Do You Have Gluten Sensitivity or an Autoimmune Disease?

While leading experts site stress, infections, toxins as influencers of autoimmune diseases, diet is also top of the list.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Twenty years ago I was in the U.S. Peace Corps with Dr. Amy Myers. She has now become a leading specialist in autoimmune diagnosis and treatment. She is a functional medicine practitioner and author of The Autoimmune Solution.

Functional medicine represents a transformative shift in how we relate to health and illness. The practice of functional medicine dictates that doctors move away from the traditional approach of addressing illness as one isolated issue, instead looking at the patient as a whole system. Doctors address the patient's physical and mental issues through a more holistic plan that often includes nutrition counseling, meditation techniques, diet changes and exercise.

Dr. Myers speaks of how 50 million Americas were affected with auto-immune diseases. She states that rates have tripled in the past 50 years. And through studies, 25 percent is influenced by genetics while a hefty 75 percent is influenced by the environment.

Throughout Nov. 7-14, Dr. Myers will be hosting the first free Web summit on this topic: Helping you Reverse and Prevent Autoimmune Disease. Forty leading experts on autoimmune disease will be speaking.

While leading experts site stress, infections, toxins as influencers of autoimmune diseases, diet is also top of the list.

What is an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system, which defends your body against disease, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks healthy body cells. There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases.

The recent rise in autoimmune diseases presents a real opportunity to embrace healing through change in diet. The food we eat today has been so altered -- wheat and other grains are of a very different composition from how they were even 10 years ago. Small changes in the makeup of food can cause devastating immune responses from those who can't tolerate these new strains.

Dr. Hyman, a leading doctor in functional medicine, writes about how more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. He states that It is estimated that 99 percent of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed yet don't feel 100 percent.

It is also estimated that as much as 15 percent of the U.S. population is gluten intolerant (i). Could you be one of them?

Here is a list of symptoms that Dr. Myers feels are greatly influenced by gluten.

1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. She particularly sees this in children after eating gluten.

2. Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as "chicken skin" on the back of your arms).

3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.

4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.

5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.

6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

7. Migraine headaches.

8. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pin point the cause of your fatigue or pain.

9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.

10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.

And here are the known illnesses that are scientifically proven to be related to gluten.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. About 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is another related symptom. It is a condition with symptoms similar to those of celiac disease that improve when gluten is removed from the diet. Research estimates that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity. That's six times the amount of Americans who have celiac disease.

Per and Dr. Mark Hyman, people with gluten sensitivity can experience symptoms such as "foggy mind," depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they have gluten in their diet, but other symptoms are also possible. While these are common symptoms of celiac disease, these individuals do not test positive for celiac disease or for a wheat allergy.

A diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is confirmed when you are not diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy, and your symptoms diminish after starting a gluten-free diet, followed by a return of symptoms when gluten is reintroduced into your diet.

There is no cure for gluten sensitivity, and the only treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet.

In Dr. Myers' summit, she will cover the influencers and treatments of autoimmune disease from world renown doctors, nurses and health practitioners.

Stay tuned and hope you join the educational and important event.

At Babo Botanicals, we receive numerous emails from concerned mothers looking for gluten-free products. While our products are topical, parents are concerned with anything entering a child's skin that may contain gluten. We are committed to produce products free of irritants and allergens and focusing on natural solutions.


(i) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review

Before You Go