Dealing With Gluten Sensitivity In People With Thyroid Conditions
Published December 11 2011
While there are many different allergies and food sensitivities, gluten sensitivity seems to becoming more and more widespread. When I consult with someone who has hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, or an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and they decide to follow a natural treatment protocol, I recommend for them to stop consuming all gluten-based foods for at least a period of 30 days, and ideally 3 to 6 months. Some healthcare professionals recommend more extreme measures, as some will recommend that all of their patients completely avoid gluten for the rest of their life.
While testing can sometimes determine whether someone has a gluten sensitivity problem, this isn’t always reliable. This is especially true when someone has a compromised immune system, which of course is the case with autoimmune thyroid disorders. If the body isn’t giving off the appropriate immune response, then there is a chance the test will show a person as being negative for a gluten sensitivity issue, and this might not be the case. I personally don’t test every patient to see if they are sensitive to gluten, or whether or not they have other food allergies. This doesn’t mean that such testing isn’t useful, but it is expensive, not completely reliable, and regardless of the outcome of these tests I still have the person follow a strict diet when first starting a natural treatment protocol.
One also can’t rely on symptoms alone to determine whether someone has a gluten sensitivity problem. While some people can immediately tell that they are sensitive upon eating a gluten-based food, others don’t have any noticeable reaction. With that being said, many people who are sensitive to gluten and avoid gluten for an extended period of time, and then reintroduce gluten into their diet will notice a difference from a symptomatic perspective. So this is yet another reason why I think a gluten free trial is a good idea.
Should Everyone Just Avoid Gluten Forever?
I’ve read most of the “arguments” stating that everyone should avoid gluten. This is especially common with regards to autoimmune thyroid disorders, such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Some sources suggest that the main factor behind the autoimmune response is a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. I’ve even consulted with patients who had their thyroid antibody levels decrease significantly just by changing their diet and avoiding gluten-based products.
The problem is that this doesn’t pertain to everyone. While gluten may be a contributing factor in many people with autoimmune thyroid conditions, I personally don’t believe it is the direct cause of the condition in most people. Once again, I do think it can be a factor, which is why I have people avoid gluten initially. On the other hand, eventually I do allow most people who initially avoid gluten to slowly begin incorporating some gluten-based foods into their diet. Without question there are some people who do need to avoid eating gluten on a permanent basis. And I do agree that most people need to minimize the amount of gluten-based foods they eat, as well as refined and processed foods in general.
Is It Possible To Cure A Gluten Sensitivity Problem?
For someone who has a gluten sensitivity problem, is it at all possible to cure this condition? My experience is that some people who are gluten sensitive can overcome this problem. What it usually involves is avoiding all gluten-based foods for a period of at least three to six months. However, doing this alone usually isn’t enough, as the person overall needs to eat healthy for this period of time, as they should avoid other common allergens, and may require certain supplements and/or herbs to help restore their digestive health. Once their digestive system is strong and healthy, some people who were once gluten-sensitive are able to tolerate gluten again.
Since there is no guarantee that following such a protocol will cure a gluten sensitivity problem, many people are unwilling to make such a commitment to their health. What these people need to keep in mind is while there isn’t a guarantee that following a natural treatment protocol will cure their gluten sensitivity problem, it will help with their overall health. After all, most people have a less than optimally functioning digestive system, and can therefore benefit from a prolonged period of eating well, cutting out the processed foods and sugars, along with avoiding the common allergens.
Can Taking Digestive Enzymes Help With Gluten Sensitivity?
Some sources claim that taking certain enzymes can help people with a gluten sensitivity to tolerate gluten. For example, some people who have taken papain before eating gluten-based foods have reported that they don’t have the same reaction to gluten compared to when they don’t take this enzyme. Other people report no difference at all. Of course one does need to keep in mind that the quality of supplements differ, and so not all digestive enzyme supplements are the same. I use the company Standard Process for most of the supplements and herbs I recommend, and they have a product called Multizyme which includes papain. While I think this is a high quality digestive enzyme, I honestly haven’t seen this help much with gluten sensitivity problems.
In summary, some people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are sensitive to gluten, and such a sensitivity can affect their recovery when following a natural thyroid treatment protocol. This is why I recommend that people who begin a natural treatment protocol avoid gluten-based foods for at least a period of 30 days, and preferably longer than this. However, I don’t agree with those healthcare professionals who recommend that everyone should permanently avoid gluten, and this includes those people with an autoimmune thyroid disorder. While it’s a good idea to avoid gluten initially, many people can eventually begin eating gluten-based foods again in moderation.