Inflammation through wheat, barley, and oats

How bread, pasta, and beer consumption increases the risk of an underactive thyroid

Wheat, barley, and oats are important foods. They have been a part of the human diet for more than 5,000 years. Yet some people can’t tolerate these foods. For people with a gluten intolerance, consuming wheat, oats, or barley can cause damage to the gut — leading to inflammation that can trigger a chronic autoimmune reaction.

What exactly is gluten?

Gluten is a collective name for proteins found in grains of wheat, oats, barley, and rye. The name comes from the sticky, elastic ball of proteins after the dough has been kneaded. Gluten proteins are rich in aminoacid proline, which all human intestines aren’t able to digest properly (1). But eating gluten is only harmful for people who have a genetic mutation (gluten intolerance), as this causes molecules (including gliadin) to be leaked from the intestine into the stomach.

Gluten’s component gliadin is toxic for a lot of people and it’s responsible for the harmful effect on the gut (2, 3).

Gluten sensitivity is connected to (4–7):

  1. Depression, anxiety, ataxia, and sometimes hallucinations

  2. Skin rash, eczema, dermatitis

  3. Muscle and joint pain, leg numbness, fatigue

  4. Vitamin D or iron deficiency, anemia, and changes in the mineral content of the bones

Gluten sensitivity

If your lab tests came negative for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, but your symptoms resolve when your diet is gluten-free, you might have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) (8–11). Your doctor might check for ANA (anti-nucleus antibodies) in your blood, they’re found in 5 in 10 people with NCGS (4). NCGS is very common for people with Hashimoto’s (4).

Wheat allergy

Having a wheat allergy is 10 times more common than having celiac disease (12).

Symptoms of a wheat allergy are:

  1. Abdominal pain

  2. Nausea and vomiting

  3. Bloating

  4. Diarrhea

  5. Alterations of constipations and loose stools

Bacterial composition of the gut, aka the microbiome, is extremely important for gut health — through the type and the balance of bacteria, as well as the balance between different bacteria and immune cells (13–15).

In addition to wheat, you might be allergic to:

  • Yeast, oats, corn, millet, instant coffee, and rice (16).

One of the most acute allergic reactions to wheat is wheat dependent exercise induced asthma (WDEIA). WDEIA is triggered when eating foods containing wheat immediately before doing physical exercise (17).

Other manifestations of a wheat allergy can be (18, 19):

  1. Eosinophilic esophagitis — inflammation of the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach)

  2. Gastroenteritis — inflammation of the stomach and intestines

  3. Colitis — inflammation of the inner lining of the colon

Getting a diagnosis

Depending on the severity and duration of your symptoms, as well as when they appear in relation to the time you have eaten your food, your doctor may run a few blood tests. It’s helpful to mention to your doctor if you have seasonal allergies to grass pollen, as they might interfere with the test (20).

What may help?

Besides avoiding gluten-containing foods, eating whole grains instead might help — they are known to reduce inflammation and blood sugar, and can counteract the effects of lectins and gluten (21).

If you suspect wheat or gluten is causing your Hashimoto’s flare-ups, try a week or two without gluten-containing products. Track diet in BOOST Thyroid and observe if your digestion, energy, and sleep improves.

Download the BOOST Thyroid app to manage your thyroid health.

References

  1. Shewry RP, et al. Coeliac disease, 1992

  2. Dicke WK, et al. Coeliac disease. II. The presence in wheat of a factor having a deleterious effect in cases of coeliac disease, 1953

  3. Van De Kamer JH, et al. Coeliac disease. IV. An investigation into the injurious constituents of wheat in connection with their action on patients with coeliac disease, 1953

  4. Losurdo G, et al. Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm, 2018

  5. Jackson JR, et al. Neurologic and psychiatric manifestations of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, 2012

  6. Abenavoli L, et al. Nutritional profile of adult patients with celiac disease, 2015

  7. García-Manzanares A, et al. Nutritional and dietary aspects of celiac disease, 2011

  8. Ludvigsson JF, et al. The Oslo definitions for coeliac disease and related terms, 2013

  9. Sapone A, et al. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification, 2012

  10. Volta U, et al. New understanding of gluten sensitivity, 2012

  11. Ellis A, et al. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, 1978

  12. Gasbarrini GB, et al. Wheat-related disorders: A broad spectrum of ‘evolving’ diseases, 2014

  13. Round JL, et al. The gut microbiota shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease, 2009

  14. Maynard CL, et al. Reciprocal interactions of the intestinal microbiota and immune system, 2012

  15. Hooper LV, et al. Interactions between the microbiota and the immune system, 2012

  16. Kagnoff MF, et al. Evidence for the role of a human intestinal adenovirus in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease, 1987

  17. Beaudouin E, et al. Food‐dependent exercise‐induced anaphylaxis — update and current data, 2006

  18. DeBrosse CW, et al. Allergy and eosinophil-associated gastrointestinal disorders (EGID), 2008

  19. Furuta GT, et al. Eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases (EGIDs), 2008

  20. Cianferoni A. Wheat allergy: diagnosis and management, 2016

  21. Fardet A. New hypotheses for the health-protective mechanisms of whole-grain cereals: What is beyond fibre, 2010