I read recently that human clinical trials are beginning for a new vaccine for coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is one of 80 plus autoimmune diseases.

Coeliac disease (CD) may affect up to 1 in 70 people. This disease is believed to be unique in that the inflammation leading to the intestinal damage only happens in the presence of an environmental trigger – GLUTEN – in genetically susceptible individuals with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DQ2+ or DQ8+.

The only available therapy for CD is a lifelong and strict gluten-free diet. The researchers make this out to be something that is arduous, as well as proposing that CD is the only autoimmune disease that has an environmental trigger – I’m not so sure.

There has been a steady increase in CD and NCGS (non coeliac gluten sensitivity), identified by Harvard professor Alessio Fasano and his team in 2012. NCGS does not show the typical signs or diagnosis of CD, but when people stop eating gluten their symptoms disappear – symptoms like migraines, aches and arthritic pain, depression, anxiety, skin issues and a slew of other maladies. In fact, this happened for me in 2011. I had aches and pains, was gaining weight, suffered with migraines and other niggling health issues so I went on the 4 Phase Fat Loss Protocol and discovered wheat and gluten to be the food that perpetuated my symptoms. I’ve now been wheat and gluten free for 7 years and feel younger than ever. (Watch my documentary What’s With Wheat? to hear the whole story.)

I’m finding it hard to come to terms with why so much money is being spent on a vaccine for a disease that is easily remedied by taking gluten out of the diet. Surely there are many other autoimmune diseases that would benefit from the money and research.

What Can Cause Autoimmune Disease? 

My sister was diagnosed with CREST, an acronym for 5 autoimmune diseases, back in 1984. The only advice she was given was to stay warm, not to smoke and take medication. She passed away at the age of 47.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) quote that 5% of the Australian population are affected by an autoimmune disease, but I suspect that this figure is on the low side, as many people remain undiagnosed.

Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Addison’s, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few all require, in the standard of care paradigm, drugs and medications for the rest of the person’s life.

There are many theories as to the aetiology of this disease but, in simple terms, it is where the body’s immune system attacks body parts. In the case of Hashimoto’s the body starts to attack the thyroid; in type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks the beta cells (which make insulin) on the pancreas; in the case of CD it attacks the villi of the intestinal lining. In other words, instead of the immune system protecting the body from outside attacks, it turns on itself.

This is one theory.

Another theory is that the virus Epstein Barr may have something to do with the body turning on itself. Perhaps that’s a topic for another time.

No matter what the cause, we know that three factors are in play with this group of diseases:

  1. Genetics (genes are your potential, however, not your destiny – see below)
  2. Environment (food, sunlight, movement, sleep, chemical exposure)
  3. Leaky Gut (a result of our modern agricultural practices, diet and lifestyle)

Not much has changed in the management of autoimmune diseases on the main front, but a growing number of integrative doctors, nutritionists and naturopaths are looking at changing diet and lifestyle to change the outcome of this disease…and it’s working.

When you search AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) on the internet, you will find thousands of pages of people who have successfully managed and reversed their autoimmune disease using diet and lifestyle – in other words environmental triggers. People like Dr Terry Wahls who used diet and lifestyle to help manage her multiple sclerosis, Dr Natasha Campbell McBride who uses her GAPS program for type 1 diabetes and Dr Sarah Ballantyne using an AIP to help her lichen planus.

And we know a dietary change is required when diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Perhaps all autoimmune disease is about environmental triggers. My sister was exposed to DDT as a young baby living in Iowa – perhaps that’s what triggered the cascade of autoimmune diseases that ravaged her body from the age of 20. Our modern agriculture allows poisons to be sprayed on our food – glyphosate (Roundup) is one herbicide that is increasingly being sprayed pre-harvest on our grains and legumes. So it may not be gluten that is the trigger. Maybe it is glyphosate (patented as a chelating agent, herbicide and antibiotic) that is the major environmental issue triggering genes to be turned on.

Finding a New Destiny for Your Genes

  1. Eat organic whole foods – this is so you are not exposed to the herbicide glyphosate. This herbicide is also an antimicrobial so it kills your gut bacteria, which in turn compromises the epithelial lining in the gut. This allows food particles and toxins to move into the blood system unhindered, causing an immune response and increasing the chances of activating autoimmunity.
  2. Do not eat anything with gluten – gluten has been associated with many autoimmune diseases.
  3. Change your diet to a nutrient dense real food diet (historical diet) – stay away from packaged foods filled with unidentifiable additives (including gluten-free packaged foods). The body has not evolved with these chemicals and the ramifications for the body are unknown.
  4. Consume organic broths and slow-cooked meats to nourish your gut lining and increase the diversity of your gut bacteria.
  5. Naturally fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and traditional yogurt all help the established bacteria in the gut thrive, which in turn increases the integrity of the gut lining.
  6. Eat food as close to its original source as possible. That means going to your farmer’s market and buying individual ingredients to make amazing foods from scratch. It’s important we get back into the kitchen to feed and nourish ourselves and family to heal a nation.
  7. Get out into nature, walk barefoot on the grass, hike through the woods, get sunshine on your face, move your body and then have a great night’s sleep.
  8. Fulvic and humic acids can improve the communication of the bacteria in your gut as well as heal a leaky gut.

Looking for a cure rather than preventing the increase in CD and NCGS seems to be a bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

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Cyndi O'Meara

Founder at Changing Habits
Not your typical nutritionist, Cyndi disagrees with low-fat, low-calorie diets, believes chocolate can be good for you and thinks cheating and eating yummy food is an important part of a well-balanced diet. Cyndi must be doing something right because she maintains a healthy weight and has never (in her whole life!) taken an antibiotic, pain-killer or any other form of medication. Cyndi is a passionate, determined and knowledgeable speaker on health issues and uses her education and experience to help others improve their quality of life so they too can enjoy greater health and longer lives.
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