7 Hormonal Issues Related To Gluten Sensitivity and Intolerance

7 Hormonal Issues Related To Gluten Sensitivity and Intolerance

Today’s guest post is from Court Tuttle. Court discovered that gluten was causing a lot of problems in his life – like insomnia, muscle weakness, and erratic energy levels – because it was affecting how his body produced hormones. He mentioned this briefly in his last post about his success on a gluten free diet, so we asked him to tell us more about how gluten intolerance can affect your hormones.

Enter Court:

1. Increased Stress Hormones

Our bodies are suited nicely for dealing with stress. If we’re attacked by rabid dogs, our adrenal glands take over, making us faster, stronger, and more likely to run or pick up a 2×4.

The problem is that our bodies aren’t meant to be overloaded with stress hormones all the time. When you’re working out a problem with your spouse, you don’t want to be more likely to ‘run or pick up a 2×4′.

Guess what happens when your gut is constantly irritated by gluten (or other irritants)? Your adrenals are constantly cranking out cortisol and you’re yelling at your kids a lot more than the ‘normal’ you would.

2. Cortisol Fluctuation

If your stress hormones are raised for long enough, your adrenals will eventually tire out. They will stop functioning properly and this can lead to major energy fluctuations. People who suffer from this often have great energy at certain times of the day and no energy during other times.

This condition is called adrenal fatigue and has been estimated to affect 80% of people at at least one point in their lives.

I personally suffered with adrenal fatigue for a while and was completely exhausted during the day. Ironically, I was wide awake all night. The cause? Gluten. That little devil.

3. Messed Up Sex Hormones

Unfortunately, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol compete for resources with precursor sex hormones. So, if your cortisol or adrenaline are constantly up, your sex hormone levels will eventually drop. There are numerous studies talking about this phenomenon.

When I had my issues with adrenal fatigue, I was getting weaker and weaker at the gym by the day. Not fun. I’ve heard that a lack of sex hormones can also affect other areas of life. :)

4. Imbalanced Blood Sugar

Cortisol causes your body to tap into protein stores (muscle) for energy via a process called gluconeogenesis. While it’s doing that, it also prevents insulin from functioning properly. It makes the cells essentially insulin resistant. Unfortunately the body remains insulin resistant for as long as cortisol is elevated and that leads to a number of problems such as increased appetite. In theory, your body should use insulin to deal with the food you eat, and hormones should tell your body when you’ve eaten enough. With increased cortisol, this process breaks down. That leads us to the next issue.

5. Weight Gain

High blood glucose levels and cells that don’t respond well to insulin makes our bodies starved for glucose. When our bodies want glucose, they will try to get us to eat – you guessed it – glucose. My body’s favorite sources of glucose: ice creams, Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and chocolate cake.

As a guy who has helped a lot of people with weight issues (in real life and at The Skinny School), I can tell you that appetite control is the most crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re always fighting your appetite, you will lose.

6. Suppression of Immune System

Our immune systems are extremely efficient at preventing sickness and disease, if they are functioning properly. Chronically elevated cortisol, however, will eventually damage your immune system.

Know anyone who is always sick or are you always sick yourself? There’s a decent chance that in one way or another, you have damaged your immune system. Gluten sensitivity is one of a few likely causes.

7. Acne

If are bodies are healthy and in balance, we generally shouldn’t have acne as adults. However, when hormones get out of whack because of gluten and/or other stressors, acne can be hard to control. There are several different stressors that cause sebum production (the reason for adult acne):

  • Blood sugar issues
  • Leaky gut
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Insulin resistance

Conclusion

Most people who are gluten sensitive have no idea that they are gluten sensitive. They have learned to live with these issues, assuming that they are a normal part of life.

I personally lived with some of these issues for years and am very fortunate to have discovered that gluten was causing them. Fortunately, that knowledge has helped me to help other people to identify and fix the problems. Hopefully knowing about them can help you to do the same.


Comments

  1. I experienced all of these!! Plus, my periods were crazy irregular. For three years I resigned myself to think that this was all because I was older, because I had given birth six times. But now, 4 months after going gluten free? My skin has cleared up, I have more energy, and my periods are completely regular! I laugh at anyone who calls that a coincidence. Someone at church on Sunday told me that they noticed I was glowing lately. So it’s funny to me when people are shocked that I haven’t cheated. That I haven’t once taken a bite of something gluten-y. Why would I? I say. Why would I want all of those things to come back when I feel so dang good! I do know that something hormonal caused this switch in me. I have never had any of the above problems before in my life until my sixth child was born. And guess what? She is gluten intolerant as well. Something about that pregnancy just turned my life upside down. But that’s ok. At least I feel better now!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I knew there was a correlation between blood sugar levels and stress, but I wasn’t too sure about it.

    I am pregnant (almost 29 weeks) with my first child. I took my 1-hour glucose tolerance test last Friday, and failed it – by 21 points!

