An essential part of treating autoimmune disease involves eliminating foods that one is sensitive to and/or cutting out the foods that commonly initiate immunological reactions. I use IgG antibody testing and/or IgE antibody testing to determine foods that one is reacting to. This is a good method to test food allergies. (Scratch testing via your doctor is not accurate enough to detect for food sensitivities.) Please go to rmalab.com to read a detailed report on food allergy testing. Because the goal is balancing the immune system, foods that are causing an immunological reaction must be eliminated. In many cases, a simple blood spot test can detect these foods that you’re reactive to.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs in 1 in every 100-200 people. 97% of people that have it go undiagnosed. After eating substances that contain gluten, absorption in the small intestine occurs and these proteins interact with the antigen-presenting cells in the lamina propria causing an inflammatory reaction that targets the mucosa of the small intestine. Some people have minimal symptoms but if severe, this can cause involve multiple organ systems and cause an increased risk of some malignancies. Common signs and symptoms of cd include diarrhea, fatigue abdominal pain, weight loss, abdominal distention, canker sores, dermatitis herpetiformis, flatulence, irritability and mood swings.
Consider having your doctor test for it, if you are symptomatic and/or have autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, unexplained elevations in transaminase levels, unexplained iron deficiency anemia, infertility, osteoporosis, and Vitamin D or calcium deficiency. If people do not want to pay for IgG testing (and this is not a test for cd anyways), they can ask for a celiac screen from their doctor. The TTG antibody test is the recommended single serologic test for cd screening but your medical doctor will be up on comprehensive testing that is recommended. Testing would certainly be warranted if you suspect you have a problem with gluten.
Secondary symptoms that may be related to celiac disease include depression, migraines, epilepsy, anxiety, unexplained recurrent miscarriages, and autoimmune thyroid disease. A review paper in a top medical journal listed 55 ‘diseases’ that can be caused by eating gluten and autoimmune diseases are at the top of the list therefore I recommend cutting out gluten if you have any type of AI disease. Gluten grains include wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale, and oats. Hidden sources can be found at www.celiac.ca.
Gliadin is a protein in gluten containing grains that once broken down can be absorbed through a leaky gut situation and can cause X-reactions in the body (for instance, it is believed a component of gliadin once broken down mimics the components of the myelin sheath thereby causing a X-reaction with myelin in the cns leading to destruction of myelin.)This is a theory but certainly I have experienced this firsthand> the last two MS attacks I had I consumed gluten (pita bread the first time and a gluten wrap the second time) when I had been avoiding it for a long time. I thought I could try it because I was feeling so good. I have since been off it and am feeling good again.
Gluten sensitivity is believed to occur in 40% of people. In North American culture, some people eat wheat at every meal, toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner. The more you eat something the more likely your immune system will be sensitized to it. Wheat is convenient; it is readily available, inexpensive and tastes good. The problem is for many people, eating gluten causes inflammation preventing proper utilization and absorption of nutrients found in other foods. Gluten sensitivity has been linked to fatigue, weight gain and weight loss, irritable bowel syndrome, canker sores, GERD and ADHD. If you have early onset dementia or osteoporosis, think about the possibility of a problem with gluten.
Why is there a problem with gluten? Grains have been introduced much later than other food groups in terms of our evolution; it is believed that we don’t have the genes to properly digest grains especially gluten. People of European descent may be particularly susceptible to this intolerance. Wheat in North America has a higher gluten content than that found in Europe- lucky us-heavy note of sarcasm! Not everyone is bothered by gluten but some are and it is important that you are aware of that especially if you suffer from an AI disease.
Life can go on without gluten. There are plenty of gluten free grains so please get familiar with them. Corn, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, and teff are great alternatives to gluten and cooking the grain versus consuming the flour is optimal for a whole foods diet. I will continue to talk about diet with regards to AI in my next post…