Autoimmune Diseases

Many people who are on a gluten-free diet have celiac disease.  The survey I did a few months ago showed that 53% of my readers either have celiac disease, or someone in their household does.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.  When someone has an autoimmune disease, their body mistakenly sees part of itself as an invader.  It results in the body attacking itself and causing damage, or it can result in abnormal organ growth or function.

Celiac Disease

Male Doctor Abstract Hand GestureIn the case of celiac disease, the body  attacks the lining of the small intestine.  This reaction is triggered by gluten.  Celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease where the trigger is known.  For that reason, if you had to choose one autoimmune disease to have, celiac disease would be the one.  The disease is treated by removing the trigger and therefore eliminating the faulty immune response.  Doctors would love to know what triggers other autoimmune diseases.

Other Autoimmune Diseases

Unfortunately, if you have one autoimmune disease,  you are more likely to develop another.  According to the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Fact Sheet, people diagnosed with celiac disease at the following ages have a chance of developing another autoimmune disease at the percent given:

  • 4 –12 yrs.     16.7% 
  • 12 – 20 yrs.  27%
  • over 20 yrs.  34%

There are many autoimmune diseases and even more that are suspected to be autoimmune.  According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, autoimmune diseases associated with celiac disease include:

  • Addison’s Disease – adrenal gland
  • Autoimmune Chronic Active Hepatitis – liver
  • Type I Diabetes – pancreas
  • Myasthenia Gravis – nerve impulses & muscle function
  • Pernicious Anemia –lining of the stomach
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon – blood vessels
  • Scleroderma –skin, GI tract, muscles, lungs, or kidneys
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome – mucus-secreting glands
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – many organs
  • Grave’s Disease – overactive thyroid
  • Hashimoto’s Disease – underactive thyroid

My Autoimmune Diseases

In the fall of 2000 I was diagnosed with celiac disease.  I was grateful when we finally found an answer to my problems, and although the gluten-free diet was challenging, I was feeling better.  As months went by, I regained strength and weight, and I grew more comfortable with the diet.  After about a year life was pretty much back to normal.  Well, gluten-free normal.  Health wise, I was feeling good.

In 2006 I developed Hashimoto’s disease.  In a few months time I gained 10 pounds, became depressed, fatigued, and drained.  I began taking thyroid hormone replacement medication and felt much better after a month.  Much better compared to really bad, but not good.  I tried a different brand of medication, then another.  I changed dosages and had my thyroid levels tested multiple times. 

The bottom line is that I have never felt back to normal.  I have continued to struggle with weight gain, depression and fatigue.   It’s been particularly bad the past couple of months since I made a medicine change again (due to unavailability of natural thyroid medicines) and ended up taking too much medicine.  I have since cut back and am waiting for things to normalize. 

Of course, I realize that other factors play a part, including my age, but if given a choice between celiac disease or Hashimoto’s disease, I would choose celiac hands down.  Sure, popping a pill every morning is much easier than following a gluten-free diet, but the results don’t compare.  The gluten-free diet essentially fixes the problem, medicine just treats it.

But I don’t have that choice, so I do the best I can, and I’m well aware that there are many other autoimmune disease which are worse than Hashimoto’s.  I hope and pray that I won’t develop those.

How About You?

Do you have any autoimmune diseases?  Which ones?

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  1. Cindy says

    Good post to raise awareness and understanding of autoimmune disorders, including Celiac.

    I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Lupus several years before discovering my gluten sensitivity. For me, following a gluten free diet significantly reduces the symptoms of the UC and Lupus and helps me keep both in remission.


  2. Anonymous says

    I have the same 2 that you do… does my aunt. I think I would prefer to have the Thyroid disease over the Celiac disease. I miss pizza and bread. :-)

  3. Lindy says

    I haven't been formally diagnosed with celiac, and my symptoms seem to only appear when I'm under a lot of stress but since my son was diagnosed with celiac I have cut out all gluten from my diet also. Interestingly enough, months after my son was born I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, and later anemia. I have been able to keep these under control, with lots of medication. My energy has never really returned and loosing weight seems to be impossible. I am now trying to cut sugar as much as I can (SO hard!) because I fear diabetes and cancers. I don't need a diagnoses to tell me that I have FAR more energy and feel 'better' off gluten. :)

  4. kroushlconflict says

    I also have Hashimoto's. I don't have celiac, but my daughter does. I've always assumed that she got the celiac from my side of the family because of that (I was adopted & don't know my family history). I never noticed any symptoms due to Hashimoto's, I was diagnosed when I couldn't get pregnant & they started doing tests. I never noticed a change once I was medicated, except that I did get pregnant w/in a month!
    Your symptoms must really be bad if you'd choose celiac over Hashimoto's. So weird that both those diseases have such varied symptoms in different people.

