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.
In 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?