ANTIBIOTICS, GUT HEALTH, AND GLUTEN SENSITIVITY
In my series on gluten, we have learned that GLUTEN INTOLERANCE is one of the most serious (and ignored) health problems facing Americans today. We have also learned about a few of the reasons that people today face an increasingly difficult situation as far as gluten is concerned (HERE). Today we will delve into some of the things that are known to trigger Gluten Sensitivity / Intolerance --- as well as full-blown Celiac Disease. Interestingly enough, some of these same things can actually be triggered by Gluten Sensitivity --- creating the proverbial "chicken or egg" question. Although there are probably a number of triggers that we are yet unaware of, we will stick with what we know from Scientific Research.
According to a recent article in Science Daily, Americans continue ruin their health with ANTIBIOTICS. Although the treating medical community seems to be doing little about this crisis, the scientific research community as well as the mainstream media is starting to take the ball and run with it. A few of the things that are most heavily associated with Gluten Sensitivity include antibiotics.
Is there any country on the planet that uses more antibiotics that the United States? Nope; and it's not even close! Antibiotics, when used properly, are a stop-gap measure to prevent people from dying of bacterial infections. Instead, they have become so common place that they are frequently little more than a placebo given to placate demanding patients --- something to be taken for every sniffle, sneeze, or cough (real or imagined). They are also improperly handed out like candy for viral infections (HERE).
I have spent a fair amount of time on this blog talking about some of the dangers associated with antibiotic use / abuse, as well as the fact that 80% of your entire immune system is found in the gut --- a large percentage of that being made up of "good bacteria" (HERE). Now the research is starting to prove that antibiotic-induced DYSBIOSIS is a major cause of Gluten Sensitivity. Does anyone recall what was said oinn FRIDAY'S BLOG ENTRY?
The prestigious medical journal Diabetes recently had to say this about Type I Diabetes, "There is a growing body of evidence that diet may play a role in the development of Type 1 Diabetes, through influencing gut flora [bacteria], intestinal permeability [Leaky Gut Syndrome], and immune function in the gut; wheat in particular has been shown to have a connection to the development of Type 1 Diabetes, although the relationship is poorly understood." The really scary thing is that the same things are being said about numerous other AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES as well. A 2005 Swedish study noted this when they said "There is a difference in the metabolic activity of intestinal microbial flora in children with Celiac Disease compared to that in Healthy Controls." Again, there are abundant studies on this phenomenon. YESTERDAY'S POST was all about showing you how to find them.
CHRONIC VIRAL INFECTIONS:
This one is probably more related to antibiotics than your doctor cares to admit. Because a whopping 80% of your entire Immune System is found in your gut / digestive tract (SEE HERE), and because antibiotics kill bacteria, and not viruses; every time you take an antibiotic, you are weakening your body's ability to fight viral infections --- by far the most common kind of microbial infection. Is this a big deal? Absolutely, considering that when you get sick, there is about a 90% chance that the pathogen will be a virus ---- not a bacteria. Here is one example from a 1994 study published by the Department of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin "A 12 amino acid sequence from the adenovirus [a very common virus that causes upper respiratory infections, among other things] 12 E1B protein is homologous at the protein level with a similar 12-mer derived from the wheat protein A-gliadin. It has been suggested that exposure to Ad 12 could sensitize individuals to gliadins with resultant gluten sensitive enteropathy." In plain English, proteins from viruses are strangely similar to gliadin (one of the two proteins that makes up gluten). Exposure to said virus can cause Gluten Sensitivity.
PARASITES, YEAST, & FUNGUS:
Yes, I know this sounds crazy. We live in America where everything is clean. We don't get PARASITES or fungal infections. Wrong! Parasites and fungal / YEAST INFECTIONS are actually common --- especially in people who have had lots of...... you guessed it; antibiotics. There are specialized immune cells that line the small intestine called immunocytes. These immune cells produce secretory IgA, a critical component of the thin, healthy mucous that is makes up the first line of immune defense. The inflammation produced in individuals that are Gluten Sensitive destroys these cells, which in turn opens the door to intestinal infections of all sorts. This lowered immune defense is referred to as depressed secretory IgA, and can result in many other food reactions as well. This is because secretory IgA also helps the body process food antigens.
