Celiac Disease and Thyroid Disease – Is There a Link?

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The thyroid, a gland located at the base of the neck, has the major responsibility of regulating hormones that control some of the body’s most essential functions, the metabolism.

Currently, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. People of all ages and races can get thyroid disease. However, women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.

The most common types of Thyroid disease are Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease.

Hashimoto’s disease is a form of hypothyroidism and it’s the most common form. The thyroid gland becomes inflamed and enlarged because of antibodies attacks and it begins to under-function causing thyroid hormone deficiencies within the body. (learn more about the symptoms here.)

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It also is caused by an autoimmune response, that makes the antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. Unlike the Hashimoto’s disease the antibody attack causes an increase in thyroid hormone production and when this happens the body uses energy faster than it should. (learn more about the symptoms here.)

The question we want to answer here is: Is There a Link Between Celiac Disease and Thyroid Disease?

According to the website,”If you have celiac disease, you also have a higher risk of autoimmune thyroid disease. Up to 10% of people with celiac disease have an autoimmune thyroid condition, a far higher rate than in the general population, studies show. Meanwhile, between 1.5% and 6.7% of people with autoimmune thyroid disorder also have celiac disease.”

Scientists haven’t identified the exact cause of autoimmune diseases, but many suspect that genetics and immunological triggers may both be partially to blame. Celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disorders share a common genetic predisposition, which may explain the higher incidence of thyroid autoimmune disorders among celiacs than in the general population.

“In a recent study by Alessio Fasano, MD, a recognized celiac disease expert, one half of the people newly diagnosed with celiac disease also had thyroid disease. The largest longitudinal study to date showed that adults with celiac disease had 4.4 times the relative risk of hypothyroidism and 2.9 times the risk of hyperthyroidism compared with the general public. In children, rates were higher still at 6 times and 4.8 times the risk, respectively.5″( Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, and Gary Kaplan, DO for Today’s Dietitian)

Overlapping Symptoms 

Table by Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, and Gary Kaplan, DO for Today’s Dietitian

Celiac Disease Hashimoto’s Graves’
Weight loss Weight gain Weight loss
Diarrhea and/or constipation Constipation Diarrhea
Fatigue Fatigue Fatigue
Hair loss (secondary to nutritional deficiencies) Hair loss N/A
Depression, anxiety Depression Anxiety, difficulty concentrating, nervousness
Joint or bone pain Joint pain Muscle weakness
Infertility, missed periods Infertility, missed periods Infertility, missed periods
Miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage

According to Chris Kesser, “the molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have autoimmune thyroid disease and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.”

Now the good news!

A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences in February 2000 suggests that strict compliance with the gluten-free diet could reduce the risk of celiac disease patients developing additional autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune thyroid disease.

If you have autoimmune thyroid disorders, the NFCA encourages patients with these conditions to get tested for celiac disease in an effort to thwart any further health complications. (


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