February 11, 2010

Gluten Intolerance and Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE)


The autoimmune disease, SLE, is being studied in its relationship with gluten sensitivity.  A recent study suggests that SLE occurs more frequently in patients with celiac disease than what is generally recognized.

“This study suggests that SLE occurs far more frequently in biopsy-defined celiac disease than is currently appreciated, and detection may be more likely if the period of clinical follow-up of the celiac disease is prolonged.”


J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar;42(3):252-5.

Gluten Free Society’s Stance:

SLE often presents with the hallmark “malar rash”, but also causes skin rash, joint pain, and muscle pain.  Laboratory testing for the disease revolves around the investigation of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) present in the blood stream.  Lupus is often confused with rheumatoid arthritis because the symptoms of the two diseases are so similar.

Like celiac disease, SLE is an autoimmune process.  The only known cause for autoimmune disease is gluten intolerance.    Research continues to mount showing that gluten sensitivity causes far more than just celiac disease.  Gluten has already been linked to numerous autoimmune conditions.  According to statistics, patients diagnosed with celiac disease will be diagnosed with an additional 7 autoimmune diseases in their lifetime.  Unfortunately, rheumatologists everywhere ignore these facts and continue to prescribed steroids, pain killers, and DMARDS (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).

Our stance is simply this:  If you have SLE and don’t know why you have SLE, rule out gluten sensitivity first.  Genetic testing is cheap, non-invasive, accurate, and could very well save you from a life of prescription drugs that don’t heal you.

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10 Responses to “Gluten Intolerance and Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE)”

  • Cindy Wood says:

    Thanks for the article. I have experienced both. Lupus at the age of 20. But it took 23 more years to be diagnosted with Celiac Disease.

  • Rose says:

    Cindy, that is tragic, but I’m in the same boat although I don’t have lupus, but do have a handful of other conditions that I now know were caused by undiagnosed gluten intolerance. I diagnosed myself last year at the age of 59! I have been into lupus forums and tried to help others overcome this awful disease by posting information about the link between gluten and lupus and had my head bitten off for my trouble. Sad.

  • Anke Stoman says:

    My daughter Anke Stoman, is also diagnosed with lupus at the age of 18. She is 24 now. She is not having a pleasant time. Always to tired or in pain to go out or spend time with friends and family. She does not have eyesight in her left eye at the moment.

  • Sue says:

    Would you please stop stating that, “The only known cause for autoimmune disease is gluten intolerance.” Gluten intolerance is the cause of inflammation and the SYMPTOMS of celiac disease, not the cause of the disease itself. According to Mayoclinic.com, “The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown, but it’s often inherited.” You say that you are a doctor but you are misleading others by stating that gluten is the cause of autoimmune diseases. Sunlight causes symptoms of systemic lupus but does it cause the disease? Absolutely not. Scientists do not currently know what triggers the body to attack itself with any autoimmune disease and it is certainly not gluten. If it was the cause of autoimmune diseases, then everyone in the world would have an autoimmune disease. I agree that gluten and other risk factors on the body make the body more prone to getting an autoimmune disease, especially the typical western diet and lifestyle.

  • Sue,
    I will not stop saying that gluten causes autoimmune disease. It does. I have seen it first hand. I am not saying that gluten is the only contributing factor to autoimmune disease. There are multiple factors – http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/gluten-and-the-autoimmune-disease-spectrum/

    That being said, celiac disease would not exist if gluten did not trigger it. This would not be the first time that Mayo Clinic is wrong. I recall when their stance on gluten sensitivity was that it did not exist.

    Your statement above, “Scientists do not currently know what triggers the body to attack itself with any autoimmune disease and it is certainly not gluten.” contradicts itself. If scientists don’t know the cause, then gluten as a cause cannot be rule out.

    Just so you know, autoimmune disease is the third leading killer in the U.S.

    Thanks for posting:)

  • Teresa Blubaugh says:

    It seems to me that the point you are arguing (cause vs. symptom) is not important. Change your diet to gluten free if that will improve your health. Simple.

  • Aussie Marina says:

    “Lupus is often confused with rheumatoid arthritis because the symptoms of the two diseases are so similar” – I have coeliac disease, hashimoto’s, and possible RA – my psychiatrist suggests I have lupus, but my rheumatologist says she thinks it’s psoriatic arthritis, and my GP says I have RA. I am lost and so tired of trying to get the right help, I have absolutely despaired for 18 years and have no will to live any more (very bad depression).