Be aware that while Gluten Sensitivity causes INFLAMMATION that cause the above mentioned infections of the gut; the antibiotics prescribed to people kill off a significant percentage of the good bacteria. As bad bacteria gain a foothold in the gut, it further opens the doors for good bacteria to be crowded out altogether. Is this a problem in America? Ask Dr. Martin Blaser MD. In a PREVIOUS BLOG POST, I reported his research stating that antibiotic abuse was causing the extinction of certain types of good bacteria (normal gut flora). When this happens, you create an environment where the bad guys push the good guys out and take over ---- permanently!
For example, in a normal person, about 10,000,000 Salmonella must be ingested in order to cause disease. However, when that person's gut is "sterile" (all or most of the good bacteria have been killed off because of antibiotics), the same disease can be produced by as few as 10 Salmonella. This dramatic difference is simply due to competition. If you do not have friendly bacteria in your gut (and elsewhere), you will have problems. For a little taste of what good bacteria do in your body, CLICK HERE.
The chemicals that we refer to collectively as "inflammation" (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, thromboxanes, cytokines, chemokines, certain enzymes, kinnins, histamines, eicosanoids, substance P, TNF's, Il's, and dozens of others) are being touted by the medical community as the primary cause of a whole host of physical ailments. Let me repeat that. INFLAMMATION is a (probably "the") primary causal factor in numerous disease processes.
It is not that Inflammation is a bad thing in and of itself. These chemicals that make up "inflammation" are actually part of your normal immune system function. In the correct amounts, these chemicals are crucial to insuring a proper immune system response to various attacks or injuries to your body. However, as they become increasingly elevated throughout the body, they drive the body's Immune System Response to higher and higher levels, causing scads of major health problems. This is because Chronic (long term) Inflammation is characterized by a cycle of destruction and healing in the affected tissue ---- at the same time --- over and over and over again! And yes, Gluten is a major cause of inflammation as well ---- particularly of the gut and the BRAIN / NERVOUS SYSTEM. Some of the other problems that Inflammation is known to cause includes;
TOO MANY BAD FATS / NOT ENOUGH GOOD FATS:
Too many people are scared to death of dietary fat (HERE), and those who aren't, typically consume way too many TRANS FATS. Unfortunately for these people, they are not getting enough Omega-3's and other healthy fats into their diets.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The bottom line is that although there are many potential triggers out there, antibiotics are a huge factor in the declining health of our nation. The American Society for Microbiology recently published research describing the relationship / interactions between the intestinal micro-flora (good bacteria) and the host. Their Conclusion? "Antibiotics profoundly disrupt intestinal homeostasis" (equilibrium). The authors prefaced this conclusion with this remark, "Intestinal microbes help us digest our food, provide us with vitamins that we cannot make on our own, and protect us from microbes that make us sick, amongst other things". In another major study, researchers examined over 2,000 molecules normally present in feces ---- before and after the administration of antibiotics. The "after antibiotics" group showed some frankly, freaky results;
"First, our work shows that the unnecessary use of antibiotics has deleterious effects on human health that were previously unappreciated."
Although we spend more on healthcare as a nation and per capita than any other country on the planet; we really don't have as much to show for it as one would assume. Although we are managing to keep our population alive longer, we are a people plagued by Autoimmune Diseases (SEE HERE) ---- most of which the medical community has no answer for other than prescribing more immuno-suppressive cortico-steroids ---- or other drugs that are even harsher. If you are looking for real answers to problems that are plaguing millions upon millions of other Americans, I suggest you start at ENDOGUT. Endogut has loads of information about the very topics that you have read about in this series. You can also go to PubMed to view over 150 studies pertaining to both gluten and antibiotics.
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND AUTOIMMUNITY
If you are convinced (even a little bit) that Gluten could be as big a heath problem as anything facing Americans today, it would be nice to have some scientific evidence to back it up --- especially when talking with your doctor about your condition. Is this evidence out there? If you have been following this blog series thus far, you already know that yes, the studies are out there ---- BY THE THOUSANDS! I was actually going to list studies here, but there are simply too many of them ---- way too many. However, what I will do today is pick a topic. You can do the same thing with any topic of your choice.
