Sarah is a 33-year-old woman who came to me with extra weight that just wouldn't melt off no matter what she did. She complained about weakness, irregular menstrual cycle, anxiety, and unexplained weight gain. Before this time, she has taken different drugs, and tried countless weight loss plans to resolve her health issues. When she reached out to me, I suggested she test for any form of thyroid disorder, and to her surprise, it turned out she has hypothyroidism.
Before I go furthers first let’s understand what thyroid disease is.
WHAT IS THYROID DISEASE
Thyroid disease is a general term used to describe a thyroid that doesn't make the right amount of hormones. When it produces too much thyroid hormones, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, when thyroid produces too little hormones, it is referred to as hypothyroidism.
Both conditions are life threatening if not properly managed or treated. And they can be easily triggered by your diet, or it may just be a result of your genetic makeup.
As we advance, it is imperative to identify habits or diet that can put you at a higher risk of developing this health condition.
That was exactly what I did for Sarah. While taking the necessary treatment, we worked out a diet plan that helped her heal faster.
AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS AND THYROID
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a form of thyroid disease, which occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and diminishes its ability to create thyroid hormones. It is an autoimmune disease, and it is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.
Since Sarah was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it means that Hashimoto's thyroiditis might be a possible cause of her health issue. Although, am not saying this is the fact.
When a patient is tested for Hashimoto, the thyroid gland functionality continuously depletes due to the overactive immune system's attacks. People with Hashimoto's are at a higher risk of developing another autoimmune disease such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis.
The good news is a simple diet restructuring can assist in treating this problem. Indeed, there is hope for Sarah.
Early detection is crucial because it reduces the chance of complications. This leads to the question “what are the symptoms that should alert people to get tested”.?
SYMPTOMS OF THYROID DISEASE
The symptoms of thyroid disease vary; it depends on the type of thyroid disease, whether hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can include:
- inability to fall asleep.
- Anxiety, nervousness, and irritability.
- Unexplained Losing weight.
- Muscle weakness and tremors.
- Experiencing irregular menstrual periods or having your menstrual cycle stop. Feeling sensitive to hot weather and heat.
- A blur vision or eye irritation.
- An enlarged thyroid gland or goiter.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can include:
- tiredness (fatigue).
- Unwarranted weight gain.
- Changes in the menstrual cycle.
- A hoarse voice.
- Intolerance to cold temperatures.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Muscle aches and tenderness
- Kidney problems
- Stiffness and swelling in the joint.
- Hair loss.
- Rough, cracked skin.
- Trouble breathing.
- A frequent occurrence of flu.
Now that we have outlined the symptoms. The next thing is to discuss how to test for this disease. Before I sent Sarah to the lab, I already acquit her with the test process. So, she knew what she was expecting.
HOW TO PROPERLY TEST FOR THYROID
Some of the symptoms of thyroid disease are relatively common among people with good functioning thyroid gland. So, it won’t be right to conclude base on symptoms alone. One way to figure out if your problem is related to thyroid disease is to consider the following.
How Long You Have Had the Symptom: for example, have you always felt hot when others are cold or cold when others are hot. If you start experiencing it, for the first time, it could be related to thyroid disease.
Your Personal and Family Medical History: if there have been many thyroid cases in your family, then there is a possibility that your symptoms might be related to thyroid disease.
Although those factors might have a link, it isn't a fact. Your considerations for the two cases above might be positive, yet you have no issues with your thyroid. Only a physician through physical examination and blood test can confirm if you have a thyroid disease.
Your physician will perform a thorough examination and look for physical signs of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, including:
- Swelling in the legs and around the eye
- Slower or higher reflexes
- A slower or higher heart rate etc.
TSH Test. A thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH test can measure the amount of thyroxine(T4) in the blood. It helps the physician know the amount of thyroxine the thyroid is being signaled to produce. A high TSH level means you have hypothyroidism while a low level of TSH means you have hyperthyroidism.
