Hormones are the messengers and regulators of the body, determining the function of every cell. For any hormone to be used in the body it has to be attached to its corresponding receptor site, which is found on a cell's membrane.
Think of the receptor site as a special lock that can only be unlocked by that specific hormone. For example, a thyroid receptor site can only be unlocked by a thyroid hormone and nothing else.
Thyroid: The Queen Of All Hormones
There are only two types of receptor sites that are found in every cell of the body, thyroid and vitamin d receptor sites. To put it simply, every cell of our body depends on the thyroid, and it impacts your health in many different ways. If your thyroid hormones don't function healthily, neither will the rest of your body.
Around 20 million Americans and 250 million people worldwide have low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. One in 8 women will struggle with a thyroid problem in her lifetime, and up to 90% of all thyroid problems are autoimmune in nature, the most common of which is Hashimoto's.
It's important to note that there's a 30% chance that the antibody tests to diagnose Hashimoto's will present an indecisive or false negative result, causing many Hashimoto's cases to go undiagnosed for years.
The Gluten-Thyroid Storm
Since the majority of low-thyroid problems are somewhere on the autoimmune spectrum, we have to look at what triggers the immune system to attack the thyroid. What happens is a case of mistaken identity, and gluten is one of the main culprits.
When gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains, passes through the gut lining and into your blood stream, your immune system will tag the foreign invader (gluten) with antibodies for destruction. The problem is that your immune system can mistake the thyroid for gluten, causing it to come under attack.
Gluten Intolerance Is Not Just A Celiac Problem
When people think of gluten intolerance, they typically think of celiac disease (CD), but this is just one manifestation of gluten intolerance.
To be officially labeled as having CD, there needs to be significant destruction of your instestinal microvilli. Interestingly, one study found that more than 25% of celiacs have some sort of thyroid problem. Only about 10% of people with CD have obvious GI symptoms, causing many people to go undiagnosed.
Functional medicine realizes that there are millions more on the autoimmune spectrum who are falling through the cracks of mainstream medicine and left to fend for themselves.
An estimated 1 in 20 Americans, and by some accounts as many as 1 in 3 have what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Though many autoimmune sufferers will avoid gluten for a few weeks and give up, unsure if it is causing them problems, it can take up to six months to recover from the inflammatory response!
It's important to know that being mostly gluten-free is like being mostly pregnant. You are or you aren't! It's also crucial to learn exactly how to go gluten-free the right way with healthy whole-food choices.
So what do you do if you find yourself thinking gluten may be causing you issues? Here are six things to consider:
1. Comprehensive gluten intolerance labs
Most mainstream doctors run only basic alpha gliadin labs, which causes many to hear that gluten is not an issue for them. Getting a full panel will give accurate insight into your case.
2. Gut health labs
Ask your doctor to run specific blood and stool labs to assess the health of the microbiome and rule out leaky gut syndrome.
3. Full thyroid panel
You can have normal-looking thyroid-stimulating hormone results but still have an underlying thyroid problem. Make sure to have a full functional medicine view of your thyroid hormone health.
4. Avoid other triggers
In addition to gluten, make sure to educate yourself on the other triggers for autoimmune thyroid problems.
5. Autoimmune healing tools
There are many natural healing tools to balance the immune system that you can start to bring into your life.
6. Personalized functional medicine care
Many people have gone years of their lives having to be their own clinician because doctors have not given them answers. They spend endless hours on Google trying to solve their health problems.
Getting personalized functional medicine care can be a sigh of relief to know someone understands what you are going through.