  5. Castal says

    I also have added autoimmune "fun" on top of the celiac. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly before realizing that gluten was a big problem as well. I also had asthma early on as a kid, and have a large chance of diabetes thanks to the rest of my family having it. The meds for the RA are no fun, but much better than without–I too would take the Celiac in a heartbeat over the other issues!

    These disorders definitely follow each other closely!

  6. ladysmithknitter says

    I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's and then Polymyositis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle pain and weakness. I've only been gluten-free for about 2 months, but it's made me feel better. Currently in the middle of an elimination diet to see if I have other food sensitivities.

    I really wish the health professionals would include some of this information along with the treatment and meds. Neither of my specialists have said anything about eliminating gluten.

  7. Amy says

    Hi, I have fibromyalgia and was diagnosed with IBS years ago. I went gluten free before I could be tested for celiac, but I highly suspect it's celiac rather than IBS. My mother has myofacial pain syndrome and both my kids are on the autism spectrum. Strange how all of this is connected to gluten.

  8. Megan says

    I have Hashimotos and gluten sensitivity. Was diagnosed with Hashimotos first. One huge discovery for me was that I was also vitamin B12 deficient. B12 shots have made a huge difference with my energy, focus, and stamina. I recently wrote a post to raise awareness about it: I also had adrenal fatigue, which was diagnosed through a naturopath (endocrinologists typically test only for Addison's, which is when your adrenals are gone). It's common for folks with low thyroid that isn't treated adequately to develop adrenal fatigue. Saliva testing can give a clear answer on this issue.

  9. Linda says

    Megan, Thanks for that information. I was treated for adrenal fatigue last summer and continue to take supplements for it. It made some difference, but not a lot. You're right, most doctors will not treat it. I had the saliva test done.

  10. Vicky says

    I have recently discovered that I have Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, no family history for this or for Diabetes which I have also developed. I have warned all 6 members of my large family who have Celiac Disease to be on the look out for complications. Can be a scary place to be sometimes

  11. Lori says

    Hi LInda,

    My 17 year old daughter was first diagnosed with sudden onset Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when she was 12. Then a couple of years later she developed celiac. She has always been super flexible, but it wasn't until we saw a specialist for CFS that we found that it's actually an autoimmune-related condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (double jointed or hyper mobility). Yes, you're right, it's all tied together.

  12. Missy says

    At age 11, my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and 15 months later he was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Now at age 13, we have had 2 years of adjusting to new eating lifestyles. It amazes me how well he has adjusted to the changes – he seems to deal with them better than I do. I have had a hard time watching him go through this, which has caused some depression for me. I am working my way through it, though, and learning a lot about how to eat healthier along the way. We are all eating better because of the Celiac diagnosis.
    Thank you for all the information you share in your blog! It has been a great help to me!

  13. Kimmywizzie says

    I have Hashimoto's, endometriosis, and psoriasis. All are automimmune. I'm going through liver testing now for autoimmune hepatitis. My mother has celiac disease. I have been tested by it comes out negative. I'm thinking of going GF just to see if it helps.

  14. Cathy says

    I was glad to see a post on autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately I have been dealing with low adrenal,pernicious anemia,sjogrens,Hashimotos thyroiditis,Raynauds and now celiac…..Cannot eat gluten,corn,soy,dairy,bananas,tomatoes.Developed vertigo on top of it all. Yes, it has been very difficult…it shows how tough we, as women can be. God Bless us all.

  15. Tasty Eats At Home says

    While I was never diagnosed with celiac disease, I do find I've improved a lot with gluten-free diet. Prior to the gluten-free diet, I also had low B12 levels. My father has celiac disease and diabetes – so it's important to me to do my best to monitor my health to try to delay/prevent further issues. Here's to hoping! I hope you start feeling better soon!

  16. gfe--gluten free easily says

    Before finding out I was gluten intolerant (possibly celiac … I was never tested for celiac), I had endometriosis and a hysterectomy. My doctor said that the endo was definitely due to the gluten. I was also determined to have hypothyroidism (although not Hashimoto's) and adrenal fatigue.

    When I first went gluten free, my doctor also recommended that I go dairy free and sugar free, which I did. While difficult (especially not really having the hang of eatin gluten free yet), I did feel much better. Slowly over time, I reintroduced both dairy and sugar and gained weight, lost a lot of the energy I'd gained, etc. The last 10 days I've also been dairy free and sugar free (not 100% perfect, but close) and once again, I feel like a new person. Much more energy … energy I'd forgotten I was capable of.

