Autoimmunity is the process describing an immune response waged against our own organs. The complex collection of mechanisms consisting of T and B lymphocytes, antibodies, and others, meant to provide protection against viruses, bacteria, and other body invaders, is misdirected against proteins of the body’s organs, such as liver, pancreas, thyroid, or brain. Autoimmune conditions now affect 8% of the American population–it is increasingly looking like diseases of autoimmunity are out of control.
Dr Alessio Fasano was recently awarded the Linus Pauling Award, the highest award from the Institute for Functional Medicine, for his pioneering work on deciphering the role of the gliadin protein of wheat in triggering disruption of the normal intestinal barriers, a process that appears to underlie an astounding proportion of autoimmune conditions.
Dr. Fasano’s research has demonstrated that, in the presence of gliadin, foreign substances are permitted entry into the bloodstream, substances that ordinarily should have remained confined within the intestinal tract. Increased intestinal permeability is signaled by increased blood levels of the protein, zonulin. Increased zonulin levels have been found in type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Interestingly, while zonulin levels are the highest in people with celiac disease, zonulin levels are increased in the majority of people without celiac disease. This may explain why, although people with celiac disease are at high risk for various autoimmune diseases, people without celiac disease can also develop autoimmunity (determined, in part, by haptoglobin 2 genotype).
The list of autoimmune conditions that have been associated with wheat, thereby gliadin, consumption is formidable:
Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)
Autoimmune aplastic anemia
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)
Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (ATP)
Autoimmune thyroid disease
Axonal & neuronal neuropathies
Cafe au lait
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis)
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
Paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Primary sclerosing cholangitis
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Restless legs syndrome
Sperm & testicular autoimmunity
Type 1 diabetes
Yes, “healthy whole grain” consumption is accompanied by risk for an astounding variety of autoimmune diseases, some just a nuisance (such as vitiligo or cafe au lait), some disfiguring or debilitating (such as psoriasis or cerebellar ataxia), some rapidly fatal (gluten encephalopathy, transverse myelitis, type 1 diabetes without insulin).
You think any of this is factored in when we are advised to consume plenty of “healthy whole grains”?