Part III: 8 Truths About Autoimmunity
February 7th, 2017
I’m back for Part III of my special series on 8 important truths about autoimmune disease!
Today we’re going to talk about two of my favorite topics – gut health and gluten. I can’t emphasize enough how important these two truths are, and the amazing results I’ve seen in my patients, and tens of thousands of people around the world, just by adopting these two truths.
Truth #5. Improving digestion and gut health have a HUGE effect on the progression of autoimmune disorders.
I heard it from my doctors when I was an autoimmune patient, and I hear it from my colleagues as a physician: “the immune system and the digestion system are two different systems in the body, and never the two shall meet.”
As I think about that now, it sounds kinda crazy that this is what I was taught in medical school – right?!? We all know that we have one body, all of our systems “talk” to each other, and the vast majority of our immune system is located in our gut. So how can your digestion and immunity be unrelated? That’s a trick question – they can’t. In fact, as I love to say, the gut is the gateway to health.
Though I know many of you have experienced that when you go to tell your autoimmune doctor that you are having digestive issues such as gas, bloating or diarrhea, they are likely to refer you to a gastroenterologist. It’s sad to say, but most gastroenterologists would order an endoscopy or a colonoscopy before they would even ask you about your diet.
Here’s the problem with ignoring the gut: since the majority of your immune system is located there, it is essential to focus on the digestive system if you want to reverse your autoimmune symptoms. This means healing your gut! If you have an autoimmune disease, then you also have a leaky gut – a condition where the semipermeable wall of your intestine remains ‘open’ and allows partially digested food, toxins, and microbes to escape via your bloodstream. When this happens, your immune system attacks these foreign invaders, increasing inflammation and worsening your autoimmune condition.
In fact, thanks to the work of Harvard researcher and functional medicine pioneer Dr. Alessio Fasano, we know that a leaky gut is one of the preconditions to developing an autoimmune condition in the first place. It is by healing the gut, and therefore supporting your immune system and lowering your inflammation, that you can begin to reverse your condition.
Truth #6. Going gluten-free WILL make a big difference in your autoimmune disorder.
“Gluten-free? That’s just some crazy fad people are trying to cash in on. We’ve been eating wheat for thousand of years, so why all of a sudden would it turn out not to be healthy??”
That’s what many people believe about the role of gluten in our health, and most conventional doctors are no different. Tell your doctor that you are concerned about gluten, and he or she will most likely say two things: “We can run a blood test and see if you have celiac disease” and “Do you have any digestive issues? No? Then you don’t have to worry about gluten.”
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Gluten sensitivity or Non Celiac gluten sensitivity (the more technical term) can cause a whole host of symptoms beyond digestive issues, including fatigue, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, skin issues, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and more. And, while celiac disease is in fact rare, gluten sensitivity is quite common, although most people don’t know they have it. An estimated 99% of people with celiac or gluten sensitivity are undiagnosed.
So how does that impact autoimmunity? Remember that leaky gut phenomenon I just talked about? Gluten is the most common cause of leaky gut. It also increases your overall inflammation in those with gluten sensitivity, causing your immune system to go haywire. And, it can actually cause your immune system to attack your own tissues due to something called molecular mimicry. This occurs when your immune system confuses your body’s tissues with gluten in a case of mistaken identity because of how similar their protein structures are. This is especially common in autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’, but happens with other autoimmune diseases as well.
The truth is – if you have an autoimmune disease, you can see huge improvements in your symptoms and inflammatory markers simply by ditching gluten. I can show you thousands of patients who have seen immune system results almost immediately – just by healing their digestive system and removing gluten from their diet!
We’ve covered so much already in the first three parts of this series, and I can’t wait for you to read Part IV! Make sure you’ve signed up for my free weekly newsletter so that you don’t miss the final post!
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