Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I was shocked! When I think about it now, I realize I had the symptoms and my body was telling me I was sick, I just didn't listen. Even though I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, I didn't pay attention to the signs and signals that something was wrong. This taught me a very valuable lesson: even very small changes in our body or habits, such as sleeping a lot more, means something is different. It may be the first sign of an illness or it may be a reminder to start paying close attention to our health.
Before I was diagnosed, I worked at a job with a very toxic work environment. I often came home upset, tired and angry. Even when I was at work, I couldn't concentrate, I was unmotivated and I dreaded going to the office. Since I was spending so much time at a job I hated, I figured the fatigue, lack of motivation and irritability was due to stress. I was mostly plant based at the time, eating meat, chicken, pork and fish 3 days a week. I am 80% organic and strive to buy free range, pasture fed, organic meat and wild caught fish most of the time.
What I didn't know is there is a link between gluten and hypothyroidism. I've been aware of the gluten free craze for quite sometime. Celiac disease is the biggest reason most people need to avoid gluten. I have friends who went gluten free and felt better, in general, even though they weren't formally diagnosed with Celiac disease. What I didn't know is that gluten is inflammatory for other health conditions, such as hypothyroidism.
#1 TRUTH: Gluten Proteins Negatively Affect 40% of Americans
When I found out gluten can negatively affect the thyroid, I started researching why right away. Why is gluten such an issue for people who are not diagnosed Celiac? What is the pathway gluten uses to affect the thyroid? What other health conditions are associated with gluten? What has gluten in it? As I did the research, I was more thoroughly convinced going gluten free can significantly improve a person's health - even if they are not diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley, and rye, causes damage to the small intestine, but the damage goes away in most people after following a strict gluten-free diet. In addition to small-intestine injury, gluten may affect other organs such as the thyroid, liver and brain. (Source: NIH) It turns out most people will test negative for gluten sensitivity but when diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, going gluten free is often recommended. Why? An autoimmune disease means there is inflammation in the body. Gluten causes inflammation. To help reduce inflammation in the body going gluten free can help.
Even if you aren't told to stop eating gluten, it is wise to experiment when faced with an autoimmune diagnosis. When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, my Doctor didn't advise me about dietary changes. I had to learn that for myself. Instead, she wanted me to start seeing an endocrinologist and take the traditional steps for treatment. Since I always try to solve health issues that are not an emergency holistically, I did the research and experimented with a variety of solutions. So far, I am lucky enough to say that my thyroid function is back to borderline and I continue to work on improving it.
According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 23.5 million Americans (more than seven percent of the population) suffer from an autoimmune disease—and the prevalence is rising. It is estimated that nearly one-third of the risk of developing an autoimmune disease is hereditary, and the same disease may run in a family. Other risk factors include environmental triggers, such as viruses, bacteria, and perhaps nutritional factors. (Source: Gene.Com)
#2 TRUTH: Giving Up Gluten Is Hard
Gluten is in bread, pasta, farro, crackers, pretzels, pizza crust, cookies, cakes, barley, rye, beer and wheatberries, to name a few. These are foods that are part of our normal routine. It can be really difficult to stop eating gluten containing foods. This is where a health coach can help!
What is a health coach? A health coach uses knowledge, training and education in nutrition and wellness to help you address a variety of health concerns, such as going gluten free. I am a Certified Health Coach passionate about guiding you on your wellness journey.
I educate and empower you to take control of your health. We'll work together to identify challenges and roadblocks that stop you from reaching your goals. I'll provide support and accountability so you can succeed at your health goals.
How does working with me change your life? You could:
✅Be more present with the kids
✅Banish fatigue and gain energy
✅Shed that extra weight and keep it off
✅Eliminate skin rashes and acne
✅Sleep through out the night and wake up feeling rested
✅Say goodbye to brain fog, mood swings and headaches
✅Stop worrying about your health
✅Reduce stress and anxiety
It’s very simple. No jumping through hoops and NO PRESSURE.
If we determine it’s not a fit, we’ll go our separate ways for now.
