Thyroid & Your Gut ; Gluten, Food Allergies & Thyroid

A healthy gut is crucial for optimum thyroid health. In this video Dr. Ruscio discusses how gluten and food allergies can negatively affect your thyroid health.

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Thyroid & Your Gut ; Gluten, Food Allergies & Thyroid

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio, and welcome to the next video in our Thyroid Solutions video series.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.19.33 PMThyroid and Your Gut – Hidden Cause of Thyroid Problems, Number 3. We’ll be talking specifically about gluten, food allergies and how those affect your gut and your thyroid. This is a very, very important topic.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.20.26 PMHippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut.” Certainly, in the functional medicine approach, we have a very very strong look at gut function. I have to say that from my own personal health experience, and from that of my patients, the conventional approach toward gut-related issues, in my opinion, is absolutely terrible for most people. Again, I say that having been through it myself. I had gut issues that were missed by every doctor I went to, until I found one that practiced functional medicine. Now we’ll be coming back to our topic of gluten allergies, food allergies, and how that affects your gut and your thyroid.

What are food allergies and food intolerances? Technically, food allergies are when someone will eat a food and will have a very quick anaphylactic response. They may have a rash, they may have their throat close, they may need to be rushed off to the Emergency Room or inject themselves with an EpiPen. Those are food allergies. There’s also this area of food intolerances, where people don’t have a very sudden “throat-closing” event, but it’s more of a subtle, low-level, delayed reaction. This could be brain fog that comes and goes, and they don’t know it, but it’s being caused by their food. Someone could have breakouts on their skin, being caused by their food. Someone could also have bloating or gas, being caused by their food. They may have energy dips being caused by the food that they eat. It’s not something that hits you a minute after you eat the food, highly severe, it may not hit you until 30 – 60 minutes, several hours, or even a day later. That’s when you may find these low-level symptoms. This makes it hard for people to be able to figure out what their food intolerances are.

When you consume a food that you’re intolerant to, this food will cause many things, but the fundamental thing is this: it’s almost like you’re swallowing a piece of barbed wire. This food will be very noxious and irritating to your intestines. As it goes through your intestinal tract, it will cause inflammation. A number of other things are a byproduct of that inflammation.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.21.31 PM
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Food allergies and food intolerances, as I just mentioned, will cause an inflammatory reaction in the intestines. It’s also been shown that people who consume foods that they’re allergic to, in some cases, can really irritate the immune system and may provoke or stimulate the autoimmune process that we’ve been talking about.

There’s also the potential to cause toxicity. When you have this inflammatory response in the intestines, it causes damage to the intestines, and then it causes not to be able to break down their food properly. Some of these foods that are not getting broken down properly can actually form toxic byproducts. Additionally, people can start to have imbalances in their gut flora which can then lead to improper detoxification and the buildup of certain chemicals in the gut.

The potential to cause a stress hormone reaction. Again, coming back to our analogy, think about swallowing that piece of barbed wire. As that piece of barbed wire goes through your intestines and causes inflammation, the body responds to that damaging process by releasing stress hormones. We’ve already discussed the stress hormone/ thyroid connection in previous videos.

There’s also the potential to cause nutrient deficiencies by malabsorption, because if there’s damage occurring in the intestines, the intestines can’t absorb food, and you can start to have signs and symptoms of malnutrition.

There’s also the potential to imbalance male and female hormones, in two different ways. First, by causing a stress hormone reaction, prolonged stress hormone reactions will eventually cause imbalances in male and female hormones. Also, the inflammation will cause a woman to have high testosterone, and a man to have high estrogen… exactly what you don’t want if you’re a man or a woman.

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Coming back to our list of causative factors that we’ve gone over in previous videos, you see that these gut issues and gut food allergies can cause any one of the causative factors on our cause list:

•Inflammation
• Toxicity
• Stress hormone problems
• Autoimmune damage
• Nutrient deficiencies
• Imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels
• Digestive problems
• Stress hormone imbalance
• High estrogen/low testosterone

Identifying food allergies is one of the interventions that can yield a lot of benefit for thyroid patients. Please don’t take my word for it, let’s look at a few quotes from the medical literature.

