Gut Health + Multiple Autoimmune Diseases

It’s late September and I am driving through the backroads of Indiana listening to a podcast as we head home from a very fun weekend in Chicago. It was so much fun, in fact, my husband had me drive as he was reclined in the passenger seat.

Either way, I wasn’t fussed as I spent the time reviewing information for an upcoming presentation I had on the books related to gut health and diabetes. Yet, with my intention to polish up on the facts, I nearly had to pull over as I had an “ah-ha” moment when tuning-in to “The Paleo View” hearing Dr. Sarah Ballantyne discuss the risk of getting additional autoimmune diseases for those who already have an existing one. As if 1 disease wasn’t enough, right?! Thankfully, there is something we can do to halt this from happening, but a little information first.

Autoimmune disease affects over 50 million Americans, and if you have an autoimmune disease, you have genetic predisposition to have an overactive immune system. With this, the risk of getting an additional autoimmune disease, according to Sarah Ballantyne’s literature review, is 1 every decade.

Hitting close to home, I felt it in my gut when I read how type 1 diabetes (T1D) is associated with autoimmune thyroid disease (AIT), celiac disease (CD), Addison’s disease (AD), and other autoimmune diseases. This isn’t common sense, nor is the information of how to prevent it from happening, but there is hope.

Looking back on my 26+ years of having type 1 diabetes I sense a relationship with this research. In 2009, my life changed when I did a gluten-free experiment. Multiple endocrinologists thought I was wasting my time, as I have proved multiple celiac diseases negative. Yet, my A1C and blood sugar control were immediately and continue to be more predictable and better than ever. Not to mention, my eczema, insomnia and female hormones are better off. Just last July I did a food sensitivity test on myself, and my reaction to wheat was off the charts, followed by gluten. An allergy (celiac) is very different than a sensitivity, and taking my food sensitivity results seriously is improving my overall well-being and help reduce my risk of acquiring more diagnoses. In the last 2 years, I’ve experimented more with my diet, and am now working to wean down or off my thyroid medication (my thyroid tanked with the onset of pregnancy with my second child). It will be a slow process, but I just had to make a decrease in my thryoid medicine dose. No doubt, food is powerful. Slower than medicine, but powerful.

In the least, it’s a good thing the progression of an autoimmune disease is not entirely determined by genetics. Reseach concludes there are 3 parts:

  1. genetics,
  2. environmental factors (from everything from a heavy metal toxicity, to a stressful emotional event), and
  3. a leaky gut. (Here Dr. Axe does a good job defining Leaky Gut, and below I highlight how to take care of your gut).

It’s valuable to understand that an autoimmune disease can sit brewing in the body for years before a diagnosis occurs and the great news is we can do a lot to prevent the last “straw” from reaching the camels back.

While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, the best way to be your healthiest and prevent any further autoimmune diseases from occurring or progressing is to focus on 1) what we eat, 2) what we absorb and 3) how we take care of our body/lifestyle. 

Diet/What We Eat:

  1. The AIP is a good starting point for anyone dealing with one or more autoimmune diseases. Not only does it exclude grains, dairy, and legumes like the basic paleo template, it also eliminates nightshades, nuts, seeds, eggs, alcohol, and sugar, leaving a pure and basic diet of meats, seafood, certain vegetables, certain fruits, healthy fats and spices that help to promote anti-inflammatory reactions within the body. Upfront, I want to highlight that while this diet can be a very low-carb diet, it can also be a high carb diet sourcing healthy foods including plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, fruit, yucca, taro, etc. This approach can be tough. Thankfully there are great resources, from books to websites and podcasts. Pheonix Helix is a leader in communicating effective ways of living this lifestyle. Her website is a wealth of information as is her podcasts and guests.
  2. A few other paths to take to make sure someone is eating the right things for their gut is they can do an elimination diet, removing the biggest offenders: gluten, wheat, sugar, eggs, soy, dairy, seed/man-made oils (think corn, canola, soy, safflower seed oils) and corn. Like I did in 2009, begin avoiding one or all of these food groups and take notes on how you feel.
  3. Increasing vegetables and fruit in the diet,
  4. Diversify meals,
  5. Incorporate good spices and herbs,

