The Relationship Between Gluten, Anxiety, and Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Posted by on Mar 19, 2013 | 2 comments

The Relationship Between Gluten, Anxiety, and Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Suffering from anxiety is like being held prisoner in a place where worry infuses every thought, your heart pounds, and the world seems jarring and disorienting. With anti-anxiety medications among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, Americans are clearly suffering. Though medications relieve the symptoms, they don’t address the cause.

Some causes of anxiety are obvious: stimulants such as caffeine, weight loss pills, energy drinks, or supplements that increase energy. Psychological or emotional stressors, such as having to speak in public or prepare for a major exam, can also bring on bouts of anxiety.

However, chronic anxiety can have lesser-known causes that, if managed, can relieve symptoms and negate the need for medication. Although the cause of anxiety can sometimes be neurologically complex, other times it can be as simple as making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

The majority of cases of hypothyroidism in this country are autoimmune, meaning the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. When an autoimmune attack flares, damage to the gland spills thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, which can amp up metabolism and cause symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations. In this case proper management of the autoimmune thyroid condition can help subdue anxiety.

GAD autoimmunity and anxiety

GAD stands for glutamic acid decarboxylase, an enzyme that triggers production of the brain’s primary calming chemical, called GABA. Some people develop an autoimmune reaction to GAD, which means their immune system erroneously attacks and destroys it. As a result, they can’t make enough GABA to calm the brain and anxiety goes up. GAD autoimmunity is also linked to OCD, motion sickness, vertigo, tics, and other symptoms. GAD autoimmunity is more common in those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

A strong link has been shown between Hashimoto’s and gluten intolerance.

Gluten and anxiety

Gluten has other links to anxiety. Gluten has been shown to trigger inflammation in the brain and autoimmune attacks against brain tissue, which can cause anxiety. Although a gluten-free diet is an important first step, many people find they also need to eliminate other foods such as dairy, eggs, or other grains to dampen immune flare-ups and anxiety. An anti-inflammatory autoimmune diet is a good beginning to address brain health.

Because people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism typically are gluten intolerant or sensitive, this is another reason to avoid gluten.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this intriguing presentation of ideas. I am experiencing difficulty locating research specific to this topic and would greatly appreciate names of studies related to the discussion so that I can follow up and incorporate this knowledge in my practice.

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