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This is from the Journal of Thyroid Research in 2012:

“Most of the patients with positive serologic (meaning blood) test for CD (Celiac Disease) had HT (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) (54.5%) and overt hypothyroidism (54.5%).”

What they’re saying here is that most patients who have an allergy to gluten also have Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.

“Screening high-risk patients for CD, such as those with autoimmune diseases (which Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are), is a reasonable strategy given the increased prevalence.”

 

A quick side note here: You may not be Celiac, but there was a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012 where the American Journal of Gastroenterology said there is an entity of people who don’t have full-blown Celiac Disease, but they do have gluten intolerance. It’s not a full-blown diagnosable disease like Celiac Disease, but it’s an intolerance. These patients need to be on a gluten-free diet also. This won’t be everybody. I’m certainly not a gluten-free zealot, but something that we want to evaluate with any patient with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.

What exactly happens in this gluten intolerance phenomenon we hear so much about?

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Here you’re seeing two slides, again, from the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The one in the upper left hand corner is a healthy sample of intestinal tissue, and you see here these fluffy, little, finger-like projections called microvilli. They’re a very, very important part of intestinal architecture that allows you to absorb nutrients from your food. In full-blown Celiac Disease, it ends up looking like this. The villi actually get burned away from this inflammatory response. This is legitimate. This inflammatory response in the intestines is not just theoretical or conjecture. This is a legitimate thing we see, we actually take samples of intestinal tissue in these people. When you progress from healthy intestinal tissue to this damaged tissue, your thyroid function will plummet. We see visual evidence of this here, and like I mentioned from the Journal of Thyroid Research previously, we also see the clinical trials that substantiate that. Food allergies, and your gut and your thyroid, very intimately related.

A few more quotes from the research:

“…in most patients who strictly followed a 1-year gluten withdrawal (or gluten-free diet) (as confirmed by intestinal mucosa recovery), there was a normalization of subclinical hypothyroidism.”

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Wow! Some people can reverse hypothyroidism just by changing their diet. Continuing:

“The greater frequency of thyroid disease among Celiac Disease patients justifies a thyroid functional assessment. In distinct cases, gluten withdrawal may single-handedly reverse the abnormality.”

Wow, again! In some patients, not in all, but in some patients going gluten-free can be very helpful for a thyroid condition. Finally:

“On a gluten-free diet an excellent clinical and histological (meaning the way your intestines looked) response was recorded with an improvement of hypothyroidism and reduction of the thyroxine dosage.”

These people were able to have increased intestinal health, feel a lot better, and reduce their dose of medication by being on a gluten-free diet. For some people, this can be very helpful.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.27.46 PMHow does your gut connect to your thyroid?

Now, how does your gut connect to your thyroid? Gut inflammation will decrease the conversion of T4 into T3. We’ve already talked about how incredibly important it is to have good conversion of T4 into T3.

Just the gut inflammation itself will a decrease in conversion, which will cause hypothyroidism. Continuing, as the gut inflammation stimulates the immune system, the immune system then starts attacking the thyroid gland (remember, that’s what Hashimoto’s is). Then, as the thyroid gland becomes damaged, it can’t produce enough hormone. That’s hypothyroidism. There are two different mechanisms through which gut inflammation will cause hypothyroidism.

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Here’s what that looks like. We talked about this in one of our prior videos, but this is an actual sample of the intestinal lining, stained, so that immune cells will become blue and green. As you can see, there’s an immense amount of immune cells in the intestinal lining… one of the reasons why there’s such an intimate relationship between your intestinal health and your immune system.

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(Click slide to enlarge)

There are some other important food allergies to mention. Gluten, we’ve already talked about. Dairy is another one that can be a problem for people, as soy can be for some, corn for others, eggs, nuts, and artificial sweeteners. Not every patient is allergic to all of these, but when a patient first comes in, we want to carefully evaluate if they’re allergic or sensitive to any of these foods. By helping a patient determine this and get them off these foods, patients can experience a remarkable level of improvement.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.32.00 PMThat’s our Thyroid and Your Gut – Hidden Cause of Thyroid Problems, Number 3, specifically on gluten, food allergies, and thyroid. In our next video, we’ll be talking about something I’m very passionate about, which is thyroid and infections, which is Hidden Cause #4. We’ll discuss how infections can cause inflammation and stimulate thyroid autoimmunity. This is Dr. Ruscio, and I hope you find this helpful. Thanks!

