The Gluten-Autoimmune Cascade
Traditionally speaking, Gluten sensitivity has been associated with Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is an intestinal disorder in which a person is sensitive to gluten has an immune reaction that attacks the inner lining of the small intestines. This immune reaction will cause symptoms such as abdominaal discomfort or pain, diarrhea, and an inability to absorb certain important nutrients. A Gluten-Free diet is highly recommended for people suffering from Celiac Disease. So what does this have to do with Autoimmunity? Modern research has begun to show that a gluten sensitivity causes immune reactions in areas that are not effecting the small intestines. Why is this important? Traditional medical testing only checks for gluten sensitivity in the intestines and doesn’t account for other potential areas. This unfortunately sets a person up to have a missed diagnosis by traditional medical doctors! Gluten sensitivity has become more prevalent than many believe and missing this can be detrimental to someone’s health.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheats and other grains, including spelt, kamut, rye, and barely. It gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise, and keeps its shape. It is what gives the final product its “chewiness” and is partly the reason why breads and other gluten substances taste so good. Unfortunately, there are other sources of Gluten or Cross-Reactive foods that you may not realize.
Hidden Sources of Gluten:
- Modified Food Starch
- Transglutaminase meat glue
- Transglutaminase meat tenderizer
- Malt Extract
- Gluten used in shampoo and cosmetics
- Gluten used in envelope glue
Potential Gluten Cross-Reactive Foods:
- Casein (milk protein)
What is a Gluten Sensitivity?
Gluten Sensitivity is basically defined as an immune response or reaction to Gluten. It should be differentiated from a food allergy. By definition, an allergy is an immune reaction that uses an IgE immune marker and usually involves anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe immune reaction from an allergy which causes symptoms such as itchy rash, throat swelling, lowered blood pressure, and may even cause death. On the other hand, a food sensitivity uses an IgA, IgM, or IgG immune marker, does not fit in the category of allergy, and is not typically involving anaphylaxis. This is extremely important to understand because a sensitivity will not show up on a traditional allergy test using skin testing or IgE responses. Gluten sensitivity will cause an immune response that increases systemic inflammation and is now associated with many other health conditions.
Health Conditions associated to Gluten Sensitivity:
- Celiac Disease (Must have HLA-DQ 2 or 8 Gene)
- Gluten Sensitivity, Non-Celiac (No HLA-DQ 2 or 8 Genotype)
- Thyroid Disorders (Autoimmune, Hyper, or Hypo)
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Idiopathic Neuropathy
- Inflammatory Bowl Disease (IBS, Chrohn’s)
- Meniere’s Disease
- Systemic Arthritis (Rheumatoid, Psoriatic, Systemic)
- ADHD, Autism, and other Childhood Disorders
So how can a Gluten Sensitivity cause all of these disorders? As mentioned earlier, a Gluten sensitivity will cause an immune response in which your body will become chronically inflamed. Chronic inflammation, especially in the stomach, will cause what is called a “Leaky Gut.”
Leaky Gut and Intestinal Permeability
A Leaky Gut occurs when there is breakdown of the stomach lining due to chronic inflammation in the stomach. When this breakdown occurs, the stomach wall is no longer able to prevent entry of unwanted bacteria, proteins, or foreign invaders. This will in turn cause a cascade which includes more food sensitivities, more gut inflammation, and an autoimmune process in which the body starts attacking itself.
Common Causes of Leaky Gut
- Dietary– Alcohol, Gluten, Casein, Processed Foods, Excess Sugar, and Fast Foods
- Medication– Corticosteroids, Antibiotics, Antacids, and Xenobiotics
- Infections– H. Pylori, Bacterial Overgrowth, Yeast Overgrowth, Intestinal Virus, and Pancreatic Infections
- Stress– Increases Cortisol, CRH, and Catecholamines
- Hormonal– Decreased Thyroid, Progesterone, Estrogen and Testosterone
- Neurologic– Brain Trauma, Stroke, Neural Degeneration
- Metabolic– Intestinal Inflammation and Autoimmune Conditions
As you can see there are many things that can cause a “Leaky Gut” but the biggest and most important thing understand is that a leaky gut promotes an autoimmunity and an autoimmunity induces a leaky gut! So in conclusion, a Gluten sensitivity is more than an intestinal disorder! The Gluten-Autoimmune cascade begins from a sensitivity to the food sources containing gluten and some cross-reactive foods. A comprehensive evaluation of these potential sensitivities is the first step to preventing autoimmune disorders.
Stayed tuned for our next post as we discuss how a leaky gut will promote the autoimmunity process without you even knowing!
For more information please feel free to contact our office or email me directly.