How Your Body’s Reaction to Gluten Proteins Can Cause Chronic Pain and Autoimmune Disease

How Your Body’s Reaction to Gluten Proteins Can Cause Chronic Pain and Autoimmune Disease

(Last Updated On: April 16, 2019)

How your body's reaction to gluten proteins can cause chronic pain and autoimmune disease.Researchers continue to reveal new discoveries regarding the body’s reaction to gluten proteins. A growing number of people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, and it has become apparent that an even greater number are sensitive to gluten proteins. This sensitivity can be at the root of a variety of autoimmune disorders.

The aches and pains that strike so many people–migraine headaches, joint inflammation, muscle soreness, and skin problems–can be reactions to the foods that they consume each and every day. In the body’s effort to attack toxic gluten proteins contained primarily in wheat products and processed foods, healthy tissue is attacked instead. This case of mistaken identity results in inflammation and chronic discomfort.

Is it a Gluten Allergy or Sensitivity

Your body produces five kinds of antibodies, called immunoglobulins, in response to foreign invaders. A commonly used skin-prick test will determine if you have an allergic reaction to a substance. This test measures levels of the immunoglobulin IgE, which is associated with allergies. If you are allergic to gluten, you will produce IgE in response to gluten exposure.

As opposed to allergies, sensitivities to certain substances will not result in IgE production. This doesn’t mean that your body tolerates them any better than a person who is found to be allergic. You may have a reaction that results in the production of other types of antibodies.

Researchers continue to piece together this puzzle of gluten-related health problems. Some say that gluten sensitivity may affect up to 60% of the population. It often remains undiagnosed because a sensitivity doesn’t necessarily reveal itself through digestive issues, where many might expect a food intolerance to occur.

Gluten Proteins Can Trigger Autoimmune Disorders

When your immune system produces antibodies against gluten, those antibodies can be misdirected toward your own healthy cells. Your healthy tissue–may be the thyroid or joints–contain structures that are similar to the gluten protein. The antibodies attack, mistaking the healthy tissue for gluten. This condition of self-attack is an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune disease is the number one cause of illness and death in the US. Examples include Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema. These diseases can often be indicators of sensitivity to gluten proteins. Conditions may even extend to the heart and brain, resulting in cardiomyopathy, autism, or schizophrenia.

According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan of, there is no tissue in your body that is immune to the toxic effects that gluten proteins can cause. Muscle, gland or bone tissue can all fall victim to misguided antibody attacks.

You may suffer from a wide range of health problems if you are affected by gluten. Whether you experience an allergic reaction or a sensitivity, the results can be severe. Many who have been diagnosed with a wide range of autoimmune disorders find relief after starting a gluten-free diet.


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Do You Really Need That Gluten-Free Diet?

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Do Processed Foods Increase the Risk for Autoimmune Diseases?

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4 thoughts on “How Your Body’s Reaction to Gluten Proteins Can Cause Chronic Pain and Autoimmune Disease

  1. Great article! I am not allergic to gluten and don’t have Celiac’s disease, but have noticed significant reduction in back pain and stomach pain since giving it up! Great information thank you!

  2. Thanks for the brief overview. I’ve been gluten-free since January (sensitive only; non-celiac) . My last blood test was in April and my TSH numbers for Thyroid improved as well as my overall/bad cholesterol. My joint pain went away about two weeks after I went GF along with a natural diet (minimal processed foods). I’m a firm believer that the right foods can be our best medicine. (I also lost 8 lbs with after going GF. Finally found my flat stomach again!)

  3. Thank you for pointing out that gluten problems can come in any and all forms since you never know what part of your body will be attacked in the autoimmune respose to gluten. Relatives and friends think I’m crazy when I tell them of my strange symptoms that have gone away on a gluten free diet. I do have celiac disease but have atypical reactions such as rash, peripheral neuropathy, swollen ankles and legs, puffy eyes, anemia and exhaustion just to name a few. Strangely I have little gastrointestinal distress!

  4. Interesting info… This mirrors some recent suggestions I’ve seen in the paleo community: even if you don’t plan to go strictly paleo, eliminate neolithic agents (gluten, milk, etc.) from the diet for a period of time. Slowly reintroduce them and see how your body reacts, to identify any that may be causing systemic inflammation or other problems.

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