Going Gluten Free – Grain on the Brain

As I mentioned earlier, I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. In my research, I found that the autoimmune response to gluten also attacks the thyroid gland. “To the body, gliadin looks very similar to transglutaminase, an enzyme needed to form chemical bonds throughout the human body. [Naiyer AJ, 2008] The thyroid possesses a higher concentration of transglutaminase than any other gland in the body. When the immune system attacks gliadin, the antibodies also attack the thyroid. [Akçay MN, 2003] As the immune response continues, the thyroid suffers damage for up to 6 months after gluten consumption.”

I don’t know if you noticed, but the quote above uses the term “gliadin” rather than gluten. This is because the term “gluten” is a broad term used for many proteins found in grain of which gliadin is one. It is similar to saying hormone is a broad term for proteins in our bodies of which insulin is one. The different gluten proteins are:

  • Gliadin in Wheat
  • Hordein in Barley
  • Secalin in Rye
  • Avenin in Oats

This is an important distinction because not all proteins react in the body the same. Gliadin is the #1 culprit of the grain intolerance realm. That is not to say you can’t have an intolerance to other grain proteins. However, it is the one that concerns me at the moment.

The idea that grain intolerance has an effect on my thyroid, makes sense with my own anecdotal experiences. I can feel the health benefits when I remove grains from my diet by eating paleo. That is to say, because I feel better without grains, I deduce I have a grain intolerance, which could lead to a thyroid problem as discussed above. I have cited enough evidence of a correlation if not a causation at any rate. Why I don’t keep eating paleo speaks to the hold that gluten, and carbs in general, have on me both physically and psychologically.

To that end, I have been researching ways to remove gluten (gliadins) from my diet without focusing on expensive “gluten free”  fake-outs from the grocery store. I already know that I can, and have, eaten grain free for several weeks at a time. Knowing how it can effect my thyroid if I go off the wagon gives me that much more motivation to maintain good habits. However, my family prefer to eat things like bread, and every once in a while I would like to enjoy a guilt free slice with cheese and jam.

The Whole Grains Council had a lovely article about gluten and it talked about one of my favorite topics, sourdough. Apparently the gluten is consumed by those lovely little critters (yeasts and bacteria), and transformed. So in the end of the sourdough bread making process, there is a negligible amount of gluten remaining. In fact, there is less gluten in sourdough, than what is allowed in foods officially labeled “gluten free” in the stores. YAY!

Our favorite study showed that sourdough bread produced with a particular strain of lacto-bacilli had gluten levels of 12 parts per million – where anything under 20 ppm is considered gluten-free.

via Research Sheds Light on Gluten Issues | The Whole Grains Council


Aside from making sourdough with familiar grains like wheat and rye, there are numerous articles out there for making sourdough breads from gluten free flours. Here are just a few:

Gluten-Free Sourdough Recipes

Also, there are many other things you can make with sourdough starter. Now I am wondering if there is such a thing as sourdough pasta??

And just so I am not leaving you wondering… below is the list provided by Whole Grain Council of grains both gluten rich and gluten free. My next goal is to decide what can be done with all the lovely gluten free varieties out there. There are also several heritage grains that contain much less gluten than other wheat.

Grains with Gluten
Wheat, including varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina (Gliadin)
Barley (Hordein)
Rye (Secalin)
Triticale (hybrid of Wheat and Rye)
Oats – (Avenin) Oats are inherently gliadin-free, but are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing or processing.
Gluten FREE Grains
Job’s Tears (or Hato Mugi)
Montina (Indian rice grass)
Oats – Several companies, Bob’s Red Mill, Cream Hill Estates, GF Harvest (formerly Gluten Free Oats), Montana Gluten Free, and Avena Foods, are currently among those that offer pure, uncontaminated oats.
Wild Rice

Here’s one last little tidbit I found interesting regarding gluten in our daily diet.

We uncovered one intriguing study that found that varying levels of sulfur and nitrogen fertilizer can change the proteins in wheat. Different proteins, different sensitivities. Is there, perhaps, a connection between the widespread introduction of chemical fertilizers after World War II, and the four-fold increase in Celiac Disease during the same period?

via Research Sheds Light on Gluten Issues | The Whole Grains Council

My experiences are my own, and I make no medical diagnosis and give no medical advice with this post.



One thought on “Going Gluten Free – Grain on the Brain

  1. Excellent info that hits home for me. Can’t wait for the follow-up article to this one. I’ve been living with Hypothyroidism since 2005. More specifically, Hashimoto’s. Over the last few years I’ve cut out ‘most bread’ and pasta, because I too can feel a positive difference when excluding those items. Now I’ll make sure to skip wheat altogether. 🙂 KIT Girlie!


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