We all know that autoimmune disorders tend to come in multiples, sadly: got one, probably develop another.
This is why I am constantly advising people with diagnosed coeliac disease – and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, which I am convinced for some involves an autoimmune element – to test for the presence of others. Of course, it goes the other way around too – if you have an autoimmune disease such as the ones mentioned below, could you also have a gluten related disorder?
Ask your consultant to test, or general – and usually much more comprehensive – testing can be done using the Cyrex tests – 5 is the most general or my own invented one, MR1, but you can also test specific joint, diabetes and neurological autoimmune disease antibodies now with Arrays 6, 7 and 8. You can see all of these here and follow the links for more info. There is also a useful rundown of the Cyrex 5 autoimmune antibodies and what they each mean here.
Anyway, back to the top four other most common autoimmune disorders found in coeliacs. This came from a study here, which Foodsmatter alerted me to.
We won’t be surprised to learn that the thyroid is top. I see this a lot. Next comes psoriasis, which again I see a lot. Third is Type 1 Diabetes – not surprising as they are both on the DQ gene location. Fourth is Sjogren’s Syndrome, for which the most common first symptoms are dryness – of eyes, mouth; lack of secretions generally.
Why do we develop more than one autoimmune disease anyway?
Here’s a bit taken from my Gluten Plan. This is about how gluten triggers autoimmunity since we know that gluten seems to be a top common denominator across autoimmune disease.
What Happens In the Body?
This is an emerging scientific field with a truly fantastic amount of research coming out almost daily. But, this is what we think so far (see following diagram).
To trigger the GRD process, we need:
1. An environmental trigger of some kind (in this case gluten is the main one, but dairy, a fungus, bacteria, stress, trauma, chemical toxin, medicine, drug or virus could be a secondary trigger) plus
2. A genetic susceptibility (the gluten DQ genes, – all of them, not just coeliac DQ2 and DQ8) which leads to
3. An unusually permeable barrier problem. No-one is sure currently whether this always starts with the gut and spreads from there, or can start in the brain and then move onward. Barriers include skin (eg. eczema/dermatitis/psoriasis), lungs (eg. asthma), bladder (eg. interstitial cystitis), blood-brain (eg. migraine, Alzheimer’s, ataxia) and gut. This then leads to
4. Immune dysregulation which causes:
- food and/or environmental sensitivity because of the breached barriers allowing antigens through
- inflammation, either systemic (body-wide) or localised (as in the gut, joints, muscles, nerve fibres, fibromyalgia etc) and/or to
- autoimmunity and molecular mimicry – where the body starts confusing similar-looking food structures for self-antigens of body tissues, glands and cells, as in Hashimoto’s, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, MS, coeliac disease, parietal cells causing lack of acid and enzymes, adrenal dysfunction, neurological illness etc – could literally be anywhere.
No coincidence then that most gluten sensitives have a problem with poor cognition and memory, neurological issues like anxiety and migraine, muscle and nerve issues, skin diseases like eczema and posriasis, gut symptoms and adrenal/thyroid fatigue. Hence it is termed:
A Multi-Organ, Multi-System problem
Fascinating, isn’t it? Anyway, my message is: please do check for the presence of other autoimmune diseases if you have or suspect one. They take a looong time to show symptoms – decades sometimes – and the earlier we know about them, the easier they are to prevent or reverse. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.