|Genevieve Doyle Lynch circa 1900|
As I mentioned in a recent post, I've added hypothyroidism to my list of health issues to deal with. The thyroid is an important gland that regulates metabolism, among other things. An underactive thyroid is a common ailment, affecting about 5% of the US population. Most sources suggest that hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder with a variety of causes. Hormone imbalance, pregnancy, radiation exposure and iodine deficiency are all possible causes, as is heredity. Symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, depression, cold intolerance, joint and muscle pain, heavy periods, forgetfulness, hoarseness, and more.
In my research, I've come across several references to the high correlation between gluten intolerance and hypothyroidism. This link appears poorly-researched at present, but initial studies suggest that the percentage of individuals with hypothyroidism who are also gluten intolerant (3.4%) is higher than the percentage of the general population who are gluten intolerant (0.2 - 0.6%).
This is not a causal relationship, as yet. In other words, gluten intolerance does not cause hypothyroidism, nor does hypothyroidism cause gluten intolerance... they just tend to be found together more often than chance would suggest. In fact, the authors of "Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat," Roger Deutsch and Rudy Rivera MD, claim "autoimmune disease (hypothyroidism) and food allergies are almost always found to occur together."
Why? One theory is that gluten intolerance "may be triggered after infection by a type of virus that biologically resembles the protein in gluten. After the infection, the body cannot distinguish between the invading virus and the gluten protein, and subsequently, the body reacts allergically, releasing mucous into the intestinal tract upon gluten exposure, causing damage to the intestines." (from The Celiac/Autoimmune Thyroid Connection by Mary Shomon.)
In some patients, eating a gluten-free diet for 3 to 6 months can reverse their hypothyroidism. It's been difficult to find many scientific resources to back up these claims, but I did find an interesting anecdotal post from a person with food allergies and thyroid disease who was able to significantly mediate her symptoms with an elimination diet (Food Allergies and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease).
While this potential connection is interesting, the stories I am reading are also frustrating, as they seem to indicate that it will take up to 2 years to heal a leaky gut caused by ingesting food allergens, and thus it will be a matter of years, not months, until I feel better and can eat more freely.
Has anyone else had experience with thyroid disease and food allergies? I'd love to hear your stories...