Criticism has been aimed at the average citizen eliminating gluten from their diet – perhaps as an “en vogue” choice. However, it could be in the best interest of some individuals to eliminate gluten. Is there truly a gluten free autoimmune disease connection at work?
There appears to be a positive relationship of disease avoidance and symptom mitigation of autoimmune disease through dietary health. That may present in differing definitions for some; but many people report decreasing symptomatology through dietary modifications. Results may vary depending on the autoimmune process at hand – better glucose control, decreased inflammation and a general sense of wellness prevail for many with diets aimed at eliminating offensive culprits such as gluten.
The power of a clean, healthy diet should not be overlooked. After all, we are what we eat- right? Whether it is paleo, gluten free or another modified diet (lifestyle) there is one for you.
What is autoimmunity?
Let’s take a look at the built in human defense system. When the body’s armor is functioning correctly the immune system is something to marvel at. It serves as a protector or fence of sorts against foreign invaders. The immune system is complex and when it is functioning as it should, it can identify foreign invaders versus itself.
A flawed response occurs with autoimmune disease and an attack begins to occur on otherwise healthy cells. The immune response ultimately spirals out of control resulting in an autoimmune condition and diagnosis.
Diet and Autoimmune Disease
If you have an autoimmune disease would it benefit you to adapt your diet? We know that having one autoimmune disease predisposes you to having another. We also know that autoimmune diseases prefers to happen in clumps. If you have just one consider yourself lucky.
On the flip side, if your family is populated with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. should dietary changes be in order as a precautionary measure? My personal opinion is – yes. Gluten stokes the fire of inflammation, why add fuel to the hot coals of your genetic predispositions?
Please know my opinion stems in part from the fact that the wheat we eat today is not the wheat our ancestors consumed. See She Sugars article “Dwarf Wheat, Another Arrow in the Backs of Americans”. Wheat is yet another genetically modified food with fingers pointing at its ability to cause inflammation, obesity and diabetes. Gone are the days when are everyone is saying eat wheat and as much as you can- whole grain this and whole wheat that.
That being said, there is no strong evidence that avoiding gluten will help autoimmune diseases. You can think it through yourself. If you have chronic inflammation, why add foods to your diet that can cause or increase that level. Check out Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant foods is certainly worth a try. One that highlights whole foods- fruits, vegetables, fish oils and is low in processed foods. Basically eating real food, not food that is manipulated, colored, preserved and made into fun shapes.
Serving your child dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets is not a whole food choice people!
Before you eliminate gluten always be sure to see your doctor and be tested for celiac disease if you are suspicious of gluten intolerance. Many people will eliminate gluten and feel so much better they never add the gluten back into the diet, which is necessary for positive testing to occur. The celiac gluten free diet is very specific and even a crumb will sicken a person with celiac disease.
On the flip side of this controversy…
An interesting study in Finland: “Gluten-free diet and autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with celiac disease” examined the relationship of further autoimmune diagnoses with a rapid identification and treatment of celiac disease. In particular, this study honed in on autoimmune thyroid disease and its diagnostic rate before and after diagnosis and dietary treatment.
“Celiac patients had an increased risk of thyroid autoimmune disorders. A gluten-free diet seemed not to prevent the progression of autoimmune process during a follow-up of 1 year.”- Pub Med