Gluten & Autoimmunity- What's the Story?

Updated: Jan 17

If there is something that you should know about me - it is that I do not like being told what to do. Which has a lot of pros and cons in my life (bless everyone’s hearts that have to deal with me). But one pro it has for me as a clinician is that I LOVE educating patients. I am a firm believer if you don’t understand it then why the heck would you do it? I wouldn’t, obviously. 💁🏽‍♀️

So when patients come to me and tell me they were told to go gluten free for their Hashimotos Thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid condition). I always start with what is your understanding behind the reason this recommendation was made. And more times than not, they have no idea besides “a doctor told them to do it”. 🚨 Now no one is bashing doctors because also bless their hearts, they have about 1,000 other things to talk to you about during that short little visit. But I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you WHY they suggest it and why I have to side with them and say, their recommendation comes with all the best hope and scientific reasoning. 📚

If you aren’t familiar with leaky gut and/or autoimmunity, pause and go scroll our page for those posts to learn more. Or better yet, subscribe to us on iTunes and listen to those very focused talks around hypothyroidism. When you have an increased permeability in the gut (key part of any autoimmune condition) you start to let larger food product through the gut lining into the blood stream where they shouldn’t be. Your immune system is really only cut out to detect pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites and candida. Not gluten (the protein of wheat). 🍞🥖

Your poor immune system is looking at that whole wheat bread you just ate like WHAT KIND OF MONSTER VIRUS ARE YOU?!? It doesn’t realize it’s a piece of toast you had with eggs this morning. So every time you eat that bread and the proteins make it through that gut lining, your immune system goes into fight mode and starts going on a killing spree. Silly immune system is going to see that gluten molecule and attack but unbeknownst to you, your thyroid tissue looks almost IDENTICAL to that gluten protein and guess what? You guessed it. Your immune system now thinks your thyroid is that same monster and attacks your own tissue. Your own body is now attacking itself like it’s the last thing it will ever do. This gluten response can last up to 6 months!! One of the most immediate ways to start putting that fire out? Stop the intake of all gluten/wheat.

PMID: 30060266

PMID: 12192201

PMID: 15244201

PMID: 12919165

Katie Morra MS, RD, LDN, IFMCP is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and Registered Dietitian specializing in gut health, the microbiome, and nutrition. Her functional medicine nutrition practice is based in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Katie focuses on the root causes of inflammation, autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth, food sensitivities and leaky gut, amongst other chronic disease states.​

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