Opinions - should I give up dairy and/or gluten?

Its a bit of a long story but the short version is that I've had Hashimotos for about 14 years (I'm 32). I was never advised to make any dietary changes at the time of diagnosis.

I've had loads of health problems, including double vision, which happened 6 months after diagnosis, but nobody has ever been able to link my eye problems to my thyroid condition, only tell me I have a "muscle imbalance", which means my eyes don't work together.

In the last year, I've had a persistent pain in my lower right abdomen, which is like a dull ache, worse with pressure (particularly when I'm lying in bed). It does not appear to be linked to my cycle or any food in particular.

I go through bouts of very severe constipation (but the pain remains constant irrespective of constipation). I get random pains in my joints, and even on occasion, bone pain in my lower legs.

I have problems with post nasal drip and a thick coating on my tongue, and tonsil stones, which my acupuncturist says is intolerance to dairy. I get significant amounts of reflux as well - which caused an oesophageal ulcer about 2 years ago - but I'd always thought that the increased acid was a side effect of citalopram, which I take for anxiety.

My GP has recently done a blood test for Coeliac disease (at my request) and it came back negative. She says the pain isnt likely to be bowel related and told me to ignore it. I've also had repeated large ovarian cysts, irregular cycles. The gynae team said the pain isnt in the right place for the cysts to be causing it. So I'm confused but tired of the pain.

I've been trying for 2 years to conceive, but unsuccessfully - some months it appears I do not even ovulate. Recent blood tests showed I was marginally low on iron but my doctor said supplements were not needed.

I have vitiligo, which is I understand, more common in Hashimotos patients. I also have a very strong family history of autoimmune disease, my mum has thyroid disease (not known if hashis), pernicious anaemia, and diabetes.

Anyways.... just wondering if all these problems are linked to my hashimoto's, and whether anyone has any personal experience of dietary changes that make a difference to overall wellbeing but particularly fertility? It seems like a huge mountain to climb to completely eliminate dairy and gluten/wheat. I could do dairy more easily. In relation to dairy, would Goats milk/cheese be ok, as that would also make it easier (I just can't do black tea and rice/nut/oat milk curdle or change the taste).

I already take 100mcg selenium daily to support thyroid function, folic acid 400mcg, and also a combined 250mg/250mg tablet of choline and inositol, which is supposed to lower insulin resistance and decrease the risk of ovarian cysts.

Thanks for any (sensible) advice.

12 Replies

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  • hi dizzy flossy im sorry your having a rough time of it i can relate to some of the things your expereincing i was cleared of having celiac after i had my baby last year but after i got ill with thyroid/adrenal problems gluten/wheat made me feel awful tummy pains headaches body aches upset tummy i made the choice to give it up its been hard but it was the right thing to do for my health and hey presto those problems have gone. but i have made a link to my adrenals with the food intolerence asi never had any problems before. on conceiving i sent you a personal message some info that helped me just a little info that may be some use

  • Dizzyflossy, welcome to the forum.

    It helps members to advise if you post your recent thyroid blood results with the lab ref ranges (the figures in brackets after your results) and say what medication and dose you are taking.

    Conception can be difficult unless TSH is in the low-normal range of 0.4-2.0.

    Some, but not all, Hashimoto's patients find gluten-free diet helps with bloating, constipation, reflux and weight loss. Others also cut out dairy and sugar. It's advisable to eliminate one food group at a time to see whether there is improvement. If not, the food can be reintroduced.

    Acid reflux can also be caused by low acid which is common in hypothyroid people, particularly after high protein meals. Betaine Pepsin taken before meals can help increase acid and improve digestion.

    Hypothyroid people are often low/deficient in ferritin, vitamin D, B12 and folate. Symptoms include musculoskeletal pain, particularly in joints and shins, fatigue and low mood.

  • Hi Clutter, thanks for your reply. I would've liked to share my recent blood test results but unfortunately I think it'll take a few days to request them from my GP surgery, and I didnt want to wait for that to post. I also feel they're not likely to be meaningful as they jump all over the place! I'm just looking for dietary advice rather than any interpretation of blood results. Thanks!

  • Has anyone mentioned chronic appendicitis? You shouldn't just be asked to ignore a pain in your abdomen, an area so dense with various organs. That is not medicine.

    If you're going to try dairy-free and if you feel you're up to it I'd go whole hog and just stock up on various milks to try. I like the coconut one (is it called Kara maybe?). It didn't taste of coconuts to me, just neutral and it didn't curdle. (If you heat the milk - even soy - it won't curdle in a hot drink.) It may take a week of your morning tea not tasting absolutely great but you soon get used to it and after that it just tastes normal. I like tapenade and hummus as stand-ins for cheese.

