Your Thyroid on Gluten

by Becky Rider

Non-celiac gluten intolerance and its autoimmune form, celiac disease, correlate strongly with thyroid disease. Thyroid problems caused or exacerbated by gluten intolerance can be treated, at least partially, by a gluten-free diet.

Your first step, once you have been tested for non-celiac gluten intolerance, will be to get your thyroid function evaluated. If you have a thyroid problem, whether your function is too low or too high, discuss your gluten intolerance with your doctor.

If your doctor is unfamiliar with the correlation between the two conditions, find one who does know, and find out whether a gluten-free diet could help your thyroid condition. Perhaps allowing your body three to six months of living gluten free would give your thyroid the opportunity to adjust itself and resume normal functioning.

Not every thyroid problem has to be treated invasively. Once aggressive malignancies have been ruled out, radiation, surgery, and other invasive techniques should not be used until it's clear that no other course of action has worked. In many cases, non-invasive strategies do work, and the thyroid can remain intact and its functions can be restored.

Even autoimmune thyroid conditions associated with gluten intolerance may go into remission with a gluten-free diet. Of course, if you are not gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet probably won't help.

Underactive thyroid, or its autoimmune form, Hashimoto's disease, is the most common form of thyroid dysfunction in the United States today. Some symptoms of the condition overlap those of celiac disease/non-celiac gluten intolerance. If you have an underactive thyroid, and have not been genetically tested for gluten intolerance, get tested right away, so you know what you're dealing with. If you test positive for gluten intolerance, you may be able, under your doctor's supervision, to be weaned off of Synthroid or other thyroid pharmaceuticals.

Never stop taking a prescription drug except under the supervision of your doctor.

Overactive thyroid, and its autoimmune form, Grave's disease, also correlates strongly with CD/NCGI. Again, if you have not been genetically tested for gluten intolerance, get the test. Work with your doctor if you are gluten intolerant to monitor your thyroid. As your body heals itself, your thyroid may respond to the healthy condition by returning to normal functioning. Give your thyroid three to six months to heal after removing gluten from your diet.

Other thyroid diseases strongly correlate with CD/NCGI, so you should also definitely have the genetic test for gluten intolerance.

Thyroid issues can frequently be resolved by simply understanding what the true underlying causes of the problems are. Work with your doctor to identify any causes for your thyroid problems. The thyroid rarely behaves abnormally unless other forces influence it, so if your thyroid isn't "right", look beyond your thyroid for a cause for its current abnormal function.

Some symptoms of low thyroid function include cold intolerance, unexplained weight gain with inability to lose that weight despite diet and exercise, depression, anxiety, irritability, weakness, brain fog, memory loss, panic attacks, decreased libido, constipation and bloating, sluggishness, fatigue, hair loss, slow hair growth, rough dry skin, brittle fingernails, muscle cramps and aches, and other symptoms.

Some symptoms of high thyroid function include anxiety, roller-coaster emotions, breathlessness, diarrhea, nervousness, muscle weakness, trembling hands, ADD/ADHD, thinness, weight loss despite eating many calories more than required, rapid pulse/heart palpitations, hunger, dry mouth, warm moist skin, heat intolerance, inability to focus or concentrate, fatigue, staring gaze, hair loss, and other symptoms.

You can see how some of the symptoms overlap. Don't assume, that since you have a diagnosis that includes your symptoms, that you have a complete diagnosis. If your symptoms do not begin to improve quickly on your present course of treatment, talk to your doctor about other possible conditions you may have, and ask for a treatment plan for them.

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