Allergies and autoimmune diseases are on the rise and according to a recent Harvard study, gluten might just be implicated. The study followed four groups of test subjects from those with full blown celiac disease to those who felt they had no problem with gluten at all; every group showed inflammation and damage to the gut wall after eating gluten. All subjects developed intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Because the gut lining heals very rapidly, the cycle of damage and repair happens over and over again every time we consume gluten. Eventually this cycle can lead to permanent damage called a loss of oral tolerance, where the gut no longer repairs.
So what does this have to do with allergies and auto-immune disease? As the gut becomes permeable, proteins from our foods, which have not been properly broken down yet, enter the blood stream. The immune system sees these proteins as foreign invaders and sets up an immune response. One explanation for the reason that gluten has become more of a problem in recent times is not because eliminating gluten is a fad, but because we as modern humans are in a state of toxic over-load being exposed to as many as 4,400 man made chemicals including BPA, Mercury, DDT, PCBs and thousands of other dangerous toxins. Our immune systems are overtaxed and can’t adapt fast enough to keep up with the demand. Gluten is just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. No human has the enzymes to break down gluten proteins into amino acids. Once the assembly line has been built to build antibodies to gluten, it can’t be un-built. If we go off of gluten, we will stop producing antibodies but as soon as we are exposed to it again, the assembly line will start churning out antibodies again. If we are sensitive to gluten, we have memory B cells that will never go away.
Another problem is called molecular mimicry. Gluten contains a 33 amino acid peptide chain. When an immune response is triggered to this chain the immune system goes on a seek and destroy mission. If it finds a sequence that matches 8 of the same amino acids in the chain, it will attack that peptide chain. It just so happens that we have other amino acid peptide chains in our body that match this sequence. Our thyroid is one of these places. As the antibodies mistakenly attack the thyroid cells, we call this autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s Disease.
Gut inflammation also leads to poor nutrient absorption that can lead to a whole host of health problems including osteoporosis. Celiac disease and osteoporosis have been linked.
When we cut out gluten, and as we heal the gut, other allergies and sensitivities tend to abate as the foreign proteins are no longer prematurely entering the blood stream .