Because HASHIMOTO'S THYROIDITIS is arguably the most common major AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE in America (10% of the population), we will use it as today's example. Firstly, notice that Hashimoto's is, as just mentioned, an Autoimmune Disease. Remember also that if you have an Autoimmune Condition of any sort, you have a better than 90% chance of being Gluten Intolerant (HERE for PubMed's "Gluten / Autoimmunity" ---- 700 studies). Now let's narrow down our search to "Gluten / Thyroid". We only find 135 studies to wade through here. Now let's look specifically at the 7 studies under "GLUTEN / THYROID / HASHIMOTO'S THYROIDITIS". Because there are actually many more studies than this (no single database carries them all), we can also look on other databases, as well as the web.
Thyroid problems? I would strongly suggest that you read Datis Kharrazian's Thyroid Book on the matter (it's a ten dollar paperback). The brilliant Kharrazian is a board-certified CARRICK-TRAINED Functional Neurologist, and is the world's foremost expert on managing Thyroid Problems from a Functional Medicine point of view. You can also visit the website of Dr. Aristo Vojdani, possibly the world's preeminent immunological expert --- whose specialty happens to be Food Sensitivities --- most specifically GLUTEN INTOLERANCE.
The truth of the matter is that knowledge is power. If a doctor diagnoses you with problem X, you need to make yourself an expert on problem X. Never blindly trust what any doctor tells you (self included) without first checking it against current scientific research. If your doctor tries telling you that "Gluten Free" is a MERE FAD with no evidence to back up the link between AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES & GLUTEN, find another doctor! Better yet, get tested to see if you are Gluten Sensitive and whether or not it's throwing your Immune System out of balance, and into a state of Autoimmunity.
A SMALL TASTE OF THE GLUTEN RESEARCH
In one major study, authors suggested that treating Celiac Disease with a gluten-free diet can lessen the risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. In this study, a group of researchers from Italy compared the incidence of Celiac Disease and autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis) in so-called "healthy people", with the incidence of Celiac Disease in a group of "sick patients" (cancer and heart disease) with non-autoimmune thyroid disease.
The prevalence of Celiac Disease in the thyroid disease group was "significantly greater than in both healthy and sick control groups". Although they stated that genetic and environmental factors could be to blame, they added "it is possible that the association between Celiac Disease and autoimmunity in untreated Celiac patients is caused by gluten intake."
Other studies have shown that organ-specific antibodies (these indicate that the body's white blood cells are attacking specific organs, glands or tissues, such as the thyroid gland) disappear after three to six months on a gluten-free diet. Their startling conclusion was that it's possible that "undiagnosed Celiac Disease can cause other [autoimmune] disorders by switching on some as yet unknown immunological mechanism." The study was published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences in February 2000. Too bad your doctor has not gotten around to reading this 11 year old research yet.
WHAT ABOUT TESTING?
Interestingly enough, the Italian research team suggested that all autoimmune thyroid disease patients with Graves or Hashimoto's could benefit from being screened for Gluten Sensitivity. However, the medical community has (not surprisingly) balked at this suggestion. In a 2006 statement, the American Gastroenterological Association Institute, noted that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease are at higher risk for Celiac, but added that "there is no compelling rationale for the routine screening of patients with thyroid disease for Celiac Disease in the absence of symptoms suggesting or compatible with Celiac Disease." There isn't? Go back and re-read the first part of this blog entry! The evidence is overwhelming. However..........
Stop for a moment and think. Because Autoimmune Diseases are so rampant in America, it would make good fiscal (and humanitarian) sense for our medical community to not only to educate patients about the potential pitfalls of gluten, but to screen people with Autoimmune Diseases as well. In fact, in light of what we have learned in this five part series, a suggestion that everyone be screened for Gluten Sensitivity would not seem too out of line. Will this ever happen? Doubtful. Think about YESTERDAY'S COLUMN, Ivy League Professor, Dr. Peter Green's research (HERE), and the monster numbers of Americans with Autoimmune Disease (at least 1 in 5 --- probably more like 1 in 2). If even half of these people's health issues could be managed simply by removing gluten from the diet, think about the tens of billions in lost revenue that would be facing Drug Companies and the Medical Industry. Is it any wonder your doctor has not talked to you about gluten yet?
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND AUTOIMMUNITY
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).
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