s Disease? Discovery Magazine, November 2012
- The Immunology of Immediate and Delayed Hypersensitivity to Gluten – European Journal of Inflammation Vol 6 No. 1 1-10 (2008) Editorial – A. Vojdani Beverly Hills, CA (now Los Angeles, CA) T. O’Bryan, Warrenville, IL,( now Chicago, Il), G. H. Kellermann Neuroscience, WI, USA
- The Immunology of Gluten Sensitivity Beyond the Intestinal Tract – European Journal of Inflammation Vol 6 No 2, 0-0 (2008) Aristo Vojdani, PH.D, M.T., Thomas O’Bryan, D.C., CCN, DACBN
- Fasano A. Leaky Gut and autoimmune disease. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8.
- Ulluwishewa, et.al. Regulation of Tight Junction Permeability by Intestinal Bacteria and Dietary Components. The Journal of Nutrition. March 23, 2011
Hi Nicole! I’m a second year graduate student at Cal State Los Angeles in their MS/RD program. Two of my good friends were recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and I was researching the relationship between the disorder and diet when I came across your website. It’s really excellent and I think you do a fabulous job of explaining the very complicated process of how gluten affects Hashimoto’s in a straightforward way that anyone off of the street could understand. I’m definitely going to share it with my friends and classmates.
I was curious if you think that the makeup of gut and intestinal bacteria plays a role in the disorder. Would you recommend probiotics for Hashimoto’s patients and if so, are there certain strains you think work better than others?
I’m so sorry that I just found this comment! Thanks for your feedback. And, yes, I wish more dietitians had a protocol for Hashimoto’s and the thyroid. One time I even had a RD tell me that “this can’t be managed with diet” and that you just have to medicate! How crazy! And, yes! the gut and intestinal bacteria play a role for sure. I do recommend probiotics, although I do not take them myself mostly because I am taking so many other supplements and I am happy with my digestive function right now. But, the type of probiotic recommendation depends on the person. I like pure encapsulations brand so far.