NOTICE: This blog is no longer being updated, so medical information may no longer be accurate.

Gluten Sensitivity Causes Autoimmune Disease

I want to share a couple videos from Dr. Vikki Petersen of HealthNOW Medical Center that I think are extremely important for people who have any autoimmune disease to understand (click here for a comprehensive list of autoimmune diseases from the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association).

I will also link to some important research at the end of this post that I highly encourage you to read.

The following video is one that Dr. Vikki posted in 2009 and I believe it was the first video I viewed of hers (words cannot explain my gratitude to Dr. Vikki for taking the time to post these extremely informative videos.  They have been instrumental in my journey towards better understanding my conditions, as well as overcoming the damage inflicted upon my body by gluten for decades before I was finally diagnosed with celiac and 4 additional autoimmune diseases).

In this video, Dr. Vikki explains the mechanisms of gluten in autoimmune disease.

The following comprehensive article is by Alessio Fasano, M.D., Medical Director of The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research:

Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity and Cancer Physiological Reviews, January 2011

In order to better understand the above article , you will need to know what Zonulin is:

Zonulin regulates the permeability of the intestines by controlling the opening and closing of specialized structures that act like gates between cells.  When the body produces too much zonulin, these gates get stuck open for too long and allow undigested foodstuff, toxins and other bacterial and viral particles access to the immune system.”

I would like to point out the following statement from Dr. Fasano on page 157 of the above linked article (bold emphasis added):

“Among the several potential intestinal luminal stimuli that can trigger zonulin release, we identified small intestinal exposure to bacteria and gluten as the two more powerful triggers.  Enteric infections have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several pathological conditions, including allergic, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, by causing impairment of the intestinal barrier.  We have generated evidence that small intestines exposed to enteric bacteria secreted zonulin.”

For more information on zonulin, I also recommend reading:

Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2006

I would like to emphasize the conclusion of this study:

gliadin* (see note below) activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.”

Note: The term “gluten” is actually a generic term applied to a family of storage proteins found in wheat, rye and barley.  The proteins that are harmful to patients with celiac disease are rich in proline and glutamine, which are collectively called prolamins.  The prolamin fractions of the various cereals carry different names: gliadin (wheat), secalin (rye) and hordein (barley).

Dr. Vikki Petersen has kindly offered to give two of my readers a FREE copy of her book, The Gluten Effect, as well as a copy of the 2009 Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Forum DVD AND a copy of the 2010 Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Forum!!

In order to enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment!

Bonus Entry Opportunities (bonus entries are strictly optional, just be sure to leave a separate comment for each completed task as this is how I make sure all of your entitled entries are accounted for):

  • Share the link to this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter

I will announce the TWO winners on Friday, July 1st, 2011.  Good Luck! 😀


  1. You make my head spin with all this detail. Good detail, bad brain. I gave my copy of the 2010 forum to my doctor and haven't seen it since. At least they're taking me a bit more seriously. Now if I can only get them to order that Cyrex Labs leaky gut panel. I wonder how I can get either Hercules or Atlas to do all this heavy lifting for me??? XOXOX

  2. gummysmom says

    Thanks for always sharing videos and information from Dr. Vikki Petersen and adding your perspective to them. My whole view of gluten sensitivity has changed (for the positive).

  3. I'm so blessed by your information. When Samuel first got diagnosed with Celiac Disease my world seemed to go on a tailspin. I cannot even begin to tell you how much your blog and finding more about gluten free and Celiac Disease helps. Thank you. Truly.

  4. Thank you for sharing this information. Your site was how I ultimately figured out my 14 years of HELL were caused by gluten!

  5. MamaKate says

    Awesome information! Sharing it with others in my life who would benefit from a gf diet 🙂

    (ps – July 1st is Canada Day…I hope a Canadian wins!!!)

  6. Great post, would love to win a great giveaway! My 2 year old son has Celiac and my blood work just came back positive, so it looks like I'll be joining in on a gf diet soon!

  7. MommaAndrea says

    Thanks, Heidi, for taking the time to give such thorough information and for including so many good resources on your site. My mom is Celiac, and my entire family is rife with autoimmune illnesses. I told my sister about your site and, because of your testimony, she is going to the HealthNow clinic next week. She is very ill, and we are hoping they can help her. We would never have known about the clinic if it hadn't been for your site. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. Wow, this is great, thanks. I am going to share the first video with my husband's aunt, who has RA and sounds so much like the woman the doctor mentioned. Makes me wonder if my son has a wheat allergy because autoimmune runs in the family.

