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Gluten-Free Diet & Hypothyroidism

Updated April 17, 2017

A gluten-free diet can provide a solution to hypothyroidism, depending on the cause, according to the book Living Well with Hypothyroidism by Mary J. Shomon. While not all patients who have a gluten allergy develop hypothyroidism, the chances are higher than normal that they will. These patients benefit from a gluten-free diet and suffer from a condition known as coeliac disease.

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Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a type of gluten allergy that causes the intestinal system to react with difficulty to processing gluten. Coeliac disease also makes it difficult to absorb nutrients. Coeliac disease is also called sprue and gluten intolerance, according to Shomon. Coeliac disease can have more serious consequences for the function of the thyroid gland if it goes undetected for too long.

Hypothyroidism

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune dysfunction, which attacks the thyroid gland. Researchers are not certain exactly how this mechanism of autoimmune dysfunction operates in the body, but one explanation may be found in gluten intolerance. According to Shomon's book, patients who have autoimmune hypothyroidism have a high incidence of coeliac disease. Patients with coeliac disease that goes unnoticed and untreated can develop autoimmune hypothyroidism as a result. Hypothyroidism is a metabolic condition caused by low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which causes patients to gain weight, and become tired, cold and sometimes depressed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism may also cause memory loss, difficulty concentrating and heavy menstruation in females. Hypothyroidism is also caused by medications, treatments for overactive thyroid or hyperthroidism and partial removal of the thyroid. Hypothroidism is sometimes caused by genetic factors, pregnancy and iodine deficiency.

Diet

Patients with autoimmune hypothyroidism who have also been diagnosed with coeliac disease can benefit from implementing a gluten-free diet, according to Shomon. Gluten is a type of protein contained in wheat products, as well as rye, oat, barley and other grains. Gluten-free products are available on the market as substitutes for traditional items like wheat bread. A gluten-free diet is not an appropriate form of treatment for every form of hypothyroidism, only some cases in which autoimmune hypothyroidism and coeliac disease are both present. Consult a physician before self-diagnosing autoimmune hypothyroidism, which, while the most common form, is not the only type of thyroid disorder. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed using clinical blood tests. Only a doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for the disease. On a positive note, patients who develop hypothyroidism as a result of undiagnosed coeliac disease usually show improvement in condition within a few weeks to a few months of implementing a gluten-free diet.

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About the Author

Josalin Mitchell began her writing career in 2009. She has written web content as well as grants, training manuals, reports and brochures for nonprofit agencies. Mitchell has a Bachelor of Arts in English and women's studies and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching in English education.

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