Did you know that people with gluten intolerance have a higher incidence of thyroid problems? Several studies have shown this connection, including scientists suggesting that all patients with autoimmune thyroid diseases should be evaluated to rule out gluten intolerance and vice versa.
In this article, I will explain the relationship between autoimmune thyroid diseases and gluten intolerance. But first we will define some terms ...
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products. The problem with gluten is that it contains gliadin, a protein that the body does not recognize and considers foreign, therefore it activates the body's immune system.
In individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, the body's unfamiliarity with this protein is much more evident, as it triggers a greater immune response.
An immune response is our body's way of recognizing and defending itself against everything that is foreign or harmful to the body.
Most people think that gluten intolerance is synonymous with celiac disease, and this is not always the case. There is what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which is estimated to be 10 times more frequent.
Today there are more individuals with gluten sensitivity and the immune response that it causes is not only in celiac patients.
When we speak of celiac disease, we refer to an inflammatory condition of the small intestine, with autoimmune characteristics that are activated and maintained with exposure to gluten in the diet.
To be diagnosed with celiac disease, the doctor must perform an intestinal biopsy demonstrating the destruction of the villi in the intestine, in addition to serology for specific antibodies for the disorder, which have become more relevant in recent years.
Not all patients with this disease have obvious gastrointestinal symptoms, therefore, many go undiagnosed.
But … what do celiac disease and some thyroid diseases have in common? Both are generally due to autoimmune disorders.
In celiac disease, gluten intolerance, causes your white blood cells to attack the mucosa of the small intestine destroying its villi and in an autoimmune thyroid problem something similar happens: white blood cells do not recognize the thyroid gland and attack it.
Autoimmune thyroid disorders can cause the thyroid gland to be underactive (hypothyroidism) as in Hashimoto's disease, or else we can have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) as in Grave's disease.
What is the connection between gluten intolerance and thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, it is located in the lower area of the neck. It is responsible for the correct functioning of a large part of our body, it acts on the metabolism and also regulates other hormones, ensuring that each organ works properly.
The thyroid has an enzyme called transglutaminase, necessary throughout the human body, although it can be found in other organs, it is the thyroid that has a higher concentration of it.
Some studies have determined that for our body the gliadin that contains gluten and the enzyme transglutaminase are similar, this is known as molecular mimicry and this is where the problem occurs, because when the immune system attacks gliadin, the antibodies also attack To the thyroid, as the immune response progresses and is maintained, the thyroid suffers damage, even up to 6 months after consuming gluten.
Celiacs with a higher risk of suffering from thyroid
Celiac patients have a higher risk of having autoimmune thyroid disorders, as evidenced by the following study, where patients with newly diagnosed celiac disease were followed up before and after a gluten-free diet for one year, observing a decrease in the size of the thyroid, indicating progressive destruction of the gland even in patients on a gluten-free diet.
In other words, the thyroid gland is under attack for much longer every time you consume foods that contain gluten.
Finally, there are several ways to maintain a healthy thyroid. These include:
· Minimize stress.
· Avoid exposure to toxins in the environment as much as possible.
· Eat foods that are nutritious for the thyroid and eliminate those with unhealthy effects from your diet.
· Get regular exercise.
· Have a good night's rest.
The proper balance of thyroid hormones within the body helps improve health.
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