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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Celiac Disease Carries Serious Risk of Thyroid Disorders


    Celiac.com 11/25/2008 - Celiac disease is one of the most under-diagnosed medical disorders, with 97% of all cases currently remaining undiagnosed. According to the National Institutes of Health, 3 million people in theUnited States with celiac disease, while only 140,000 have beendiagnosed. Celiac disease ismore than twice as common in people over 50 years of age.

    People with untreated celiac disease are at risk of developing anynumber of associated conditions, including gastrointestinal cancer atrates of 40 to 100 times those of the general population, in additionto osteoporosis, and a two-fold increase in the risk of fractures,including first-time hip fractures. Moreover, an unusually highpercentage of people with celiac disease suffer from the followingconditions: Anemia, Arthritis, Ataxia, Cancer—Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cow's Milk Intolerance, Dermatitis, Diabetes-Type 1, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Liver Disease, Migraine Headaches, Nerve Diseaseand/or Peripheral Neuropathy, Obesity, Osteoporosis,Osteomalacia/Low Bone Density, Pancreatic & Thyroid Disorders.

    According to a new study by doctors based in Sweden, people with celiac disease face a significantly higher risk of developing thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroiditis.

    The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that creates the hormones that control human metabolism.  People with under-active thyroid, called hypothyroidism, suffer symptoms such as fatigue, sensitivity to cold, dry skin and weight gain, while people with overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism, commonly suffer from symptoms such as excessive sweating, heat intolerance, and nervousness. However, mild cases of hypo- or hyperthyroidism commonly present no symptoms at all. Inflammation of the thyroid gland is called Thyroiditis.

    The research team, led by Dr. Peter Elfstrom at Orebro University Hospital, reviewed Swedish national health records covering the period from 1963 to 2003. The team compared rates of thyroid disease for 14,000 people with celiac disease against some 68,000 non-celiac control subjects matched for age and gender.

    The results showed that people with celiac disease are diagnosed with hypothyroidism more than four times as often as non-celiacs, with hyperthyroidism more than three times as often as non-celiacs, and with hyperthyroidism more than 3.6 times as often as non-celiacs. Moreover, the relationship works both ways: people with established hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroiditis face much higher rates of celiac disease.

    These results held true even after the data were adjusted for potential confounders, including the presence of diabetes mellitus. The researchers theorize that the association between celiac disease and thyroid disease may be due to shared genetic or immunological traits.

    This is just the latest in a string of studies that drives home the importance of early testing for suspected celiac cases, as early discovery and treatment with a gluten free diet greatly reduces associated complications in celiac disease.

    Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, October 2008.


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    My mother had her thyroid removed fairly early in her life, had colon cancer and then died from pancreatic cancer. This article was very interesting to me.

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    I would like to see the study which shows that 39% of people with celiac disease have lymphoma. This is alarmingly high and concerning. Can you elaborate please?

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    Interesting. I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroid disease over 10 years ago. It was about 3 years ago that I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I think the thing that bothers me the most is that no doctor that I saw for Hashimotos's ever thought about testing me for celiac disease. When brought up they just brushed off the idea. It really makes me mad.

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    I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto disease 2 years ago, no mention was ever made of celiac disease either. I was diagnosed with celiac disease 4 months ago. Once you have celiac disease and start reading the different articles of what to look for or to what it may cause, it is then too late. In my opinion, the problem is that there are so many specialists that the line of communication gets broken somewhere along the line.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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