Treat Leaky Gut To Reverse Autoimmune Disease

Article republished: Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is the author of “The Gluten Effect” and eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you”.

Current Medical Thought is that Autoimmune Disease is Irreversible

Personally I have trouble with ‘catchy’ titles of articles that end up not stating what is implied by the title. So do know that this is not the case here. I have been specializing in the area of gluten intolerance for close to 15 years and during that time have authored a book, eBook, plus hundreds of You Tube videos and blogs.

I am passionate about improving awareness and lessening the many diseases associated with it, so it is with great delight that I present this exciting information to you.

We See Stabilization and Reversal of Autoimmune Disease in Patients

Autoimmune disease and its relationship to gluten intolerance is something I’ve discussed on several occasions and have stated that here at HealthNOW we see excellent success in stabilizing and reversing autoimmune disease. While I felt confident in our clinic’s results, it was sometimes difficult to substantiate our findings beyond our own personal experience due to lack of any corroborative research findings.

The dilemma with autoimmune disease is that its frequency has been increasing dramatically. Much the same as autism, autoimmune disease has doubled every 15 years for the past 75 years, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Such an increase cannot be explained by genetics as genes do not alter that quickly. It is agreed that an environmental component is at play, but what is it?

Look to the Gut for the Cause

I have long thought that the gut and a loss of integrity of the lining of the gut, specifically the small intestine, was likely responsible. This is called a leaky gut and we know gluten to be a strong culprit in creating it. When you analyze how autoimmune disease is created, the leaky gut hypothesis starts to make a lot of sense.

Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system ‘mistakes’ a part of the body for a hostile invader. In diabetes this results in an attack on the pancreas and in celiac disease it is the small intestine that is destroyed.

Dangerous Drugs are Not the Answer

Traditional medicine’s viewpoint is that the immune system is ‘out of control’ and must be suppressed with drugs. Unfortunately these drugs put the patient taking them at great risk of developing life threatening infections.

Such treatment personally never made sense to me, and if you were to study the body’s immune system I think you would be quite impressed with its complexity and brilliance. Therefore simply suppressing it because you didn’t like what it was doing seemed short-sighted and even disrespectful.

We Now Understand the Reason Why

Would it not be better to discover WHY the immune system confused a body part for a hostile invader? This ‘confusion’, whereby the body’s immune system attacks itself, is known scientifically as ‘molecular mimicry’. The concept is that the body part or organ itself is ‘mimicking’ something the body perceives as hostile, and it therefore attacks it.

We now understand that having the genetic propensity for an autoimmune disease plus the presence of an ‘antigen’ or ‘bad guy’ is not sufficient to initiate autoimmune disease. Much the same as we have stated for celiac disease, the third and all important component is this: Do you have a healthy small intestine whose ‘gatekeeper’ system is intact or are the ‘gates’ wide open?

A leaky gut allows hostile elements to gain access to the bloodstream wherein the immune system then reacts to these elements. A healthy small intestine with normal permeability (a non-leaky gut) would not allow this access to occur. The healthy small intestine would prevent the hostile element from ever leaving the small intestine and therefore it would never get to the bloodstream.

The beauty of the immune system is that it has memory. If it doesn’t ‘see’ something for a while it will relax and cease its ‘attack mode’. The way this plays into autoimmune disease is that if the leaky gut gets handled, the antigen or bad guy doesn’t leave the gut anymore and the immune system of the bloodstream therefore ‘forgets’ about needing to attack it. It also therefore no longer feels the need to attack the self tissue that was mimicking the bad guy – this would be a reversal of autoimmune disease.

New Study Confirms Our Findings

I am a big fan of Dr Alessio Fasano and his team out of the University of Maryland, and what to thank them all for the study that I am about to discuss. Prior to this, the closest study I could cite regarding an association between the gut and autoimmune disease was one involving rats and type 1 diabetes. It was an amazing study but it still involved rats, not people. People definitely feel better when research involves their own species.

