a selection of different pastas and breads

Q. About three years ago I developed chronic hives–raging carpets of hives, mysteriously appearing mostly between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am.

We couldn’t figure out what was causing them. When my doctor discovered that I have low thyroid and an anti-immune thyroid disorder, he suggested that I try completely eliminating gluten from my diet.

Thorough avoidance of gluten has completely eliminated the hive problem. When I occasionally slip up and accidentally eat small amounts of gluten, for instance in an improperly labeled sauce at a restaurant, I get small outbreaks of hives. My hives have become an amazingly accurate gluten meter!

A. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by exposure to gluten in wheat, barley and rye. Most people, including physicians, think of celiac symptoms in terms of the digestive tract. There is, however, a distinctive skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis that is associated with celiac disease. This itchy rash can be difficult to diagnose and may be accompanied by thyroid problems.

You may be interested in one of our hour-long interviews on the topic of celiac disease. We have spoken with Peter H. R. Green, MD, of Columbia University. We have also interviewed David Perlmutter, MD, about his book Grain Brain.

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  1. cpmt

    I get asthma attacks when I eat certain foods. I never thought gluten can cause some illnesses and skin, respiratory or other reactions. Thank you.

  2. Alicia

    I have been breaking out in hives for about a month and a half every evening. I have had a lot of food allergies that I have out grown and this seems to add to the list of food allergies. Thank you so much for sharing. I am in the middle of a week trial of gluten free foods and my hives have stopped. I thought I was the only one dealing with this!

  3. Gabe

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the trigger is gluten consumption. When people with celiac disease consume products containing gluten, their bodies respond by attacking and damaging their own body’s cells.
    Several other autoimmune disorders are associated with celiac disease. People with autoimmune thyroid disorders have a higher risk of celiac disease. In the last decade, some doctors have started screening all of their hypothyroid and hyperthyroid patients for celiac disease, using a blood test panel.
    For a while, some research also suggested that a gluten-free diet in people with autoimmune thyroid disease may reduce the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. That’s probably why the original submitter’s doctor suggested a gluten-free diet.

  4. Donnie

    I have Celiac disease, Hashimoto’s autoimmune hyptothyroid disease. I also have atopic dermatitis, and many allergies. I get hives from corn, sulfites, and other food and various allergies, but not from accidentally eating gluten. I can be more prone to hives when my thyroid levels are out of whack, too.

  5. Abigail

    I am confused by the term anti immune thyroid disorder followed by the Peoples Pharmacy response with a discussion of celiac disease. Please tell us what the difference is and how gluten is involved in each.

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