  9. Thank you for sharing all your informative links and tid bits… I have such a rare autoimmune disease that they will not do any research on it… and I suffer from gluten sensitivity. All tests come back negative but my boss(who does have gluten allergies) and husband can both tell when I consumed any gluten.

    It is nice to know that it is not all in my head and that there is a correlation between the two.

  10. Thank you so much for all the information and your website. I am on my 5th day of being gluten free. I didn't get tested for gluten sensitivity but just after reading so much and knowing I have Hashimoto's and other auto-immune disorders I felt I should just go ahead and do it.

  11. Shared about the giveaway on Facebook!

  12. I liked HealthNOW Medical Center on Facebook. 🙂

  13. Great information on zonulin, l look forward to reading up on it! Thanks Heidi!

  14. O my gosh! This is a great giveaway! I have been struggling with this for over two years now, ever since my son was born. This information would be great to have to educate my husband and my self more!

  15. Thanks for the giveaway. This is all very useful information! We have been gluten free for over a year now and our health has improved drastically.

  16. Thank you for sponsoring this giveaway.

  17. Would love to win! Thank you for always staying on top of the latest research. 🙂

  18. Thank you so much for this information. For the past two years, I have had issues with IBS-like symptoms (testing has ruled out) and endometriosis and I am convinced that gluten had quite a bit to do with the issues.

  19. Enjoyed the post and videos. I was dx with lupus and sjogren's in 1998. My doctors didn't mention gluten. I suffered for 10 more years and developed Hashimoto's in the process. Today I am gluten free for over 2 years. Unfortunately, while it has made a huge positive impact on my health, I sill suffer with autoimmune symptoms. 🙁

    So what about spelt? I have read spelt has gluten too?

  20. Kim Moran says

    I want this book so badly. I am just now starting to understand how gluten works in my system and why, despite what my doctor tells me, I cannot seem to eat nuts and rice and corn without feeling sick. I want to understand more about why. Thank you for guiding me in the right path.

  21. Thanks for sharing Dr. Vicki with your readers. It's been quite a learning process for me and my girls who each decided to try going gluten free recently.

  22. ‘Liked’ HealthNOW Medical Center on Facebook

  23. ‘Followed’ HealthNow Medical on Twitter

  24. Tweeted the link to this giveaway

  25. Thank you for this information. My 15 year old daughter has been on a gluten free and dairy free diet since May 10th after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 7 months ago. We originally were going with the doctors recommendation of drugs but we saw little improvement. We have seen significant improvement since she has been eating this way and we are very grateful to know we are doing the right thing for her. We have her completely off of all drugs at this time and we are very fortunate that our doctor is working with us and not making me feel like a horrible mother for taking her off of the drugs.

  26. I find I get asked a lot by family and friends to explain what it means to have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I've been doing a lot of reading, trying to understand the mechanism of what happens to the body when we eat gluten. Sometimes I think I sound like a walking celiac encyclopedia.

  27. I 'like' HealthNOW Medical Center on Facebook

  28. I follow HealthNow Medical on Twitter

  29. Thank you so much for this info….your website has been SO helpful!

  30. Since being a patient at Dr Petersen's clinic is out of our price range, we would at least love to read her book and immerse ourselves in your giveaway items as we struggle to get better.

    Thanks for everything that you do Heidi to help us to press on to heal.

  31. I would love to read Dr. Petersen's book and watch the DVD! I was in remission of my Crohn's disease until I inadvertently consumed gluten in medication I was taking and that triggered a Crohn's flare up. Now I'm starting the battle all over again. I would love to learn more about the connection of gluten and autoimmune diseases!

  32. I became gluten-free when we were in the throes of fertility treatments. In my research, I found that my endo was an inflammation and that changing what I eat could possibly help it. My world has changed. Not only do I now have three kids (not saying it is an infertility cure, but it sure helped me), my endo is minimal, my psoriasis is almost gone, my knees no longer ache, I never get a sinus infection, I'm never bloated, and my regular irregularity is no longer.

    I sing the praises of gluten-free living to all who will listen. Unfortunately, not many people will listen. Their medical doctors just prescribe another drug to cover up their symptoms, refusing to acknowledge the role food plays in the health of their patients.

    I've shared this on Facebook. I've emailed it to my family (believers but not doers!). Keep them coming!

  33. I shared the link on facebook. The first part of my email address is how I'm listed on Facebook.

  34. Love all the information! I've heard this from my doctor, but it was long road to find a doctor that would make the correlation! Love how you put it, too! I have alopecia, and while it's not painful, it certainly is not fun!

