If you are suffering from weight gain, hair loss, exhaustion, depression, mental fog, constipation fibromyalgia and even heart disease, you may have a thyroid condition. Thyroid problems can be hard to diagnose initially, because routine thyroid function blood testing does not always reveal abnormal thyroid hormones until your symptoms are well established. Sometimes, it is not until patients have been suffering from symptoms for years, that their thyroid blood tests show abnormalities. This is a real testament to “listen to the patient in preference to looking at test results.”

Some 20 million Americans suffer from a form of thyroid disease. Why? Two common factors contribute to thyroid disease; gluten sensitivity and iodine deficiency – both of which are extremely common.

Iodine deficiency

Next to iron, iodine deficiency is the second most widespread nutritional deficiency in the world. Living inland, or having a diet that contains little or no fish, can be the cause of iodine deficiency. Adequate levels of iodine are essential for normal thyroid function, so low iodine levels are a key cause of thyroid disease. Iodine is found in fish, seaweeds, iodised salt, eggs, and in some countries, milk and its products. Check to see if the milking equipment in your country is sterilised with an iodine-based product. If it is, then milk in your country will contain some iodine. Japanese cuisine is an excellent source of iodine, especially the dishes that contain seaweed.

Gluten sensitivity – really?

A growing number of studies are showing a strong link between both Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease and gluten, to the point where researchers are suggesting all people who have autoimmune thyroid disease should be tested for sensitivity to gluten.

The reason why gluten is the culprit for causing thyroid disease, is the protein molecule in gluten, closely resembles the structure of thyroid gland cells. When the immune system recognises the presence of similar, but non-thyroid cells, it sets up antibodies to destroy them. The trouble is, the antibodies also destroy thyroid cells.

Discovering gluten sensitivity can be done through your health professional, or you can just try going without gluten for a few weeks. Many people report feeling better within a short period of time after going gluten-free. If you feel the benefit, is important to remain gluten-free for at least six months. Even though you may feel better and think ‘just a little bit won’t matter’, the immune reaction to gluten lasts for up to six months after you have eaten gluten-containing foods.

Lists of gluten-free foods are easily available from a Coeliac disease website. Some people find going gluten-free a real inconvenience, but these days, the awareness of gluten sensitivity has led to a wide range of gluten-free breads, cakes and biscuits being available. Food labels generally indicate if a product is gluten-free, making shopping easier.

Professional help

If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, it is no time to go it alone – a health professional can order tests and start thyroid-specific supplements which will include iodine and other important thyroid nutrients. In the meantime, you can safely try going gluten-free and adding iodine-rich foods to your diet.