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People with Celiac Disease Face Higher Risk of Thyroid Autoimmune Disorders

Celiac.com 02/02/2012 - A team of researchers recently conducted a prospective controlled study on a gluten-free diet and autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with celiac disease.

Photo: CC - sea townThe research team included S. Metso, H. Hyytiä-Ilmonen, K. Kaukinen, H. Huhtala, P. Jaatinen, J. Salmi, J. Taurio, and P. Collin. They are affiliated with the Department of Internal Medicine at Tampere University Hospital in Tampere, Finland.

Prior to the study, there had been contradictory data regarding the ways in which early diagnosis and a gluten-free diet might slow the progression of associated autoimmune diseases in celiac disease.

The research team investigated the course of autoimmune thyroid diseases in newly diagnosed celiac disease patients, both before and after gluten-free dietary treatment.

For their study, the team examined twenty-seven adults with newly diagnosed celiac disease, both at the time of diagnosis and after one year on gluten-free diet.

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They also recorded and examined previously diagnosed and subclinical autoimmune thyroid diseases. The team used ultrasound to measure thyroid gland volume and echo-genicity. They also measured autoantibodies against celiac disease and thyroiditis, and conducted thyroid function tests.

As a control group, they enrolled twenty-seven non-celiac subjects, all of whom followed a normal, gluten-containing diet.

The data showed that, upon diagnosis, ten of 27 celiac disease patients had either manifest (n = 7) or subclinical (n = 3) thyroid diseases. Only three of 27 control subjects (10/27 vs. 3/27, p = 0.055) had thyroid disease.

After treatment with a gluten-free diet, thyroid volume continued to decrease significantly in the patients with celiac disease compared with the control subjects, indicating the progression of thyroid gland atrophy regardless of the gluten-free diet.

Overall, celiac patients faced a higher risk of thyroid autoimmune disorders than non-celiac control subjects. Moreover, a gluten-free diet did not seem to stop or reverse the progression of autoimmune disease after one year.


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10 Responses:

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said this on
03 Feb 2012 2:36:01 AM PDT
This is disturbing, but there is at least one study which suggests that the link between celiac and thyroid disease is selenium deficiency. This is common in celiac disease because of the malabsorption problems, and it is essential for proper thyroid function. If these patients above went gluten free without taking extra selenium this hypothesis would fit well.
Google selenium/celiac/thyroid to find the study. I am gluten sensitive and have antibodies to my thyroid, a sub-clinical auto immune problem - which I only discovered by having a private test, most people in the UK would never find out they had it unless their TSH was outside the wide parameters set here.

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said this on
06 Feb 2012 6:52:24 AM PDT
I have both Celiac and Hashimoto's hypothyroidism. I take thyroid meds, and I avoid all gluten in foods and non-food products. My niece was recently diagnosed with celiac and hypothyroid disease, too.


said this on
21 Jan 2015 4:56:16 AM PDT
Hi Donnie

I am having a very hard time obtaining official diagnosis but am almost 100% sure I have celiac and Hashimoto's. Am wondering what symptoms you and your niece experienced?

Gloria Brown
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said this on
06 Feb 2012 12:21:24 PM PDT
This makes me wonder several things:

1) The amount of trace gluten unwittingly entering the newly diagnosed patients? (i.e through consuming packaged products containing <20ppm of gluten, personal care products containing gluten, or airborne gluten inhaled into the oral passages and onto the digestive system from gluten-containing environments or pets, etc.)

2) Co-factors also affecting their autoimmune systems? (i.e. mercury fillings)

3) The affect of iodide being counteracted through salt which may contain small amounts of gluten anti-caking agents (as opposed to receiving it through SSKI potassium iodide).

4) The year and location of the study, and whether radiation from Fukushima nuclear power plant leakage may have any affect?

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said this on
06 Feb 2012 6:58:05 PM PDT
I have both celiac and Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. After six years on a gluten-free diet and still suffering from malabsorption problems, I read about an Array 4 test for gluten mimickers. After taking the test it ends up I when I eat tapioca, it has the same effect on me as wheat, barley, rye and oats. Eight months after removing tapioca from my already gluten-free diet, I am no longer suffering from the side effects of celiac disease.

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said this on
07 Feb 2012 7:55:13 AM PDT
Thank you for this information, I will definitely check on the selenium because I try to stay gluten free but still don't feel
like I know as much as I should.

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said this on
07 Feb 2012 11:02:44 AM PDT
So now that we have studies for the thyroid disorders that may develop or have developed in celiac, what can celiacs do to better treat their thyroid issues (recognize symptoms) in a natural way and or by medical treatment?
I would prefer natural personally.