  35. Heidi – thank you once again for providing such wonderful resources that are so thoroughly researched. I am passing along this information to a friend whose son just got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

  36. I just "liked" HealthNow Medical Center on Facebook.

  37. I just followed HealthNOW on twitter.

  38. I just shared this post on facebook.

  39. I just tweeted this post.

  40. VERY interesting information….kind of mind-boggling!

  41. A BIG thank you to you and Dr. Peterson for all the helpful information you share.

  42. I'm a little distracted by a 4-year talking about Thomas right now, but I look forward to reading and watching more about this today. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Betsy Custis says

    Dr. Vikki Petersen's videos were very informative. I will be able to show these to family and friends to help them understand what I am dealing with. And thank you Heidi for this site, you have helped me in more ways than you can know. May God bless you both.

  44. Thanks so much for your blog….. it has given me much, with information ans inspiration…. I have changed my diet considerably and don't have the same need for grains that i used to. Just more veg's and green juices. Still a journey tho, every day…Thanks for everything you've done to help.

  45. Great Giveaway package! The winner will be one lucky person!

  46. I have three autoimmune diseases and gluten definitely appears to be the culprit.

  47. I like HealthNow Medical Center on Facebook.

    Great videos with a wealth of information to share with family members and friends.

  48. I shared this link on facebook.

  49. Colleen M. says

    What wonderful information you have shared. Would love to learn more. Thanks for the giveaway!

  50. Meredith Wilson says

    I found out about 2 months ago, after 8 yrs of guessing what I am allergic to, that I am hyper sensitive to gluten.. This website has been a life saver for me! Thank you sooooo much for all the information!

  51. I shared on twitter! Thanks so much for this fabulous giveaway! It's people like you that make being gluten free easier!

  52. This is extremely interesting! Would love to read more! Thanks for posting!!

  53. I went GF last fall due to IBS . . . but now I'm trying to unravel the rest of my health problems. This book seems extremely interesting, since I'm halfway anticipating an autoimmune illness diagnosis in the near future. Would love to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible. Thanks for the chance!

  54. Rebecca S says

    Thank you for taking the time to post this! VERY informative. I am so glad I caught my son's celiac disease early (13 months old), but he still has a long road to complete recovery and I can't imagine what it would be like had he continued consuming gluten. This kind of information spurs me on to stick with the total diet turnaround, time-consuming as it may be. 😉

  55. Great information. I have a 10 year old, who last last fall was diagnosed with vitiligo. We have been fixing her "leaky gut" plus going on a GF/DF diet. It's amazing the improvement we have seen in her. We have a happy child again. Thanks.

    • Hi Teresa:

      Do you mind if I ask if there has been a visual improvement with the vitiligo? My son and I are both gluten free now, I believe there have been so many health benefits. I have just been made aware of the effects of vitiligo, and I wonder why so many do not seem aware of the connection to gluten. Best of luck to your little girl!

  56. Thank you so much for featuring Dr. Petersen and helping my daughter learn more about her illness. I would really love to have these resources (in the giveaway) for her. I wish we lived out west and not in NY. No Dr. here seems to know about gluten issues or what to do. Thanks for the videos.

  57. Within the past month, both my daughters (ages 5 & 4) were diagnosed with celiac. I am so thankful for the information you provide and am especially loving your weekly menu plans (I'm still learning how to "do this."). Very thankful for people like Dr. Petersen who are investigating more and more ways to help our kids.

  58. Your blog is the first I've heard of Dr. Petersen. I'm looking forward to reading her book.

  59. ‘Liked’ HealthNOW Medical Center on Facebook

  60. ‘Followed’ HealthNow Medical on Twitter

  61. Shared this link on facebook

  62. Jennifer C says

    I'd love to win this and share the information with our local Celiac Support Association group. Thanks!

  63. OMG! I am so happy I found this site! I have been battling my own body for years! I begged Dr.s to help me turn off the "Attack button" that has been plagueing me for the last 12yrs. I have had verious problems, I thought I was choosing healthy foods, but I got worse, instead of better. I am so looking forward in studying as much as I can about this topic. This book would be so helful.

  64. Opps! I meant HELPFULL, haha not helful. opps!

  65. This is exactly what I needed in my quest to inform family and friends with auto-immune disorders that they, too, should seriously consider going gluten free. I sometimes sound like a nut to them, I suspect. Facts are good. Very very good. Facts and scientific explanations for very real, albeit hidden and little understood, mechanisms.

  66. Great videos and am sharing them with family. They don't have symptoms so they don't think there is a problem. Going GF changed my life.

  67. I have been gluten-free for almost 2 years now, and have suffered chronic health problems for about a decade that recently culminated in a diagnosis of Lupus. My symptoms of have hugely improved by being off of gluten, but there is still much work to do! Thank you so much for offering this information and giveaway.

