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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Gluten-Free Tips for Patients with Thyroid Disease: Dr. Adrienne Stewart shows us how diet choices can make a big difference

Feb 28, 2014 08:57AM ● By Dr. Adrienne Stewart

Diet is an important factor in managing chronic health conditions like thyroid disease because certain nutrients affect how well the thyroid gland functions. Gluten-free diets are often recommended for people with thyroid disease because gluten, the protein found in wheat and other types of grains, is a common allergen that may trigger inflammation in the body and exacerbate autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. Research has shown a strong correlation between celiac disease, which is an aggressive autoimmune response to gluten, and other autoimmune diseases. For those with celiac disease, gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine and prevent the body from absorbing nutrients properly.

There are other kinds of immune responses to gluten in addition to celiac disease that can aggravate thyroid health. IgG immune responses to gluten are delayed hypersensitivity reactions with symptoms often developing hours to days after ingesting the offending food. This type of immune response is called food sensitivity.

Food sensitivities can manifest as difficulty maintaining stable thyroid levels, weight gain or weight-loss resistance, chronic inflammation in joints, digestive issues such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating, and even damage to the digestive tract, making it difficult to assimilate nutrients from food, which often leads to fatigue. Repeated intake of a food sensitivity can lead to other food sensitivities and can even trigger autoimmune conditions. It is important to test for gluten sensitivity by running a simple IgG food allergy test with the help of a naturopathic doctor. Here are some tips for going gluten-free:

Reading Labels. Going gluten-free can be challenging in a traditional Western diet because many processed foods contain hidden sources of gluten. For example, we might find gluten in condiments like soy sauce or in canned foods like soups. We might even find it in our ice cream. Gluten-free diets often require us to read food labels carefully. It is important to keep in mind that gluten is in many grains, but not in all. There are nutritious and delicious alternatives. The Celiac Support Association maintains one of the most comprehensive resources on gluten-free grains ( This can help when reading food labels.

Food Substitutions. In addition to better food labels, companies are also making gluten-free alternatives of common products like cereals and breads. It is even possible to find gluten-free baking mixes that taste wonderful. Shopping at your local health food store or farmers’ market is an important part of a gluten-free lifestyle. Creative food substitutions can often make going gluten-free hardly noticeable. For example, brown rice flour tortillas or corn tortillas are often a great replacement for flour tortillas. Be sure to read the food labels to make sure it is truly gluten-free. An even healthier alternative would be lettuce wraps, which are crisp, healthy and carb-free. Another great food substitution is rice noodles or spaghetti squash in place of pasta.

Home Cooking. The easiest way to know if a meal is gluten-free is to make it yourself. Many popular recipe sites now have sections for gluten-free recipes. There are also many gluten-free cookbooks, many of which can be found in local health food stores. Most gluten containing flours can be substituted for bean flours, nut flours and other gluten-free grains. Often, it requires a mix of several types of flour to get the consistency that we are used to in wheat bread.

Although going gluten-free can be challenging for families, especially those with picky eaters, it comes with many health benefits. For those with thyroid disease, it is especially important to investigate a possible gluten sensitivity with a doctor. As awareness about gluten allergies grows, so do the resources and support for embracing a gluten-free lifestyle.

Dr. Adrienne Stewart is a naturopathic physician practicing at Integrative Health, in Scottsdale, concentrating on fertility, preconception health and environmental medicine. Visit for more information.



Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies



1 cup sunflower seed flour (finely ground)

2 Tbsp coconut flour, sifted

¾ cup tapioca starch

1 tsp baking powder

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ cup pure maple syrup

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsp applesauce

2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

¼ cup gluten-free dark chocolate chips

¼ cup walnuts



Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl add dry ingredients. Stir to combine.

Add wet ingredients to the dry. Blend with a hand mixer until fully combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Scoop by rounded tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. This dough doesn't spread while baking, so flatten with a fork first.

Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until edges are set and center is slightly firm to the touch. Cool on trays on wire racks for five minutes.

Remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to four days or freeze until needed.

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