If it is a fit, we can take the next step and get you started on the path to better health.
The best way to figure out if gluten is one of your issues, is to go cold turkey for 45 - 90 days. I did it and it is hard! But if your committed to solving a recent medical diagnosis and do not need pharmaceuticals, going gluten free cold turkey is a necessary step to reduce inflammation in the body.
Once the gluten free period is over, slowly add gluten back into your routine. Eat a bowl of pasta and see how you feel for the next three days. Do you have aches, pains, gas, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, fatigue or bloating? If yes, gluten is definitely an issue. If you don't have any symptoms, gluten may not be an issue for you but reducing it in your routine is worth it.
I was one of those people who did not have a strong reaction to gluten. So I decided to eat it occasionally. That means 1 to 2 times per week. Interestingly enough, I took a gut health test on ThryveInside.com and the results showed I am able to digest gluten 60% of the time. This is why I didn't have a strong reaction when I reintroduced gluten back into my routine.
The great thing about the Thryve test is the food recommendations. The results tell you what foods to eat and what to avoid to correct the specific issue you are working to reverse. In my case, eating asparagus, artichoke, chicory root and quinoa will help me produce more of the good bacteria in my gut to process gluten. Will I ever go back to eating gluten containing foods all the time? No! It is not worth the damage it can do to my body as I age. Will I continue to eat it occasionally? Maybe. It depends on if I am able to improve my gluten intolerance score with the changes I've made in the foods I eat.
#3 TRUTH: Giving Up Gluten Is Totally Worth It!
Gluten is a by-product we can live without. It is not an ingredient that we need to be healthy. The health benefits of going gluten free include:
Improved energy levels
People who have gluten sensitivity often suffer from chronic fatigue. This is because consuming gluten products damages their intestines which in turn impairs the absorption of several nutrients including iron. This iron deficiency leads to anemia which results in debilitating fatigue and exertion intolerance. Switching to a gluten-free diet, will give your intestines a chance to heal and this will restore nutrient absorption and improve your energy levels.
If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you are likely to experience excess gas and bloating after eating foods that contain gluten. When you switch to a gluten-free diet, you will notice an immediate difference as your digestive distress will disappear and your stomach will be visibly flatter after your meal.
Reduces joint pain
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are generally associated with the gastrointestinal tract, but they can have far reaching effects. Since celiac disease causes an abnormal immune reaction, it increases the risk of inflammation. This is why joint pain, especially in the knees, back and wrists is a common symptom of celiac disease. A gluten-free diet will help to prevent this type of joint pain but take steps to ensure that you do not ingest even a small amount of gluten as it can result in a recurrence of your symptoms.
People with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from depression. However, researchers found that following a gluten free diet has a favorable effect on depression symptoms and can help to improve a patient’s quality of life. There are research findings of improved mood when choosing to stop eating gluten: "ingestion of gluten plays a role in the presence of depressive symptoms." (Source: NIH)
Reduces lactose tolerance
People who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance often exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance as well. This is because the lining of the gut produces the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose found in dairy products. People with a gluten intolerance suffer from damage to the gut which impairs lactase production. However, this effect is temporary, and a gluten-free diet will promote gut health and reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Improves skin health
People who have undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten intolerance are at a higher risk for rashes, including eczema and psoriasis. Following a gluten free diet can help to improve your overall skin health and even eliminate these skin problems.
Reduces hair loss
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance have been linked to nutritional deficiencies which in turn cause hair loss. Starting a gluten free diet can help to reverse this type of hair loss, increase hair density and improve hair texture. (Source: Gluten Free Living)
Gluten is more than just an by-product in wheat. It is an inflammatory substance that can cause Celiac disease, IBS, hypothyroidism, liver disease, acne, eczema and arthritis, to name a few. To find out if you have a gluten sensitivity, take an at-home gut test or follow an elimination diet for 45 - 90 days. While giving up gluten is hard, it can significantly improve your health in a variety of ways. Working with a Certified Health Coach can help you achieve a gluten free lifestyle.
Are you thinking about going gluten-free? Let me know by leaving a comment below.