Is gluten-free diet good for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a common condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, feeling cold, and constipation. There are several potential causes of hypothyroidism including autoimmune disease, radiation treatment, surgical removal of the thyroid, and certain medications. Treatment typically involves taking synthetic thyroid hormone medication.

Some people with hypothyroidism decide to try a gluten-free diet, avoiding foods containing gluten such as wheat, barley, and rye. Proponents of a gluten-free diet for hypothyroidism claim it can help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. However, there is limited evidence that this diet provides significant benefits for most people with hypothyroidism.

Does gluten affect thyroid function?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, gluten does not directly impact thyroid function. However, for those with celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten can cause damage to the small intestine. This damage can sometimes interfere with proper absorption of thyroid medication, leading to problems controlling thyroid levels.

There is also some evidence that a small subset of people may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, experiencing symptoms after ingesting gluten. It is possible this condition could influence thyroid function in some cases. However, research is still ongoing into non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

For those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is little evidence that consuming gluten has any direct effect on thyroid hormones or hypothyroidism.

Could reducing gluten help with autoimmune thyroiditis?

One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder. With Hashimoto’s, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, damaging it and interfering with hormone production.

Some believe that a gluten-free diet may help improve Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by reducing autoimmune activity. There is some early research showing gluten could potentially increase intestinal permeability and immune reactions in those with Hashimoto’s.

However, the evidence is still limited. So far, most studies have been small and short-term. More extensive research is needed to determine if gluten restriction provides meaningful benefits for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Can gluten increase inflammation?

Chronic inflammation appears to be a factor in many cases of hypothyroidism. Some advocates of a gluten-free diet believe it can reduce inflammation for those with hypothyroidism and improve symptoms.

For individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten does decrease inflammation and immune responses. However, for those without gluten issues, it is unlikely that gluten increases measurable inflammatory markers.

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim gluten can cause low-grade inflammation that worsens hypothyroidism. However, there is currently no evidence backing up this assertion.

Will eliminating gluten help with weight loss?

One of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism is unexpected weight gain or difficulty losing weight. As thyroid hormones help regulate metabolism, inadequate hormone levels can reduce metabolic rate.

Proponents of gluten-free diets argue that going gluten-free may enable easier weight loss in hypothyroid patients by eliminating inflammatory foods. However, evidence does not indicate gluten triggers inflammation or metabolism issues in those without gluten sensitivity.

There is some research showing those with celiac disease often lose weight after eliminating gluten. This is likely due to healing of intestinal damage and improved absorption. But weight loss effects appear minimal for those without celiac disease who go gluten-free.

For most people with hypothyroidism, focusing on an overall balanced, healthy diet and exercise regimen is likely more important for weight management than eliminating gluten.

Are there benefits for skin and hair?

Hypothyroidism can contribute to skin and hair symptoms like dryness, increased sensitivity, thinning, and hair loss. Proponents of gluten-free diets believe they can improve these problems by reducing inflammation.

However, there is no evidence that, for individuals without gluten issues, a gluten-free diet will provide noticeable skin or hair benefits. More research would be needed to determine if gluten restriction directly improves skin or hair for those with hypothyroidism.

Can gluten make hypothyroidism symptoms worse?

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim gluten can exacerbate hypothyroidism symptoms like fatigue, mood changes, and brain fog. The proposed mechanism is that gluten could trigger inflammation or autoimmune issues, worsening thyroid problems.

But for individuals without celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is currently no solid evidence gluten causes worsened hypothyroid symptoms. More research would be needed on potential connections between gluten and hypothyroidism.

Those with celiac disease often do report symptom improvement after removing gluten. However, this seems to be related to healing intestinal damage and improving nutrient absorption.

Should you try a gluten-free diet for hypothyroidism?

Based on current evidence, there is no reason for most hypothyroid patients without gluten issues to follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten restriction does not appear to impact thyroid function or offer notable benefits.

However, those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may want to discuss trying a gluten-free diet with their healthcare provider. There is a possibility symptom improvements could be seen with gluten restriction.

Keep in mind that eliminating gluten from your diet can reduce intake of beneficial grains like whole wheat and barley. It also makes meal planning more difficult. Gluten-free specialty products can be more expensive yet lack nutritional value.

If you have concerns about gluten worsening your hypothyroidism, consider working with a registered dietitian nutritionist to ensure you meet all your nutritional needs on a gluten-free diet.

Are there any risks to a gluten-free diet?

Generally, following a gluten-free diet is safe, even for those without celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, there are a few potential downsides to consider:

  • May reduce intake of beneficial grains like whole wheat that provide nutrients like fiber, iron, and B vitamins
  • Can make meal planning more complicated and time-consuming
  • Gluten-free packaged foods are often lower in nutrients and higher in sugar and fat
  • Higher cost of gluten-free specialty products

To minimize risks, focus on naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, legumes, rice, and potatoes when eliminating gluten. Limit processed gluten-free products and work with a dietitian to prevent nutritional deficits.

What foods contain gluten?

Gluten is found mainly in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Here are some common foods that contain gluten:

  • Breads, cereals, crackers made with wheat, rye, or barley
  • Pasta, couscous
  • Beer and ales
  • Malt vinegar
  • Most baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, and donuts
  • Soy sauce, salad dressings, seasonings that contain wheat, barley, or malt
  • Processed meat products like hot dogs with wheat-based fillers
  • Some types of ice cream and candy

You’ll need to read ingredient labels carefully to watch for hidden gluten-containing grains in products. Key words to look for include wheat, barley, rye, malt, and triticale.

What foods are naturally gluten-free?

Many healthy and nutrient-dense foods are naturally gluten-free:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Rice, corn, quinoa
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Herbs, spices, oils

Focusing your diet on these gluten-free whole foods can help ensure you still get important nutrients while avoiding gluten.

Are gluten-free products healthier?

There is a common perception that gluten-free products are healthier or can help with weight loss. However, be cautious about assuming gluten-free foods are always a healthier choice.

Many gluten-free breads, snacks, and processed foods have more calories, fat, sugar, and salt than regular versions. They may include additives to enhance texture and be lacking in nutrients.

If choosing gluten-free packaged products, compare nutrition labels and aim for options with more protein and fiber and less added sugars. Look for gluten-free whole grain options when possible.

How do you get enough fiber on a gluten-free diet?

Fiber intake can decrease on gluten-free diets, since products like whole wheat bread and cereal are eliminated. Here are some ways to up your fiber on a gluten-free diet:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables – aim for variety and filling fiber-rich options like Brussels sprouts, squash, peas, artichokes
  • Enjoy fruits with skin on like apples, pears, and berries
  • Choose gluten-free whole grains when possible – try gluten-free oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Eat beans, lentils, and other legumes regularly
  • Add seeds like chia and flax to yogurt, oatmeal, salads
  • Snack on nuts and natural nut butters
  • Use gluten-free 100% whole grain breads and pasta

Fiber supplements like psyllium or methylcellulose can also help boost your intake if needed.


Based on current evidence, eliminating gluten is unlikely to significantly improve hypothyroidism or symptoms for individuals without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

A gluten-free diet may offer some benefits for those with autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s. However, more research is still needed.

If you try a gluten-free diet for hypothyroidism, be sure to keep up healthy eating habits overall with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and gluten-free whole grains. Work with a dietitian to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Stay up to date with future research on potential connections between gluten and thyroid health.

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