Amy Guinther, Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Functional Medicine practitioner serving the Madison, Wisconsin area.

Gluten & Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Gluten & Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: What is the Connection?

It is estimated that 90% (1) of hypothyroid cases are autoimmune related. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body misfires its immune response, and makes the target certain tissues in the body. In autoimmune thyroid disease, the target is your thyroid gland, which is disrupted in its ability to secrete thyroid hormones properly. You are probably wondering why your doctor never mentioned this.

Often, medical providers do not look for the antibodies that are attacking your thyroid, because it does not change their course of treatment, which is to prescribe thyroid hormones. The problem with this scenario is that the root problem, the autoimmune condition, is not being treated. Thyroid hormone supplementation is often necessary, but addressing the source of the problem is equally important.

Western medicine treats some autoimmune conditions by trying to dial down the immune system with strong medication. However, these medications are generally reserved for more dire conditions. Thankfully there are some natural steps that can be taken to calm down your immune system.

The most important of these are dietary changes. One thing that science has discovered is a strong connection between thyroid disease and celiac disease (another autoimmune condition), which is intolerance to wheat and gluten-containing grains. Many medical providers will test for celiac disease by doing a blood test looking for particular antibodies, but once again we have a problem here. You will be diagnosed with celiac disease only when the process has progressed to the point of a permeable gut lining and antibody detection in the blood’s serum. A better option is to look for antibodies in the stool, when the intestinal lining is still intact. This allows you to catch the immune reaction to gluten earlier on, before more destruction takes place. In addition, one can be sensitive to gluten containing grains without having full blown celiac disease.

Not to complicate matters here, but you can also have a scenario where your immune system is no longer able to create antibodies, and in this case you can get a false negative on these tests. In this case, a genetic test can be performed to look for genes that predispose you to celiac disease or simple gluten sensitivity. This is a simple test that requires you to collect cells from your mouth using a cotton swab and then sending the sample to a lab for evaluation.

New and more comprehensive testing for gluten sensitivity have recently been developed which allow for testing of numerous peptides that lead to these reactions.

But the bottom line is if you have thyroid abnormalities, it is wise to eliminate all wheat and gluten-containing foods. It is also important to remember that this situation is an immune reaction; therefore, it is imperative to eliminate wheat and gluten 100%. Any exposure, no matter how minute, can fire up your immune system for many months! Our goal is to calm the immune system down, so that it is not attacking your thyroid gland.

If you are interested in doing either stool testing for wheat/gluten antibodies and/or genetic testing visit For serum and saliva testing visit A great, comprehensive book about Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism is “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?” by Datis Kharrazian and can be found at

(1) Baillière’s Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Volume 2, Issue 3, August 1988, Pages 591-617

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