An autoimmune disorder by definition is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissue causing damage. Celiac disease, thyroid disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are just a few that belong to the family of autoimmune disorders. Having celiac disease may makes you prone to having other autoimmune disorders. Without going into too much detail, I will try to explain what I meant by the above statement in bold. Ok, here we go. Our immune system has within it a multilayer subsystem with a series of checks and balances built in to prevent self-attack. This process eliminates auto-reactive immune cells (immune cells that attack the body’s own tissue). Immunologists call this subsystem “Tolerance”. Unfortunately this system like any other system in our body is not perfect. So, at any given time an unknown amount of auto-reactive immune cells (a.k.a. self-reactive cells) can slip through the checkpoints of Tolerance and end up floating around our body via the bloodstream. The programming of these self-reactive cells floating around our body is flawed. Without a well-designed seek and neutralize plan to follow; they will attack any foreign substance. Properly programmed immune cells are designed to identify one particular type of foreign substance and attack it. Our immune system sees all foreign substances as antigens. Part of and located on the surface of an antigen are epitopes, also known as antigenic determinants. These antigenic determinants allow our immune cells to recognize friend from foe and to bind with the foreign substance. In order to provoke an immune response our immune cells must bind with the antigen. Now, if the self-reactive cells bind with the epitopes on the foreign substance (antigen) before the correctly programmed immune cells does and the antigen happens to carry epitopes (antigenic determinants) that closely resemble those on the cells of an organ in our body; our self-reactive cells will in turn provoke an immune response that will stimulate the production of immune cells to attack that particular organ. A Situation immunologists call “molecular mimicry” which may trigger a new autoimmune disease. The good news! self-reactive cells have a short life span, less than 12 hours.

 

At this point you’re probably asking yourself, how can unintentional faults on the part of my immune system have anything to do with celiac disease? Well, directly it doesn’t but indirectly it may. Normally the spaces between the cells that line our intestines are sealed tight. But when we consume gluten, our intestines become inflamed and that tight junction between cells begins to loosen just enough to allow foreign substances to pass through and into our bloodstream. If this leakage is allowed to continue unchecked (unintentionally or stubbornly) for yet an unknown number of years; the foreign substances and self-reactive cells -like partners in crime- will eventually link up. From this point on I think you can now understand the indirect role celiac disease plays in making you prone to having another autoimmune disease. A gluten-free diet may help heal the symptoms associated with a secondary autoimmune disease. Place yourself on a strict gluten-free diet and take into account all the sources of gluten mentioned on my website. If after 30 days you notice a change for the better; have yourself reexamined and tested. The window to recovery from a secondary autoimmune disease may still be open.

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