How Some Immune Systems React to Gluten

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Interviewer:  What constitutes a gluten free lifestyle if someone finds out that it's best to go that route?  What do they do, what do they not do and can they do things in moderation like we're told?  As long as it's just in moderation?

Dr. Tom O'Bryan:  You know it's an unfortunate question because no one likes the answer.  Unfortunately, we don't like the answer.  Here's the premise and I don't know how anyone can argue with this premise.  Body language never lies.  It never lies. Some people speak French, some speak Spanish.  People need to learn how to speak body.  We don't know how to speak body.  We take better care of our cars than we do of our bodies. We wait until our bodies start to break down then we try to fix them as opposed to getting them tuned up and things.  Your immune system is the armed forces in your body, it's there to protect you.  There's an Army, an Air force, Marines, Coastguard, IGA, IGG, IGE, IGM these are all branches of the armed forces in your body.  And if the Marines have been called out in force, if you have elevated levels of antibodies to something your body's talking to you.

What's it saying?  Well it's saying, we've got a problem here, we know that for sure.  So, can you have a little gluten?  Unfortunately, if you're armed forces, if the immunoglobulins in your body are elevated the answer is no.  Because our bodies produce something...let's go through this because this is very helpful.  How do vaccinations work?  You get a vaccination for measles.  They give you the bug measles and your brain says, what this?  This is not good for me. And your brain says, you General and in your armed forces you've got Generals sitting around with nothing to do.  Army, Air force, Marine Corps Generals.  General, you now are General Measles, take care of this.  General Measles builds an assembly line.  The assembly line is constructed to produce soldiers.  Those soldiers are called antibodies.  And that assembly line is antibodies to measles.  That's all those antibodies do is to go after measles.  They're in the bloodstream looking everywhere for measles.

You know your blood stream is like a highway with no lanes.  Everything's bouncing into each other, it's all going the same way they're just bouncing around.  Now you've got these antibodies fighting these chemical bullets called cytokines destroying measles wherever they find it.  General measles is watching all this and when all of the measles bugs are gone, General Measles turns off the assembly line.  Says, alright calm down we don't need any measles shouldn't have any measles antibodies right now in your body.  Unless you've been exposed and then you should.  But in general you shouldn't.  But if you're ever exposed to measles General Measles is vigilant the rest of his life.  The rest of his life.  It's called a memory B cell.  The rest of his life he's just watching...if measles ever comes back into your system General Measles just has to flip the switch, turn it on again as opposed to building the assembly line.  That's why if you go to Africa you need vaccinations months and months and months ahead of time.

But if you go back to visit ten years later you just need a booster shot two weeks before you go.  Just have to wake up General Measles or General Dengue Fever or General Yellow Fever, whatever the vaccinations are, right? That's what happens in food.  We get memory B cells.  And doctors forget that there is this thing called memory B cells.  Can you have a little?  Can you have a little gluten?  Here's a study that put it into perspective.  34 year old woman went to a celiac specialty clinic.  Now she had been to a doctor a year earlier and identified as having celiac disease, her shags were completely worn down, her blood level of the antibodies transglutaminase of mycelium were sky high, and they told her, ma'am you have celiac disease you must stop gluten. Now her health history was she was the shortest girl in the class growing up as part of failure to thrive.  She had recurrent anemias, malabsorption of iron.

She had osteoporosis at age 34, malabsorption if vitamin D and calcium.  She had chronic fatigue, really dragging.  She had hair loss.  A number of symptoms.  So a year on a gluten free diet she wasn't any better so she went to a specialty clinic.  They did the blood tests, her antibodies were sky high.  They did the endoscopy.  Total villous atrophy.  The shags were completely worn down.  High risk of lymphoma.  High risk of osteoporosis, she already the osteoporosis.  Madam you must give up gluten.  I did give up gluten.  Completely?  Yeah, know I had a piece of cake last month and maybe a crouton on a salad that I didn't pick off.  No, no, completely.  Okay, okay.  So she goes completely gluten free for a year, she comes back they do the blood tests again.  Now the blood tests transglutaminase and mycelium, now the blood tests are just high normal.  Or just over in the high zone, not sky high the way they were.  Her energy was a little bit better, she still had hair loss, she still had osteoporosis and the endoscopy she still had total villous atrophy a year later.