    I'm sharing this info, Linda, because it's possible that there may be other food issues playing a role with your fatigue and other dietary changes that might help the situation. Of course, I know none of us want those, but worth considering.

    Last, Linda, I went through the same thing you did not that long ago with the thyroid meds. I had been taking Armour thyroid. I was not going to go on Sythroid. I was able to get compounded natural (porcine) thyroid meds, but they came in a capsule. The dosage was too much. My doctor said to try only taking half a capsule. Well, that was not easily done with a capsule, and I wasn't getting a high enough dosage. Finally, I came up with a solution that worked for me. Because thryoid meds are best absorbed on an empty stomach, I just started taking the full capsule in the middle of a meal. Worked great.

    Hope you get some answers and resolution of these issues, Linda. I know how they can make one feel.


  17. Jennifer says

    My girls (7 & 8) have diagnosed celiac disease. Between them, they also have rheumatoid arthritis, ataxia, vitiligo, obsessive compulsive disorder, and eyesight issues. You bet!! There IS a link. All issues are not completely, but mostly resolved on a GF diet.

    When our 7 year old was 4 years old, she was taking prescription strength pain medication for arthritis several times a day. When she went GF at 4 1/2, she was off of pain meds in less than two weeks! And she has continued to improve since then… in fact, one of the ways we know she has probably had accidental gluten intake is by her arthritis acting up. It's amazing.

  18. Anonymous says

    My 13 year old son has Crohn's Disease and is predisposed to Gluten and has been Gluten and Casein Free for a year. Now I have been diagnosed with Hidradenitis Supporativa which is linked to Crohn's and reacts with painful, apocrine gland disfunction. I am trying GF/CF in order to put HS in remission and would like to hear if anyone else has done the same.

  19. Alexis salerno says

    Make sure your doctor is using the new standard which is recommended by the Amer Assoc of Clinical Endocrinologists. Your TSH should be between 0.3 and 3.0
    Most physicians are using the old standard of 0.5 to 5.5 for normal when looking at test results, like mine was.

  20. Saundra says

    I have not been diagnosed with celiac — however I know I feel better when I don't eat gluten products. I have fibromyalgia, Hishimotos thyroidism, and adrenal fatigue. My doctors just always use the IBS for those symptoms. My new Dr. has put me on an alkaline diet and it also eliminates sugars and dairy products. I am trying to learn to cook without the gluten as well. It is difficult when I have others to cook for, as well as the products being so expensive.

  21. Fed up says

    Hi folks,

    My husband has celiac disease and so I have been looking into it. I'm becoming more and more convinced it's the vaccines causing our bodies to freak out and attack itself. HAve any of you noticed a change or problem after you or your children received a vaccine?

  22. natural thyroid supplements says

    Thanks for sharing this. I have thyroid disorder but I have learned how to handle it.. It involves a healthy diet and natural supplements.

  23. Kurly says

    I was diagnosed with Grave’s (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) at 16… Now at 32 suffering with gluten issues, slightly elevated celiac markers but my biopsy for celiac was negative… Needless to say if I am in any gluten environment or eat any microscopic ammounts I am violently sick! All the history for celiac is there but test was neg… I still follow the diet bc it helped improve how I felt… Although not 100%… Still on a search for a full diagnosis

  24. says

    I had been treated for hypothyroidism and general anxiety for the past 9 months, although I have experienced symptoms for the past 5-6 years. I also had “stomach issues” which I always considered to be IBS. Today I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. As far as I can tell, I think I will be comfortable with my medicaition and adjusting my diet, because internally (with the exception of the non-hypothyroid related symptoms) I feel good.

  25. Lena Rae Boyce says

    I’m wondering what the common trend between auto immune disease are?
    I was also wondering if there are any known treatments for people with multiple ones and what is know about the cause of autoimmune diseases?

    I’ve been in poor health my entire life, and I’ve fought to stay alive every step of the way, but no one ever tested extensively for genetic markers indicating autoimmune diseases.
    Any references to what tests I need to get done will be helpful.

    Btw, finding this website has been a true blessing for me and I may finally be on the right track towards a healthier future because of the posts on celiac disease as well as knowing that others out there are living with these problems too.
    Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Lena. I’m really not qualified nor do I have the answers to your questions. I think there’s a lot that the medical community would like to learn too. Your best option is to try to find a doctor who has experience with autoimmune diseases. I’m so glad my site has been a blessing to you. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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