    I am not overweight, but I have gained way too much weight during this pregnancy already. I was reaching for the ‘comfort’ foods too often, and got bit in the butt for it.

    But one thing that I’ve noticed, is that I’ve been incredibly stressed out lately. I commented to my midwife last week that I was in constant ‘panic’ mode. Ready for fight – or flight – at a moment’s notice.

    I have been good about keeping to my GF diet throughout my pregnancy (I am afraid of the effects gluten has on my body, now that I know how it affects me), but your article really hit home, especially when talking about blood sugar levels in relation to stress hormones.

    I have to go back for the 3-hour glucose test tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to it. My husband and I already had a nice long talk last night about modifying our diets to reflect a pre-diabetic/diabetic type diet, for at least the duration of the pregnancy.

    I realize that all of our bodies systems rely on the others, and when one goes ‘out of whack’ the others will all try to re-balance to fix the problem, which only leads to more problems (just as you were saying with stress hormones, cortisol increasing body weight, etc.)

    Identifying gluten in my diet 3 years ago as a culprit to many of my problems was just the tip of the iceberg. Now that I am pregnant and more insulin resistant than I was before becoming pregnant I realize what I’ve been doing wrong, and what I need to correct. One of those corrections being reducing stress in my life, and to drastically reduce the amount of comfort foods I reach for.

    One frustrating point about packaged GF foods in my area – They all seem to be made with corn starch and white rice flour – Pure carbohydrates! These items DO NOT help with trying to reduce blood glucose levels, and are just as bad as refined sugars. Lucky for me, I love quinoa porridge. I also just bought my first bag of GF oats, which I’m still scared to try, as the last time I had oats I had a horrible gluten-type reaction to them (they were Quaker brand).

    Thank you for this post. It really helps when looking at the numbers of my last lab results.

    P.S. I also heard there was a correlation between stress hormones and increased white blood cell activity, which would explain my elevated WBC count. Too bad I can’t argue that point with my midwife, who started me on Cefalexin to combat my ‘infection’ yesterday.

    • Hi Laura, I have a gluten allergy and oat allergy so maybe you should have that tested if you get the same reactions. My reactions are way worse for oats and I gladly don’t like oats anyway! Congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope it all works well.

  3. Elisabeth says:

    Wow! I knew gluten free was the awswer for me, but I didn’t realize how related my hormone fluctuations and gluten intolerance really were. This gives me hope that things will eventually even out …I am feeling better after a couple of months and I haven’t cheated on purpose, but it is difficult when usually normal foods like cottage cheese have gluten added to them and you don’t realize it at first. It also explains why I have gained 25 lbs in 6 months when most of what I’ve read is that people lose weight because they are sick and don’t feel like eating. I’ve been completely the opposite!

  4. This makes complete sense to me. My sex life improved dramatically after getting treated for sleep apnea (among other things, it causes a dramatic spike in cortisol due to your brain sending stress signals that you are choking).

    But then it hit another plateau a couple of months after quitting most gluten (I still drink beer from time to time). Simply stated, I’m ALWAYS horny now — much hornier than I remember even as a teenager (I’m 40 now). Luckily, my wife also enjoys having sex quite frequently — in fact, I’m now in sync with her sexual appetite and our marriage is much stronger as a result.

    And… holy cow, the orgasms are much more intense! So in addition to all of the other benefits I’ve enjoyed by cutting out gluten (weight loss, no more acne outbursts, way less gas, improved mood, no more joint pain, fewer aches and pains in general, more energy, less midday snack cravings), having AWESOME sex is my favorite!

    Pizza, cookies, bread? Eh, I’ll take my daily orgasms instead.

  5. I have been gluten free and have been for the last 2 months now and my libido is gone, it has done a complete vanishng act. I am taing vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. Still, no response from my sex drive. I am otherwise healthy and 35 years old, noticed this only after going gluten-free. My lab work from the endo came back last week and says all is normal. No thyroid issues, cortisol levels are normal too.

    So does anyone on here know when this side effect will go away? I have read that gluten antibodies become half after 3 months after going gluten free and then after another three months those antibodies become half and so on. This process could take 6-9 months from what I have read. Does anyone know more on the issue? Please send a message my way. I really need your sound advise.

  6. Great article. Nicely organized and easy to understand. You just convinced me its time for me to take charge. Thanks for the hope and motivation.

  7. Question:

    This past year my wife found out she had celiac disease, and so for it has been an up hill battle for her and our family. I know I can’t possibly know what she is going through, but I want to be there for her and let her know she is not alone. However, I have recently noticed she has been extremely irritable and impatient. She becomes mad very easy and does not even notice. Not that this is a huge deal, but her sex drive has also went away.

    I am no doctor, but what can I do to help her? Are these symptoms of celiac disease? Also, has anyone else gone through this? I want us to be normal again.

    Thanks,

    Len

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