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From the Desk of Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC.....
Have you been told your two main thyroid blood markers (TSH and T4) are normal, yet you suffer with suffer with a laundry list of thyroid symptoms? This scenario is extremly common. It makes you wonder if you truly have a thyroid problem.
The body of research surrounding gluten sensitivity grows every year alerting the medical community and people suffering from a wide range of symptoms to possible connections between seemingly untreatable medical conditions and gluten intolerance. Of note recently is the growing recognition of gluten sensitivity and gluten ataxia, a neurological condition affecting balance and coordination.
For decades, the medical profession has limited diagnosis of gluten intolerance to those patients who tested positive for celiac disease via an antigliadin antibodies test or endoscopy. Those patients who tested negative on these tests were told they didn't have celiac disease (CD) and that gluten was not their problem. The traditional medical mindset is celiac disease manifests primarily in gastrointestinal distress. Modern research shows that for every symptomatic patient with CD there are eight patients with CD with no GI symptom
Now we know, however, that gluten intolerance covers an entire range of symptoms including celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis (skin conditions associated with gluten sensitivity such as psoriasis or eczema), thyroid irregularities and other inflammatory and neurological conditions. In fact, a good number of people with gluten sensitivities don't have any gastrointestinal symptoms at all leading some doctors to disregard gluten as a root cause of symptoms.
In all cases, however, the body attacks gluten and resulting in a wide range of symptoms. Gluten ataxia is one of those symptoms caused by gluten sensitivity that may or may not be seen in conjunction with gastrointestinal distress.
By definition, ataxia is a condition affecting your muscle coordination during voluntary movements like walking or using your hands. Ataxia can also affect speech, your eyes and your swallowing reflex. Those who suffer from ataxia may find it difficult to grasp objects, walk up and down stairs, balance or successfully navigate doorways without running into them. On the extreme end, ataxia can drive patients to wheelchairs, prevent people from working or even interfere with the body's swallowing reflex.
Diagnosing gluten ataxia has been slow. Most often, doctors look for other underlying symptoms of ataxia including head trauma, stroke or multiple sclerosis. Additionally, few in the medical community have embraced the notion that a person without gastrointestinal symptoms could have a gluten sensitivity manifesting in other ways.
The work of Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou in researching gluten ataxia has played a key role in encouraging patients to ask their doctors about this manifestation of gluten intolerance. Dr. Hadjivassiliou has documented correlations between ataxia and a heightened immune response to gluten. His work also pushes doctors to look beyond the gut when diagnosing gluten sensitivities.
Patients with unexplained coordination and balance problems should ask their doctor about the possibility of gluten ataxia whether they suffer from other known manifestations of gluten sensitivity or not.
Seeking a Cure
Eating a strict gluten free lifestyle can alleviate many of the symptoms of ataxia, just as the lifestyle can help those who suffer from celiac disease and skin conditions caused by gluten. It is also important for those who suffer from gluten ataxia to work with someone in the medical field who understands their diagnosis and will work with them on the root cause of the ataxia. The brain heals much more slowly than the intestinal tract and those with ataxia may take longer to heal and see a true remission of symptoms than those with primarily skin or bowel symptoms. A doctor specializing in gluten sensitivities and who takes a holistic approach to medicine is best suited to working with sufferers of ataxia.
Hope and help is out there for the growing number of people discovering the extent of gluten sensitivity including balance and coordination challenges stemming from gluten ataxia. The key is going to a doctor who knows how to properly test you so the root cause of your health challenge can be found.
The Link Between Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
More and more patients are presenting with the symptoms of Celiac disease—loose and greasy bowel movements, abdominal or full-body discomfort, fatigue…but it’s only now that we’re beginning to discover the true nature of this intestinal autoimmune disorder, as well as its pivotal relationship with fibromyalgia and thyroid complications.
Interestingly, scientific research is pointing to the abnormal formation and residence of certain types of intestinal bacteria as a significant contributor to Celiac disease, fibromyalgia and thyroid disease. Normally, the presence of such bacteria in the digestive system is harmless…in fact, their contribution to digestive breakdown is often beneficial. However, common intestinal bacteria also are known to produce a wide variety of toxins (bacterial lipopolysaccharides for example) and carcinogens that the body has a more difficult time excreting. When this happens, the body begins to develop a negative autoimmune response to these internal pollutants, often opening the door for the onset of Celiac disease or various other autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto's.
As you may know, the thyroid is a small gland located in the anterior portion of the lower neck and is responsible for the creation and distribution of metabolic hormones. When the thyroid is underproducing or underexcreting, the result is hypothyroidism. Sufferers of this condition often deal with fatigue, cold intolerance and weight gain. The contrary issue is an overactive thyroid, with symptoms ranging from heat sensitivity and excessive sweating to nervousness, fidgeting and weight loss. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. Both of these thyroid malfunctions may be the result of Celiac disease (also known as gluten intolerance).
I've often explained to patients and audiences about the fact that the contents of the gut are outside the body? The gut is a hollow tube that passes from the mouth to the anus. Anything that goes in the mouth and isn’t digested will pass right out the other end. This is, in fact, one of the most important functions of the gut: to prevent foreign substances from entering the body.
An additional important function of the gut is to host 70% of the immune tissue in the body. This portion of the immune system is collectively referred to as GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. The GALT comprises several types of lymphoid tissues that store immune cells, such as T & B lymphocytes, that carry out attacks and produce antibodies against antigens, molecules recognized by the immune system as potential threats. Common antigens in sensitive individuals are bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), gluten and other undigested proteins that enter the blood stream through the "leaky gut"
Problems occur when either of these protective functions of the gut are compromised. When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (i.e. “leaky gut syndrome”), large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. Studies show that these attacks play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s.
As these processes continue to take place in the body, the more likely it is that Celiac and thyroid disease sufferers are further punished by longer-term effects that the diseases have on their bodies. As less and less nutrients are digested because of the amplified auto immune response, symptoms of fibromyalgia (i.e. chronic pain and widespread fatigue) may begin to set in. Fibromyalgia is often a misunderstood diagnosis, and there are widespread theories as to its root cause. However, evidence continues to mount proving that Celiac disease/gluten intolerance is a major culprit in interrupting some of the body’s major digestive and metabolic functions. Fortunately, due to recent advances in testing, Johnson Chiropractic Neurology & Nutrition in Shelby Township, Michigan has the ability to test for leaky gut and sensitivity to gluten and other epitopes so months and years are not wasted looking for the reason for your suffering.
Celiac Disease: A Precursor to Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Dysfunction
So what do we know for sure? As early as 2003, the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago reported some startling numbers regarding the prevalence of Celiac disease in America. A fact sheet distributed by the center made the claim that Celiac disease affects approximately one percent of healthy, average Americans. That means as many as 3 million people in the United States are living with Celiac disease. Of those 3 million, more than 90 percent of sufferers remain undiagnosed, attributing their chronic pain, intestinal irritability and bowel issues to something other than Celiac disease, fibromyalgia or thyroid maladies.
Luckily, several advancements in these specific areas of digestive medicine have been made, and a variety of treatment and testing options are now available to those who want to address their pain. In today’s world, patients are required to take charge of their own health. Only with the guidance, support and knowledge of a medical team that understands the underlying issues can patients truly begin to experience the benefits of modern medicine. Johnson Chiropractic, Neurology & Nutrition can guide you to a new existence—one in which the sting of fibromyalgia and thyroid issues can be addressed or eliminated by first conquering what may be undiagnosed Celiac disease and the issues that so often accompany it.