Have you been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, or any other autoimmune condition? If you nodded or shouted out “yes!” it’s essential to know your diet directly affects the severity of your symptoms! I can say in complete confidence the one food that contributes to autoimmune diseases the most: it’s gluten. Numerous studies outline in this article show a strong Hashimoto’s and gluten connection.
Note: please be aware that the material presented in this blog is not meant to substitute professional medical advice. Before making any dietary changes, consult with your doctor and dietitian.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a specific protein found primarily in wheat and certain grains. Since the discovery of gluten in some of the most common foods, it’s hard NOT to stumble upon it nearly everywhere in our modern world. Food is only half of it; we have been using gluten in body products such as toothpaste, and that sneaky ingredient even finds its way into “gluten-free” foods through cross-contamination.
As you probably already know, modern-day gluten is not the same gluten your grandparents knew. Over the years, scientists have developed hybrid strains of wheat-containing new forms with which our bodies have little to no interaction. These researchers could also deaminate gluten, enabling it to dissolve into liquids and other products, including things like lunch meat and shampoos. Aside from gluten-based foods like pasta and bread made with wheat, meat replacements, pharmaceuticals, and nutritional supplements all have gluten in them. As a result, the gluten we are exposed to and consuming now is not the gluten our ancestors used to make breakfast.
When the gluten protein is modified, it creates difficulties with both gut health and your immune system. It’s the perfect recipe for the negative development and progression of inflammation in autoimmune diseases. Even if you have not been diagnosed with any autoimmune disorders, gluten consumption is still possibly harmful to your health — it has been linked with over 55 diseases.
What Do Studies Say?
Can you believe that about 30 million Americans are affected by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE)! (1)
Gluten consumption and Hashimoto’s disease are linked, according to many studies. According to one research, 29 percent of patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) and 29 percent of patients with celiac disease acquired an autoimmune illness, the most common of which was Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. (2)
In addition, recent pilot research was conducted to see whether a gluten-free diet impacts autoimmunity in Hashimoto’s disease patients. After six months, the gluten-free diet group had lower thyroid antibody titers and slightly elevated 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (a good thing), according to the researchers. This indicates that a gluten-free diet may help those with Hashimoto’s disease. (3)
At the present time, Hashimoto’s disease is not thought to be curable, but going gluten-free may lead to improvement in clinical symptoms. Don’t we all want this?
Some of the best advice I can give is if you have any autoimmune diseases or any inflammatory conditions, for that matter, you should consider going gluten-free. Here are the top three most important reasons why going gluten-free is essential to proper functioning health.
How Does Gluten Affect You?
Gluten and Leaky Gut
You consume gluten when you consume a piece of bread, in your lunch meats, or any of the other several hidden sources. The gluten protein travels through your stomach and arrives to settle in your small intestine. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano’s research, this process results in the trigger of zonulin. Zonulin is a chemical that stimulates the tight barriers of your intestinal wall to open up, resulting in intestinal permeability, or better known as leaky gut.
Let’s put this into some simple perspective. Imagine your gut lining as a drawbridge. The micronutrients in food are like little boats meant to travel back and forth can go under the bridge without a problem. Unfortunately, when gluten releases zonulin, this causes the drawbridge to close up. Allows the large proteins as large boats to cross over that shouldn’t be. Some of what passes through include microbes, toxins, proteins, and partially digested food particles tracking under the “drawbridge” and escaping into your bloodstream.
Studies throughout Dr. Fasano’s research (as well observations and clients’ experience as in my practice), this process of gluten confirms it as a precondition for developing an autoimmune disease. Once diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, neglecting your leaky gut long-term can put you at risk for developing another autoimmune disease. Why is this? As toxins, microbes, and food particles such as gluten flood your bloodstream, your immune system recognizes them as dangerous intruders and produces inflammation to eliminate them. Leading us right into point number two…
Gluten And Inflammation
Your body’s trust in itself is lacking once the autoimmune process takes its toll. At some point along the way, your immune system went astray and began attacking your body’s tissues. However, it is a gradual process that takes years to turn from healthy to autoimmune. As explained further in my book, it’s a spectrum, and inflammation acts as the catalyst pushing you further towards autoimmunity.
