Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gluten and inflammation

Gluten causes inflammation in the body.  And as I've recently discovered, can cause not only celiac but other autoimmune disorders as well.  Often autoimmune diseases are linked to celiac.  I have also found some research that indicates that gluten-free diets improve the symptoms of some forms of arthritis.  Really an autoimmune disease is just your immune system in wacko overdrive, and attacking your body.  Which causes inflammation, joint pain, thyroid issues, bowel and gut issues, brain fog and a myriad of other things.

Blood tests for various conditions will not necessarily reveal that it is gluten that is the cause.  However they may uncover antibodies that are way over normal limits, indicating an autoimmune disorder.  Depending on the antibody, it can demonstrate different types of autoimmune disorders.  Mine is directly attacking my thyroid.

Often the mainstream medical community either doesn't test for the presence of antibodies, or doesn't buy into the link between gluten and autoimmune disease.  Equally as often, there is no mainstream medical treatment until the part of the body being attacked is completely destroyed.

Does that mean there is no causal link?  Absolutely not.  Naturopathic doctors (and a few MDs) believe there is and treat the patient by asking them to eliminate gluten and perhaps giving some alternative treatments.  That's where the IVC I'm getting at the ND's comes in.  It is meant to settle my immune system down, which will decrease the antibodies and I will feel better.  And so will my thyroid. 

I was asked this week some questions about gluten sensitivity and blood tests.  My food intolerance/allergy test didn't reveal a huge gluten issue.  And that's sometimes normal.  It's not always a blood test that will tell the tale.  But my full thyroid panel showed the hugely out of whack antibody levels, and Tara (the ND) has had great success with patients by removing gluten from the diet.

Anyone can do the elimination diet, in which all gluten is removed from the diet.  Symptoms may take awhile to improve, since it will take time for the inflammation to settle down.  A great book that I love that is a great resource for dietary changes is The Hormone Diet, by Dr. Natasha -it's not only about weight loss, but about being healthy--(  Another book is Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis ( I've read them both, and frankly I can't believe I didn't connect some of my own dots sooner, so to speak.

Another resource that I can say I've used is the website for the Naturopathic clinic where I am a patient  Tara is a published author, and one smart gluten-free cookie!  There is a wealth of information, and the blog is great.

Do a google search about gluten and be amazed by the plethora of sites that come up.  Add natural therapy or naturopath and do a boolean search, and just as many again will come up.

I don't know if gluten-free is the answer for everyone, but I know it has made a huge difference in many people's health and management of autoimmune conditions.  Even something as simple as seasonal allergies is an autoimmune response and could potentially be helped by eliminating gluten.

If you wish to give going gluten-free a try, keep in mind that it will take a month or two to see a difference in how you feel.  Wheat, spelt, rye, barley and almost all packaged foods are a source of gluten.  Oatmeal and other gluten-free grains can be cross-contaminated and contain gluten, so read labels!  So many things contain gluten that we would never suspect.  Examples--bbq sauce, Chinese food, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, canned soups, soya sauce...the list is very long.  Beer and vodka contain gluten.  But it's easy to find alternatives to gluten containing products.  The health food store, many grocery stores carry gluten-free products.  Grains like brown rice and quinoa are gluten-free.  There are many gluten-free flours that can be combined to make baked goods.  Gluten-free baking is very different--it's gluten that makes dough elastic.  Recipes can be adapted and played with until a desirable product is achieved.  And there are lots of great recipes on the 'net and in cookbooks.

Good luck on whatever health journey you're on.  May your answers come easily!


cargillwitch said...

you might find - if you have hashimotos Nicole- that it is really that your body has difficulty digesting proteins of any kind. Casein, gluten are just two that often are easy to tease out. When the body has insufficient enzymes to break down proteins thoroughly several things occur. One is that the large undigested proteins pass through the large intestine at some point and inter the blood stream. Immediately the immune system recognizes them as foreign and attempts to isolate them. If they have lodged in joints, you get autoimmune arthritis, if they lodge in glands or internal organs you get sjogrens or lupus ( which has occured for me)Secondly without fully digested proteins other minerals cannot reach their intended cells, no matter how much you supplement with them. This often leads to secondary b12, iron, folic acid, magnesium vit d and calcium deficiencies. No amount of supplementation seems to make a dent- this is because you need those proteins digested to make the enzymes to carry them to the rest of the body. It is a nasty domino effect.
There is currently a great deal of research linking many autoimmune disorders to enzyme deficiencies.My own body no longer produces hydrochloric acid, amalyse,or pancreatic enzymes. There is agreat support board you might like called ' curing autoimmune and mimics" that you might find interesting. Most of us have lupus and sjogrens. I can't say I agree with all the ideas presented there but it is interesting conversation based on a book written by a mother/daughter team outlining her own battle with lupus. She has been able to control it in large part due to lacto-fermented foods which already posess large amounts of digestive enzymes. For me it makes more sense than the current drugs ( chemotherapy and immunosuppressants) that are being reccommended to me.
Good for you for going to greater lengths to get to the root of your health woes! most women "our" age just swallow the pills they are handed and don't ask questions!

Nicole said...

I can't imagine what would become of me without a fantastic naturopath to help me figure it all out! I'm sure there's more going on--there always is, and I trust my ND to help me find my way. I've been dairy-free for a couple of years, and now gluten-free. I'm having the Vitamin C iv (with other good things in it too), to fix up my immune system. Since the goodies are going straight into my bloodstream, the gut enzymes (or lack thereof) are being bypassed.

I've been kind of reeling from my new diagnosis, and I've about reached saturation for new information for now. I will definitely check out that board once I've wrapped my head around it a little more. I also know that this flare up, so to speak, has been worsened by stress, and I'm trying very hard to nurture myself right now. It's a frustrating journey for sure!

Thanks for your suggestion of the message board and your input. Women really need to support each other more through this lovely mess of middle age (although I plan to live at least to 100, so I haven't reached the middle just yet).