Discussion

I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!

28 thoughts on “Thyroid & Your Gut ; Gluten, Food Allergies & Thyroid

  1. Dear Dr Ruscio

    Thank you so much for simplifying and explaining it so clearly !
    The slides are a great help too !
    I can’t tell you how helpful this series is , and how grateful I’m !
    Unfortunately we don’t have here Functional Medicine Practitoners.

    God Bless You

    Carmela, Israel

    1. Thank you so much, I value feedback and am so glad the info has helped you. My office does see international patients via skype so feel free to reach out should you need more help. Best of luck! 🙂

  2. Dear Dr Ruscio

    Thank you so much for simplifying and explaining it so clearly !
    The slides are a great help too !
    I can’t tell you how helpful this series is , and how grateful I’m !
    Unfortunately we don’t have here Functional Medicine Practitoners.

    God Bless You

    Carmela, Israel

    1. Thank you so much, I value feedback and am so glad the info has helped you. My office does see international patients via skype so feel free to reach out should you need more help. Best of luck! 🙂

  3. Hi Dr. Ruscio,

    I tested positive for Hashimoto’s, but am frustrated about diet. I haven’t had gluten in 4 yrs, as far as I know, which is a great sacrifice for a foodie living in Portland, OR !!! I would be really surprised if I had an overt reaction to gluten if I ate a pizza. I also took Cyrex’s gluten cross-reactivity test and lit the whole thing up back when they had about 20 items. And now they have a test with many more items I could take. I have several possible auto-immune issues, one of which started 6 months into strict GAPS diet! Other cognitive and mood complaints may be muddled by a head injury. I really am stressed about not knowing whether I should live in a food bubble or, just make some 80-20 effort. Any advice to give me a sense of what is real here?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan,
      Great food scene in OR! I am not a big fan of food allergy testing but do recommend you try elimination/reintroduction to determine what your dietary boundaries are. We did a podcast on this called something like, “Finding your ideal diet” that really speaks to this – try our searchbox. This episode on gluten might help also, https://drruscio.com/gluten-lie-author-alan-levinovitz-phd-episode-42/
      My take here is to be practical and not live in fear 🙂 Hope this helps!

      1. Hi
        I’m just wondering why you don’t like food allergy testing?
        Also, in Australia we have naturopaths, but I don’t hear anything about functional medicine. Are they the same thing?
        Thanks
        Karen, australia

  4. Hi Dr. Ruscio,

    I tested positive for Hashimoto’s, but am frustrated about diet. I haven’t had gluten in 4 yrs, as far as I know, which is a great sacrifice for a foodie living in Portland, OR !!! I would be really surprised if I had an overt reaction to gluten if I ate a pizza. I also took Cyrex’s gluten cross-reactivity test and lit the whole thing up back when they had about 20 items. And now they have a test with many more items I could take. I have several possible auto-immune issues, one of which started 6 months into strict GAPS diet! Other cognitive and mood complaints may be muddled by a head injury. I really am stressed about not knowing whether I should live in a food bubble or, just make some 80-20 effort. Any advice to give me a sense of what is real here?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan,
      Great food scene in OR! I am not a big fan of food allergy testing but do recommend you try elimination/reintroduction to determine what your dietary boundaries are. We did a podcast on this called something like, “Finding your ideal diet” that really speaks to this – try our searchbox. This episode on gluten might help also, https://drruscio.com/gluten-lie-author-alan-levinovitz-phd-episode-42/
      My take here is to be practical and not live in fear 🙂 Hope this helps!

      1. Hi
        I’m just wondering why you don’t like food allergy testing?
        Also, in Australia we have naturopaths, but I don’t hear anything about functional medicine. Are they the same thing?
        Thanks
        Karen, australia

  5. Hi Dr Ruscio,

    I have heard you speak about allergy/ immune reactivity testing before and you have been cautious with their validity. I have done Cyrex arrays 4, 5 and 10 and discovered apparent reactivity to a gluten fragment (alpha gliadin 17-mer) as well as even higher reactivity to milk fat protein antigen (butyrophilin) (as well as several others antigen including egg white and in particular very high reactivity to almond).

