Studies have shown a strong link between autoimmune thyroid disease and gluten intolerance. In fact, it is suggested that all people with autoimmune thyroid disease be screened for gluten intolerance and vice versa; however, this rarely happens in a conventional medical setting. In fact, most people diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction are rarely told to make dietary modifications, which could ultimately save their health.

What is the connection between thyroid and gluten? It’s a case of mistaken identity. Gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles the thyroid gland. When gluten is ingested, gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, thereby signaling the immune system to tag it for attack. Antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack the thyroid tissue.

The point? If you have autoimmune thyroid disease and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid. Unfortunately, there’s more bad news. The immune response to gluten can last UP TO SIX MONTHS each time gluten is ingested. This explains why it is so critical to eliminate gluten COMPLETELY, rather than attempting a “mostly gluten-free diet” or the 80/20 rule. If you’re gluten-intolerant, it’s important that you are 100% gluten-free in order to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid.

How do you find out if you’re gluten intolerant? Here’s the tricky thing. Most conventional MDs do not test for these markers, nor do they rarely offer dietary or nutritional modifications to support thyroid health, but this is one of the most common functional medicine labs I run for my patients who have been diagnosed with thyroid disorder. It’s imperative to have this information when working with any patient – chronic illness, autoimmune, or fertility – in order to have a clear and comprehensive picture of overall health.

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