A virus, skin cut, or gluten in a birthday cake are recognized as red flags to your autoimmune system, so naturally, it launches an inflammatory response to combat the invasion. According to researchers’ latest findings, celiac disease affects one percent of the population, while one in thirty individuals has gluten sensitivity. Be mindful that inflammation from a leaky gut can happen to anyone, not just those with celiac or gluten intolerance.
If your immune system has to constantly battle inflammation in response to gluten, a leaky gut, microbes, or other attackers, you are more likely to develop chronic inflammation. A weakened immune system is less effective at combating pathogens and invaders with precision, and instead, it blindly sends ongoing waves of offense throughout the body’s internal systems. Eventually, your body’s tissues end up on the receiving end of the episode, leading right into autoimmune disease.
Tried and true, the only way your immune system will get a break is by cutting gluten out of your diet completely. And I don’t mean sneaking it in here and there thinking, “just one won’t hurt.” The sad truth is, research shows eating gluten can elevate your gluten antibodies for MONTHS. So even if you did sneak that one gluten-filled cupcake, the inflammation would make itself known for months on end.
Gluten Looks Like Your own Tissues
Aside from causing a leaky gut, gluten is harmful to people with autoimmune diseases because of a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry, a problematic example of mistaken identity.
Your immune system memorizes the structure of an invader (in this case, gluten) every time it becomes exposed to it. It will be able to establish a defense against that infection and recognize it in the future as a result of this. Unfortunately, the immune system’s detection system isn’t perfect; if a molecule’s structure is close enough, the immune system will recognize it as an invader and fight it.
Gluten is an ample protein that shares structural similarities with several tissues in your body, including the thyroid.
Remember that if you have an autoimmune disease, you have a leaky gut. When your guts “drawbridge” is open, significant proteins like gluten enter your bloodstream, where they are detected and attacked by your immune system.
When people with autoimmune thyroid disease eat gluten, their immune systems produce antibodies (white blood cells) that identify and destroy the gluten. On the other hand, gluten proteins are so similar to thyroid tissues that antibodies mistakenly attack the thyroid.
Several other dietary proteins, such as casein in dairy, have a molecular structure comparable to gluten. This similarity is commonly referred to as molecular mimicry, sending your body into a state of confusion and triggering an immunological response. Cutting gluten and cross-reactive items from your diet can make a huge difference.
Is Healing Possible?
If you are currently anywhere on the autoimmune spectrum, I hope you took this article into reflection and learned about gluten consumption’s highlights and consequences. Going gluten-free as soon as possible is your best solution to ease this condition. The light barriers around your gut will remain open, and maintaining a leaky gut, will continue to put you at high risk of chronic inflammation. I can’t express enough importance of a healthy gut and a gluten-free diet for any autoimmune diseases.
How To Become Gluten-Free?
A gluten-free diet may be very beneficial to you if you have Hashimoto’s. You may be hard to convince to attempt a gluten-free diet because you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease. First, I encourage you to get tested for celiac disease. Secondly, reach out to me if you need help with the transition to a gluten-free diet, have questions, or simply want to share your experience.
Even if you do not test positive for celiac disease, a gluten-free diet may significantly alleviate your symptoms. Trying a gluten-free diet may be intimidating, but I can assist you in understanding all of the naturally gluten-free foods available, as well as the possible advantages that will set you up for success.
Fantastic Studies to read upon:
- All About the Thyroid, (AACE). https://www.aace.com/disease-and-conditions/thyroid/all-about-thyroid
- High Proportions of People With Nonceliac Wheat Sensitivity Have Autoimmune Disease or Antinuclear Antibodies. Gastroenterology.2015 Sept; 149(3): 596-603.
- The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2018 Jul 30.