I am delighted to share a study that was just released titled “Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity” that can be found in the journal Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology.

Autoimmune diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis and irritable bowel disease are reviewed and a common causative thread is revealed.

The causative agent is a leaky gut, more formally known as increased intestinal permeability or intestinal barrier function. Gluten is felt to play a role in the creation of a leaky gut as it specifically relates to the autoimmune diseases celiac and type 1 diabetes.

The new theory put forth in this article implies that “once the autoimmune process is activated, it is not autoperpetuating, rather can be modulated or even reversed by preventing the continuous interplay between genes and environment.”” Since tight junction dysfunction[leaky gut] allows this interaction, new therapeutic strategies aimed at reestablishing the intestinal barrier function offer innovative, unexplored approaches for the treatment of these devastating diseases.”

In other words, if the environment, or leaky gut, is properly addressed, the genetic predisposition will not be enough to ‘ensure’ the disease is present. This puts a person with a high genetic propensity much more in control of their health outcome. Also, treating a leaky gut is truly considered a treatment for these devastating diseases. Further, despite what has been traditionally said about autoimmune diseases and the impossibility of improving them, let alone reversing them, this theory states quite the contrary.

It’s amazing but it all comes back to the gut, its integrity and the diet. No matter how hard some people try to avoid it, you just aren’t going to get healthy by ignoring what you’re eating. And you’re certainly not going to prevent or reverse autoimmune disease with a leaky or unhealthy gut.

Treatment Protocol for You and Your Family

Biopsy of small bowel showing coeliac disease ...
Biopsy of small bowel showing coeliac disease manifested by blunting of villi, crypt hyperplasia, and lymphocyte infiltration of crypts, consistent with Marsh classification III. Wikipedia

So what should you do?

  1. Find out if there’s any autoimmune disease in your family. There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases but I’ll include some of the most common ones here:
  • Arthritis, rheumatoid
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune thyroid
  • Celiac
  • Cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes, type 1
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuritis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Vasculitis


2. 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. Contact me should you need further data about how to best accomplish this. If you are already gluten-free but haven’t been tested, a genetic test is a good alternative that does not require a dangerous reintroduction of gluten.

3. If you suspect gluten intolerance based on testing or dietary changes that you have made on your own, it is next vital that you find a clinician who can monitor the changes that must be implemented to heal the gut completely. Only removing gluten, while vital, has been proven to be insufficient to restore the normal permeability to a leaky gut.

Treating the Leaky Gut is Critical

You need to find a clinician that knows how to evaluate and treat successfully a leaky gut. If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact me, it’s one of our specialties.

The dietary changes required when one is gluten intolerant are not easy. These restrictions are often compounded by concurrently eliminating dairy and perhaps some cross-reactive foods. [Cross-reactive foods are foods that mimic gluten in the body and the body reacts to them as if they were in fact gluten. Often temporary removal of these foods is all that’s required, but some are permanent.]

Many people just don’t want to have to confront that dramatic of a change in their diet. While it is ultimately your choice what you do with your body, I think understanding this data about the connection between a leaky gut and autoimmune disease is worth considering. The plight of those who suffer from autoimmune disease is anything but pleasant. Add to that the fact that if you have one autoimmune disease you are more likely to contract another. These are diseases that lower one’s life expectancy and ability to enjoy life.

Please understand that what we have discussed here is quite revolutionary! Not particularly for us because we’ve seen it at here at our clinical nutrition department for years, but having it in print by a highly respected researcher is going to hopefully change the way medical professionals think about these diseases.

I and my team are here to help you and we specialize in healing a leaky gut. If you don’t live locally, don’t worry. We are a destination clinic and treat patients from across the country and internationally.

If you suspect you suffer from gluten intolerance or you have an autoimmune disease yourself or in your family, feel free to contact us and receive a free health analysis. Call 408-733-0400.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”

Permission is granted to re-post this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect” and eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.

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