Google+ Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery: Hypothyroidism and Food Allergies


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hypothyroidism and Food Allergies

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...

Shared with Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Sunday School at Butter Believer.


  1. I have both too. Sorry I can't offer any insights and have no tales of improvement. Although if allergies cause weight gain then I am def. allergic to dairy!

  2. I have just been gluten free for 11 months to test out if I can improve my thyroid function. I had a blood test last week and I don't know the results yet. However, I have been told to make an appointment to see the Doctor regarding my Thyroid test result. I was borderline low last time, wondering if it is no longer borderline!

  3. Last year I did the Maker's Diet as an intro and then went gluten-free for 6 months hoping to improve my thyroid function (boarderline low). Not to be discouraging, but it really didn't seem to do any good, and my thyroid function actually seemed to get worse. (Not necessarily because of my diet.)

    All of the research I did (and all of your quoted sources) with gluten/allergies and thyroid trouble only indicated improvement if the thyroid issues stemmed from an autoimmune disorder. Mine is not autoimmune related, which is probably why it had no effect for me. But if you think your thyroid troubles are of the autoimmune sort, then it certainly can't hurt to try. And I'd certainly love to hear your experience!


  4. I was diagnosed with hypothyroid at the age of 25, and I'm 73 now. I have many allergies, and have had them all my life. When I was 18 months old I had what was called a mastoid, which is an abscess on the mastoid bone, and had to have surgery. That could have triggered celiac, but I was only diagnosed 5 years ago at my insistence. I would sometimes eat dinner, and a couple hours later vomit. One thing that has happened in the last 4-5 years is that I've lost my body hair due to the hypothyroid. I don't miss shaving my legs or under my arms! It's just really strange. But, I guess it's a good thing because when I get too old to shave, I won't have to!

  5. Thanks for your comments everyone!

    @ Theophanie - Are you avoiding any specific foods? So ironic that the new Dairy Council ads claim that eating dairy helps you lose weight!

    @ Vicky - I'd love to hear how your blood tests turned out.

    @ Brittany - What caused your thyroid issues? That's a bummer that the dietary changes didn't work. I haven't been very good lately at sticking with my no-goitrogens and no-gluten diet rules....kind of having a bad attitude month. If I get my act together I'll report back on any improvements (or lack of).

    @ Anonymous - Oh, if only all the thyroid/gluten symptoms were so pleasant ;)

    ~ Lisa

  6. I also have both. My doctor recommends the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto's Disease and Hypothyroidism by author Datis Kharrazian. Look up the book on and read the will learn much that is in the book from reading the reviews. Also, I did a leaky gut treatment several months ago, and it helped me be less reactive to some allergic foods.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I have struggled with hypothyrodism for years and am also gluten intolerant. I will recommend this article to my family!

  8. this is a good article,thanks for sharing info...I am having allergies & also thyroid problem.but didn't know they both have a relation.....

  9. I'm enjoying your blog! I was on a search for allergy friendly Christmas goodies so that I don't get cranky with all the foods I cannot eat this Christmas season! ;)

    I have a history of thyroid problems. Hyperactive as a child. Hypoactive as an adult after the birth of my second child. After the birth of my 3rd child 1/2 of my thyroid was removed. Shortly thereafter, I had an event that triggered severe gut problems. The past few years have been a difficult journey! I am GF, CF, egg most recent food allergy panel had me limit my corn, soy, and pea intake too. So...I eat meat, fish, fruit, and veggies!

    My hypothyroidism has not improved at all. Curiously, my mother has very similar issues that I do. A gluten free diet did help her loose a lot of weight that she had been unable to otherwise lose.

    Right now, I would just love to better know how to heal my a mother of four young children, it can be tough wrestling with these issues! I also wish I could better find a medical professional who took these issues seriously. In the meantime, I'll trust the Lord's plan for me and do my best to foods that keep me feeling well!

  10. @ Stacy ~ So true about finding a doctor who gets it! My primary care physician completely does not understand food allergies OR thyroid disease. I was lucky to find a specialist about 45 minutes away who does amazing work with both. It's sad though to get help from him, then to visit my PCP (a female) who then tells me I need to stop the treatments he has me on! She got all agitated when I told her I had started Armour Thyroid and said it wasn't reliable because it was natural, then she ordered a TSH level test and got nervous because it was low, but taking thyroid meds automatically depresses TSH while raising T3 and T4 -- a fact she apparently didn't know. Some doctor! Best of luck to you :)

  11. Desiccated thyroid supplement is really an effective supplement, if you hypothyroidism like i do. This is one of the best supplements you can buy.

  12. How I wished I had found this site earlier. I have been struggling for years with intolerances to foods but more so to the chemicals in processed foods such as MSG, nitrates, nitrites, sulfates and sulfites. More things keep getting added to the list. Gluten and lactose are the more recent additions and I haven't known why nor have I found a doctor that could help me. Two days ago I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I too have lost body hair, my skin, especially on my lower legs burns and looks more like onion skin than human skin. I have lost the outsides of my eyebrows as well. With all the overt symptons it still took the doctor a long time to diagnose. He would do a TSH and say I was normal. It was not until he tested T4 and T3 that it showed. My diet on eliminating those things that I was sensitive to did not help either. I have read where one doctor who treats hypothroidism has also usually found an underlying, low level infection and having treated this has helped many overcome low thyroid.