As I’ve learned more about celiac disease, I’ve read quite a bit about thyroid disease. That’s because there is a definite association. One study said that 14% of people with celiac disease also have autoimmune thyroid disease. The thyroid disease can appear before or after you’re diagnosed with celiac disease. In fact, there are many common symptoms for thyroid and celiac disease.
So what exactly is thyroid disease? Heck, what exactly is a thyroid? Most of us know we have a thyroid gland, but I bet most people don’t know what it does. The thyroid is a gland that controls metabolism and growth. It also impacts heart and brain functioning. It’s located where the neck meets the very top of the torso.
There are two kinds of thyroid disease. The first is called hyperthyroidism. It’s also called Graves Disease. If you have this disease, it means you have an overactive thyroid. Just like anything that’s overactive, it’s working too hard. Your metabolism runs at high speed which means you experience nervousness and may get hyper-active. Your heart may race. You may lose weight and have trouble sleeping.
The other kind of thyroid disease is called hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease. When you have hypothyroidism, you have an underactive thyroid. The thyroid isn’t generating enough hormones and the gland gets large. The side affects are fatigue and hair loss. You’ll also probably put on weight, because the metabolism slows down.
So what does this have to do with celiac disease? Well, people with thyroid disease have a higher probability of also having celiac disease. This means if you have thyroid disease, you should be tested for celiac disease or even gluten sensitivity. You don’t have to automatically have a biopsy. It just means you should be tested for antigliadin antibodies.
The association between thyroid disease and celiac disease is so strong that some people who convert to a gluten free diet actually experience improvement in the thyroid disease. On the other hand, some people have been diagnosed with thyroid disease because the gluten free diet didn’t improve symptoms they were having. Remember I told you that the symptoms for thyroid and celiac disease can be very similar?
There is no definite conclusion yet that gluten triggers thyroid disease. It’s still quite possible that the correlations between incidents are more coincidental because both are autoimmune diseases. When you have a malfunctioning immune system, there can be several problems develop.
The way I look at it is if you have thyroid disease, it won’t hurt to be tested for the presence of gluten sensitivity. If it comes up negative – great! If it comes up positive – great again! It’s great again because you know what you have to do. A gluten free diet is really healthy eating that brings healing in more ways than you might think possible.