The connection between the foods you eat and your autoimmune symptoms should always be considered. While the “perfect diet” is very personalized, there is one particular food that should be avoided if you have an autoimmune disease. Gluten.
No matter if you struggle with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, or another autoimmune condition, adopting a gluten-free diet for autoimmune diseases is one of the best choices you can make for your health.
In this article, we’ll dive into the Hashimoto’s and Gluten connection, and talk about why going gluten-free is essential for supporting thyroid health.
Simply put, when you have an autoimmune condition, it means that your body is attacking itself. Depending on what tissue it is attacking, determines what kind of autoimmune condition you have.
There are a couple of reasons why gluten-free diets have gained traction in the past decade. One being, that there is more research emerging that gluten contributes to leaky gut, and inflammation, and can even make autoimmune conditions more severe.
But was this always the case? Why does it seem that our grandparents didn’t deal with these kinds of consequences? Well, it very likely reason is that the gluten we consume today is significantly different than what our grandparents ate.
The wheat we grow is different. Farmers now grow and process new hybrid strains of wheat that contain new forms of gluten that our bodies are unfamiliar with.
Also, the bread that we buy at the store is completely different, with all the extra junk like added preservatives and fillers. Even if we cook home-baked bread with instant yeast, it’s still different than traditional sourdough and minimally processed wheat bread that our grandparents and generations before consumed.
Is this why we may be seeing a rise in autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s? It could definitely be contributing to it, along with environmental factors, like antibiotics, pesticides, and poor diets, that lead to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). In fact, since 1939, (the beginning of World World II), autoimmune conditions have risen to 8% of the US population.
So, should you avoid gluten with an autoimmune disease? Yes!
Should you avoid gluten even if you don’t have an autoimmune disease? Yes!
Molecular Mimicry (more to come on this and how it affects your thyroid)
The gut lining plays a critical role in regulating the trafficking of environmental antigens across the host mucosal barrier. Specific cells called tight junctions help vital nutrients and minerals pass through to get to your cells, and inhibit bigger, unwanted molecules that are seen as foreign invaders from passing through.
However, dysfunction to those tight junctions, more specifically to the zonulin protein, is involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Zonulin regulates the tight junctions in your gut lining.
So when they aren’t functioning optimally, it can allow bigger particles to transport to unwanted areas of the body, increasing autoimmune risk. This is why zonulin can be used as a biomarker when investigating an impaired gut barrier function for autoimmune diseases.
This is a marker that you can detect on certain functional stool testing panels.
So how does this relate to gluten? Well, gluten has been shown to cause dysfunction to zonulin protein, promoting its release, causing leaky gut.
If you have an autoimmune condition, this can make matters worse and if you don’t already have an autoimmune condition, eating gluten can contribute to leaky gut which can trigger a bunch of unwanted symptoms and even serious medical conditions.
Inflammation is a significant issue in chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases. This is what may cause many additional symptoms you are experiencing. Reducing inflammation in your body is one way to relieve those symptoms.
Eating gluten may increase inflammation even more. One of the most common food sensitivities I see in my practice is to gluten and when you eat foods that you have a sensitivity to, it can elevate the inflammation in your body. It can also make your immune system go haywire, the last thing we want!
So whether you have noticeable symptoms or not, consuming gluten could be contributing to your underlying inflammation.
For people with autoimmune disease, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity, going gluten-free had a positive effect on their GI symptoms by helping to restore the microbiome with beneficial bacteria and reduced bacteria that cause inflammation.
Whether you have celiac, lupus, or Hashimoto’s adopting a gluten-free diet for autoimmune disease is a great start to putting it into remission.
If you’re wondering if a gluten-free diet for Hashimoto’s is beneficial, it sure is! Especially for this reason…
Gluten-free diets and thyroid health optimization go hand in hand. This is because gluten’s molecule structure is extremely similar to your thyroid gland’s structure. This is known as molecular mimicry. If your body is already attacking your thyroid, consuming gluten will trigger your immune system to respond because it sees it as an invader.
What happens is when you eat gluten, your immune system sees that “threat” and sends out antibodies to destroy the gluten. But because the gluten proteins look extremely similar to your thyroid tissues, those antibodies gear up and attack your thyroid by mistake, making your Hashimoto’s or other thyroid conditions worse.
Watch out for processed gluten-free snacks. Not all GF options are “healthy.” They could still be filled with excess sugars and flours that spike your blood sugar.
Focus on eating whole, organic foods first and foremost.
Check the ingredient labels. ALWAYS read the ingredient labels to know what you are ingesting. Look out for ingredients that contain gluten but don’t specifically say “gluten”. This can include: Brewer’s yeast, oatmeal unless specifically says gluten-free, Semolina, seitan, Rye bread and flour, graham flour, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.
Ask for the GF menu when eating out at restaurants.
If you need access to a stool test, a gut health expert, and personalized protocols, the Get Your Gut Right program might be the right fit for you. This is a very comprehensive program that also focuses on nutrition, detox pathways, nervous system, clean environment, and more. Click HERE to learn more.
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