Gut/What We Absorb:

  1. First REMOVE inflammatory foods and chronic stressors, REPLACE the problem foods with healing foods, such as items listed below, REPAIR the gut with specific supplements, and REBALANCE and nurture the gut, ongoing with probiotics. This is known as the 4 R Protocol.
  2. Research suggests the gut can take on average 2-12 weeks to heal, and likely longer for this of us with an autoimmune disease. For anyone with an autoimmune disease who is also sensitive to gluten and consuming it, it can take closer to 6 months for the gut to heal. And there is little benefit in a “gluten-light” diet. A fraction of a crumb can inflame the body, and I know this first handed when the cook in a cafe I used to work in, would cut my chicken breast with the same knife he was cutting chicken sandwiches with, I’d get ill. I also think of my mother who has osteoporosis, Hashimoto’s and rheumatoid arthritis, but still gets non-gluten free communion at church every weekend. Bottomline, it’s important to be 100% gluten-free when experimenting and if implementing when a results are positive.
  3. Increase fermented foods in the diet along with coconut products, bone broth, and collagen,
  4. Avoid food sensitivities – Get tested using Cyrex Labs, MRT LEAP, or KBMO. (I can be a resource in acquiring a test). Learn how well you tolerate FODMAPs
  5. Moderate saturated fat as it can impair the microbiota,
  6. Replenish nutrient stores with potent supplements, and ask for advice from a health professional to find a high-quality product and the right product for your needs and background.

Lifestyle/How We Take Care of Ourselves:

  1. Prioritize sleep, both quantity, and quality, Did you know in 1965 we got on average of an hour and a half more of sleep per night than compared to today? That’s a big difference, and females need more sleep than males. Here is a list of how to tweak your environment to improve the quality
  2. Engage in adventure and hobbies. If you don’t have the time, shift things around so you do.
  3. Not that you don’t already, but prioritize blood sugar control. The swings cause inflammation and disturb the peace in our gut.
  4. React better to stress. It’s common to say reduce stress, but that thought only makes me a little more strung out. Instead, I put my energy on my response to challenges and tough tasks.
  5. Work on communication so you can be heard and respected.



  • 5 At Home Test Gut:

My Diabetic Motive

It is almost my birthday and looking back on my 27th year of age – a heck of a lot has happened. Good and bad.

The Good: Moved twice. First from Chicago to Ohio, starting a new role at Abbott Nutrition as a sales rep, and then again in January, relocating to Australia with my now husband. If not obvious enough with the last statement, I got married! I have flown around the world twice. I have started a new job in a new industry and have acquired more friends than I could have ever dreamed. I finally tried duck, snorkeled through the Great Barrier Reef and became an Aunt.

The Bad: With big life events, there is stress and with stress, there are ups and down in blood sugar control. Along with last year’s event there were many time zone changes. Flying also has a tole on my blood sugar control, especially when I am changing to such drastic time changes. And lastly and most recently, I was in an accident and on the mend of a broken jaw. Broken jaw means eating softer and different food, which again means a challenge on my glucose control.

Bottom line: I would not trade this last year for anything. I have AMAZING memories, I have grown and changed for the better, and married my best friend. But I have one of the worse A1C% I have ever had. I must and am doing something about it and I want to make my goals public. Why? As a type 1 diabetic, sensitive to dairy, caffeine, birth control and legumes, potentially nuts too, I have a tough case. But I will succeed. I am determined. Can any of you relate?

For the next 3 months I am going to eat strictly paleo and re-do some of my labs. This is my main goal because when I avoid grains, legumes, dairy, white potato, corn and sugar, I have a much smaller margin of error in controlling my blood sugar.

