An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system of the body produces antibodies against its own tissues. Research confirms that the root cause of many undesired immune reactions originate in the gastrointestinal tract.(1) The human intestinal epithelium, the thin tissue forming the outer layer, is formed by a single layer of epithelial cells. The space between these cells are sealed by tight junctions, which regulate the permeability of the intestinal barrier. In other words, these tight junctions regulate what molecules, in the intestines, are allowed to enter into the bloodstream. These tight junctions are the “gate keepers”.
When the immune system attacks the intestinal barrier the tight junctions become compromised. The tight junctions become inflamed and the junctions become wider allowing macromolecules, considered by the body as foreign invaders, to enter into the bloodstream. The immune system senses these macromolecules and then produces antibodies to them. These macromolecules can land anywhere in the body, resembling the molecular sequence of tissue (molecular mimicry) or binding directly to the tissue, causing the body's immune system to attack the self-tissue antigens.(1) Patients with chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions should be checked for the existence of increased gut permeability by measurement of IgA and IgM antibodies against LPS (lipopolysaccharides - bacterial endotoxins) and tight junction proteins.(1)
One of the biggest culprits leading to compromised tight junctions is gluten, and in particular alpha-gliadin, a glycoprotein in gluten containing foods (wheat, barley, and rye). Alpha-gliadin contains the toxic peptides associated with celiac disease (a chronic autoimmune reaction to alpha-gliadin where antibodies are produced that attack the intestines and other tissues).(2) Detection of antibodies to alpha-gliadin may indicate abnormal mucosal immune response and intestinal barrier dysfunction. Current testing for gluten sensitivity and celiac disease includes serum IgG and IgA antibodies against alpha-gliadin and tissue transglutaminase-2 (an enzyme that is used by the body to form barriers and stable structures).(2) Those individuals with positive serologies should have a tissue biopsy for a diagnosis of celiac disease.(3)
A negative serology does not necessarily mean a negative immune reaction or negative pathology. Several reports show that the majority of celiac patient's antibodies to alpha-gliadin may be negative.(2) How can this be? The reason for this is that wheat not only contains alpha-gliadin but also additional proteins such as omega-gliadin, glutenin, gluteomorphin, prodynorphin, and agglutinins, all of which can cause an immune system reaction and are not being tested.(2)
A person can have symptoms associated with celiac disease when they eat gluten products, but not have celiac. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity or NCGS. Although, as stated below, both NCGS and celiac disease can lead to autoimmune diseases. Common symptoms of a gluten related disorder with or without celiac disease:(3)
Some interesting facts to consider:
A partial list of some autoimmune disorders, credited by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.(4)
The protocol, in part, will consist of changing the diet and healing the gut, as one would expect. Abstaining from all gluten containing foods is a priority! We will also test for other food allergies to avoid any further intestinal inflammation and evaluate for heavy metal toxicity. Additionally, we will then recommend specific products to heal the damaged intestinal tissue and restore those tight junctions.
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1) Cyrex Laboratories. 2012. Clinical Application Guide to Intestinal Antigenic Permeability Screen
2) Cyrex Laboratories. 2012. Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity & Autoimmunity
3) O'Bryan, Tom. 2016. The Autoimmune Fix. New York, NY. Rodale Inc. pp. 13, 16, 21, 28, 43, 44, 46, 61
4) AARDA. Retrieved from http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/list-of-diseases/
5) Cyrex Laboratories. 2012 Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods & Food Sensitivity
6) Cyrex Laboratories. 2012 Multiple Food Immune Reactivity Screen