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Coffee, Gluten & The Thyroid: The Fertility Connection

Coffee, Gluten & The Thyroid: The Fertility Connection

Coffee, Gluten & The Thyroid; The Fertility ConnectionDo 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.


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    do u know any hospitals that would help a womanaged 50 in uk who has not had cycle for one year and half produce an egg and h a chance of a donor sperm to hv a baby
    as since I got thyroid removed my weight has gone up and my health issues hv gotten worse

    • Hi!

      I am sorry to hear of what you are going through! We do not keep a list of hospitals, but consider talking to your healthcare provider about referring you to a reproductive endocrinologist. This fertility specialist will be best equipped to help you know if freezing your eggs is possible.

      All my best!