Gluten & Autoimmune Disease: Signs of a Leaky Gut and How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
All Disease Begins in the Gut - Hippocrates
There are now over 11,000 studies published on leaky gut syndrome.
I never considered eating gluten-free or really paid much attention to gluten before my mom became Celiac over 15 years ago or realized the connection between gluten and autoimmune disease. I just assumed people who are Celiac should not eat gluten. Back then, there weren’t any gluten-free sections in the supermarket nor an easy blood test you could take to determine if you were Celiac. However in 2010, I developed 3 auto-immune/endocrine disorders (hyperthyroidism, Grave’s Disease and endometriosis). Yep, all in the same year. I was shocked. I mean I ate fairly healthy. What was I doing wrong?
After my laparoscopic surgery in 2011, I wanted to know what I could do to possibly reverse my conditions and get my health back!!! My doctors were not helpful. They gave me suggestions on how to manage my conditions, not reverse them. So I decided to conduct my own research.
I realized some of the foods I was eating were hormone mimickers and endocrine disruptors such as soy. Sadly, I used to have a protein shake every morning made with a soy protein powder and soy milk. Not anymore!!! I also found out that certain ingredients in my personal care products also contained hormone mimickers and endocrine disruptors, so I replaced them with healthier alternatives.
I even took it one step further and decided to remove gluten from my diet and cut down on my dairy intake. I started drinking almond or coconut milk, purchased organic cheese made with raw milk, free range eggs, organic grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, organic fruits and vegetables, and supplemented my diet with an organic vegan pea protein powder. It has now been over 2 years since I have reversed my conditions!!! I no longer have Grave’s Disease, to take my thyroid medication, and my endometriosis has never come back.
However, it was not until last year that I finally understood the connection between gluten and autoimmune disease after continuing my research. This has become a passion of mine. My mom is Celiac, and diabetes and hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism run in my family (all autoimmune diseases).
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins that are naturally found in certain grains. Gluten actually means glue in Latin. There are a few issues with modern-day gluten as it is not the same gluten as our grandparents ate. First, it can be found everywhere. It is not just used for making breads or pasta anymore. Gluten is now used as a filler in medications; it holds meat substitutes together; and can even be found in personal care products. So we are exposed to it a lot more.
Second, scientists have changed wheat and these new hybrid strains contain entirely new forms of gluten not found in the original plants. This new modified gluten causes problems with our gut health and immune systems. A lot of research has been conducted on the connection between gluten and autoimmune disease.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
Your immune system is designed to protect and defend your body against disease. An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system attacks your own body tissue. Autoimmune disease can affect many different parts of your body.
There are roughly 80 types of autoimmune diseases. It is possible to have more than one at the same time.
The most common autoimmune diseases are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Pernicious anemia (inability to absorb vitamin B12)
- Vitiligo (white patches on the skin caused by loss of pigment)
- Scleroderma (connective tissues disease)
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Grave’s disease
- Sjögren’s syndrome (destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva)
- Type 1 diabetes
How Many Autoimmune Diseases are Linked to Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is almost always associated with autoimmune disease. In fact, reversing symptoms of autoimmune disease depends on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
Signs of a Leaky Gut? Take this quiz to find out.
Use this scale to rate how frequently you experience the following:
0= Symptom not present or rarely present
♥ Constipation and/or diarrhea
♥ Abdominal pain or bloating
♥ Mucus or blood in stool
♥ Joint pain or swelling, arthritis
♥ Chronic or frequent fatigue or tiredness
♥ Food allergies, sensitivities or intolerance
♥ Sinus or nasal congestion
♥ Chronic or frequent inflammations
♥ Eczema, skin rashes or hives
♥ Asthma, hay fever or airborne allergies
♥ Confusion, poor memory or mood swings
♥ Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin)
♥ History of antibiotic use
♥ Alcohol consumption or alcohol makes you feel sick
♥ Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
♥ History of high sugar, high fat, processed food diet
♥ History of periods of high stress
1-5 : Leaky Gut less apt to be present
6-10: Leaky Gut may possibly be present.
7-19: Leaky Gut probably present.
20+: Leaky Gut almost certainly present.
So What Happens When you Eat Gluten and How is This Linked to Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Dr. Alessio Fasano’s research has shown that when you eat gluten and it arrives in your small intestine it triggers the release of zonulin. Zonulin is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up creating intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Your gut was designed to only allow small micronutrients to pass through and not large proteins, toxins or partially digested food particles. Think of your gut lining as a net with extremely small holes, Zonulin basically makes large holes in the net allowing the large proteins and toxins to pass through escaping into your bloodstream.
Your immune system is designed to protect your body from foreign invaders. It marks the toxins and large proteins as dangerous since they are not supposed to be in your bloodstream. This leads to the creation of antibodies. Every time your immune system attacks an invader it memorizes its structure so it can recognize it in the future. The molecular structure of gluten is structurally similar to a number of your body’s tissues, particularly your thyroid. This is referred to as molecular mimicry.
There are several food proteins that have a similar structure to gluten such as casein in dairy.
Dr. Fasano & Dr. Osborne on Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten and Autoimmune Disease)
Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease
How is This Connected to Autoimmune Disease?
If you currently have an autoimmune disease, this means that somewhere along the way your immune system started to attack your own body tissue causing inflammation. So every time you eat gluten and because of your leaky gut which is allowing toxins and large proteins to enter your bloodstream causing inflammation, you start to develop chronic inflammation. This can lead to nutrient malabsorption and food intolerances or sensitivities.
Your immune system continues to protect your body from foreign invaders. Once your immune system becomes stressed it is less able to attack pathogens and disease with precision. Your own body’s tissues end up receiving the attack leading to an autoimmune disease. The only way to stop your immune system from attacking you is to remove gluten entirely (gluten and autoimmune disease connection).
Leaky Gut Tests
Zonulin or Lactulose Tests
Zonulin controls the size of the openings between your gut lining and bloodstream. Zonulin can be tested by using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test (ELISA). It serves as a biomarker of how much intestinal permeability there is.
IgG Food Intolerance Test
Many people with leaky gut syndrome develop sensitivities as a result. The IgG Food Allergy Test (with or without Candida testing) is available as a dried blood spot collection. More information on this test can be found by clicking here.
Stool tests are important because they look for beneficial bacteria levels, the state of intestinal immune function, overall intestinal health and inflammation markers. These tests can be done at home and samples mailed or dropped off to a lab. For more information on this test click here.
Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Nutrient malabsorption is a common warning sign of leaky gut syndrome. An organic test looks for vitamin and mineral deficiencies; amino acid (protein) deficiencies; antioxidant and bacteria levels. This test can be done at home using a kit. More information about the kits can be found here.
How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Use the 4R Response:
- Remove the foods and factors that are damaging your gut (refined sugar, gluten, conventional dairy, conventional meat, GMO foods, pesticides, NSAIDS, antibiotics, and tap water)
- Replace with healing foods (bone broth, kefir, fermented vegetables, coconut products and sprouted seeds)
- Repair with specific supplements (digestive enzymes, probiotics, l-glutamine, licorice root and quercetin)
- Rebalance with probiotics
How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
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Gluten and Autoimmune Disease: Signs of a Leaky Gut and How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
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