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Celiac and Auto-Immune Disease

By April 24, 2014September 23rd, 2015Gluten Free

Celiac and Auto-Immune Disease

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More than 23 million Americans suffer from auto-immune disease.

In simple terms autoimmunity means that your immune system is confused and begins to attack itself.

Some common autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), celiac disease, and asthma.

Alessio Fasano, MD, the director of the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston has come to the conclusion that every autoimmune disease has three basic ingredients: a genetic predisposition, an environmental trigger, and a leaky gut.

Scientists have long known that autoimmunity runs in families and that onset can be triggered by ones environment, which includes infections. In 2000 Dr. Fasano discovered zonulin, a protein that regulates gut permeability.

“Zonulin works like the traffic cop of our bodies’ tissues,” he says. “It opens the spaces between cells, allowing some substances to pass through while keeping harmful substances out.” If the triad is present, people can produce excess amounts of zonulin, which compromises the intestinal lining and allows toxins, bacteria and undigested bits of food into the bloodstream. This is informally known as “leaky gut.”

Naturopathic Doctors have long said that gut permeability is the foundation of chronic disease including autoimmune disorders.

The leaky gut discovery is important when discussing autoimmune disorders because it can stress the immune system to trigger predisposed genes.

In a healthy gut the good bacteria outnumber the bad. But keeping a healthy ratio is tough with today’s environment and lifestyle. Years of eating processed food, taking medications, and fighting off stress & infections compromises the digestive lining.

With a leaky gut, zonulin opens the door for bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, chemicals, foods and pollutants to enter the bloodstream. The immune system responds to these invaders and becomes confused. This sets off the battle against “self”.

Dr. Fasano says, “Humans evolved over 2.5 million years, during which time our immune system was designed to attack one enemy: infection, now the same machinery is forced to fight thousands of enemies it has never seen before.”


Some toxins alter the structure of our DNA, which can confuse the immune system and promote autoimmunity.

The increase in autoimmunity parallels the growth of consumer products made from plastics, artificial fibers, and synthetic dyes. There are now more than 80,000 chemicals used in commercial products.

Out of autoimmune sufferers 78% are women. One theory is that women use more products on their bodies leading to increased exposure to chemicals, and hormone disruptors.


Health happens by Choice not Chance

Step 1 –
Eat to heal

All of this and more is discussed in my healthy gluten-free cookbook, Feed Your Cells.

Eat Real food – This decreases body inflammation and can heal a damaged digestive lining.

Step 2 – Identify Food sensitivities

Step 3 – Support Digestive health with enzymes and probiotics. Specific gut-healing nutrients

Step 4 – Avoid environmental stressors such as medications that damage the digestive lining.


Note from Dr. P

In my clinical experience 50% of Celiac patients get 90-100% better by eliminating gluten. The other 50% still have poor quality of life after avoiding gluten. Some of this is due to gluten contamination that they may not be aware of and the rest is due to leaky gut, other food sensitivities, and an inability to absorb nutrients properly. This is where Naturopathic Medicine can help tremendously. Remember digestive health is the cornerstone of total body health.

Dr. Andrea Purcell

A trusted and well-respected Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Purcell has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Purcell is a published author and has a women’s specialty practice for hormone balancing, weight loss, mystery illness, and gastro-intestinal concerns. Dr. Purcell assists her patients by identifying the underlying cause of disease and removing obstacles that impede the body's natural ability to heal. Drugs and surgery are used as a last resort. She believes that increasing health on the inside shines through to the outside.

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