Gluten-Free & Still Sick? This Could Be Why
I’ve just arrived home after my second gastroscopy, sans sedation (damn brave, I know).
It’s been around three years since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, yet I’m still having major issues where digestion is concerned. I honestly couldn’t tell you last time my stomach didn’t rival that of a python that’s swallowed a dog.
So, just before the endoscopist goes all paparazzi on my inners, he tells me the results from my recent blood test. My IgA Anti-tissue Transglutaminase (TTG) antibody count has come back “weak positive”, meaning gluten is still causing havoc, causing my body to attack itself – even though I don’t touch the stuff.
“Fucking brilliant”, I think to myself. Enter the tube, begin the gagging.
When I leave the unit five minutes later, all I can think about is how gutted I am about that blood test. I don’t eat processed foods, I follow a Paleo diet as much as possible and barely eat out anymore. Gluten doesn’t enter my home and I’m so strict with cross-contamination I don’t even allow my colleagues to make me a cup of tea.
So what is it that could be tricking my rampantly over-zealous immune system into thinking gluten is in the building?
According to The Paleo Mom, whose book ‘The Paleo Approach’ has become quite the bible for me, it’s possibly down to gluten cross-reactors.
Every thing from cow’s milk to chocolate *weeps*, potatoes to rice *face-plants into sofa* contain proteins that coeliac/gluten intolerant bodies recognise as gluten.
When our antibodies have formed against the big G, they can also respond to amino acid sequences in other foods. Understanding that it’s these sequences – and not an entire protein – is the key to understanding cross-reactivity, which Dr Sarah Ballantyne (aka Paleo Mom) explains more coherently than I ever could:
“The formation of antibodies against an antigen (whether this is an invading pathogen or a food) is an extremely complex process. When antibodies are being formed against a protein, the antibodies recognize specific (and short) sequences of amino acids in that protein. Depending on how the antigenic protein is folded, certain amino acid sequences in that protein are more likely to be the target of new antibody formation than others, simply because of the location of that sequence in the structure of the protein.”
In other words, the amino acid sequence that an antibody recognises for gluten is also present in another protein from another food, such as dairy or grains.
You can do a pristine job of staying gluten free, but your body still thinks you’re eating gluten. I can’t believe it took me so long to learn all this.
For those with autoimmune disease, celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity who are still feeling sick on a gluten free diet , one or all of the foods below may be the culprit:
- Milk (Alpha-Casein, Beta-Casein, Casomorphin, Butyrophilin, Whey Protein)
- Tapioca (a.k.a. cassava or yucca)
For me, many of these are already excluded from my diet. It’s just the no-rice, no-nightshade, no-chocolate *world’s smallest violin* protocol I struggle to stick to. But if cutting them out means the raging war in my gut will be be ended once and for all – it’s worth it.