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Thyroid Health Controversy: Gluten Free vs. Grain Free

Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are aware of the benefits of eating a gluten free diet.  However, some people take this a step further and eliminate all of the grains from their diet.  I’m not suggesting this is something that everyone needs to do, but some  people who avoid eating grains see a significant improvement in their health.  So in this post I’ve decided to talk about the benefits of avoiding gluten and/or grains.

I’ve spoken numerous times in the past about gluten sensitivity problems, and so I’m only going to talk about this briefly in this post.  Gluten is a protein that is found in certain types of foods, including wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.  People who have the condition known as Celiac Disease need to avoid gluten for the rest of their life, as this is an autoimmune condition where they react to even small amounts of gluten.  But in addition to those who have Celiac Disease, many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are sensitive to gluten.  And while some of these people will experience overt symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, etc., many people don’t experience any symptoms.

In fact, some people with Celiac Disease also don’t experience any symptoms when consuming gluten, which is why you can’t go by symptoms alone.  However, if someone has a gluten sensitivity problem and continues to consume gluten, over time this can cause damage to their intestinal lining, which eventually can lead to the condition known as “leaky gut”.  This in turn will cause inflammation, and as I’ve stated in past articles and posts, can potentially trigger an autoimmune response and lead to conditions such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Does Gluten Need To Be Avoided Permanently?

As for whether people with a gluten sensitivity problem should avoid eating gluten on a permanent basis, many natural healthcare professionals would say “yes”.  Some healthcare professionals will actually recommend for everyone with an autoimmune thyroid condition to permanently avoid gluten, even if they don’t have a sensitivity.  While I think that most of these people should go on a gluten free trial, I don’t agree that every single person with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis needs to avoid gluten for the rest of their life.

With that being said, some people with these conditions will need to avoid gluten on a permanent basis.  In addition to those with Celiac Disease, some other people will always a have gluten sensitivity issue, and if they eat even a small amount of gluten this will cause problems.  On the other hand, earlier I briefly mentioned leaky gut, and while having a gluten sensitivity problem can lead to this condition, the opposite is true as well.  In other words, someone might not be sensitive to gluten, but then develop leaky gut due to some other factor, and then due to this increase in intestinal permeability will develop a gluten sensitivity problem.

When this is the case, avoiding gluten for a prolonged period of time and repairing the gut very well might correct the gluten sensitivity problem.  In fact, leaky gut can lead to many different food sensitivities, and upon restoring the health of the digestive system, often times these food sensitivities will resolve.  So the person who was gluten sensitive due to a leaky gut might be able to eat gluten again once the leaky gut has been corrected.

However, while some of these people might eventually be able to eat gluten again, does this mean that they should eat gluten-based foods?  In other words, even if you do fine when eating gluten, this doesn’t mean that it’s something you should eat on a regular basis.  After all, there really aren’t any health benefits to eating foods with gluten.  I know some are reading this and thinking “this isn’t true, as whole wheat has some nutritional benefits”.  I’m not going to get into a discussion about this, but just keep in mind that the wheat we eat today isn’t the same as the wheat our ancestors ate.  My point is that even though grains which aren’t gluten free do provide nutrients, it is best to get the vitamins and minerals you need through whole foods.

How About Eating Grains?

I’ve focused on gluten so far, but how about grains in general?  Is there a health benefit from eating foods such as quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, etc?  You definitely can get a good amount of nutrients and fiber from eating these foods.  But eating a large amount of grains can cause problems, even if they are gluten free.  Keep in mind that I’m not grain free, and I’m not suggesting that everyone should stop eating grains.  All I’m saying is that eating a large amount of grains can cause more harm than good.

I never ate healthy grains growing up, as the majority of the grains I ate came in the form of white bread.  Like many people, as an adult I began eating foods such as brown rice in order to make healthier choices.  But even though it’s a healthier choice, and does have some good nutrients, eating too many grains can cause problems.  The reason is because they affect the blood sugar levels, and if you eat too many grains they can lead to blood sugar imbalances.  Of course some people are also sensitive to gluten free grains such as quinoa or brown rice, but this is a completely different story that I won’t get into here.  So the main problem is that even when people eat healthy grains, some people consume too many on a daily basis.  And if you do this on a regular basis then you can eat what seems like a healthy diet, yet still develop blood sugar imbalances and even conditions such as insulin resistance.

When Should Someone Consider Going Grain Free?

There are a few different circumstances when I might recommend for someone to avoid eating grains.  If I consult with someone who has obvious blood sugar imbalances, then this would be a situation where it might be a good idea to avoid grains for at least a few months, or at the very least minimize their consumption of grains.  If someone has problems with intestinal permeability and they are going through a gut repair protocol, then because grains can be difficult to digest it might be a good idea to avoid them until the gut is healed.

In summary, those who are gluten sensitive obviously will need to avoid gluten.  Some people will need to do this on a permanent basis, while others who are sensitive to gluten due to a gut issue might be able to overcome their gluten sensitive problem, and eventually incorporate gluten back into their diet.  This doesn’t mean they should consume gluten-based foods freely, as it still is wise to minimize your consumption of gluten.  The same concept applies with grains, as just about everyone needs to be cautious about consuming too many grains, and those with blood sugar imbalances or intestinal permeability may want to consider avoiding grains completely for at least a few months until these health issues have been resolved.


 

52 Comments

  1. Rodica says:

    Hello

    I have a question: can myopia be diminished by the autoimmune hyperthyroidism?

    All the best!

    Rodica

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Rodica,

      This isn’t something I’ve encountered with my patients. I have myopia and didn’t notice it decreasing when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. So while it might be possible, it’s not something I’ve personally experienced or have seen with my patients.

  2. Rose says:

    Our family began a grain-free diet because of my husband’s digestive issues. It took 3 months for him to stop medication.

    We have been grain-free for 18 months.

    I’ve been hypo-thyroid and on medication for 30 years. About 3 months ago, I began to experience hyperthyroid symptoms requiring a decrease in thyroid prescription. This happened again a couple weeks ago, another decrease in medication.

    It seems you are on to something.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Rose,

      I’m glad you have been benefiting from a grain-free diet. To be fair, not everyone experiences a dramatic improvement upon eliminating gluten and/or grains from their diet, but it’s definitely worth trying. And your experience shows that sometimes it takes time to see some big improvements.

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Get Your Free Guide Entitled
“The 6 Steps On How To Reverse Graves' Disease & Hashimoto's Through Natural Methods”
You will also receive email
updates on any future webinars
on natural thyroid health.
 

"We respect your privacy"
 
Free Webinars on
Natural Thyroid Health


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Natural Treatment Methods:
Graves Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism Treatment
Hyperthyroidism Treatment
Natural Thyroid treatment


Conventional Treatment
Methods:
Radioactive Iodine
Thyroid Hormone