Hyperthyroidism, also called Grave’s Disease, is an immunologically mediated thyroid disease. That basically means it is brought on by the action of specific abnormal autoantibodies, called thyroid receptor antibodies (TRAb), that stimulate excessive release of normal thyroid hormones into the blood. Thyroid hormones control body metabolism.
Features of hyperthyroidism are diffuse non-tender goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), elevated blood levels of thyroxine hormone, suppressed blood levels of thyrotropin hormone (TSH), and the presence of thyroid receptor antibodies in the blood.
Symptoms include various degrees of bulging eyeballs, staring, firm areas of edema or swellings of the lower legs in most patients, rapid pulse, increased blood pressure, palpitations, nervousness, depression, anxiety, heat intolerance, weight loss, thigh and upper arm weakness, brisk tendon reflexes, cardiac abnormalities and oligomenorrhea in females – infrequent or scanty menstruation.
According to a recent medical study of 111 people with hyperthyroidism, 4.5% had positive celiac disease antibodies, 14% had anti-gliadin antibodies and 3% had IgA deficiency. Anti-gliadin antibodies demonstrate a normal reaction to the abnormal presence of gluten in the blood. The high presence of anti-gliadin antibodies in thyroid disorders is likely related to gluten entering the bloodstream through the small intestine via “leaky gut.” Leaky gut can result from poorly digested gluten with or without celiac disease.
An immune-linked reason for the co-existence of hyperthyroidism and celiac disease revolves around the fact that both disorders (and several other diseases) share the immune system genetic markers HLA B-8 and HLA DR3. Individuals having these genetic markers can develop one or more of a certain cluster of diseases associated with these genes.1
The good news is that a strict gluten free diet can successfully treat hyperthyroidism in celiac disease.
Thyroid function should be assessed in all celiac disease patients at diagnosis and follow-up if clinically indicated. Screening of high-risk groups such as those with autoimmune thyroid disease is a reasonable strategy.2
If you have hyperthyroidism, be sure your doctor tests you for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Anti-gliadin antibody (AGA-IgA and AGA-IgG) tests for gluten sensitivity while EMA-IgA and EMA-IgG or tTG-IgA and tTG-IgG are specific tests for celiac disease. Testing that is based on IgA only would give a false negative result for individuals who are unable to produce IgA antibodies, that is, in IgA deficiency.
If your physician refuses or dismisses the idea of testing for celiac disease, please get a second opinion from a medical provider who is knowledgeable about celiac disease. The longer gluten is consumed, the greater will be its damaging effects on your body.
(This Health Alert was taken from information found in Issue #11 - "Gluten and the Thyroid" of the Gluten Free Gazette.)
Celiac disease is a hereditary, auto-immune disorder estimated to affect 1% of the human population (3 million in the US). Less than 3 % are estimated to be medically diagnosed, but numbers are expected to rapidly increase as diagnosis improves. Celiac disease is caused by the ingestion of wheat, barley, rye and oats and treated by removing these items from the diet. Signs, symptoms, associated disorders and complications can affect any part of the body and removal of the offending foods can result in complete recovery. Visit Glutenfreeworks.com for more information.
Grave’s Disease and Gluten Sensitivity Enteropathy (GSE). Elaine Moore. http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/graves_disease/54749
Ch’ng CL, Keston Jones M, Kingham JGC. Celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease. Clinical Medicine & Research. May 2007; 5(3)184-192.