Why Avoiding Gluten is Important for Reversing Hashimoto’s (or any Autoimmune Condition)
By now you have probably heard that it’s important to avoid gluten if you have Hashimoto’s, and that most people feel better when they do.
In fact, many people have been able to successfully reverse (not cure...there's no cure for autoimmune disease) the chronic symptoms, and even the auto-antibodies, associated with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis by making personalized nutrition and lifestyle changes, uncovering root causes, addressing the functional imbalances in the body, repairing the gut microbiome, optimizing digestion, and rebalancing their lifestyle.
But, if you are wondering what gluten has to do with Hashimoto’s, and if it’s really worth the effort to avoid it, read on!
First, I want to mention that it's important to check with your doctor before making any health-related changes.
3 reasons avoiding gluten is very important if you have Hashimoto’s (or any autoimmune condition):
If you don’t have Celiac Disease, then you may have Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Many women with Hashimoto’s have developed a sensitivity to gluten. And sometimes the sensitivity to gluten is one of the triggers of Hashimoto's. This can cause the immune system to react—leading to chronic inflammation, the process that drives the autoimmune attack on the thyroid, and the many chronic symptoms of Hashimoto's like fatigue, brain fog, bloating, headaches, migraine’s, depression, anxiety, and many more.
A case of mistaken identity. Once the immune system becomes sensitive to gluten it can mistake the tissue of the thyroid gland for the proteins of gluten resulting in an autoimmune attack. This is because the protein structure of the thyroid closely resembles the protein structure of one of the gliadin proteins in gluten. Read more about the gluten-thyroid connection here.
Being 100% Gluten-free Is Critical
There is no “80/20 Rule” when it comes to avoiding gluten. Just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant—you can’t have a little bit of gluten from time to time and expect to be okay. It can take up to 6 months for the effects of one exposure to gluten to go away. So cheating isn’t an option. If you want to have the best chance for reversing Hashimoto’s you must commit to a 100% gluten-free life.
How to Transition to a Healthy, Gluten-free Life
There is a lot of controversy over the gluten-free diet, and rightfully so!
When we start eating gluten-free it’s natural to reach for substitutes like gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free cookies, gluten-free pretzels, gluten-free pizza, etc.
The good news is that there are so many alternatives it's easy to find a substitute for just about anything you used to enjoy.
Unfortunately, these gluten-free substitutes lack nutrients like fiber and B-vitamins. And, they are full of sugar and/or simple carbohydrates that quickly turn into sugar in the body. When this happens, blood sugar spikes at first, but then comes crashing down a short time later resulting in low energy, fatigue, irritability, cravings, and brain fog.
International speaker and autoimmune expert, Dr. Tom O’Bryan said it best…”Just because it’s gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.”
To make the transition to a healthy, gluten-free life it’s important to focus less on the gluten-free substitutes and opt instead for foods that are naturally free of gluten like clean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and nuts and seeds if tolerated.
GROCERY SHOPPING TIP: Try shopping more around the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the aisles. This will help you focus on the real, whole, nutrient-dense foods God made for us instead of packaged and processed foods.
Beware of Hidden Gluten!
Get in the habit of reading the labels of anything you put on or in your body. Gluten is often hiding in sauces, soups, seasonings, medications, personal care products, etc. For a complete list of hidden sources of gluten click here.
The 5 Most Common Mistakes of a Gluten-free Diet
There are common mistakes that everyone makes when they first start avoiding gluten (...I did, too!). These mistakes can undermine your good efforts and sabotage your health. Click here to learn the 5 most common mistakes of a gluten-free diet so you don't make them like I did! :)
When Gluten-free Isn’t Enough
You may notice many of your chronic symptoms begin to clear up after a week or two on a gluten-free diet. But, for most women with Hashimoto’s, just avoiding gluten won’t be the only diet change needed.
Many people find a Paleo or Autoimmune Paleo diet to be very helpful, while others need further customization of their food choices to feel their best. Keep in mind that there’s no one particular diet that works perfectly for everyone. That's why it's important to get the support and guidance needed to learn how to overcome your personal challenges of autoimmunity and customize a plan that works for you.
Jaime Ward, INHC, CGP, CBIN provides Functional & Integrative Nutrition Health Coaching for Women with Autoimmunity.
Jaime is Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Certified in BioIndividual Nutrition, a Certified Gluten Practitioner, and currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Nutrition with a focus on Functional Medicine from The University of Bridgeport.
Jaime is also a speaker, a writer, a busy mom, and a Celiac Survivor. Jaime coaches with a Christian heart filled with lots of love, support and compassion.