Identifying Yourself on the Autoimmune Spectrum
I have rheumatoid arthritis – a diagnosed autoimmune disease, and most of my readers have autoimmune diagnoses as well. But what if you have symptoms with no known cause? You’ve gone from doctor to doctor, and they simply tell you: “Your lab tests are normal.” While in some ways this is good news, it can also be incredibly disheartening. You have no answers and no direction about what to do next. Dr. Tom O’Bryan is an expert on the development of autoimmune disease, and he writes about the autoimmune spectrum. The autoimmune process begins in our bodies long before enough damage has occurred to warrant a diagnosis. His goal is to help people intervene at this point (or even before they have symptoms) and prevent autoimmune disease before it takes hold. That’s what today’s podcast is all about.
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- Intro (0:00)
- Thank You to Our Podcast Sponsor – Paleo on the Go (2:11)
- A frozen meal delivery service, they have a large menu of items for the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP).
- Use the code PHOENIX for 10% off your first order.
- Meet Dr. Tom (2:52)
- Dr. Tom O’Bryan worked as a functional medicine practitioner for over 30 years. He holds faculty positions at The Institute for Functional Medicine and the National University of Health Sciences. He’s the author of The Autoimmune Fix and a world-renowned expert on the development of autoimmune disease and its connection to gluten sensitivity.
- When he was a young adult, he actually worked as an artisan bread baker, and had no idea those delicious loaves he made were negatively impacting his health. His blood sugar levels spiked and dipped, and he didn’t understand why he was sleepy in the afternoons and his emotions were erratic. Only when he learned about the glycemic index did he start to change his diet, and the most effective change for him was going wheat-free.
- Health Education in Baby Steps (6:07)
- Dr. Tom recommends people dedicate 1 hour per week to learn more about health. It can be reading articles, listening to podcasts, reading a chapter in a book, reviewing a pubmed study. Pace yourself, and little by little, you will become your own best health advocate.
- What Happens After a Gluten Exposure? (7:05)
- If you have a wheat sensitivity, you can’t reap the benefits of a wheat-free diet unless you give it up 100%. One tiny gluten exposure can create antibodies that can last for up to 6 months. Each of us has a different genetic weak link where those antibodies will attack. For rheumatoid arthritis it’s the joints, for celiac it’s the intestines, for Hashimoto’s it’s the thyroid, etc. If we “cheat” on our diets, we keep inflammation and autoimmune risk active.
- Articles on Gluten Sensitivity and Autoimmune Disease:
- Pubmed research study
- Resource articles on Dr. Tom’s website.
- What Is the Autoimmune Spectrum? (11:36)
- Autoimmune disease develops for years before diagnosis. When you have elevated antibodies but no symptoms, or you have symptoms that aren’t severe enough to lead to an autoimmune diagnosis, you are on the spectrum and at risk for developing autoimmune disease.
- In The Autoimmune Fix, there’s a medical symptoms quiz. We often dismiss negative symptoms as a “sign of getting older”, but we are meant to have good health as we age. Just because things like fatigue, brain fog, and inflammation are all common, does not mean that those symptoms are normal.
- If you’d like to test for antibodies, Dr. Tom recommends the Cyrex Array 5, which can be ordered through his website. When he took this test back in 1997 prior to going paleo, he had elevated antibodies to his brain. That was a wake up call for him.
- Research articles:
- Lupus research that showed elevated antibodies up to 9 years before diagnosis.
- Cancer might have an autoimmune component.
- Heart disease might have an autoimmune component.
- Phase 1 of Dr. O’Bryan’s Diet: No Wheat, Sugar or Dairy (23:23)
- Article: Gluten Sensitivity: Real Disorder. Real Symptoms by Dr. Tom O’Bryan.
- Human beings are the only mammals who continue to consume dairy after infancy. Milk is designed to help a baby grow into a full-grown adult. When people eat dairy after infancy, negative symptoms are common: weight gain, hormone imbalances, chronic sinus infections, autoimmune reactivity, etc. Resource: Whole9’s Dairy Manifesto.
- Sugar negatively impacts your health over 100 different ways.
- The Most Common Mistake People Make When Going Gluten-Free (34:03)
- Eating gluten-free versions of the same food. While they don’t contain wheat, they contain no nutrition either. They also contain additives that can be hard on an autoimmune body, and can be contaminated with gluten unknowingly. Eat real food instead – grassfed meats, wildcaught seafood, vegetables and healthy fats. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the aisles.
- Gluten Cross-Contamination (37:35)
- FDA Survey into gluten-free foods shows gluten contamination is common in foods often thought to be naturally gluten-free, especially if it’s a packaged food. Oats are the most commonly gluten-contaminated ingredient. Always look for a certified gluten-free label.
- Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free grain from Peru, but now some strains are farmed in the United States, and a study found that 4 of 15 strains of quinoa contained traces of gluten.
- Glutenza – a gluten-digesting enzyme that can help in restaurants when you’re at risk for exposure. This doesn’t make gluten safe to consume in large quantities but can help minimize inflammation from cross-contamination.
- Resource article: Hidden Sources of Gluten
- Should You Get Tested for Celiac Disease Before Going Gluten-Free? (48:27)
- Dr. Alessio Fasano believes you should.
- Dr. Tom believes that celiac disease is just one manifestation of an autoimmune reaction to gluten, so as a test it shouldn’t be prioritized over others. If you want to get tested prior to going gluten free, he recommends a complete wheat sensitivity panel – Cyrex Array 3 (which includes a test for celiac antibodies.) Resource article: The Conundrum of Gluten Sensitivity and Autoimmunity. However, he also believes testing is optional. Doing an elimination/provocation test with gluten can let you know if you have a problem with wheat as well.
- Phase 2 of Dr. Tom’s Diet: AIP (52:27)
- If people don’t see beneficial results giving up gluten, dairy and sugar within 3 weeks, Dr. Tom recommends they progress to phase 2 of his protocol, which is a version of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.
- What’s Dr. Tom’s Personal Diet (54:26)
- He is 100% gluten-free and follows a paleo template, with the addition of white rice a few times per week, and a gluten-free blueberry muffin once every few months. He doesn’t have autoimmune disease himself, but did find himself on the spectrum before changing his diet.
- Dark Chocolate as Part of a Healing Diet (55:01)
- Dr. Tom believes a square of dark chocolate a day is both beneficial to health and delicious. His technique for getting the benefits of chocolate without being tempted to overeat: Take a square of high-quality dark chocolate and lay it on or underneath your tongue. Don’t let it touch your teeth. It will dissolve over the course of 2-3 minutes. This activates the release of endorphins (the feel good hormones) in a way that’s uplifting and satiating. People rarely want more than 2 squares.
- Article: Chocolate – Friend or Foe
- Recipe: Flavor-Infused Homemade Chocolates
- Recommended Brands: Taza, Theo, Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, Pascha, and Pure7
- Outro (58:30)
- Dr. Tom’s book is called The Autoimmune Fix. His website is TheDr.com.
- Eileen (your podcast host) is the author of multiple books, written to help people thrive with autoimmune disease. Learn more on the Books Page.
- If you like this podcast, follow or subscribe through your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe to Eileen’s biweekly newsletter.
- Check out the entire archive of podcast episodes.
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