Have you been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or any other autoimmune disease? If so, I can say without a doubt that gluten initiated your disease, and continuing to eat it is wreaking havoc on both your gut and immune system.
Gluten is now found nearly everywhere in our modern world, but I want to point out that today’s gluten is not the same gluten that your grandparents ate. Scientists developed new hybrid strains of wheat that contain new forms of gluten not found in any of the original plants, making our muffins and bagels bigger and fluffier. Scientists were also able to deaminate gluten, which allows it to be dissolved into liquids and other products that didn’t previously contain gluten, like lunch meat and shampoo. So not only are we eating a different kind of gluten these days, we’re consuming and being exposed to a lot more of it.
This modified and now ubiquitous protein causes problems with both your gut health and your immune system, creating a perfect storm for the development and progression of inflammatory and autoimmune disease. Even if you do not have an inflammatory or autoimmune disease, eating gluten can still be harmful to your health, as it has been linked with more than 55 diseases. The bottom line is that if you have an autoimmune disease, or any inflammatory condition, you shouldn’t be eating gluten, period. Here are three reasons why.
1. Gluten causes leaky gut.
Think of your gut lining like a drawbridge: Tiny boats (micronutrients in food) travel back and forth under the bridge without a problem, but when gluten releases zonulin (a chemical that signals your intestinal wall to open up), it causes the drawbridge to go up and bigger boats like microbes, toxins, proteins, and partially digested food particles escape into your bloodstream.
This condition, known as leaky gut, has been shown to be one of the preconditions for developing an autoimmune disease. Since all of the toxins, microbes, and food particles (like gluten) aren’t supposed to be in your bloodstream, your immune system recognizes them to be dangerous and creates inflammation to get rid of them, which leads me to point number two.
2. Gluten causes inflammation.
Inflammation is your immune system’s natural response to anything it deems dangerous — a cut, a virus, or the gluten that you ate in a piece of birthday cake. And when that response is continuous, you’ve developed chronic inflammation in which your immune system is now stressed and less able to attack pathogens and invaders with precision. Eventually, your body’s own tissues are attacked, and you end up with an autoimmune disease.
Even though going from healthy to autoimmune happens over a number of years, something more instantaneous must be done to stop your immune system from mistakenly attacking you: removing gluten entirely from your diet. And I mean entirely. Recent research shows that eating gluten can elevate your gluten antibodies for up to three months, meaning that even if you only ate gluten four times a year, you would be in a state of inflammation year-round.
3. Gluten mimics your own tissues.
Every time your body is exposed to an invader (in this case gluten), your immune system memorizes its structure so that it can develop the perfect defense to that pathogen and recognize it in the future. Gluten happens to be structurally similar to a number of your body’s tissues, particularly your thyroid. So for those with autoimmune thyroid disease, every time you eat gluten, your immune system attacks your thyroid by mistake.
Casein in dairy also has a similar molecular structure to gluten, so your body might confuse that bowl of ice cream you ate to a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction.
If you have an autoimmune disease or are anywhere on the autoimmune spectrum, the single best thing you can do for your health is to ditch gluten 100 percent. If you don’t, your body will remain in a chronic state of inflammation. In addition to eliminating gluten, I recommend using the proven 4R approach to heal your leaky gut. These two steps combined will give your immune system the break it needs to stop your body’s attack on itself.
It may feel overwhelming — the thought of completely eliminating something that is in so much of what we eat — but you will adjust and, hopefully, feel a lot better. Luckily, most supermarkets and restaurants offer plenty of gluten-free options, making the change a little bit easier to swallow. I truly believe it’s one of the biggest steps you can take in healing your autoimmune condition. Food really is a powerful tool in improving and maintaining our health — as long as you choose wisely.
Read more about preventing and reversing autoimmune disease in Dr. Myers’ book, The Autoimmune Solution.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.