Gluten and Gut Health

Bread Gluten

Is Gluten Intolerance the Cause of Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune diseases taken together are the third leading cause of death in the US. The list of autoimmune diseases is long and varied:

• M.S.
• Type 1 diabetes
• Celiac disease
• Lupus
• Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Sjogren’s
• Fibromyalgia

The Role Leaky Gut Plays in Creating Autoimmune Disease

In the past, many have stated that they were perfectly fine eating gluten until a certain age.  It is thought that although they had no symptoms the damage had probably begun years prior with no symptoms. There are 3 necessary constituents to this Autoimmune puzzle:  

  1. Genetic propensity
  2. Gluten in the diet
  3. Damage to the small intestine that has compromised the health of this vitally important organ.

A completely healthy, intact small intestine seems to be quite able to defend itself against gluten, despite genes that ‘lean towards’ gluten intolerance. However, once damage has occurred, the gut becomes “leaky”, the immune system has weakened, and not only can digestive complaints result but symptoms can arise in other systems throughout the body.

There has been proof for many years that the intestine is not the only tissue targeted by the immune reaction to gluten. The prime example of this is a disease called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) where the gluten sensitivity manifests primarily in the skin, with only mild or no intestinal involvement.

More recently, research reveals that there is a vast number of autoimmune diseases that may also involve an immune response to dietary gluten. It turns out that an enzyme in the gut called tissue transglutaminase (tTG) is a primary player in the cause of why gluten destroys the small intestine in celiac disease. Interestingly this enzyme is not solely present in the gut. It is in fact present throughout the human body.

Now imagine gluten moving through your blood stream. (Remember, it got there due to a leaky gut.) The gluten comes in contact with tTG in the thyroid and autoimmune thyroid disease results. It comes in contact with tTG in the joints and rheumatoid arthritis results. And potentially on and on it goes to include many of the 100s of autoimmune diseases afflicting millions of Americans. Can you now see why gluten has such far-reaching effects that damage other systems of the body?

This is why we treat the gut and advise all patients with autoimmune disease to go off of gluten. This research has been around for decades thanks to Dr. Alessio Fasano MD. I became interested in his work when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 1999. He is heavily involved with Celiac research and a variety of Celiac organizations. He was the one that lead the researchers into the effects of ‘leaky gut’/intestinal permeability and autoimmune disease.

So many ask if I treat their specific disease. We treat why you got the disease. Autoimmune disease can be complicated but your gut is always involved even if you don’t have any gut symptoms.

If I can help an 80 year old with Fibromyalgia no longer have symptoms it IS possible it IS in your control but you have to be willing to do the work!

Here is an excellent article by Dr. Vikki Peterson with more information – click here.


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