Gluten-Free Q&A: How Gluten Affects Me (Part 1)

I started writing this post and realized that it was getting really long. So I’m breaking it up into two parts… Today I’m going to share a little about Hashimoto’s in general and then next week get into more about how it and gluten personally affects me.

One of the questions that was asked a few weeks ago was how does gluten effect me. This is hard to nail down without giving some info on Hashimoto’s and differentiating it from Celiac’s.

For those with Celiac’s (from what I’ve read and also discussed with a couple of people that I know who have Celiac disease), when they injest eat gluten, the immune system attacks the small intestine, damaging the villi (small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine that promote nutrient absorption). When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. Immediate reactions varies anywhere from headaches to bloating to diarrhea and long-term affects can be anything from anemia to osteoporosis to hypospleenism. This is a very generalized break down of Celiacs, I highly suggest you read more about it here and here.

For those that have Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Doctors still don’t know exactly what triggers the immune system to attack the thyroid, and there is no way to cure it. But this usually results in the thyroid to become underactive, causing symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, constipation, fatigue, excessive or prolonged menstrual breeding, depression, and a variety of other symptoms.

One of the main treatments is to go on thyroid medication. However, there’s been some recent thought that cutting out gluten from your diet if you have Hashimoto’s can help the symptoms. Just like how with Celiac’s the immune system attacks gluten in the body, doctors seem to think that the immune system of those with Hashi’s has a similar reaction, though maybe not in the exact same way. The immune system starts attacking the gluten that has been injested, then for some reason, turns on the thyroid. From what I understand, something about the molecular structure of gluten closely resembles that of the thyroid gland so essentially the immune system gets confused.

Because of this thought that gluten and the thyroid “look” so similar to the immune system, one of the ways to get the immune system to back off the thyroid is to reduce the gluten in your diet. The less gluten, the less antibodies. A normal person’s TPO antibody levels should be somewhere between 10 to 50. When I was diagnosed, my levels were 392!

Well, this is where I’m going to leave off for now. I’ll be back next week to share how gluten affects me personally.

If you want to do some reading, here are some articles about Hashi’s and gluten:

http://chriskresser.com/the-gluten-thyroid-connection
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashimoto%27s_thyroiditis
http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/hashimotos/

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