T4 (thyroxine) Test. Combining the free T4 index with the TSH test can give your physician insight into your thyroid gland functionality.
A thyroid scan is used to detect lumps on your thyroids. It involves you swallowing a small amount of a radioactive substance, after which a scan will be carried out to determine how much of the substance your thyroid has absorbed. A thyroid scan can also be used to examine the shape and size of your thyroid.
WHAT IS GLUTEN AND WHERE IS IT FOUND
Gluten is a form of protein formally known as prolamins. It is naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten can be further classified based on the grains where they are found. For example, glutenin’s and gliadins are the prolamins in wheat, hordeins are found in barley, and scaling in the rye.
Gluten has several culinary benefits. It is responsible for the fluffy, soft, and chewy textures of many grain-based foods that contain gluten. This is because the protein can stretch and trap gas when heated. Resulting in an optimal leavening or rising of bread and other similar products.
Because of this unique characteristic, it is used as an additive in almost every processed food.
Sarah like every other American consumes a lot of processed food from breads, pastas to cereals and cakes. Also, she often adds an extra amount of gluten to her cake so that it can be fluffy. We agreed that she stay off gluten for a while and observe if her symptoms subside.
Well, before putting this piece together, she noticed after just 2 weeks of being completely off gluten that her symptoms have improved drastically.
What exactly is the link between gluten and thyroid disease? Well-read further and you will find out that your favorite ingredient might be causing you more harm than good.
THE LINK BETWEEN GLUTEN, LEAKY GUT, AND AUTOIMMUNE DEVELOPMENT
Theories are suggesting why gluten became problematic for people, from leaky gut to autoimmune disease.
The first theory is that suggests that gluten became genetically modified and hybridized by profit-seekers. This involves changing the protein structure so that the amount of gluten in the wheat can increase to get a fluffier bread with long shelf life. And in this process, people started to react to gluten.
The second theory suggests that the number of herbicides sprayed on this wheat plant might cause the problem.
The third theory suggests that almost all the processed food and manufactured food contains gluten, and we consume so much of it, and as a result, our body is unable to break it down. Gluten is an anti-nutrient, and as such, it is hard to digest. The excess of this protein leak into our bloodstream, and the immune system is falsely alarmed to defend the body against it, which can lead to an autoimmune disease.
The last theories suggest that over time the normal process of processing wheat by fermenting it for days with natural yeast which helps break down a large amount of the gluten protein has been replaced with a quick and fast method that uses quick yeast.
Well, I may not say for sure that any of these theories are the main reason why gluten is causing health problems. But I feel that it's a combination of them all, how we process the wheat, the amount of wheat product we consume, and the use of pesticides on the plants.
In summary, gluten can cause constipation and damage the gut causing a leaky gut syndrome. This, in turn, trigger molecules that normally stay within the gut to travel to the bloodstream, which can provoke an inflammatory response known as an autoimmune disease.
Thyroid disease is an autoimmune disease.
THE ROLE OF GLUTEN IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THYROID DISEASE
The protein within gluten, called gliadin is molecularly similar to the thyroid gland. When it finds its way into the bloodstream as a result of leaky gut (which can also be caused by gluten consumption). The immune is triggered to attack the thyroid tissue. This attack tends to worsen the symptom’s in the long run.
This is why I always recommend a gluten-free diet to patients experiencing symptoms that resemble that of thyroid disease. Because gluten can worsen the situation
So, how should you go about this?
First, Start removing gluten from your diet and getting used to using other grains and flours for your baking needs. Secondly clean up your diet from sugar and processed foods to reduce inflammation and support your gut and immune health.
And lastly work on the health of your gut with the 4R's of gut healing. Autoimmune conditions including thyroid disease are linked to leaky gut, so working on a gut healing protocol should be a priority. You can start by checking out my 8-week gut healing program designed to help you remove inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy and sugar, and include healing foods and supplements that support your gut and immune health.