Many are doing it… but they’re doing it all wrong.
Avoiding gluten isn’t such a controversial topic as it was when we first started working with clients all those years ago.
Back then, people would look at you like you were crazy if you talked about it.
Today, people look at you like you’re crazy if you don’t.
Yet, do you really even know if you need to avoid gluten, and if so, why?
I’m going to show you that your problem with gluten has more to do with your hormones than you probably realize.
I’m also going to show you how to help protect yourself and minimize the damage that gluten can cause.
Unfortunately, today “gluten-free” has become a big fad.
And as with most fads there’s typically a downside, or three.
For example, one of my biggest concerns is that many, if not most, gluten-free food substitutes are actually worse and more thyroid-suppressive than the original gluten containing food.
However, that’s a topic for another day.
What you really need to understand is that, as with most aspects of your health, your hormones are directly involved.
Gluten is no different.
Please note that this applies to all hypothyroidism sufferers, especially those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for reasons explained below.
And in order to understand this, we need to better understand the autoimmune form of gluten allergy, celiac disease.
What Is Celiac Disease?
It’s an autoimmune response to a type of gluten protein called gliadin.
If you have celiac disease and you eat gluten, your immune system begins to produce antibodies that attack your own healthy, living cells.
This happens because there’s a cross-reaction between the gluten protein and an enzyme that is found in every one of your cells, called transglutaminase.
Identification of tissue transglutaminase as the autoantigen of celiac disease.
“We identified tissue transglutaminase as the unknown endomysial autoantigen.”
In the case of celiac disease, you immune system attacks the the transglutaminase-2 enzyme, which is present in the cells that line your digestive tract.
This results in intestinal damage and inflammation, which can lead to further serious health consequences.
This can lead to symptoms such as:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal distention
- Malabsorption leading to nutrient deficiencies
What’s more, the greater the activity of this transglutaminase enzyme, the worse the immune reaction and the worse the resulting damage.
This is where your hormones play an important role…
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac Disease
Studies show that Celiac Disease is more prevalent among Hashimoto’s thyroiditis sufferers.
This is important to note because estrogen is directly involved in the development of both Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
(NOTE: Want to learn more about how excess estrogen leads to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? Take a look at the following article, “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: How It Develops and How to Reverse It”.)
Well, it just so happens that estrogen also increases transglutaminase activity.
Estradiol-regulated transamidation of keratins by vaginal epithelial cell transglutaminase.
“The Activity of VEC TGase [transglutaminase] was significantly modulated with estradiol… There was a threefold increase in its activity…”
In other words, estrogen both promotes and worsens the damage caused by celiac disease and the consumption of gluten.
Because estrogen is overproduced in both hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis alike, this makes you even more susceptible to its dangers.
So, needless to say, getting estrogen under control is essential to improving your condition.
We’ll cover this in just a second.
First, what about those who don’t have celiac disease and still react negatively to gluten?
Gluten Intolerance: Fact or Fiction?
Celiac Disease is only diagnosed by the presence of IgA antibodies to the gluten protein (gliadin) or the transglutaminase-2 enzyme.
General gluten sensitivity isn’t widely recognized in the medical community and there’s no “test” for it, so there’s still debate as to whether it truly exists or not.
Yet, keep in mind that there are many different parts (and even different types) of gluten proteins, immune mediators, and transglutaminase enzymes, which could exhibit similar reactions.
So, while you may not be diagnosed with celiac disease, you can still be sensitive to gluten due to these other potential cross reactions.
As you can see, it’s a lot more complicated than many would have you believe.
And as mentioned earlier… as a thyroid sufferer, you tend to overproduce estrogen, which can increase your sensitivity to gluten and again, increase inflammation in your body’s cells and tissues.
So, how can you help protect yourself from gluten, aside from adhering to a strict gluten-free diet?
How Progesterone Can Help with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance
In almost all aspects, estrogen and progesterone have opposite effects.
As mentioned, estrogen increases transglutaminase activity, which can intensify your negative reaction to gluten.
Studies show that yet again, progesterone opposes estrogen in this case, by lowering or normalizing transglutaminase activity.
Keratinization of rat vaginal epithelium IV. Modulation of transglutaminase activity by oestradiol
“Progesterone treatment (0.1 μg/g body weight) decreased the enzyme activity.”
So, while estrogen can worsen your reaction to gluten, progesterone can help protect you by lessening the reaction.
This is also one way in which progesterone can help improve digestion and improve your tolerance to dairy.
Avoid Gluten to Help Restore Dairy Intolerance
This is a bit of a side note, but a very important point nonetheless.
Intestinal inflammation (especially caused by gluten) is also the cause of lactose intolerance.
The lactase enzyme necessary to digest milk lactose is secreted by the tip of the villi, which are tiny, hair-like cells that line your small intestine.
Intestinal inflammation damages those villi cells and hurts your body’s ability to produce the lactase enzyme, making it difficult to digest some forms of dairy.
This is why celiac disease and dairy intolerance go hand in hand.
However, studies show that when celiac patients remove gluten from their diet, their ability to digest milk can be restored.
Regression of lactose malabsorption in coeliac patients after receiving a gluten-free diet.
“The present study shows that a large proportion of CD patients experience a regression of lactose malabsorption after receiving a gluten-free diet.”
(NOTE: Want to see even more ways we help our clients overcome dairy intolerance? See this article on “How to Overcome Dairy Intolerance Once and For All”.)
So, what does this all boil down to?
Eating gluten-containing foods certainly isn’t doing you or your thyroid any favors.
The potential negative reactions far outweigh any “potential” benefit.
And because both hypothyroidism and hashimoto’s sufferers tend to overproduce estrogen, this puts you at an even bigger risk.
The resulting stress and inflammation is enough to keep you trapped in a perpetual state of hypothyroidism.
This is why we recommend all of our clients avoid gluten.
Yet, it’s also why we take protection even one step further by using progesterone to help fix the underlying cause while at the same time providing another layer of protection.
And don’t forget, adequate progesterone is essential for proper thyroid health for many reasons outside of gluten allergy or intolerance.
1. Brighten, Jolene. “Hypothyroidism? Why You Should Absolutely Quit Gluten Now.” Dr. Jolene Brighten, 19 Aug. 2018, www.drbrighten.com/hypothyroidism-why-you-should-absolutely-quit-gluten-now/.
2. Cole, William. “This Is What Gluten Can Do To Your Thyroid (It Isn’t Pretty).” Mindbodygreen, Mindbodygreen, 8 Oct. 2017, www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18316/this-is-what-gluten-can-do-to-your-thyroid-it-isnt-pretty.html.
3. Reinagel, Monica. “Can a Gluten Free Diet Help with Thyroid Disease?” Scientific American, 7 Oct. 2017, www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-a-gluten-free-diet-help-with-thyroid-disease/.