I have chosen 3 months because this will allow for enough time to see change in my A1C%. Red blood cells turnover ~ every 3-4 months and closer to the 4 months when eating a low carbohydrate diet.

Wish me luck and I intend to blog many days of what I eat. I will admit I get to have a gluten free peanut butter banana sandwich on my birthday and for Christmas. Food is medicine but it is also one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Cheers to you and good health!

Yes – I Eat Like a Caveman

Have you ever heard of a paleo diet? When I first started eating gluten free, I would tell people I eat like a caveman. Yet, little did I realize a diet without wheat, barely or rye was still far from a caveman’s diet.

According to Wikipedia a paleo diet is a nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various human species habitually consumed about 2.5 million years duration that ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. The “contemporary” Paleolithic diet consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts; and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

From what I have read and learned, the paleo diet is a diet designed for our genes. In “The Paleo Diet,” by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. there are seven keys to the paleo diet. I’ve listed a shorthand version below.

1.  Eat relatively high amount of animal protein compared to that of the typical American diet
2.  Eat carbohydrates only coming from fruits and vegetables. Avoid grains, starchy tubers and refined sugars.
3.  Eat a large amount of fiber from nonstarchy fruits and vegetables.
4.  Eat a moderate amount of healthy fat. Avoid saturated fat and trans fatty acids.
5.  Eat foods high in potassium (ex: bananas) and low in sodium
6.  Eat a diet with a net alkaline load
7.  Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

The outlined keys clearly avoid a few food groups and this causes controversy as a health professional. However, I will go as far as to say that I support a paleo diet. I have been eating this way for some time and I feel fabulous. I have always believed that we should eat like our ancestors and this diet defines just that.

I do not believe that this lifestyle and diet is for everyone, but for some, it could be something to look into.

Have a healthy day and try this recipe soon!

Shrimp Stuffed Avocados
3 medium sized avocados
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ pound small or medium sized shrimp, cooked, shelled, deveined and chilled

Cut avocados in half; remove seed and skin. Stuff with shrimp; add lemon juice.

Treating Celiac Disease

The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. When a person is first diagnosed with celiac disease, the doctor usually will ask the person to work with a dietitian on a gluten-free diet plan. A dietitian is a health care professional who specializes in food and nutrition. Someone with celiac disease can learn from a dietitian how to read ingredient lists and identify foods that contain gluten in order to make informed decisions at the grocery store and when eating out.

Celiac disease is unrelated to other possible gastrointestinal conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. For most people suffering from celiac disease, following this diet will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further damage. Improvements begin within days of starting the diet. The small intestine is usually completely healed in 3 to 6 months in children and younger adults and within 2 years for older adults. Completely healed means a person now has villi that can absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream.

In order to stay well, people with celiac disease must avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. Eating any gluten, no matter how small an amount, can damage the small intestine. The damage will occur in anyone with the disease, including people without noticeable symptoms. Depending on a person’s age at diagnosis, some problems will not improve, such as delayed growth, tooth discoloration, and the presence of colon polyps, if any.

Some people with celiac disease show no improvement on the gluten-free diet. The condition is called unresponsive celiac disease. The most common reason for poor response is that small amounts of gluten are still present in the diet. Advice from a dietitian who is skilled in educating patients about the gluten-free diet is essential to achieve best results.

Rarely, the intestinal injury will continue despite a strictly gluten-free diet. People in this situation have severely damaged intestines that cannot heal. Because their intestines are not absorbing enough nutrients, they may need to directly receive nutrients into their bloodstream through a vein (intravenously). People with this condition may need to be evaluated for complications of the disease. Researchers are now evaluating drug treatments for unresponsive celiac disease. For additional information on treating celiac disease and colon cancer prevention, please contact your local gastrointestinal specialists.

Reference click here
Have a healthy and fit day!