Research shows a significant relationship between celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s¹. Hashimoto's disease and celiac disease share common characteristics, including symptoms and causes. Following a gluten-free diet can ease the complications of both celiac disease and Hashimoto's disease.
Read on to learn more about celiac disease and Hashimoto's.
Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Hashimoto's disease.
Celiac disease is an immune reaction that damages the lining of the intestines when you consume gluten. If you have celiac disease, consuming gluten causes immune responses in your intestines.
Over time, the immune response causes malabsorption – preventing the intestine from absorbing food nutrients.
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck region, below Adam's apple. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism.
Hashimoto's disease causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the thyroid. Hashimoto's also causes the accumulation of white blood cells in the thyroid gland, damaging the thyroid.
Hashimoto's disease is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis.
Celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease both have an autoimmune component.
A person with celiac disease is four times more likely to have an autoimmune thyroid disease², and the two conditions also share the same genes and symptoms.
Also, antibodies are present in both conditions, and a person who has celiac disease or Hashimoto’s is at risk of other autoimmune disorders.
Presence of antibodies
Antibodies are present in celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Most people with celiac disease have tissue tTG IgA antibodies in their blood. tTG IgA antibodies have also been recorded in people with autoimmune thyroid disease³.
Development of other autoimmune diseases
People with autoimmune diseases are likely to develop other autoimmune disorders, and those with celiac disease are also susceptible to other autoimmune conditions⁴.
These other autoimmune disorders include:
Celiac disease and Hashimoto's share some symptoms, including:
Gluten is a protein naturally occurring in wheat, rye, and barley that causes inflammation and damage to the intestines in people with celiac disease. Inflammation of the intestines is common among Hashimoto's disease patients.
People diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease can get the following benefits from following a strict gluten-free diet:
Healing of the damage to the intestines
Improved symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, joint pain, and depression
Cutting down gluten intake is helpful for people with Hashimoto's disease. However, a gluten-free diet exposes you to some risks, So it is important to begin a gluten-free diet with specialist guidance.
Disadvantages of a gluten-free diet include:
Getting a limited supply of nutrients found in gluten sources.
Needing to find alternative sources of nutrients such as calcium, fiber, and iron.
Expensive to purchase gluten-free foods.
Following a gluten-free routine may be tiresome.
Celiac disease causes the immune system to mistake gliadin, a substance found in gluten, for a harmful substance. The autoimmune response then triggers the production of antibodies against the wrong cells.
The production of antibodies that work against healthy cells harms the body as they cause swelling of the surface of the small intestines.
The swelling of the small intestines decreases the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients. The inflammation also blocks the villi, reducing the surface area for the digestion of food.
With Hashimoto's disease, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid cells. Note that Hashimoto's is the primary cause of hypothyroidism.
Many factors may expose you to Hashimoto's disease. These factors include:
Environmental factors like exposure to nuclear radiation
High intake of iodine
Gender: Females are more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease.
Genetics: If someone from your family history has an autoimmune condition, you are more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease.
Age: Hashimoto's disease is common among middle-aged adults.
Pre-existing autoimmune disease: Having an autoimmune disorder increases the risk of Hashimoto's disease.
Hashimoto's is the cause of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's can lead to various complications if not treated. They include:
Goiter, an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, results from the thyroid producing more thyroid hormone. Even though goiter is not harmful, it changes your appearance and may interfere with swallowing and breathing.
In women, hypothyroidism can result in a low sex drive, an inability to ovulate, and, if left untreated, excessive menstrual bleeding.
In men, hypothyroidism causes erectile dysfunction and may lead to a low sperm count.
Hypothyroidism affects the normal functioning of the heart⁵ and leads to its enlargement. People with hypothyroidism also have irregular heartbeats.
Hashimoto's leads to high cholesterol build-up that may result in cardiovascular diseases or heart failure.
Mental health conditions
One of the most prevalent symptoms of Hashimoto's is depression. The severity of depression increases over time and, if not managed, could lead to mental health conditions like major depressive disorder.
Pregnant women with hypothyroidism are at a higher risk of a miscarriage or preterm birth⁶. Hashimoto's disease reduces thyroid hormone levels, affecting the ability to become pregnant. Babies born to women with hypothyroid conditions are also affected by the disease⁷.
Myxedema is severe hypothyroidism, a rare but life-threatening condition. The condition develops due to lengthy and untreated hypothyroidism.
The common symptoms of myxedema are drowsiness and unconsciousness. In some cases, myxedema can lead to a coma.
An evaluation of your medical history, a physical examination, and blood tests are used to diagnose Hashimoto's.
Blood tests are the most foolproof way to diagnose Hashimoto's disease, and they will test for:
Thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies
An ultrasound on the thyroid is also used for further investigations. Note that other disorders such as thyroid nodules also cause thyroid enlargement.
The treatment for Hashimoto's disease depends on the level of thyroid damage. The doctor also checks if you already have hypothyroidism.
For those who do not have hypothyroidism, doctors recommend treatment methods that help keep symptoms in check and maintain a good thyroid hormone level.
Levothyroxine is the medicine used to treat hypothyroidism and has similar components to the natural thyroid hormone.
Levothyroxine is available in pill and liquid form, and liquid and soft-gel capsules are suitable for people with digestive problems. You should not take the medicine on an empty stomach.
Some foods can affect how your body responds to the treatment, including soy, espresso coffee, grapefruit juice, and ingredients containing calcium and iodine.
Celiac disease and Hashimoto's disease have long-term effects on your health, but they can be managed. Take the first step toward treatment by getting a diagnosis if you are experiencing symptoms.
Celiac disease and thyroid disease | Beyond Celiac
Testing | Celiac Disease Foundation
Related conditions & mental health | Celiac Disease Foundation
Hypothyroidism and the heart (2017)
Hashimoto's disease | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Tissue transglutaminase antibody, IgA, serum | Mayo Clinic Laboratories