Do you struggle with thyroid issues that affect your fertility? Many natural health practitioners recommend a gluten-free diet to improve thyroid health and autoimmune thyroid issues like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. A gluten-free diet can help normalize thyroid levels, reduce symptoms, and potentially decrease the need for medication for some people.
However, it’s recently been discovered that certain foods, specifically coffee, cause similar reactions as gluten and may in fact decrease the effectiveness of your gluten-free diet. This could be why a person who has gone “gluten-free,” but continues to drink coffee, may experience symptom flare-ups.
What’s the Deal with Coffee and Gluten?
Next to water and tea, coffee is the world’s most popular beverage. While not a true source of gluten, non-organic coffee is considered cross reactive, meaning that it can cause the same reactions as gluten in susceptible persons. In a 2013 study, highly processed conventional coffees (like instant coffee and ground coffees) produced the highest cross-reactivity in people studied (organic whole bean coffee did not).
Further, there are health issues related to coffee, especially non-organic coffee. Here’s why commercial coffee can be a problem on a gluten-free or Fertility Diet.
• Commercial coffee is highly processed. Instant coffee, in particular, is regularly contaminated with gluten through normal processing techniques. Further, if you like decaf, toxic chemicals used in the decaffeination process can produce reactions (be certain to choose Swiss water process decaf).
• Similar to dairy, coffee contains potentially allergenic proteins. 10-14% of the dry weight of green and roasted coffee beans is protein. Coffee has been considered a suspected allergy food since 1978.
• Non-organic coffee is a highly sprayed crop. Most coffee is produced in countries with lax pesticide regulations. Up to 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers are sprayed per acre of conventionally produced coffee. People with autoimmune thyroid issues (like Hashimoto’s disease), immunological fertility issues, or gluten sensitivity are more susceptible to reactions from an overload of toxic chemicals in food.
• Commercial coffee is a source of immune-suppressing molds. Most coffee contains the toxic mold compound, ochratoxin A. People in good health can usually tolerate some exposure to ochratoxin A, but people who have been ill, with immunological fertility issues, or who have gluten sensitivity may have strong reactions to it.
Choose Organic Coffee or Switch to Herbal Tea
If you love coffee, but are considering going gluten-free for your thyroid health or fertility, try not to panic. You can still enjoy the occasional cup of coffee, but it’s important to choose your coffee wisely. While coffee is not a good daily fertility food, research finds that organic, whole bean coffees don’t produce gluten cross-reactivity.
Organic coffee beans offer a richer flavor, and are produced without all the toxic chemicals that may impact your health and fertility. Still, I only recommend having occasional organic coffee. Even organic coffee is acid forming, can imbalance estrogen and caffeine may increase miscarriage risk in large quantities.
For your fertility and thyroid health, consider switching to an herbal coffee alternative, or herbal tea like Red Raspberry Leaf tea or Conceptions Tea. Most herbal tea is gluten free (double check labels to be sure). While the occasional cup of organic coffee is not likely to cause harm, switching to herbal tea or an herbal coffee alternative is really the best choice when preparing for a future pregnancy with thyroid health issues.
– Romm, A. (2014, Sept.) 10 Things You Need To Know About Your Thyroid. AvivaRomm.com Retrieved from: http://avivaromm.com/10-things-know-thyroid
– Romm, A. (2015, April) The Gut Thyroid Connection: 4 Steps For Breaking The Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Cycle. AvivaRomm.com. Retrieved from: http://avivaromm.com/gut-thyroid-connection
– Potter, L. (2012-2015) Are You Sipping Pesticides in Your Morning Coffee? Healthy Organic Woman. Retrieved from: http://www.healthyorganicwoman.com/sipping-pesticides-in-your-morning-coffee/
– Tarash, V. and Tarash, I. (2013, Jan.). Cross-Reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens. Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 20-32.
Retrieved from: http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=26626#.VNuij_nF_dk
– Is Coffee Safe on a Gluten-Free Diet (2014). The Gluten-Free Society. Retrieved from: