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People with Autoimmune Condition Need to Avoid Gluten

Updated on July 19, 2013

This may sound extreme, but many believe that anyone with any kind of autoimmune disease or condition should be avoiding gluten.

Gluten avoidance is not just for those with autoimmune celiac disease, in which 100% gluten avoidance for life is a must. But gluten avoidance is a good idea for anyone with any of the other autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Sjogren's disease, type 1 diabetes, and many others.

You may have heard of the term gluten since there are now so many "gluten-free" products in the supermarket shelves. This is because one third of Americans are now trying to avoid gluten -- that is more than the number of people dieting.[reference]

Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye and any products derived from it. Gluten is found in bread, pasta, pastries, and many processed foods.

There is a rise in autoimmune diseases and gluten may be a contributing factor. More details about this in another article.

Testing for Gluten Sensitivity

If you have an autoimmune disease, at the very least, you should get tested for gluten sensitivity. Not just tested for celiac which traditional doctor's do. But tested for gluten sensitivity. Cyrex Labs has some good tests. If your doctor don't know how to order it, you can order the test yourself online at

Read Reversing Autoimmune Disease is a Real Possibility where it says

“If there is any autoimmune disease in your family immediately get tested for gluten intolerance. This is not just a celiac test but also a test for gluten sensitivity.”

Avoid Gluten Even If Your Tests are Negative

If your test come out that you have celiac, then everyone agrees that you need to be off gluten 100% for the rest of your life. Even traditional doctors would agree with this.

If your test come out that you do not have celiac, but gluten sensitivity, most authorities would tell you to get off gluten. It is believed that anywhere around 20% of the population is gluten sensitive. Many of them do not know it because not all of them will have digestive issues.

But what if your test come out negative? And what if your traditional doctor says you can still eat gluten. Nevertheless, if you have an autoimmune condition, it probably is a good idea to be avoiding gluten.

That is because there is an association between gluten sensitivity and autoimmune diseases. Gluten sensitivities tests are not yet sensitive enough to detect for sensitivity to every single form of gluten. There is alpha-gliadin gluten, gamma-gliadin gluten, omega-gliadin, and so on.

Watch Dr. Peter Osborne's YouTube video as he explains why blood tests for gluten sensitivity may not be accurate. And even why some "gluten-free products" may still be a problem for those sensitive to gluten.

Gluten, Leaky Gut, and Autoimmunity

If you have an autoimmune disease, you likely have a "leaky gut" syndrome of increased intestinal permeability.

And if you have leaky gut, difficult-to-digest gluten protein leaks from your gut into your bloodstream. Because such proteins are not suppose to be in your bloodstream, your immune system activates, causes inflammation, and over time can lead to autoimmune conditions.

You can listen more about that with Chris Kresser's interview of Dr. Alessio Fasano, in which Dr. Fasano says ...

"We don’t know what makes people sick with diabetes or MS, but it’s indisputable gluten, this strange protein contained in many grains, including wheat, rye, and barley, to be the culprit that leads to autoimmunity on that specific genetic background.”

What the Experts Are Saying

Many doctors familiar with the latest research in autoimmune condition and gluten sensitivity would say to avoid gluten whenever there is an autoimmune condition. Here, are some quotes of what some experts are saying...

Dr. Susan Blum writes ...

"... if you have any autoimmune disease — not necessarily celiac disease — ... you should still remove gluten from your diet, based on research showing a connection between gluten and many other autoimmune diseases"

This is from page 26 of her book The Immune System Recovery Plan: A Doctor's 4-Step Program to Treat Autoimmune Disease, which anyone with autoimmune disease should read. The four steps are ...

  1. Using food as medicine
  2. Understanding the stress connection
  3. Healing your gut
  4. Supporting your liver

Dr. Blum further writes that ...

"If you have a positive anti-gliadin or anti-deamidated gliadin antibody test, this should tell you to stop eating gluten. Now, the majority of my autoimmune patients are not positive for this test, but that doesn't prevent me from recommending that everyone with an autoimmune disease stop eating gluten. Just because modern medicine hasn't discovered the right laboratory test for you doesn't mean that gluten isn't wreaking havoc with your immune system" [page 51]

Gluten Related to Autoimmune Conditions

Thyroid Issues:

Dr. Lo Radio (which you can listen here) says that 80% to 90% of thyroid issues are autoimmune in nature. Gluten is one of the first things she remove from her patients' diets. She says "Gluten is the devil".

Read this article about how a person found that by avoiding gluten, she improved her Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

Hashimoto's is the most common autoimmune disease characterized by low thyroid function. In the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal?, it writes ...

As is the case with most, if not all, Hashimoto’s victims, eating wheat and other gluten-containing foods only makes Hashimoto’s worse.

Rheumatoid arthritis:

Natural News reports how rheumatoid arthritis may be caused by gluten. And writes how a gluten-free diet is helpful for rheumatoid arthritis.


Even autism may be among the conditions in which gluten plays a role. New York Times writes how autism, autoimmune condition, and gluten are related.

Watch this two-hour YouTube as Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains how gluten and the gut affects autism and how she cured her son of autism via diet and nutrition.

Raynaud's Disease:

Read Dr. Mark Hyman's article on HuffingtonPost about how he treated a girl's Raynaud's disease through various functional medicine protocol some of which included a gluten and dairy free diet, avoiding sugar, and taking supplements.

Also read Megan's personal testimonial of how avoiding gluten and other food sensitivites helped her with her autoimmune condition.

Various autoimmune conditiions

Dr. Rhea Parsons writes ...

"More and more research is showing a link between inflammation, autoimmune diseases and gluten sensitivity.” [from article Why I Eat a (Mostly) Gluten-Free Diet]

Dr. Vikki Petersen writes ...

A study from Italy showed that the longer gluten sensitive people eat gluten, the more likely they are to develop autoimmune diseases.“ [from article Is Gluten Intolerance the Cause of Autoimmune Disease?]

From the book Thinking Outside the Pill Box writes ...

“Most patients I see with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and various other autoimmune disease issues have gluten sensitivity as part of their problems.”

From the book Digestive Wellness for Children ...

“The incidence of celiac disease is high in people with autoimmune disease including lupus, insulin-dependent diabetes, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.”


This article was written April 2013 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Author is not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. Author may receive revenues from the display ads within articles.


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    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Yes, it is really difficult to avoid gluten 100% especially when eating out. When eating out, I take digestive enzymes containing DPP IV that are designed to help break down gluten. I wrote about it here:

    • Kalmiya profile image


      8 years ago from North America

      I totally agree with avoiding gluten and wrote a hub called Gluten Epidemic because even if we want to avoid it, it's seriously difficult to do so on account that gluten is in everything (even lipstick!). Great hub to add more awareness to this nightmare!


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