Learn About Gluten & The Autoimmune Disease Connection

If you have an autoimmune disease it means your immune system went rogue and began seeing things that weren’t a threat as a threat – like gluten. As a result, your immune system began attacking your own body’s tissues. It’s as if your immune system got dementia. This change from a healthy functioning immune system to a confused one doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years. Learn about Gluten & The Autoimmune Disease Connection.

The way to get your immune system to break this cycle of confused hatred is to remove the triggers. These can be toxins, infection or the food you eat. Have you suddenly become allergic to foods you never had issue with before? Welcome to the fun world of autoimmunity problems. While we will eventually talk about all the triggers – we are focusing on gluten today.

Gluten is a group of proteins that are found in wheat, barley, & rye (some say spelt too!) It shows up in foods such as:

  • pasta
  • bread


    Its a plate of gluten. Pasta is made of wheat durum.

  • additives
  • preservatives
  • sauces
  • flours
  • crackers
  • cake
  • brownies
  • vegan meat substitutes
  • pretzels
  • protein shakes
  • you name it! (Anything made from wheat barley and rye.)

There are also not so obvious gluten sources such as:

  • bouillon cubes
  • sauces
  • alcohol
  • artificial coloring
  • caramel coloring
  • citric acid which can be fermented from wheat, corn or molasses
  • food coloring
  • glucose syrups
  • food starches
  • medicine fillers or binders
  • conventional hair glazes
  • body products like make-up, conditioners & hair product to strengthen, curl, relax and smooth our locks

One of the biggest problems about trying to read ingredients on packages is that the government doesn’t require every common additive to be labeled. As a result, it’s lumped in as “food starch”, or “natural flavors” or “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”. Think of flour and water mixed together how it becomes a pasty glue like substance that binds and hold things together, gluten is like that.. This is why manufacturers frequently use some form of gluten as a binder or filler in medicines, sauces, gravies and pretty much everything (unfortunately).


While It Makes Yummy Brownies & Cakes Gluten is Problematic to Your Health.

Every time your body is exposed to an invader (be it real like a virus or bacteria or perceived such as gluten), your immune system memorizes its structure so that it can develop a defense against that pathogen for future attacks.  Remember, in bodies with autoimmune challenges, our immune system’s recognition software has been attacked by a malware program!  So if a molecule’s structure is similar enough, the immune system will register it as an invader and attack. Gluten, which is a particularly large protein, happens to be structurally similar to a number of our body’s tissues, particularly our thyroid. This is why people who have Hashimotos get worst when they eat gluten.  When you eat that ‘glutenous’ piece of deliciousness your immune system sends out antibodies to detect and destroy the gluten, but since the gluten and thyroid gland looks so similar some of those immune cells end up attacking the thyroid by mistake.  This is like adding fuel to an already burning fire… that isn’t in your fireplace but rather the middle of your den! It spells chaos & destruction…. & unfortunately you can’t call any firemen that look like those sexy models in the firemen’s calendar to come over and put that fire out! Heck, even if you could.. you wouldn’t enjoy it because you feel bloated, your joints are hurting and your too tired to open the door. Ok back to the real world.

Those with celiac disease (which is another autoimmune condition) are also very seriously affected by gluten because it triggers their immune system to attack the cells of their smaller intestines. This blunts there microvilli which helps draw in nutrients from the flow of food. Without the ability to absorb nutrients from food people can become easily malnourished.

There are several other food proteins, such as the casein in dairy that have a similar molecular structure to gluten. Because of this copycat affect when you eat dairy your body can get confused and think you just ate a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction as a result of those foods too.

There’s another problem that comes with this loveliness. Similarly to the way our body swells when we scrape or sprain it, gluten causes inflammation too. Inflammation is our immune system’s natural response to anything that it sees as needing isolation whether it’s a cut, a virus or the gluten that you ate in those irresistible chocolate chunk cookies. When our immune system is constantly creating an inflammation response in our body we are left with & develop chronic inflammation which usually means chronic pain.

