One of the most common but least understood triggers for autoimmunity is molecular mimicry, also called cross-reactivity.
This post will serve as a basic primer on cross-reactivity so you understand how important it is.
When your immune system reacts to a hostile invader, whether it's a virus or an inflammatory food, it tags the antigen with antibodies so it can more quickly recognize it in the future.
Cross-reactivity happens when the immune system confuses tissue in the body with the tagged antigen because they are similar in structure. As a result, it attacks and destroys that tissue as well. This self-attack is called autoimmunity.
For example, if you are sensitive to gluten, your immune system has created antibodies to gluten. These antibodies tag gluten to alert the immune system to destroy it every time you eat it — even if you ingest a tiny amount. This is an inflammatory response.
Gluten Can Look like other body tissues causing your immune system to attack those similar looking tissues
Did you know that gluten has protein sequences that are identical to protein sequences in the brain, the thyroid, the pancreas, and other tissues in the body?
If the gluten-sensitive person continues eating gluten, eventually the gluten antibodies may begin to tag, attack, and destroy one or more of these other tissues in the body right along with the gluten.
This is called molecular mimicry or cross-reactivity, and it can occur with not only gluten but any compound that comes into the body.
For example, research has shown many gluten-intolerant people cross-react with other foods. In other words, their body erroneously recognizes those foods as gluten and reacts with an immune response that destroys not only the food proteins, but body tissue.
Most grains fall into the category of cross-reactive (this includes the "pseudo-cereals" amaranth and quinoa). Other common cross-reactive foods include dairy, chocolate, sesame, and instant coffee. Fortunately, it is now possible to test which foods might provoke a cross-reaction to gluten, which you can read about here.
Cross-Reactivity Can Occur With "Bug" in your Gut, too!
Cross-reactivity isn't limited to foods or body tissue: it can also happen with pathogens already in your body such as unhealthy gut bacteria.
If your immune system reacts to a compound that is similar in structure to tissues in your body, then you are at risk of developing cross-reactivity.
This is key for autoimmune patients who can't seem to figure out why they continue to suffer despite efforts to recover. It is important for these patients — and their healthcare practitioners — to have an understanding of how molecular mimicry works, how it can affect their symptoms, and how to test for it.
Powerful and Useful Testing Can Help When Standard Medical Care Has Failed
The patients I typically see have consulted several medical professionals and continue to suffer with their health challenge. There are many reasons why this phenomenom occurs and one of them is only receiving the types of tests an insurance plan approves through the network your doctor is a member. Many times we have to look outside the typical testing to identify the underlying reason a person's body is resistant to healing. I had to to do this several times when I had "mystery" health challenges myself. One of the challenges I had was a 5 year wart issue with my left foot. I wrote a blog about solving the challenge that is quite interesting.
Too many patients are running from doctor to doctor, only to either be told their tests are normal, or to receive dangerous drugs that just deal with their symptoms, while the underlying cause(s) are left to create even more trouble. Plus the medications ALWAYS have side effects and those side effects exponentially increase with the more drugs you are prescibed.
THE COMMON CONDITIONS I KEEP SEEING IN MY OFFICE THAT HAVE AN AUTOIMMUNE CAUSE AND THAT ARE OFTEN TRIGGERED BY GLUTEN SENSITIVITY OR Cross-REactivity ARE:
- migraine headaches
- balance disorders
- peripheral neuropathy
- autoimmune thyroid disorders (Hashimoto's and Graves Disease)
- psoriasis and eczema
- elevated liver enzymes with unknown cause
- kidney disease
- celiac disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- anxiety and depression
- Sjögren's syndrome
- lichen plano polaris
The latest numbers indicate that as many as one in every 5 people
(yes, that's right) have some form of gluten-sensitivity.
Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Jun;14(6):567-72
Here is an example of a patient who suffered a LONG time before obtaining the help she so despErAtely desired
If you are suffering with a health challenge similar to or completely different than Renay and you are not finding help with traditional medical care, find someone who can help you look for underlying triggers such as gluten crosss-reactivity.
Always remember one of my mantras., "The more you know about how your body works, the better you can take care of yourself."
For more details about the natural approach I take with my patients, take a look at the book I wrote entitled: Reclaim Your Life; Your Guide To Revealing Your Body's Life-Changing Secrets For Renewed Health. It is available in my office or at Amazon and many other book outlets. If you found value in this article, please use the social sharing icons at the top of this post and please share with those you know who are still suffering with chronic health challenges, despite receiving medical management. Help me reach more people so they may regain their zest for living!
ALL THE BEST – DR. KARL R.O.S. JOHNSON, DC – DIGGING DEEPER TO FIND SOLUTIONS
Antibody Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons