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?
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).