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Study Verifies Link Between Celiac and Thyroid Disease

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11/13/2008

RESEARCH UPDATE
Study Verifies Link Between Celiac Disease & Thyroid Disease

By Vanessa Maltin
NFCA Director of Programming & Communications

Research to better understand celiac disease is underway around the globe. With each published study we learn more about how the autoimmune disease affects patients and how groundbreaking therapies may, in the near future, make it easier to manage a gluten-free diet.

This fall there was one study in particular that peaked my interest.

The research was published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and examined the risk of thyroid disease in patients with celiac disease.

Before I get into the results, let's take a step back and understand what thyroid disease is, how it is diagnosed and treated.

The thyroid is a small gland located in the middle of your lower neck. Its primary purpose is to control your body's metabolism by producing hormones that regulate the amount of energy the body needs to use in order to maintain a functioning metabolism rate.

There are several different types of thyroid disease. Autoimmune Thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is the most common type of thyroid condition. Patients with this type of thyroid disorder experience enlarged thyroid glands that do not produce enough hormones. This causes the body to use energy slower than normal.

Conversely, Graves Disease causes hyperthyroidism, which is when the thyroid is overactive and produces too much hormone. This causes the body to use energy much faster than it should.

The most common symptoms of thyroid disease are similar to those associated with celiac disease and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Dry and coarse skin & hair
  • Depression
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Vision problems (eye irritation)

Although anyone across all ages, races and genders can develop thyroid diseases, women are five to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid complication than men.

Now, back to the study so you can better understand how this might relate to you or a person you know with celiac disease!

For the study, researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden evaluated 14,021 patients with celiac disease and 68,068 healthy individuals. After thorough evaluation, the researchers found that patients with celiac disease were 4.4 times more likely to develop hypothyroidism, 3.6 times more likely to develop thyroiditis and 2.9 times more likely to develop hyperthyroidism than their healthy counterparts.

If the data amongst adults wasn't enough to shock you, the data was even more shocking for children. Celiac children were 6.0 times more likely to develop hypothyroidism, 4.7 times more likely to develop thyroiditis and 4.8 times more likely to develop hyperthyroidism!

The researchers concluded that celiac disease is in fact related to thyroid disease and that patients with celiac disease are more likely than healthy individuals to develop hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, or hyperthyroidism.

So what does this mean for you? If you experience symptoms that you think might be linked to thyroid disease, talk to your doctor immediately. There are several treatments available, so as always, don't wait...get tested!

Note: NFCA maintains the position that views and information presented on articles and websites we link to are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of NFCA.
 

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