Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, celiac disease, osteoporosis, and lupus are all autoimmune diseases and can be reversed because 70% of them are found in the gut. In Dr. Tom O’Bryan’s new book, The Autoimmune Fix: How to Stop the Hidden Autoimmune Damage That Keeps You Sick, Fat, and Tired Before It Turns Into Disease he provides a practical and much-needed guide to navigating autoimmune diseases to help you feel better and develop a plan that works for you.
A big factor with many autoimmune diseases and conditions is going gluten-free and often going dairy-free too. As Dr. O’ Bryan states:
This does not mean that everyone with a systemic autoimmune disease has a sensitivity to gluten, but it does show the very high correlation.
He also shares that Marios Hadjivassiliou MD believes that
gluten sensitivity is associated with autoimmune disease and that celiac is just one manifestation of it.
Here is a wonderful success story from the book – a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, and the nutrition to heal her intestinal permeability (or leaky gut):
Nancy never left the house without a packet of tissues. She suffered from chronic allergies but could never figure out exactly what she was allergic to. She was also constantly battling her depression, and although she didn’t think of herself as someone who had digestive problems, she always felt bloated. The comforting allure of a box of doughnuts, a pint of ice cream, a bowl of noodles, or, when things were really bad, a roll of raw cookie dough was often too hard to resist and seemed to calm down her anxiety. She dressed to hide her weight gain in public, hoping to pass invisibly through life. She didn’t even consider dating. She had lost interest in men anyway, despite being only 28 years old.
To the average doctor, Nancy was a classic depressed patient who needed a prescription for antidepressants, perhaps some antianxiety medication, and a good weight-loss and exercise program. But here’s what most doctors miss with people like Nancy: Her depression, anxiety, and weight gain were actually the result of immune responses that were causing chronic inflammation. Nancy, like so many women, had a constellation of symptoms that all pointed to one culprit: a systemic inflammatory cascade.
When Nancy came to my office, I ran an antibody test to determine the cause of her problems. I discovered that the culprits for her immune reaction were a sensitivity to gluten and dairy and elevated levels of LPS [lipopolysaccharides] in her blood. These molecules were activating her immune system. But how did these molecules enter her bloodstream? The answer was the third factor: intestinal permeability. With the proper testing and treatment, a gluten- and dairy-free diet, and the nutrition to heal her intestinal permeability, Nancy’s antibody load to LPS reduced within 6 months. She stopped throwing gasoline on the fire (by removing gluten and dairy), and her symptoms began lifting within the first 2 weeks as her inflammation subsided. Within 6 months, she was down two dress sizes and came back to see me, vibrant with life.
It really can be as successful as this and I see these kind of results with so many of my clients who make these few simple changes.
However, for some people, it can be more challenging and you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you give up wheat and dairy, and feel tired, depressed (or anxious) or nauseated:
Some don’t want to exercise, and some have headaches (just like with coffee withdrawal). This is especially true of those who in their blood tests have elevated levels of the peptide in wheat called gluteomorphin or elevated levels of the peptide in dairy called casomorphin.
These poorly digested peptides can stimulate the opiate receptors in the gut and brain. Opiate receptors trigger the production of hormones called endorphins and enkephalins that produce that feel-good response. Remember the last time you laughed out loud in a movie or with your friends? Perhaps you even had belly laughter—when you laugh so hard your belly hurts? Remember how good you felt after that? It’s because your opiate receptors were stimulated and you now have a little more endorphins circulating in your bloodstream. Well, gluten and dairy can mildly stimulate these same receptors. And just as an addict may have withdrawal symptoms when they stop their drug of choice, such may be the case with gluten and dairy withdrawal. My friend William Davis, MD, author of Wheat Belly, even came up with a name for it: wheat withdrawal. The same may be true for removing dairy or sugar.
If this happens to you, don’t be surprised. First of all, this may be the first time you had to give up some of your favorite comfort foods cold turkey. And these favorite foods become comfort foods for a reason: Sugar-laden foods, especially refined carbohydrates, are highly addictive. Your body is actually going through a gliadin-casein-sugar–derived opiate withdrawal.
You may ask how common is it to have these withdrawal symptoms? This can be different for each individual and can differ from one practice to the next:
Dr. Davis [author of Wheat Belly] believes that wheat withdrawal can be quite unpleasant for close to 40 percent of the population. That has not been my clinical experience. Our number has been closer to 10 percent, which is still a substantial number. You may have a friend or family member who has tried to go gluten-free and has told you, “My body must need wheat. It’s been 3 days since I’ve had anything made of wheat, and I feel awful!” This response can be scary. But remember, it’s not that the body needs wheat; it craves it. This is just the body craving a toxic substance that it has gotten accustomed to. Don’t worry: The symptoms will disappear quickly. And best of all, the cravings for sugar and wheat will subside, and then you feel wonderful!
It is interesting to read that Dr. O’Bryan finds that only 10% of his patients have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I’d like to add to the discussion and share that with the anxious women that I work with, it’s even higher than the 40% that Dr. Davis reports. It’s in these instances that I find the targeted amino acids so helpful to break the addiction, prevent the need for having to use willpower and provide instant mood and anxiety relief at the same time: tryptophan (if it’s afternoon/evening cravings), GABA (if you stress-eat), DPA (if you comfort-eat) or glutamine (if you crave due to low blood sugar).
Dr. O’Bryan does recommend glutamine for gut healing, together with vitamin D, fish oil, probiotics, zinc carnosine and colostrum. I suspect he doesn’t recommend the amino acids I mentioned above because he doesn’t see as many unpleasant or difficult withdrawal symptoms.
Some of my other favorite sections from this new book include:
- his brilliant description of the immune system and how antibodies are created, and how inflammation is the primary tool in our immune system’s arsenal that keeps us healthy
- the differences between autoimmune diseases and the many autoimmune conditions (he lists 159 that are on the autoimmune spectrum!)
- the differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
- the leaky gut and lipopolysaccharides discussion, and the section on the microbiome and dysbiosis (and the big connection to stress)
- the connection of a disproportionally large forehead to celiac disease (fascinating!)
- testing and measuring autoantibodies (I love that he calls them “messengers from the future”) and the chart that shows the likelihood as to whether you will develop a particular disease
- the extensive lists of the hidden sources of gluten in supplements, cosmetics (this is surprisingly long) and even household products
- the connection between gum disease, mouth bacteria and leaky gut
- his food and nutrient recommendations
- the long list of references and study summaries – if you’ve have the wonderful opportunity to have heard Dr. O’Bryan speak live or on summits (he’s a popular speaker on prior Anxiety Summits) you’ll recognize and love this style of his right away
If any of this is new to you and you suspect you may have an autoimmune disease or condition, then this book, The Autoimmune Fix is a must-read. It launched earlier this week and as you would expect from Dr. O’Bryan, it’s brilliant! You can order your copy here on Amazon. This is groundbreaking information we all need to know!
Let us know if you have an autoimmune disease or condition and if going gluten-free and/or dairy-free has helped you? Was it an easy change for you to make or did you experience withdrawal symptoms? Did you power through or did you successfully use amino acids to help? Have you done any of the testing he discusses or addressed dysbiosis? Healed your leaky gut?
If you have already purchased and read the book, please share some of your favorite sections and what has helped you.