    Both you and people like Kresser and Malterre seem to advocate for elimination reintroduction methods for determining clinical significance but for me (or anyone else in a similar situation) there are no obvious symptoms or noticeable reactions to the reintroduction of these foods of which I’m particularly interested in almonds, eggs and dairy, as in theory even ghee and butter are antigenic. I can understand the importance of gut integrity and looking for gut infections as possible causative agents and have investigated and pursued these avenues to not avail.

    I have been chasing particular symptoms of afternoon fatigue and other small suboptimal health symptoms but these appear to not be effected by lengthy elimination.

    So in summary it is difficult to decide whether continuing exclusion of certain foods based on lab results (all be it Cyrex) and putting some faith that in the long term there are possible benefits in the reduction or the elimination of as yet asymptomatic disease progression or whether the reintroduction of some dairy (in the form of raw milk, some cheeses and butter), eggs and almonds is actually of insignificant detriment, all be it even though they may have tested immunologically reactive via blood testing.

    Thank you for any information or advice you may be able to give. Tim

    1. Hi Tim,
      If you have already performed an elimination/reintro and noticed no change I think you are most of the way there. If you wanted to be extra cautious you could do some testing and see if a biomarker changes with avoiding/eating these foods, for example thyroid antibodies, but be cautious b/c this can be a slippery slope which can quickly turn to frivolous obsession. I think the most plausible answer, generally speaking, is that your diet is probably OK with or without these foods and the solution to your minor problems may not be a dietary one. You may be forcing a dietary solution to a non-dietary problem. How does the rest of your life look for example? Here is some food for thought, which may or may not be relevant but worth sharing http://sigmanutrition.com/episode113/
      Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply.
        I suppose it is up to me to decide if any improvements made correlate to dietary changes but when they are more vague or the symptoms are infrequent yet regular it becomes harder to discern any correlation, i.e. the changes can be subtle and may take time to see the full extent of the improvements.

        Are you of the same opinion as Dr Tom O’Bryan that any tested immune reactivity to gluten/ gliadin is detrimental and exclusion of gluten from the diet is a necessity ?

        I can see with may be some of the other food immune reactivity the question of which comes first – the chicken (gut integrity) or the egg (food immune reactivity) becomes a little more grey.

        Thanks again, I really appreciate all the wonderful work and information you have been sharing and while I continue to study nutritional medicine (to become a primary health practitioner) you have inspired me to ‘fact check’ and not assume all of what I read and hear. However searching those databases and reading the papers first hand just chew through time, I don’t know how you do it !

        PS Other lifestyle factors such as meditation, kundalini yoga etc have become my next important stones to turn over.

  6. Hi Dr Ruscio,

    I have heard you speak about allergy/ immune reactivity testing before and you have been cautious with their validity. I have done Cyrex arrays 4, 5 and 10 and discovered apparent reactivity to a gluten fragment (alpha gliadin 17-mer) as well as even higher reactivity to milk fat protein antigen (butyrophilin) (as well as several others antigen including egg white and in particular very high reactivity to almond).

    Both you and people like Kresser and Malterre seem to advocate for elimination reintroduction methods for determining clinical significance but for me (or anyone else in a similar situation) there are no obvious symptoms or noticeable reactions to the reintroduction of these foods of which I’m particularly interested in almonds, eggs and dairy, as in theory even ghee and butter are antigenic. I can understand the importance of gut integrity and looking for gut infections as possible causative agents and have investigated and pursued these avenues to not avail.

    I have been chasing particular symptoms of afternoon fatigue and other small suboptimal health symptoms but these appear to not be effected by lengthy elimination.

    So in summary it is difficult to decide whether continuing exclusion of certain foods based on lab results (all be it Cyrex) and putting some faith that in the long term there are possible benefits in the reduction or the elimination of as yet asymptomatic disease progression or whether the reintroduction of some dairy (in the form of raw milk, some cheeses and butter), eggs and almonds is actually of insignificant detriment, all be it even though they may have tested immunologically reactive via blood testing.