This further weakens our already stressed immune’s operating system and it’s less able to attack pathogens that really are enemies. It begins to indiscriminately attack parts of our body.  Essentially it is hallucinating. Have you ever met a very sleep deprived person? They tend to be jumpy and can see things that aren’t there. Sometimes they get lost traveling a familiar route. Your immune system is working a little like that — in overdrive.


Removing gluten from your diet is ONE of the most impactful changes you can make to achieve remission of your autoimmune disease.

I didn’t believe it but I promise you it is. …. And don’t do what I did. I spent the first two years fighting it. I’d stay away from gluten and one day something would seem too yummy to resist and Whammy. I’d eat it… and for that moment it was the most deliciousness on earth… but then the cascade of problems would hit me and I’d ask my husband.. “Why did you let me do that??”  (like he could have stopped me!!??) And again I’d swear.. “I’m never doing that again”. One day I got smart.  I stopped abusing myself. It’s like getting stabbed & beaten at the same time. Anytime it happens it would hurt and leave scars – whether it’s 4 times a year or only at Thanksgiving. Do yourself a favor …step away from the gluten/punish-er. Don’t justify it by saying your only a sensitivity to gluten either! If you don’t already have an autoimmune disease… realize the sensitivity is a call for change. If you don’t listen your body will escalate its request for you to hear it.


Food sensitivities and allergies

These can show up in a couple different forms.  It can be IgE antibodies which can sometimes be fatal causing an anaphylactic response or a food sensitivity which is seen by IgG antibodies. IgG is a delayed response. It can be less intense in the short term but incredibly harmful in the long term. It can take up to 72 hours for IgG antibodies to trigger a response. On Saturday you ate chips and cake at the party and on Monday when you have a bloated stomach, joint pain and a headache you don’t realize that it came from the gluten you ate a few days ago.


There are tests

You can find out if you are allergic or just sensitive. They are expensive and not all are fool proof.  You can get a functional medicine practitioner to order a test for you or go to a conventional doc. Functional doctors (in my experience) tend to stay more current on the latest offerings of tests. You may register a false negative with the older type tests. Functional docs focus on challenging patients compared to a conventional GP that sees everything from a broken arm to autoimmune diseases. Your insurance usually pays for testing but there is still a piece you will be responsible for. It’s not cheap.  An allergist also offers tests for wheat or gluten sensitivity/ allergies. This is the IgE test. I always tell folks that your body knows better than any test you could take. If you’re uncertain, don’t want to spend the money or just want to double check: remove gluten from your diet all together for two weeks. Be very strict. Look at every ingredient of everything you use. Don’t go out to eat unless you get something relatively safe like grilled chicken  and a salad with oil and vinegar that you mix at the table. If you start to feel better then you can be pretty sure that gluten was a problem. Another good indicator is that gluten is not right for you can come when you’ve taken gluten out for several weeks and then feel worse after you start eating it again. When I took dairy out of my diet, I felt better in 3 days with gluten it took a week for my body to purge it, stop the domino effect from having so much in my system & start to feel better.

One final cautionary note… generic Synthroid has a wheat filler in it. I found out the hard way. I was taking Synthroid and/ or the generic version for 20 plus years when I suddenly developed food allergies.  My thyroid numbers also looked like I wasn’t taking the meds. My body kept getting worst. After about two weeks on another brand I started to slowly feel better but the pain in my hands and feet had left after 3 days on the new meds.  Try the various hormone replacements until you get the one that is right for you. Like eliminating gluten to see if it helps…. Your body will tell you everything you need to know.


September 20, 2016


  1. Cindy September 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Good info about the hidden wheat fillers in the meds. I have contacted a friend of mine who is SUPER EXTREMELY gluten intolerant.

    • Cindy Coleman September 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      I like the gluten free cookies from tj maxx or marshalls. I can’t remember the brand name. They are in a bag and soft. The calorie count is high so I don’t buy them often.

  2. Cindy Coleman September 22, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I think Smart Cookie is the gluten free cookies at a time.

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