Saturday, February 06, 2010
Gluten Intolerance and Thyroid
While I’m passionate about alerting people to the dangers associated with gluten, sometimes a “back door” approach is also warranted. Let me explain: We know that gluten is associated with some many other diseases. From depression to migraines, from fatigue to infertility, from IBS to obesity, from diabetes to thyroid disease. So while we’re alerting the population, in general, to gluten, what about also targeting specific diseases/syndromes and alerting them of the importance of screening.
In this issue I will focus on thyroid:
Thyroid autoimmune diseases are the most frequent autoimmune diseases in the population being present on average in 8% of the general population – this translates to 24 million in the US alone! [Ref: ACTA Bio Medica. "Update on autoimmune polyendocrine syndromes (APS)". 2003;74;9-33.]
Note: This blog has a professional as well as lay public following so another new feature is that I will cite my references specifically, as seen above, so that clinicians will have an easier time searching for the complete study.
We know that autoimmune diseases “cluster” together. In other words, where you find one in a patient, you often find more. Witness the strong association between celiac, type I diabetes, autoimmune thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis.
52% of patients with thyroid autoimmune disease can be considered affected by APS-3 (autoimmune polyendocrine syndromes) – in other words they’ll be found to have other autoimmune diseases. [Same ref as above.]
Abnormal thyroid function is often noted in infants born to mothers with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ Disease, caused by placental transfer of maternal anti-thyroid antibodies. [Ref: Neurotoxicology. 2008 March; 29(2):226-231.] This means that the mother “bathes” the fetus and when the mother is suffering from an autoimmune thyroid disorder that can affect the infant.
And this is the point that I’m trying to make. We could dramatically improve the health of our population, especially our younger people, by screening them for the autoimmune diseases present in the family tree. The sooner we screen, the more able we will be to PREVENT these diseases.
Why is this true? Because antibodies appear in the blood years before presentation of symptoms in various disorders. [Ref: Expert Opinion Med. Diagnosis. “Antibodies as predictors of autoimmune diseases and cancer”. 2008 2 (6): 1-13.]
And there’s the kicker of autoimmune disease. It’s difficult to reverse once much damage has occurred. You’ve set off the machine of self destruction and reversal can be close to impossible. BUT – screen for it and identify it early when the immune system “knows” about it but the damage has not yet begun and you’ve opened up a whole world of possibility.
Thyroid disease, as mentioned above, is extremely common in this country. We know there’s an autoimmune component for many and we know that gluten is associated. Why don’t we start early screening for autoantibodies in those whom have thyroid disease in their family? And why don’t we screen those with ANY autoimmune disease in their family for gluten intolerance?
I am convinced this will make a huge difference in our health status.
As always, please contact me should you need any assistance.
Join me by spreading the word! Early diagnosis is critical.
Until next time, I wish you good health.
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”