    Gluten free was not a big issue for me but I accept that it depends on what you find indispensable. We're all so different and attached to different foods. I like the Genius gf bread and Dove's Farm gf flour (great for cakes). I don't eat pasta much, but I made a lot of risottos, quinoa and polenta. The Crimbles macaroons and those chocolate-covered rice cakes are both nice for an occasional treat (sounds spartan but I love those rice cakes).

    If you could bear to try both (dairy-free and gluten-free) for two weeks you'd begin to get an idea of whether or not you were going to see results. It takes longer to reap the rewards in full but in a couple of weeks you should begin to get a sense of whether or not you're improving.

  • I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's at 13 in the US and put on medication even though I felt fine. I stopped taking it after a year and had no problems. Fast forward ten years after I had a baby and I was completely out of whack. Saw 4 different doctors here in the UK and demanded further testing before I was taken seriously and put on the minimum dosage. Post birth, my TSH has always remained above 3.5 and as high as 6.35 (range goes to 4.5) but I have felt dreadful even in range, and never lost any baby weight, despite exclusively breast feeding (and still going at 17 months) and I even put more on. My husband and I have recently cut out sugar (fructose to be exact) and on my recent blood test, TSH is now 2.5, so I'm making progress. I have even lost a little weight, albeit probably water weight. But my constipation is better, I feel less tired, and I don't feel as bloated. My skin looks better than it did 5 weeks ago and I generally feel more clarity. I am still on a waiting list to see an endocrinologist because I have had so many problems affecting work (loss of memory, poor concentration) that I have been on sick leave for the last 4 weeks. I still don't feel quite right, but I'm hoping the endo will be able to shed more light on why I still feel this way. In the meantime, quitting sugar is helping me manage my condition. This is the programme we are following: iquitsugar.com It is an 8 week programme. The founder is also a hashi's sufferer and managed to bring her auto antibodies to 0 and lost 2 stone. There is also a book you can buy. I'm currently (very amature-ly) blogging about my experience quitting if you want to have a read: tinkertailorbakermom.wordpr... Good luck in getting your health back on track! x

  • Hi nashnewton. Just wondering, when you said you've given up fructose I'm assuming that includes fruit? When I tried to improve my cholesterol level ( now thought to be due to thyroid) I ate huge amounts of fruit, particularly red grapes, but did wonder afterwards when I started getting ill ( just been diagnosed autimoimmune) whether too much sugar - in sweets,jam etc and fructose was part of the problem. Do you avoid fruit?

  • Hi Bunty88,

    Including fruit, but only for 4 weeks of the programme, weeks 3-6. This is done in order to break sugar addiction and recalibrate. It is then advised to only have 1-2 servings of fruit per day, and preferably those low in fructose: most berries, kiwi, etc. Fructose has an inflammatory effect on the immune system, especially in those with auto-immune diseases. It very well might have been all the fructose that did it for you. I always thought I was eating very healthily - eating yogurt with berries and honey, then about two or three pieces of fruit for a snack through the day, 1-2 cups of tea with sugar, plus all the hidden sugars I never considered...it all adds up. Apparently we should only have 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day, counting those in fruit. I'm still on this journey myself, but I can say that so far I feel as though I am improving! You can read about her story on the website and decide if it may be right for you to try!

  • I gave up gluten and feel so much better all round. Cut down on dairy and aim to test out Paleo, this book is easy also includes FodMap info - Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillippo.... lots of pics, lovely easy recipes and really worth giving it a go..... loved the sweet potato pancakes on page 298, easier than usual ones and very healthy. If you are veggie try Vegetarian Cooking Without by Barbara Cousins, easy, simple, healthy without being tasteless... x

  • Hi everyone, just wanted to give an update.... I gave up all gluten and most dairy, with the exception of goat's milk. Very strict about gluten, but have eaten some meals out/foods that contain trace amounts of dairy, like crisps. In less than a month, my digestive issues are much calmer, particularly a reduction in acid indigestion, and complete resolution of constipation!! The pain in my groin that I've had for months, has all but gone with just the occasional twinge. More than that, I discovered I am pregnant!! My view is that my dietary change cannot be a coincidence in improving fertility!! Am very very nervous now as I know that miscarriage in hashimoto's is more common but I plan on seeing my GP very quickly to ensure that I'm getting enough thyroxine for me and baby. And of course.... I will now stay gluten free!

  • Congratulations dizzyflossy. Thats great news!

  • This is so interesting to read...especially your last post! Congratulations. I'm in a similar boat to you (well where you were) been trying to conceive for 15 months, with various hypothyrpoid symptoms worsening during that time. I'm literally on the verge of trying a gluten & dairy free trial to see if it helps.

    I think based on your experience (and lots of other reading obviously!) I will give it a go. All the best xxx

  • Good luck katacharin - I hope it works for you too!! It has not all be plain sailing since (craving gluten so much).... but I'm approaching 12 weeks pregnant now :) Let me know how you get on!

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