Madam, you must give up gluten.  I did give up gluten.  Completely? Completely!  And they screen her diet and she had been vigilant about giving up gluten.  They were about to scratch their heads and call it refractory sprue.  Which is a really fancy scrabble word.  It means we don't know why you've got this and you're at high risk of cancer. We don't know.  And then a really sharp doctor said, madam, are you a religious woman?  She was a nun.  IN street clothes.  It was the communion wafer.  Madam you must give up the wafer.  I will not, God will not allow it.  I'm sorry, we can't help you.  She left.  The authors of this paper went to the church and asked a priest for one of the wafers, the communion wafers and would they break it the way that they normally do for serving after it's consecrated.  And so they did.  So they have four pieces of the wafer and they measured each of the four pieces and the average was each piece had a milligram of gluten.  Now how much is that?  Cut your thumbnail in half, cut in half again, that's a quarter.  Cut one of those quarters in half again that's an eighth. An eighth of a thumbnail is about one milligram of gluten.  The title of their paper was a milligram a day keeps the villous healing away.  And it's a cute little title.  Researchers don't do that very often.  But it an eighth of a thumbnail.  But unbeknownst to them the bishop made the nun give up the wafer for a year.  And she came back a year later radiant health, flock of hair no more hair loss, energy like she had never had.  Osteoporosis was gone.  Completely gone in one year.  The endoscopy completely normal.  The blood values low normal.  Everything was perfect.  It was an eighth of a thumbnail.  You can't be a little pregnant, you can't have a little gluten.  It's unfortunate but that's the answer.  So what you do is you give yourself the vigilance of complete gluten free, complete gluten free and you have to be educated how to do that. And then you check those markers that were abnormal a year later, usually it's about a year sometimes a little longer if the recommendations aren't thorough enough it can take longer.  You recheck.  If all the markers come back to normal.  Can I have gluten?  Well I don't think so but if you want to try Mrs. Patient I don't recommend it but if you want to try go ahead and have like just a little quarter of a saltine cracker, just a little bit.  Chew it really well and just have a little bit every day for two weeks and then wait a couple more weeks and then do a blood test.  So a month later you do a blood test and if General Gluten has raised his arms up again and you've got elevated antibodies, you can't even have a little bit.  Body language never lies.  So that's the answer.  So doctors unfortunately will say, well let's just see how you feel.  Go ahead, have a little, see how you feel. The danger in doing that is that people may not have their old symptoms come back but it's the internal damage because we know that celiac patients are ten times more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases.  Ten times.  And autoimmune disease we know is the number three killer in the industrialized world after cancer and heart disease.  It's number three.  And so that means antibodies to your brain, antibodies to your liver, antibodies to your joints.  It just depends on where the weak link is in your chain as to where a gluten sensitivity will manifest tin your body. To your question, what might I feel if I have a gluten sensitivity?  You know you pull at a chain, it breaks at the weak link.  It's at one end, the middle, the other end.  It's your heart, your liver, your brain, your kidneys.  Just depends on where your genetic weak link is.  And the most common weak link, the most common is the brain.  But you don't feel it when your brain is being attacked.  You don't feel it.  Nobody gets Alzheimer's in there '60's and '70's.  Alzheimer's is a decades long process of killing of brain cells.  You just don't feel any symptoms until there's been enough cells killed off that all of a sudden your brain's not working as well as it used to. And then it expands exponentially much faster.  But it's a decades long process.  That's true of all autoimmune conditions.  And autoimmune conditions are ten times more common in celiac when you have a gluten sensitivity.

If you're gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, what is your body doing when gluten is present? Dr. Tom O'Bryan describes what your body and immune system does when gluten is consumed. He also discusses whether or not people with gluten sensitivities may reintroduce gluten after a period of time or if they may have it in moderation.

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