  68. I also linked to this article and giveaway on my blog's Facebook page.

  69. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for the giveaway and all the good information!

  70. Lisa Vance says

    I would love to read The Gluten Effect and learn more. I personally also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia – both of which appeared after my gluten-related symptoms.

  71. Lisa Vance says

    I like HealthNOW Medical Center on facebook

  72. Lisa Vance says

    I follow HealthNow Medical on twitter

  73. Lisa Vance says
  74. Thanks so much for sharing these videos – I've suspected this because of my own combination of autoimmune problems, IgA Nephropathy and gluten sensitivity.

  75. My physician loved the information on the 2010 Celiac & Gluten Sensitivity Forum DVD. Thank you so much for all of your time and effort to inform the rest of us on the latest and greatest in the gluten research arena. After a long time of feeling so lousy and deteriorating health I was lucky enough to find a physician who would listen and was aware of gluten sensitivity issues.

  76. I am helping to spread the word. HealthNOW Medical Center is now liked on my Facebook page.

  77. healing123 says

    I am forever grateful to Dr. Vicki and her videos that state clearly, depression is linked to gluten. Thank you

  78. I will be "sharing" and "linking" this info. Would love to win to be able to share in real life with other family members and friends who need to "get" it…keep up the great work, Heidi, I have referred many a friend to your incredible blog! 🙂 Your journey (and description thereof) are so informative and helpful to so many of us!!!! 🙂

  79. lisa Roberts says

    All of Your time and information does NOT go unrecognized!!!! Thank you for your time girl!!!!

  80. Thanks so much for all this information!

  81. AnnMarie Deis says

    I am constantly amazed at how the human body functions! This book would be a very interesting read indeed!!! My four-year-old son and I are fairly new to the whole gluten-free life and are going through somewhat of the stages of grief . . . well, at least I am. I'm grateful that at least my little guy most likely won't know what he's "missing."

  82. I would LOVE to get a copy of her book! i have it on a list of must-reads but haven't gotten to it yet… I bet if I WIN I would be reading it as soon as I opened the package 🙂 I love Dr. Vikki! 🙂

  83. I like HealthNOW on FB

  84. Monica G. says

    How generous of Dr. Vikki Peterson and you! Our family could really use these resources. My Father, sister, daughter and I all need to be on gluten free diets. I would love to be able to better understand and explain our lifestyle change. Thank you for this great giveaway!

  85. Monica G. says

    I liked HealthNOW on Facebook.

  86. Ooo, Id love to win this. I have so much to learn! Thx for info!

  87. I tweeted this!

  88. I Facebooked Thus, cause Id love to win!

  89. Shannon J. says

    I love Dr. Peterson and the wisdom she imparts. As a newly living gluten freer, I love the videos that she makes and I would love to add these resources to my ever expanding library.

  90. Shannon J. says

    I meant, I love Dr. Petersen with an e. 🙂

    I also just liked HealthNow on Facebook.

  91. Likrd health now on FB

  92. Following healthnow on twitter, cause I wanna win! & they seem to have good info, thx for the tip!

  93. So interesting, I have not heard this explained so well before. This gluten thing is starting to make sense.

  94. Julie Nadeau says

    I'm quite new to the gluten-free lifestyle and I'm glad I found you're site. Because I also have other food restrictions, It's been really difficult for me to adapt, but I'm getting there. I don't have much support from my doctor, so finally seeing some scientific basis for what I've been feeling is amazing. Thank you!

  95. My mom has MS and she's seen some improvement (or at least not worsening) since beginning to eat more primally. I'd love for her to have these books for support to continue eating well!

  96. Thank you for these very interesting videos. I have CFIDS and Fibromyalgia, along with Hashimoto's/hypothyroid. I went grain-free for 9 months, and it was very hard for me because of the little energy that I have. I didn't find that I felt any better (if anything I might have had less energy?), except a bit more mentally clear, and I lost weight. I would do it just for weight loss if I had the energy, but I am really looking for something that would make me feel much better (I am in bed at least 1/2 the day right now). Do you think I have a gluten-sensitivity? Thanks!

  97. Please comment on contagious bacteria from an ulcerative patient causing the same symptoms in a roommate . This Ulcerative Colitis is extremely gluten sensitive. Symptoms improve dramatically after adhering to a strict gluten free diet. Genetic tests do not show Celac, but patient does have one of the HLA DQ A1 genes, not the beta gene .
    I thought GI docs would want to identify the microbe that was contagious and caused gluten sensitivity one week after sharing a room and indeterminate colitis 4 months later. Wouldn’t this microbe be the one researchers are researching to discover?