Exploring Autoimmunity Triggers: Gluten
Thanks for stopping by! I am excited to continue writing about my autoimmunity and thyroid health as several of you have reached out saying you can relate to the autoimmune health issues that I have experienced and would like to know more about my journey to recovery. I still have a ways to go before I would consider my health optimal, but I feel much better now than I did a few years ago. And that’s saying a lot considering I just had a baby 12 weeks ago. The sleep deprivation is REAL folks, but apart from that I feel great! Even as a new mom, with the changes I have made over the past few years, I look forward to exercising, my brain isn’t nearly as foggy as it used to be, I’m at a healthy weight, and most importantly, I feel like myself again.
In case you missed them, head on over to catch up on my previous posts on this topic: Where My Journey Began, The Autoimmune Connection, and Understanding Hashimoto’s. I know I posted some heavy material about thyroid disease and autoimmunity in The Autoimmune Connection and Understanding Hashimoto’s, but the information in those posts were key to my understanding of this disease and serves as the reasoning behind the lifestyle choices I have made that is allowing my body to heal.
Today I wanted to share with you a change I made to my diet a few years ago and why it has made such a difference in my health. But first, let’s recap. Autoimmunity develops from a series of events:
- Genetic predisposition
- Environmental triggers and exposure to infections
- Intestinal permeability
Although we can’t change our genes, we can reduce triggers, eliminate intestinal permeability, and provide the body with nutrients to regenerate. In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, once triggers are eliminated, the autoimmune process can be stopped and reversed allowing healthy thyroid function again. It may take years to reset your body, but healing is well worth the effort.
Before my understanding of the body working together as a whole, I only relied on medication to support my thyroid. During this time I didn’t feel much better and I wondered why I still suffered from hypothyroid symptoms and occasional allergic reactions. Fast-forward to today – I still have occasional flare-ups, but since I am more in tune with my health I can connect the triggers to these episodes and aim to eliminate them.
The alternative approach of using lifestyle interventions to treat Hashimoto’s eventually allows the body to heal itself and put the disease into remission. If you are interested in learning more about this, I recommend reading The Root Cause, The Autoimmune Solution, and The Paleo Approach. These books have been incredibly valuable resources for my journey to health. I’m currently focusing on a few lifestyle factors these books recommend for thyroid health such as diet and important toxins to avoid. If these topics interest you, stay tuned in to the “exploring autoimmunity” section of my blog. I believe wellness is a continuous process, so as I research alternative thyroid treatment and explore new lifestyle factors, I will keep my blog updated with my latest findings.
Today I want to share one of the most beneficial choices I have made pertaining to environmental triggers – adapting to a gluten-free diet. Many articles I have read about how gluten relates to thyroid health seems to be either very scientific or not factual enough. I hope that my explanation can be a helpful balance and easy to understand for those of you like me who wondered what role gluten plays in health.
So how does gluten, a protein found in wheat, pertain to autoimmune disease – specifically the thyroid? Long story short: cell mimicry. Autoimmunity happens when the immune system mistakenly recognizes healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them, and gluten is a cellular protein that mimics thyroid cells. This is molecular mimicry in action: gluten molecules leak through the gut to the bloodstream and are identified by the immune system as a foreign invader, causing the immune system to make antibodies to attack them. In people with Hashimoto’s, your immune system confuses the antibodies made for gluten with thyroid tissue, resulting in the thyroid’s destruction.
This all begins because of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) allowing gluten to breach the intestinal barrier and directly activate the immune system. Remember that leaky gut is a precursor to all autoimmune diseases, and gluten may be the single biggest trigger for the gut’s destruction.
“There are actually 140 autoimmune diseases that we’ve identified, and the only scientifically agreed upon cause for autoimmune is gluten sensitivity. Now, there are other triggers for autoimmune disease. An infection can trigger an autoimmune disease. A vitamin deficiency can trigger an autoimmune disease, particularly vitamin D. But gluten tends to be kind of that central core hub that’s always present.” -Dr. Peter Osborne
You’re thinking, “this is ridiculous, people have been eating gluten for YEARS and have never had a problem before.” I was confused by this at first too, but then realized the wheat we eat today isn’t the same grain our grandparents knew. This is due to hybridization and deamination. Corporations have developed new hybrids of wheat and other grains for the sake of making heartier grains. Hybridization of wheat and other grains has created new proteins, unrecognizable to the human body. Secondly, deamination removes an amino acid from the proteins that gluten naturally contains, allowing food processing companies to use gluten as a preservative and thickener. Add in the toxic herbicide glyphosate that is sprayed on non-organic wheat before harvest, and there you have a foreign “grain” that I don’t believe nature intended for ingestion.
All I can say is that eating GF is a game changer for how I feel. Many thyroid symptoms like fatigue, digestive issues, foggy brain, and joint swelling have all been eliminated by this simple diet change. I’ve recently eliminated other foods associated with autoimmunity as well as I am exploring the AIP diet to heal my gut and restore healthy thyroid function.
I hope this is helpful for anyone wondering how a gluten-free diet can benefit your immune system and health. If you’d like more information on this, please reach out to me! If you have also experimented with an elimination diet to identify triggers or avoid certain foods altogether to improve gut function and immune balance, I would love to hear your experience.
- Food intolerances are due to increased intestinal permeability, a common factor among those with Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune diseases.
- Trigger foods like gluten only exacerbate autoimmunity by perpetuating intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and by cross-reacting with thyroid antibodies.
- Testing is available, but elimination diets are a very helpful tool used to identify food intolerances.