Lectins, Gluten, Rheumatoid Arthritis, & Molecular Mimicry
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Fox News and discuss the concept of food inducing autoimmune disease…
On that same note, the following review study discusses the correlation between food proteins, lectins, autoimmune inflammation, and the concept of molecular mimicry…
Despite the almost universal clinical observation that inflammation of the gut is frequently associated with inflammation of the joints and vice versa, the nature of this relationship remains elusive. In the present review, we provide evidence for how the interaction of dietary lectins with enterocytes and lymphocytes may facilitate the translocation of both dietary and gut-derived pathogenic antigens to peripheral tissues, which in turn causes persistent peripheral antigenic stimulation. In genetically susceptible individuals, this antigenic stimulation may ultimately result in the expression of overt rheumatoid arthritis (RA) via molecular mimicry, a process whereby foreign peptides, similar in structure to endogenous peptides, may cause antibodies or T-lymphocytes to cross-react with both foreign and endogenous peptides and thereby break immunological tolerance. By eliminating dietary elements, particularly lectins, which adversely influence both enterocyte and lymphocyte structure and function, it is proposed that the peripheral antigenic stimulus (both pathogenic and dietary) will be reduced and thereby result in a diminution of disease symptoms in certain patients with RA.
Br J Nutr. 2000 Mar;83(3):207-17.
The Gluten Free Warrior’s Breakdown:
Molecular mimicry is not a new concept. In layman’s terms, this process can be explained as such. The chemicals in food are similar to the chemicals found in the body. For example – a gluten protein might be similar to a protein found in your cartilage. If the body’s immune system starts to react to the gluten protein, it can subsequently start reacting to the cartilage in your joints that resemble the gluten protein. Thus the molecules mimic each other and the immune cells are fooled into attacking the body’s cartilage. When the body starts attacking itself, doctors call this autoimmune disease. There are more than 150 autoimmune diseases. Some of the more commonly known ones are:
- Celiac Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s)
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Pernicious Anemia
Leaky Gut Can Be a Trigger
Molecular Mimicry often starts as a result of damage to the intestinal lining. When the gut cells are damaged, small leaks are formed (intestinal permeability or leaky gut). These abnormal leaks allow food, bacteria, viral, and other proteins to leak into the immune system and blood stream. Over time, this process confuses your immune system and helps to trigger autoimmune disease. This is why gluten can affect people in so many different ways.
Lectins Can Be a Trigger
The research article above discusses lectins (many disease causing lectins are found in legumes) and other food proteins as triggers for rheumatoid arthritis. Lectins are sticky proteins found in many plants. They serve to help protect plants from being eaten. Over consumption of lectins can cause gastric distress, leaky gut, suppress normal digestion, and lead to immune dysfunction. If you suffer with RA or any other inflammatory joint disease, the following should be done immediately:
- Get genetically tested for gluten sensitivity
- Have food allergy testing performed (for clarification on the type of food allergy testing watch this video <<<)
- Remove sugar, dairy, soy, and other legumes from the diet (these foods tend to be higher in lectins)
- Find a functional medicine doctor to help guide you
In good health,
Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior
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