Is Everyone Affected by Gluten?

“An estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else–not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable.”

Mark Hyman, MD

The Autoimmune Connection

One in five or about 20% of the population currently has an autoimmune condition, and the numbers are rising dramatically. American super wheat and what’s often sprayed on it (glyphosate), or engineered into it (GMO crops build to withstand glyphosate) may be part of the steep increase in autoimmunity.

Gluten is a storage protein found in all grains (except rice), not just the well known culprits: barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, wheat, and triticale. It can be as difficult to digest as human hair, which makes it highly irritating and inflammatory for anyone to eat. American super-wheat, bred for its superior glueyness, is the most indigestible type.

Beyond being difficult, if not impossible to digest, it causes gut inflammation, creates a leaky gut, disrupts the immune system, causes brain inflammation, and is the number one food trigger for all autoimmune conditions. Twenty years ago, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) listed 55 diseases associated with eating gluten, including rheumatoid arthritis, autism, lupus, multiple sclerosis and dementia!1 Gluten expert, Dr. Tom O’Bryan recently referenced 19,000 articles in the medical literature on gluten sensitivity and its impact on the body.2

Gluten is a well established trigger for people with celiac disease — an estimated 1-2% of the population and for those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) — an estimated 30% of the population.

Here’s the clincher:

A recent study reveals that gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it (see study below).

We know that a leaky gut is the pathway to autoimmune conditions. So if you have a genetic predisposition for any of the 150+ autoimmune conditions (the growing list includes chronic Lyme disease, Crohn’s disease, intestinal bowel disease (IBD), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and even autism, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s have autoimmune elements) and you are still eating (or drinking) gluten, you may be unknowingly perpetuating the autoimmune problem.

I was. I ate cereal and sandwiches nearly every single day for decades, not knowing that it was perpetuating the MS attack for 26 years! Part of the problem is that it doesn’t always cause digestive distress. It often causes symptoms far from the gut, like brain fog, migraines, or joint pain, which makes it frustratingly difficult to tell cause and effect.

What can you do?

If you’re concerned about or dealing with autoimmune issues, to safeguard your health, you must be 100% gluten free 100% of the time. Even a morsel — say a crouton or a cookie crumb — can create (or perpetuate) a leaky gut. If you slip up and eat even a teeny amount, I have it on authority from gluten experts, Drs. Tom O’Bryan, Peter Osborne, and Sarah Ballantyne that can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 years(!!!) to heal your gut lining, depending upon the severity of the leakiness and other confounding factors.4

Surprising Sources of Gluten

There is a long list of foods — and unexpected items that contain gluten, including envelopes you have to lick (don’t do it!) and Play-Doh (don’t eat it!). Other surprising sources include soup mixes, soy sauce, salad dressings, some shampoos, chewing gums, instant coffees, alcohol (beer and grain alcohol for sure), vitamins, medications and lipsticks. Check ingredients and beware fillers and binders that may contain gluten. Check out’s list for sources to avoid:

Still not convinced?

Put your own lab coat on. Remove all sources of gluten 100% for one full month and then reintroduce it and see how you feel. If you experience ANY symptoms, including numbness, tingling, brain fog, nerve pain (neuropathy), headaches, depression, digestive distress, joint pain, increased fatigue or insomnia, or any other mysterious symptom, those are clues you may be experiencing downstream issues with gluten. When you can directly feel cause and effect you’re far more likely to give it up for good.

This is why I advocate a Paleo template diet for anyone with an autoimmune predisposition. A Paleo template removes all grains, dairy and sugar but permits liberal amounts of healthy fats, clean (100% grass fed or pastured) proteins, and ample vegetables.

So I’ll ask you, are you or someone you love dealing with autoimmune issues or mysterious symptoms like brain fog, joint pain, thyroid issues, skin rashes, migraines, heart disease, dementia, or other perplexing ailments? What do you have to lose by just giving it up for 30 days, and possibly for good? I like to say nothing tastes as good as feeling healthy feels.

Take good care!

p.s. To learn more about top autoimmune food triggers, check out Top Autoimmune Triggers: Start with Food.

Study Title:

Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Study publication

. 7(3): 1565–1576.


Justin Hollon, Elaine Leonard Puppa, Bruce Greenwald, Eric Goldberg, Anthony Guerrerio, and Alessio Fasano


March 2015


Background: Intestinal exposure to gliadin leads to zonulin upregulation and consequent disassembly of intercellular tight junctions and increased intestinal permeability. We aimed to study response to gliadin exposure, in terms of barrier function and cytokine secretion, using intestinal biopsies obtained from four groups: celiac patients with active disease (ACD), celiac patients in remission (RCD), non-celiac patients with gluten sensitivity (GS) and non-celiac controls (NC).


This study demonstrates that gliadin exposure induces an increase in intestinal permeability in all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have celiac disease.

Full Study

P.S: Want my help reversing an autoimmune condition?

If you live in the continental U.S. and are ready, willing, and determined to be well, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom. I collaborate with skilled naturopathic doctors (NDs) who are experts in resolving root causes like gut issues, chronic infections, toxic burdens, and hormonal imbalances, which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. If you are ready to beat autoimmune and reclaim your best life please book a 30–minute consultation with me to gain clarity, confidence, and explore the possibility of working together. You can do it, we can help. 💗
Image Credit: Warren Wong
1 Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review.
2 Bulletproof interview: Reference Today, health research database, GreenMedInfo lists 165 diseases associated with gluten.
3 Reference
4 How Long Does it Take the Gut to Repair after Gluten Exposure? The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, Reference 1 and Reference 2




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Palmer is a certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who has helped thousands of people reverse autoimmune conditions based on her own two-decade battle to successfully beat multiple sclerosis (MS). She’s the author of the Amazon #1 bestselling book, Beat Autoimmune, which has a powerful foreword by Functional Medicine pioneer, Mark Hyman, MD.

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