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said this on
09 Feb 2012 6:00:25 PM PDT
I too have both thyroid and celiac and took years to diagnose because they did not show in the initial tests.

Lori Muir
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said this on
03 Apr 2012 9:48:42 AM PDT
Part Three:

I have been misdiagnosed with every non curable syndrome you can think of.... Low FODMAP AND GLUTEN FREE has saved my life...literally...

Those Aussies are light years ahead of the US in terms of understanding GUT health. I have read, and researched this without the help of ANY doctors... they refuse to even discuss food intolerances as it relates to my symptoms... they just want to hand out symptom treating drugs ( That will ALWAYS make me sicker ) or operate on me...

I HAVE HAD 'E-NuFF of that! LOW FODMAP Food is where it's AT! - Sincerely, Lori Muir, Birmingham, Alabama

Brian L
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said this on
20 Apr 2015 9:56:13 PM PDT
This study was anything but definitive. There were only 27 subjects that participated. Out of that 27, only 7 had clinical symptoms of thyroid disease with 3 having subclinical manifestations of thyroid disease. It is random writers who wish to write an article about one study that do not demonstrate any knowledge in evidence based medicine. This study was just a prospective study and its findings are hardly conclusive.

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Learn more about testing for celiac disease here: http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/screening/ You do have to be on a gluten diet for ANY of the celiac tests (blood and biopsy) to work. While the endoscopy (with biopsies) can reveal villi damage, many other things besides celiac disease can cause villi damage too: http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/faq/what-else-can-cause-damage-to-the-small-intestine-other-than-celiac-disease/ So, both the blood test and endoscopy are usually ordered. There are some exceptions, but those are not common.

Exactly what are your allergy symptoms? Were they IgG or IgE? Allergy testing as a whole is not super accurate -- especially the IgG. Were you on any H1 or H2 antihistamines for the last five days when you were tested? As far as celiac testing, four days without consuming gluten probably would not impact testing.

I've been seeing my dr for a few weeks now about my stomach issues. We've ruled out the gallbladder and h-pylori and today I had the celiac blood tests done. From the reading I've done the past two days, it seems to me that it's highly likely that I have it. I've had digestive issues for years, but they've gotten progressively worse over the past 6 months or so. Pain and nausea when eating, bloat, eternal constipation, dh rash, at it's worse, tight cramp-like pain in a fist under my sternum, radiating through my back and around my right side keeping me up at night. Also heartburn/reflux and trouble swallowing, etc. Anyway, about 2 months ago, I needed a change. I didn't go to the dr immediately because it seemed pointless. (I've mentioned stomach ache when eating to drs before and been blown off.) So, I started the Whole30 elimination diet (takes out soy, grains, dairy, peanuts, and leaves you basically eating meat & veggies). Figured it would show me what I needed to take out of my diet and hopefully feel better. It worked- I felt great! And it seems that grains and gluten are my biggest offenders. But, now I've been off gluten prior to celiac testing. It's been 7 weeks. After 4 weeks I tested steal cut oats, that I later found out were probably glutened. And then nothing until yesterday. Yesterday I had 2 pieces of bread and a muffin and today I had two pieces of bread and then the blood test. Is this going to be enough to show up on the tests? My dr said that it would probably show up, since I had some yesterday and today and was currently having symptoms. But, google seems to say that I should be glutened for 2 wks straight before testing. Has anyone tested positive after just a little gluten? If it's negative should I insist on doing it again after weeks back on gluten? I feel awful, but do want clear answers. Obviously, gluten's not going to be a part of my life any more either way.

So just to clarify had not consumed any gluten for about 4 days before testing. I was assured by my allergist that it wouldn't affect the test. But what was alarming was that she retested my food allergies (my most recent reaction was two weeks ago) and every food allergy I have came back negative. I don't understand how that is possible. These food allergies developed when I was 20 and I am almost 24 now.

Thanks! You too! I have learned from this experience to take charge of my own health. It's nice at least that we can try the gluten-free treatment without a firm diagnosis or a doctor confirming the disease. I've also felt some of the gluten withdrawal symptoms, and my stomach pain ebbs and flows, but I'm determined to stick with the gluten-free diet to see what a difference it makes. Gemini, thank you! This was really validating and useful for me to hear. I've felt so confused through this process and just want some answers. If the biopsy results do come back negative, I'm going to follow your advice and do the gluten-free diet with repeat blood testing after a while. If they come back positive, well, then I'll have my answer. I'm supposed to get them back next week.