The first thing the doctors tell you is that there is no cure. They tell you there is little understanding as to why the body suddenly starts attacking itself, causing the myriad of different diseases that fall under the category of Autoimmune Disease. They tell you that your body’s immune defense system suddenly sees itself as the enemy and starts attacking. This can lead to thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Lupus, Sjogren’s, Type 1 Diabetes or others.
As a wellness professional, I was distraught to learn that vitamins suddenly getting lodged in my throat and random swollen, irritated eye trouble was caused by Sjogren’s Syndrome (the same illness Venus Williams suffers from). I was angry and embarrassed. I thought I was doing everything right. I ate well, got plenty of sleep, exercised and managed my stress. I drank tons of green tea for heavens sake! What was going on?
For a couple of years after my diagnosis, I kept the illness mostly at bay. But during high stress times (after Hurricane Sandy, for instance) my symptoms would act up. Eye drops were applied about two dozen times a day and I had to make sure to chew and swallow carefully. It was a nuisance more than anything, but I wasn’t pleased.
In April of this year, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a book by Dr. Susan Blum. Dr. Blum runs The Blum Center for Health, a Functional Medicine center in the town next to mine. Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease. A friend was taking a class at the center and recommended Dr. Blum’s new book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.
What I came to understand was that the wheat we eat today is not the same wheat that our grandparents ate. In the 1960’s through genetic modification and hybridization, wheat was altered in an effort to produce the greatest amount in the smallest amount of space. While the process “worked,” the new dwarf wheat has double the amount of chromosomes and produces a large amount of gluten proteins. This new super gluten was barely present in ancient wheat. Many of our bodies are not equipped to deal with this change and thus the rampant amount of celiac and gluten intolerance that is found today.
What Dr. Blum also taught me is that if you have an Autoimmune disease, by definition you have leaky gut. Leaky gut is when the lining of your stomach gets broken down by the gluten in your diet and particles of what you eat start escaping from your digestive system into your blood stream. Suddenly these particles become foreign bodies that are not recognized by your immune system. So what do your defenses do? They attack. And there you have it: Autoimmune disease.
After I read this, I drew some conclusions of my own. I now believe that the fat free craze of the 90’s and 00’s is why I developed leaky gut. I lived on pasta and bagels for more years than I care to admit. Combine that with the new fangled dwarf wheat and I was just an Autoimmune disease waiting to happen. Maybe this explains the growing number of Autoimmune cases reported—I certainly wasn’t the only woman who replaced fat with white carbs.
Dr. Blum advocates an elimination diet in her book. When I started, I cut out gluten, dairy, red meat, caffeine, eggs, nuts, soy and corn for three weeks. I reintroduced most of those foods, but never went back to gluten or caffeine and today I am 90% dairy free (cheese is my downfall). Gluten will never be part of my diet again.
After six months of following Dr. Blum’s plan, I went for blood tests. Guess what? My numbers have all come down dramatically. My CRP, which is a measurement of inflammation in the body is one third what it was and is now only slightly elevated. My ANA test which is used as a marker for Sjogren’s has been cut in half and falls into the negative category for the disease.
Even better, I can easily swallow my vitamin regimen again and don’t need to be toting eye drops around where ever I go.
The medical establishment often focuses on cures and band aids for chronic illnesses. Perhaps if they were to focus on the cause, as Functional Medicine and Dr. Blum do, we would be more likely to regain our health. In my case, eliminating the cause was the cure.
Do you have an Autoimmune disease? Would you consider cutting out gluten to cure or protect yourself? Please leave your comments below.
Disclaimer: This is my story. It is 100% true. I believe that cutting gluten can be the cure for others too. I do not believe it will work for everyone. Every case and medical history is different. My intent is to disseminate information that most people are not receiving from their primary care physician.
Next week I will discuss how cutting gluten from your diet isn’t as hard as you might think. I will also tell you the surprise benefit of being gluten free, as well as the replacements and alternatives that I have found to keep meal times enjoyable. Make sure you don’t miss it—sign up below.
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