    I have high ANA and anti-CCP autoantibodies with very active (painful) symptoms, inflammation, shocking fatigue, and a list of all the usual symptoms, rashes, migraines (was getting Botox injections they are so bad), fevers, and have been suffering for 18 years like this with many, many, many flares that I thought were possibly lupus. The coeliac was only discovered last year after much more arguing and, literally, my begging for doctor to find out what the hell is wrong with me because I had such chronic anaemia and had to beg for iron infusion – now I had to fight to get the lupus subsets tested (and a whole heap of other) and now waiting for results later this month.

    Yet, my rheumatologist immediately prescribed methotrexate on the basis of my ANA and CCP and I am very uncomfortable with this and have not started taking it, especially since no diagnosis has been confirmed without analysing the other pending results. Any additional information/reference would be of tremendous help to me as I have been arguing with doctors for years who said that this was all because of psychotic depression and were completely disinterested in any testing until last year (different doctors).

    I understand the physiological mechanisms about all this, I just don’t want to start cytotoxic drug therapy in my present condition as I have a renowned sensitivity to so many drugs, and she prescribed them to me without any explanation as to what it actually was, the dangers or side-effects either, so I didn’t know until after I had the prescription filled, pharmacist warned me, and I checked the product information sheet and patient information sheets on the manufacturer’s website. (And it is actually very bad, I think, for these cytotoxins to be referred to as “disease modifying” agents, thereby giving off a completely different connotation about what they are and what they really do.)

    I have been “gluten-free” of wheat, barley, and rye since December 2010 and yet have gotten so much worse. I like to be armed with the right information, and yet I just don’t know if the methotrexate is the right thing to do.

    Also, can you cite references for this please – “According to statistics, patients diagnosed with celiac disease will be diagnosed with an additional 7 autoimmune diseases in their lifetime.” Most people don’t understand this concept about autoimmunity at all.

    Thanks and much appreciation and blessings to you Dr Osborne, I’ve been following your pages for a while, and thank you for trying to make a difference out there.

  • BJPerry says:

    To Aussie Marina, Have been told I have lupus, fibromyalgia,
    low thyroid, diabetes, osteoporosis, early menopause, lupus migraines.
    Please note, my classic migraines with aura got to point of seizure and
    stroke symptoms, but are nearly gone since started avoiding the trigger of
    sulfites, which are in food products like processed potatoes and wines.
    To anyone with autoimmune migraines, please try avoiding sulfites. I always
    reacted within 1-24 hours when I took in sulfites.
    My daughter is gluten free. I am trying a gluten free diet and so far it helps
    with other symptoms. Try any other known triggers. We can’t control
    autoimmune disease, can only try to control the triggers and take our
    medicine if it helps.

  • Laurie says:

    I was diagnosed with celiac’s disease 2/28/2004. I was told at he time change your diet and you will see immediate immprovement in my health. Some improvement, but have hives, facial race, fevers, swolen glands at times, severe bilateral neuropathy pain, extreme tiredness, dry eye, raynauds disease, scleritis of left eye. Was put on methotrexate by a local rhuematologists no, even though I have a family history on cirrhosis of the liver( my mother a nondrinker) and I have high liver enzyme rates. This happened about 6 yrs ago and I switched to a rheumatologist an hour away in a larger city. Immediatly my blood work devulged high liver enzymes and I was switched to cyclosporine which has kept it at bay. All my drs seem to think I have more autoimmune disorders going on but have tested with no confirmations and basically said it may show up at any time in the future.

    At least eating gluten free has gotten easier, and I was able to find an online gluten free flour last year for an easy substitution for my old family recipes.

  • Amy says:

    Besides going gluten free you need to also heal leaky gut. Drink bone broth, take L-Glutamine, drink saffron tea and slippery elm while eating a gluten and dairy free diet will help heal leaky gut. Once the gut is healed the autoimmune reaction will stop. I have Psoriasis, Lupus, and Sjogren’s disease. I haven’t been tested for Celiac Disease, but recently found out my father’s mother had Celiac. I have had great improvement after taking the steps to heal leaky gut. There are many books and articles about leaky gut and the autoimmune connection. I suggest doing your own research and decide what is right for you. I feel better when I eat gluten free, dairy free, and don’t eat eggs or nightshades. Make sure you stay hydrated, lots of water is so important.

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