Saturday, April 12, 2008

6/19/06 Layers

EDIT as I compile these for the new blog: Another Live Journal post as my research and discovery into my illness continued. It is interesting that I originally believed that gluten was the initial trigger. That because I was unable to digest it, that caused the cascade of events. I now believe that lack of proper gut flora and overgrowth of pathogenic flora was at the root. Without the proper gut flora, proper digestion could not take place. Gluten is one of the hardest foods to digest, so it makes sense that that would be my first problem food. As my digestion weakened, I could no longer properly digest other complex foods like casein, other grains, starches, etc. It was sort of a snowball effect.

June 19, 2006 Layers

My search for answers to my health issues is like peeling an onion. I just keep finding more and more layers of information to reveal.

Not sure if I ever posted about a possible connection to gluten (found in wheat and certain other grains) allergy or not. I read an article about how eliminating gluten could actually reduce or eliminate the body's production of thyroid antibodies. It didn't make much sense to me at the time, but I did try it anyway. It has helped some. But I wanted to know how the hell gluten had anything to do with my body's decision to declare war on my thyroid.

Up to this point I knew that my body was full of unnecessary inflammation, that people with autoimmune thyroid disease almost always have adrenal fatigue (which I already knew I had), and that for some reason my body was making antibodies that were destroying me. But why?

I decided to research the gluten connection more fully and surprisingly, it explains a lot. The layers are really all connected. Here are the highlights of things I've discovered in my research......

First clue: People of Irish (and British Isle) and to a lesser extent, German, ancestry are prone to gluten allergies and sensitivity. I am heavily Irish and German. I came across an informal survey on that seems to support this fact. They polled people's ancestry, and almost all the respondents claimed at least some type of British Isle or German background. Although interestingly enough, the only three that weren't Irish/German were all Latin American.

Second clue: An article written by Diana Schwarzbein (the doctor that wrote the metabolism healing program that I'm on).
The latest medical research has targeted inflammation as the basis of ALL symptoms, conditions and diseases. Inflammation is a chemical process that occurs in the body when the cells of the immune system attack proteins they do not recognize as their own. The ideal situation occurs when the immune system only attacks and kills foreign proteins in the form of viruses, parasites and bacteria (“bugs”).
Unfortunately, if inflammation occurs too frequently or is triggered falsely by undigested foods, the natural anti-inflammatory system of the body, the adrenal glands, cannot keep up and the end result is destruction of the body’s own cells. This is manifested as a variety of symptoms such as allergies, headaches, heartburn and fatigue to conditions such as mood disorders, “irritable bowel” syndrome, unexplained weight issues and auto-immune syndromes (such as thyroid conditions, eczema and arthritis) to full-blown diseases such as heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, cancers and diabetes.
I now recognize aging as an “auto-immune process”. Your own body over time destroys itself through inflammation!
It has been estimated that 70 to 80% of the cells of the immune system are located in the digestive tract. This means that 70 to 80% of all the inflammation problems that occur within the body starts in the digestive tract! If you are already experiencing any health symptoms, conditions or have a degenerative disease of aging, you have a problem with your digestive tract.

Third clue: an excerpt from the book "Dangerous Grains"
Certain grains can cause the immune system to pathologically react to specific proteins. These disease causing proteins are found within the seeds or grains of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and oats. The proteins are loosely called gluten. Gluten is made up of several subfactions or families of proteins. The scientific name for the most studied of these proteins is “gliadin.” Gliadin is found in all gluten grains except oats. Curiously and tragically, gliadin frequently causes the immune system to react as if it is not a component of nourishing food, but an invading bug or microbe, and in the case of autoimmune disease, as though it is indistinguishable from normal organ tissues found in our bodies.

So this makes total sense. If I have a sensitivity to gluten (which causes it to remain undigested in my gut), it is causing all this inflammation which stressed my poor adrenal glands and has caused my body to start destroying its self. My leaky gut wall has allowed these undigested particles to slip through into my body leading to the autoimmune process. The body confuses these particles with my own tissues and in trying to clean up all these undigested food particles, it is also destroying parts of my own tissue, my thyroid! The connection of activity and inflammation in the gut to the immune process was key to my understanding of how gluten could be connected to autoimmunity. This makes so much sense now! I feel like I've finally gotten to the "source" of things. I've been looking at all the pieces up to this point and struggling with how to connect it all, knowing intuitively that somehow all my issues were connected. Now I know.

Yet, it may go beyond just gluten now.

Clue four: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (for Celiacs not cured by a gluten free diet). All this inflammation in the gut, while continuing to eat gluten, can eventually cause the gut real damage and before you know it, the gut is having problems digesting other grains and carbohydrates as well. Basically the function of the gut is weakened and only things that are easy to digest are getting properly digested. This only leads to more and more inflammation throughout the body. For some people, simply cutting out gluten alone won't completely heal them, because the damage to the gut over the years has caused them to be unable to digest many grains and carbs. Basic premise of the healing plan is that you only eat foods that are easily digested (and this can still be used in combination with the Schwarzbein plan) which allows the gut to heal, and then more complex grains and carbs, can be slowly reintroduced once healing has occurred and the body is able to digest these foods once again. Gluten will most likely never be able to be eaten again or the cycle would start again.

So what am I doing?

step one: going gluten free and doing the Schwarzbein plan for healing metabolism (common sense plan for healthy balanced meals), ("The Schwarzein Principle II: The Transition").
step two: if this alone doesn't resolve all symptoms, trying the specific carbohydrate diet ("Breaking the Vicious Cycle") which will restore balance in the gut and heal past damage and stop the inflammation (and the production of thyroid antibodies).

Wonder what the next layer will reveal? Or maybe I'm finally at the core?

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