But, since I moved here to Canada, I started seeing client after client (myself included) with symptoms improving or even totally disappearing just by giving up gluten. So, what was going on here?
Dr. Fasano is a pediatric gastroenterologist. He heads the Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts and He is a Visiting Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. His life-long research about celiac disease in the U.S. eventually led to his publication of the groundbreaking study in 2003 that established the rate of the autoimmune disorder at one in 133 Americans. He also discovered the molecule "zonulin," which regulates the impermeability of the intestine also known as "leaky gut."
In a recent interview on the Autoimmune Summit, Dr. Fasano answered the question: 'after all what you know now, do you still eat wheat?” he non-hesitantly replied: "yes, I do".
Now, we're talking, I reasoned. This is no fad!
In his latest book, Gluten Freedom, Dr. Fasano explained that wheat is hard to digest for all human being; yet, only few of us genetically susceptible to its health-compromising effects. To develop an autoimmune disease, he says, three factors need to be present:
1. Genetic susceptibility
2. A trigger
3. Increased intestinal permeability, or what is known as leaky gut.
If we apply this to gluten-related disorders, for someone to develop the myriad of health reactions ranging from celiac to neurological and behavioral disorders, one has to:
1. Have the susceptible genes (HLA-DQ2 & DQ8 genes)
2. Be subjected to the trigger which in this case is gluten protein from wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale or oat.
3. Have a leaky gut for the gluten to cross the intestinal mucosa, get in contact with the immune system which identifies it as ‘foreign harmful entity’ and initiates the attack that damages body cells in the process.
This explained why many people have no problem eating wheat (they do not have the susceptible genes) and why many others develop the symptom at later age even though they have had the susceptible genes all along and have been eating wheat all their life (they did not have leaky gut until recently).
If we remove one of the factors, the disease won't be manifested.
Although having celiac or other gluten-related autoimmunity is very restrictive in eating and lifestyle habits… it is still the only autoimmune disease that we know how to manage --- just remove the trigger (gluten) for life. Genes cannot be changed and the intestinal permeability factor is pretty variable and can only be controlled to certain extent.
So, to answer my first question: do we all have to be gluten-free? No we don't.
But how do you know if you need to?
We know very little -if any- about the trigger in other autoimmune diseases. And although not all autoimmune diseases are triggered by gluten, it is well worth the try. So, if you suffer from any autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto or multiple sclerosis try to get completely off gluten for at least 2 months and see if your symptoms improve. This may be the key to your healing or at least one step forward.
Have a great day!