Do you need to eat gluten free if you have hypothyroidism?

If you’ve read any information about a healthy thyroid diet (including my own blogs) you would have seen that everyone recommends that if you have hypothyroidism you should never eat gluten. Going 100% gluten free these days is a lot easier because there are a lot of alternatives available in most supermarkets. But is this really a healthy option and is going gluten free really the answer?

So what is all the hype around removing gluten from your diet if you have a thyroid disease?

I’m going to go right out on a limb here and say that going gluten free is not essential or the most important focus for everyone’s healing journey. I know, crazy right? After telling you about how gluten affects your thyroid and exacerbates leaky gut on my blog for years, why on earth would I say it might not be that important.

Unfortunately I’m not saying that to be healthy, happy and slim that you should dive into a mountain of doughnuts, pizza, cookies or bread! What I am suggesting however is that you look at your diet in a very different way from now on.

How does gluten affect you if you have hypothyroidism?

I mentioned at the top that most natural thyroid experts have warned hypothyroid sufferers of the dangers of having gluten.

Gluten works against the thyroid in 2 ways.

Firstly, gluten can cause leaky gut and secondly the gluten protein breaks down to gliadin that attack the thyroid gland itself.

Leaky Gut

In a nutshell, leaky gut is a result of damage caused to the lining of the intestines. The intestines are the area of the body responsible for breaking down the nutrients in our foods and determining what to allow through the cell walls to then be taken into the blood stream. In a healthy gut a large amount of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, etc. should be allowed to enter the blood stream while any toxins, large undigested particles and anti-nutrients should not be allowed to pass the wall membrane and should end up in the toilet bowl.

For most healthy individuals this process works as it should and gluten is not a problem for them. For hypothyroid sufferers and in particular Hashimoto’s sufferers there is often an increase in the damage of the lining as the body will develop constipation, imbalances and inflammation. This can be caused by gluten, but is absolutely exacerbated by gluten.


If you have leaky gut and eat gluten your body will allow a protein to enter the blood stream called gliadins. This protein is very similar in structure to the thyroid gland.

Your immune system knows that gliadins are foreign to your body and attacks them. Unfortunately the immune system develops a memory for this enemy and when it detects the thyroid with the same molecular structure it will attack the cells of the thyroid gland as well. So as you can see there is good reason to suggest that we remove gluten foods from your diet.

So going gluten free must be the answer, right?

Most people who have looked into using diet to heal themselves would have read about going gluten free and the wave of GF product to hit the supermarket stores certainly shows our increased desire to consume these products as a society.

However, Gluten free products generally suck for your health and waistline!

My sister recently had a beautiful baby boy.

But she had a pretty rough time for a few weeks towards the end of her pregnancy.

My sister is a strict vegetarian and has been 100% gluten free for many years. She has always considered she followed a pretty healthy diet. An average day would have been: Gluten Free Wholegrain Cereal, almond milk and fruit, Gluten Free Museli Bar, Gluten free salad and cheese wrap, fruit, Vegie Stir fry (with homemade sauce) and rice.

She is not really into sweets. So at her mid pregnancy blood tests she was really surprised to see her blood sugar levels had spiked and she was told that she had gestational diabetes!

As a result, her doctor sent her to the hospital nutritionist (she had to wait for 2 hours to see her with a young toddler by her side at 30 weeks pregnant!). The nutritionist told her she had a great diet and just make sure she had wholegrain Gluten Free products and to keep eating every couple of hours to stabilize her blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately for my sister this was not great advice as her blood sugar levels soared and she was feeling even worse then she and was told she would need to start insulin, there was no other way.

Amazingly once we went through her diet and removed all the gluten free products and included all the right nutrient rich foods, her blood sugar corrected and her energy soared, the doctors where amazed and she had an uncomplicated delivery and beautifully healthy baby.

Why would this happen?

Typical gluten free “health” products are made with highly processed flours such as white rice, potato and tapioca. These nutrients are really low in fibre and will be causing crazy spikes in your blood sugar level. In fact most gluten free products are even worse for our blood sugar, gut health and satiety levels than their gluten filled counterparts.

Your blood sugar is one of the most important factor in losing and maintaining a healthy weight, so if you blood sugar is imbalanced and taking a crazy ride constantly thoughout the day it will be almost impossible to lose weight or keep it off. The rollercoaster of blood sugar levels will also be making you feel tired and leave you craving sugar rich foods.

So what am I really saying about gluten in your diet?

I truly believe that I need to tell you the truth about this. It’s NOT just about going gluten free.

It’s about balance and helping your body to heal.

The plan that I teach for myself and my clients to achieve this is:

  • Heal your underlying issues (ie. Leaky gut)
  • Support your immune system
  • Choose super nutrient rich unprocessed foods
  • Eat in true moderation for health and happiness

Keep your eye out for next week’s blog as I’ll be announcing a new project that I’ve been working on that will help you determine the diet and health steps you need to take to finally be healthy, happy and slim.