Gluten Intolerance & Autoimmune Disease Risk
Autoimmune Disease is the 3rd Leading Cause of Death
There are many, many autoimmune diseases. It may surprise you to learn that autoimmune diseases, when taken as a whole, are the third leading cause of death, only behind heart disease and cancer.
There is a strong association between gluten intolerance (encompassing both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity) and autoimmune disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in its own right.
Research continues to support and further corroborate that gluten, with a protein structure that can create inflammation as well as a leaky gut, is instrumental in creating the environment from which autoimmune disease stems.
In my geographic area there is a celiac support group. Recently a major discussion took place regarding the safety of eating from a local bakery that provided some gluten-free products, but made it very clear that they were not free of cross-contamination.
Is “Feeling Fine” a Valid Excuse for Eating a Little Gluten?
The reason that some were not concerned about eating these products was that they “felt fine” after eating them. On the face of it that rationale might not seem flawed. And it certainly makes more sense than the opposite viewpoint: “I felt terrible after eating it so I plan to continue!” But let’s evaluate this more closely.
The people involved in the discussion are all suffering from celiac disease and unfortunately gluten has a way of creating damage silently. In fact it’s known for it. Therefore “feeling fine” is not a legitimate yardstick when evaluating the safety of a food.
Your Blood Can “Predict” the Disease You’re Developing – 10 years prior!
Why does this concern me so much? In 2008 the Israel Medical Association Journal published a study entitled: The Mosaic of Autoimmunity: Prediction, Autoantibodies and Therapy in Autoimmune Disease”. The article listed five autoimmune diseases and the antibodies (what the immune system manufactures to attack a toxin or foreign invader) associated with them.
Most interesting was the predictive value (meaning their presence actually “predicts” that someone will develop a particular disease before they actually do) of those antibodies as well as how many years one could detect them PRIOR to the onset of the disease. Here are some incredible example:
• In Lupus the antibody could be found 7-10 years prior to the onset of the disease and the predictive value or how accurate it was in predicting that the disease would indeed occur was 94-100%.
• In rheumatoid arthritis the antibody could be found 14 years prior and its predictive value was 97%.
• In scleroderma and in a syndrome called antiphospholipid syndrome (an autoimmune disease that creates unexplained miscarriages) the predictive value was 100% and the antibodies for each could be found 11 years prior to the onset of the disease.
This research was performed on the frozen blood samples of soldiers who had their blood drawn frequently while they were in the armed services. The researchers tracked down these soldiers and analyzed them for any presence of autoimmune disease in current time.
When they found an autoimmune disease present they then went back to the prior blood samples and were able to find the earliest moment when the antibody was present in the blood. Rather brilliant and revelatory that these antibodies were typically present 10+ years prior to the onset of the disease!
Could We Truly Prevent Autoimmune Disease?
Do understand that this is not simply about discovering bad news for which there is nothing you can do but wait a decade until the inevitable occurs. No. This is an early warning signal that, based upon our current research on celiac disease, would warrant the following changes:
• Institution of a gluten-free diet. Celiac itself is not only an autoimmune disease but gluten, with its ability to create a leaky gut, is a suspected initiator of other autoimmune diseases.
• Beginning a dairy-free diet due to dairy’s association with inflammation of the small intestine.
• Identifying any hidden infections that will cause inflammation and a leaky gut in their own right.
• Normalizing the probiotic population of the intestine such that healing and anti-inflammation occurs.
Taking all steps to restore complete health and integrity to the small intestine creates the potential of reversing the process.
Screening is Vital
In other words, if we looked for these antibodies regularly in patients who were “feeling fine” we might very well discover them to be on an unhealthy road to autoimmune disease – a road that could be exited from with enough advance warning.
While such testing has heretofore only been available to the researcher working at a high tech medical research laboratory, I have it on good authority that it will soon be available to clinicians and their patients.
This would be a blood test that would not only give you a window into how your immune system was reacting from a potential autoimmune perspective but it could also be used to monitor improvement in such tendencies, in addition to being useful in the patient who “feels fine” but is perhaps not being as diligent as they should about their diet.
I can tell you personally that I am very anxious to have this tool at my disposal. If it has the promised accuracy, then it will not only make my job easier, but it will prevent patients from playing Russian roulette with their health as regards cheating on their diet and creating an autoimmune risk, be it from celiac disease or one of the other 100 plus autoimmune diseases. I will keep you apprised as to the test’s availability. This truly is a giant step forward for us in the gluten-free community. Please let me know if I can assist you in any way.
Are You Gluten Intolerant?
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To your health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”