• Gigi



by Karen Pendergrass

OCTOBER 10, 2015


The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates that there are around 50 million people in the United States with an autoimmune condition, and suggests that its prevalence may be increasing.  To put that another way, that is 1 in 6 individuals.  And although autoimmune diseases and their underlying mechanisms are becoming better understood, what is not often discussed is the link between autoimmune disease and diet.

Many health practitioners believe that avoiding gluten— a protein in wheat, barley, rye, and oats— only makes sense for individuals with Celiac’s Disease. However, evidence suggests that it may be important for anyone with an autoimmune condition to remove gluten from their diet because of the role that cereal grains play in the development of autoimmune diseases.  Not just glutenous grains… all grains. It is for that reason that one may want to consider the potential of a Paleo Diet for Autoimmune Disease.

Gluten and Autoimmune Disease

Gluten is one of the most well-known, potentially dangerous proteins in grains. Gluten is made up of two types of proteins: gliadins and glutenins.  During the digestion process, gluten is broken down into strings of amino acids, called peptides.  However,  gliadin and glutenin are poorly degraded by heat or digestion, so it remains an intact, 33 mer polypeptide. When this polypeptide enters into systemic circulation, an autoimmune response may occur if the peptide sequence mimics the three-dimensional structure of an individual’s tissues.  In this event, the immune system “confuses” non-self proteins with self-proteins— a case of ‘mistaken identity’ known as molecular mimicry, the pathogenic mechanism of autoimmune diseases.

The immune system has a number of ‘recognition’ or ‘identification’ mechanisms which allow the body to distinguish between its own proteins, and foreign proteins.  This identification system allows for foreign bodies to be discovered, identified, and subsequently destroyed.  This system enables the body to initiate an immune response to intrusions by viruses, bacteria, etc.  When an antigen, or “foreign invader” is presented, immunoglobulins make antibodies to combat them.