    Thank you for any information or advice you may be able to give. Tim

    1. Hi Tim,
      If you have already performed an elimination/reintro and noticed no change I think you are most of the way there. If you wanted to be extra cautious you could do some testing and see if a biomarker changes with avoiding/eating these foods, for example thyroid antibodies, but be cautious b/c this can be a slippery slope which can quickly turn to frivolous obsession. I think the most plausible answer, generally speaking, is that your diet is probably OK with or without these foods and the solution to your minor problems may not be a dietary one. You may be forcing a dietary solution to a non-dietary problem. How does the rest of your life look for example? Here is some food for thought, which may or may not be relevant but worth sharing http://sigmanutrition.com/episode113/
      Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply.
        I suppose it is up to me to decide if any improvements made correlate to dietary changes but when they are more vague or the symptoms are infrequent yet regular it becomes harder to discern any correlation, i.e. the changes can be subtle and may take time to see the full extent of the improvements.

        Are you of the same opinion as Dr Tom O’Bryan that any tested immune reactivity to gluten/ gliadin is detrimental and exclusion of gluten from the diet is a necessity ?

        I can see with may be some of the other food immune reactivity the question of which comes first – the chicken (gut integrity) or the egg (food immune reactivity) becomes a little more grey.

        Thanks again, I really appreciate all the wonderful work and information you have been sharing and while I continue to study nutritional medicine (to become a primary health practitioner) you have inspired me to ‘fact check’ and not assume all of what I read and hear. However searching those databases and reading the papers first hand just chew through time, I don’t know how you do it !

        PS Other lifestyle factors such as meditation, kundalini yoga etc have become my next important stones to turn over.

  7. wow! Thank you for the information. Right now I am going through a rough time. I’ll give you some history of what has been going on. My whole life I have suffered from eczema and thought for the most part had it under control. I have many sensitivities. I am also gluten sensitive and try to avoid as much as possible . It seems now that my whole system is off balance somehow. I recently went for blood work and found that my thyroid is low functioning. Your video confirms what I felt that there is a connection. I will also tell you that as far back as 3 generations, we have pancreatic cancer in the family. As you can understand I am desperate to try to resolve this issue not only for myself but for future generations. I would appreciate any guidance you would be able send my way. Much Thanks, Donna

    1. Hi Donna,

      Glad this was helpful!

      I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Dr Ruscio’s book, “Healthy Gut, Healthy You”, where he lays out the exact protocol he uses in the clinic to help patients with frustrating issues (including food sensitivities) in an easy-to-follow DIY format. You can find it here: https://www.drruscio.com/getgutbook

      Many people also experience an improvement in thyroid symptoms once improving the health of their gut.

      I would also look through the thyroid content on this site as there’s a lot of useful info.

      Hope this helps!

  8. wow! Thank you for the information. Right now I am going through a rough time. I’ll give you some history of what has been going on. My whole life I have suffered from eczema and thought for the most part had it under control. I have many sensitivities. I am also gluten sensitive and try to avoid as much as possible . It seems now that my whole system is off balance somehow. I recently went for blood work and found that my thyroid is low functioning. Your video confirms what I felt that there is a connection. I will also tell you that as far back as 3 generations, we have pancreatic cancer in the family. As you can understand I am desperate to try to resolve this issue not only for myself but for future generations. I would appreciate any guidance you would be able send my way. Much Thanks, Donna

    1. Hi Donna,

      Glad this was helpful!

      I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Dr Ruscio’s book, “Healthy Gut, Healthy You”, where he lays out the exact protocol he uses in the clinic to help patients with frustrating issues (including food sensitivities) in an easy-to-follow DIY format. You can find it here: https://www.drruscio.com/getgutbook

      Many people also experience an improvement in thyroid symptoms once improving the health of their gut.

      I would also look through the thyroid content on this site as there’s a lot of useful info.

      Hope this helps!

  9. Does thyroid problems cause food intolerances and defincency in vitamin minerals amino acids and enzymes? Or is it the intolerances and deficiencys that cause thyroid problems?

    1. Based on the video above, it looks as though he’s saying the intolerances can cause issues with the thyroid.

  10. Does thyroid problems cause food intolerances and defincency in vitamin minerals amino acids and enzymes? Or is it the intolerances and deficiencys that cause thyroid problems?

    1. Based on the video above, it looks as though he’s saying the intolerances can cause issues with the thyroid.

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