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It looks like following a gluten-free diet isn’t just for those of us with celiac disease, but also for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that up to 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease (but likely more because NIH only classifies some diseases as autoimmune). Of those sufferers, 75 percent of them are comprised of women.
Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis.
Autoimmune Disease is Relatively Unknown
The thing about autoimmune disease as that people don’t really know that they have one. Their doctor may have told them they have Hashimoto’s disease, alopecia areata, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, IBS, lyme disease, psoriasis or fibromyalgia, but what many don’t realize is that all of those diseases, and slew of others, are bona fide autoimmune diseases.
The diseases have different names, but they all have a common thread where something is triggering the immune response to attack healthy cells from within.
You can view a complete list of autoimmune diseases here – chances are your doctor has told you that you have one of these “issues” but never told you that it was autoimmune related, right?
Treating Autoimmune Disease
I have learned that one of the common holistic treatments for autoimmune disease is a strict gluten-free diet – and even a completely grain-free, paleo diet in many cases. Why? Gluten is thought to be one (of many) triggers – and perhaps even a cause – of autoimmune disease.
While the science is still evolving, we do know a couple of things:
(1) We know that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. We also know it is the only autoimmune disease in which the trigger is known (gluten), according to Dr. Tom O’Bryan in his book, The Autoimmune Fix. People with celiac disease who eliminate gluten can put their disease into remission (as long as they no longer consume gluten).
(2) We also know that gluten is hard to digest and that it causes an inflammatory response in all humans, regardless if you have an autoimmune condition or not. This means large pieces of the protein can get into the bloodstream (ever heard of leaky gut?), sending a message to your immune system to attack the invader. When the antibodies come to the rescue and attack the gluten, they also attack healthy tissues.
In addition to the science, which is evolving, the anecdotal evidence is undeniable.
There are countless stories of people curing or relieving symptoms of various autoimmune conditions by going gluten-free.
For me as a celiac disease sufferer, the only way to stay healthy is by following a strict gluten-free diet. I can personally say that I feel so much better doing so.
Dr. Susan Blum, author of The Immune System Recovery Plan, talks about how she healed herself from Hashimoto’s disease by going gluten-free and following a nutrient-dense diet.
Andrea Beaman, a well-known holistic health expert, healed herself from thyroid disease through a gluten-free and nutrient-dense diet.
I also recently learned about Dr. Terry Wahls, who like many physicians, once focused on treating her patients’ ailments with drugs and surgical procedures. That changed when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and modern medicine did not help her. Her disease debilitated her so much so that she was relegated to a tilt-recline wheelchair and thought she’d never walk about. She adopted a nutrient-rich paleo diet and reversed her symptoms so much so that she was not only able to walk again, but also found the strength to take an 18-mile bike ride. She talks about her recovery in her bestselling book, The Wahls Protocol.
There’s No Magic Pill
If you are one of the millions of people suffering from an autoimmune condition, don’t immediately turn to your doctor for a magic pill. Rather, look at yourself and your diet.
Take out the gluten (and maybe all grains too).
Add nutrient-dense foods like greens and berries.
Work hard to eat right so you nurture your body.
What you find may surprise you! Your symptoms may ease or even disappear. You may reverse crippling ailments (like Dr. Wahls did). You may even put your disease in remission for good (like me)!
Remember, it takes time to heal and you may not get instant results upon going gluten-free. Just as disease takes years to manifest itself in your body, it can take years to reverse the damage.