Uncover the connection between gluten and thyroid dysfunction

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland shaped like a butterfly. It is located in the neck area right under your larynx.

It produces two major types of hormones – T4 (Thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine) which controls the function and activity of roughly every organ and cell in your body. It controls your metabolism.

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Roughly 90% of the hormones formed by your thyroid is in the form of T4 (the inactive form). T4 is converted into T3 (the active form) by your liver. These thyroid hormones also work together with all your other hormones. If all is working as it should be, your body will make what it needs and you will have the right amounts of T4 and T3.

Did you know that there is a connection between gluten and thyroid dysfunction? Let’s take a look…

Gluten is the common name for the protein found in quite a number of grains including wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt  Its sticky elastic nature helps to hold particles of dough together making sure it doesn’t fall to pieces when it is being shaped.

gluten and thyroid_2

In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of people who are reducing their intake of gluten or avoiding it completely because of the connection between gluten and thyroid dysfunction and that number is growing.

Gluten is made up of two proteins – glutenin and gliadin. The gliadin protein is what individuals tend to have an intolerance to.

A number of studies demonstrate a strong link between the consumption of gluten and thyroid dysfunction. A study published in 2003 in the Hepato-gastroenterology Journal found that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease had antigliadin antibodies which are produced in response to gliadin. Another study published in 2001 in the Digestive Diseases and Sciences Journal found that the occurrence of autoimmune thyroid disease was increased in individuals with celiac disease, a disease in which the small intestine has an extreme sensitivity to gluten(2).

So why does this happen?

When you have a sensitivity to gluten, it causes a dysfunction in your digestive system so the foods you eat are not digested properly, this causes inflammation time and again leading to leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome causes your gut lining not to function properly so food particles are absorbed into your bloodstream. Your body sees these food particles as substances that should not be there (antigens) and produces antibodies against them.

These antigens are like the particles in your thyroid gland for this reason your body unintentionally attacks your thyroid gland causing an autoimmune reaction at which point your body in effect attacks itself causing a dysfunction in your thyroid glands.

The only way for you to know if there is a link between your consumption of gluten and thyroid dysfunction is to remove gluten from your diet for a period of time for example a month, then reintroduce it and observe if you have any symptoms.

 

References

1) Akcay M N, Akcay G (2003) The presence of the antigliadin antibodies in autoimmune thyroid diseases. Hepato-gastroenterology, 50: Suppl 2:cclxxix-xxlxxx.

2) Hakanen M, Luotola K, Salmi J, Laippala P, Kaukinen K, Collin P (2001) Clinical and subclinical autoimmune thyroid disease in adult celiac disease. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 46: 2631-2635

 

Read more from Nutritional Therapist Anne Anyia.

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