We expect our immune system to defend us against diseases. That’s what it’s there for.
However, for as many as 50 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease, this isn’t always the case.
An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks healthy body cells.
There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, and type 1 diabetes.
What’s alarming is that the rate of developing autoimmune diseases has tripled in the past 50 years.
The reason has to do with epigenetics–the environmental factors that affect your DNA expression.
Although genetics have a hand in the development of autoimmune diseases, studies have found that genetics are only 25% to blame, and environmental factors influence the other 75% of development.
In simple terms–our bad and good genes are activated and deactivated by the world around us and the choices we make on a daily basis–such as diet.
Food sensitivities, and the chronic inflammation it causes, are one source of this rise in the development of autoimmune disorders.
Many of these diseases have been increasingly linked to the rising sensitivity and intolerance of gluten, the general name for proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds the food together.
The food we eat today has been very altered–genetically-modified foods (GMOs) are difficult to avoid in the United States and can be found in a lot of standard food items, as well as food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents.
For example, wheat and other grains that contain gluten are of a very different composition from how they were even 10 years ago. Even the slightest changes in the makeup of food can cause inflammation and subsequent negative immune responses for those who can’t easily digest these new strains.
One such autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, is a direct result of gluten intolerance. However, what many doctors don’t realize is that you don’t have to have celiac to be sensitive or intolerant to gluten.
Research on non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) has found that an estimated 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
Therefore, the consumption of this protein can still very well wreak havoc on many people’s immune systems.
If you struggle with one of the 80+ autoimmune diseases, it might be helpful to determine if you have a sensitivity to or intolerance of gluten.
Blood tests can be expensive, and an alternative way to detect an intolerance or sensitivity is an elimination diet. This means you eliminate all gluten products for 2-4 weeks and see how you feel.
Aside from the usual suspects (wheat, barley, rye, oats), be sure you watch for hidden sources of gluten, such as soup mixes, salad dressings, and even vitamins and medications.
You may notice a decrease in your autoimmune disease symptoms. If so, eliminating gluten from your diet long-term is one way you can begin to heal your gut and reverse your symptoms.
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