What you can start right now.

If you are suffering from weight gain, hair loss, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, mental fog, constipation, aches and pains, even fibromyalgia, you may have a thyroid condition. At this point, seeing a doctor for thyroid function tests (TFT’s) is a good idea. However, thyroid problems can be hard to diagnose at first, because routine thyroid function blood testing does not always reveal abnormal thyroid hormones until years after your symptoms first began.

Millions of people, mostly women, around the world suffer from a form of thyroid disease. There is a strong hereditary component of some thyroid problems, but that doesn’t mean you are helpless to do anything about it. Two common factors contribute to thyroid disease; gluten sensitivity and iodine deficiency – both of which can be easily and cheaply addressed.

Iodine deficiency

Next to iron, iodine deficiency is the second most widespread nutritional deficiency in the world. Adequate levels of iodine are essential for normal thyroid function, so low iodine levels can be a key cause of thyroid disease. Living inland, or having a diet that contains little or no fish, can cause of iodine deficiency. Iodine is found in fish, seaweeds, iodised salt, eggs, and in some countries, milk and its products – if the milking equipment in your country is sterilised with an iodine-based product. Japanese cuisine is an excellent source of iodine, especially the dishes that contain seaweed. Other dietary sources of iodine are listed here.

Gluten sensitivity – really?

A growing number of studies are showing a strong link between both Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease and gluten, to the point where researchers are suggesting all people who have autoimmune thyroid disease should be tested for sensitivity to gluten.

The protein molecule in gluten, closely resembles the structure of thyroid gland cells. When the immune system recognises the presence of similar, but non-thyroid cells, it sets up antibodies to destroy them. The trouble is, the antibodies also destroy thyroid cells and so begin your thyroid symptoms.

Discovering gluten sensitivity can be done through your health professional, or you can just try going without gluten for a few weeks. Many people report feeling better within a short period of time after going gluten-free. If you feel the benefit, is important to remain gluten-free for at least six months. Even though you may feel better and think ‘just a little bit won’t matter’, the immune reaction to gluten can last for months after you have eaten gluten-containing foods.

Lists of gluten-free foods are easily available from a Coeliac disease website. Some people find going gluten-free a real inconvenience, but these days, the awareness of gluten sensitivity has led to a wide range of gluten-free breads, cakes, biscuits and other foods being available. Vigilance in checking food labels is recommended.

Professional help

If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, it is no time to go it alone – a health professional can order tests and start thyroid-specific supplements or medications which will include iodine and other important thyroid nutrients.

In the meantime, you can safely try going gluten-free and adding iodine-rich foods to your diet.