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Gluten and Lupus

Gluten and Lupus: Gluten Intolerance and Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE)

The autoimmune disease, SLE, is being studied in its relationship with gluten sensitivity.  The link between gluten and lupus is one that has been the source of a number of studies. 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.

32 Responses

  1. 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.

    1. To everyone who disagrees that gluten is a cause of these autoimmune diseases, do yourselves a favor and find a progressive doctor who can tell you about Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity as well as Celiac. This is an autoimmune response to gluten, which can go away when gluten goes away (presuming the secondary autoimmune disease hasn’t progressed too much).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. Oh my. I have never been diagnosed with lupus and the tests for gluten intolerance ( traditional medicine) are negative. However a kinesiologist doctor I was recommended told me the traditional tests only show positive when the body is 40% affected. Long story short, quitting gluten stopped all the pain I had felt for 12 yeas plus and healed what tradicional doctors call thygerson syndrome ( “chronic” eye inflammation). Also check the B12 levels of your doctor. I also quit lactose, sugar and alcohol however when trying those sporadically did not have any reaction, but did have almost immediate reaction with gluten.

  4. 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, “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.

    1. Hello Sue… Here is what I know for certain …. The unrecognized enzymes caused within the human body as a result of ingesting out genetically modified wheat crops ravaged my intestinal walls. This caused leaky gut syndrome essentially releasing food toxins into my bloodstream. This easily explains the body’s reaction to fight off the pathogens. It’s already claimed my thyroid and set off a sle response. Ever noticed the correlation between thyroud disease and diabetes …. It is staggering … Lupus is the newest recognized part of the process. AND gluten DID mist definitely advance my conditions. Cause or no cause.

      1. It may have advanced your conditions but as Sue stated it is NOT the cause. And Diabetes does increase the chances of SEVERAL other diseases….but it is also NOT The cause. Just as eating more SUGAR does NOT cause diabetes. Does it increase the symptoms yes but it IS NOT THE CAUSE!!! All Sue was saying is don’t say it causes it…it may not help it but it is not the CAUSE!!!

        1. A doctor that I follow, Izabella Wentz, states that autoimmunity is basically a three legged stool. There are three things required to activate the disease. First, you have to have the genes for it (but your genes are not your destiny, you need two more things to activate them). Second, you need to have a leaky gut (aka permeable intestines… Caused by GLUTEN). Lastly, there needs to be an environmental trigger that essentially starts the autoimmune attack. Some triggers can be stress, pathogenic infections such as various bacterial infections (H. Pylori), some viral infections (EBV, HSV1, or any of the various other herpes viruses), hormonal changes (such puberty, pregnancy, menopause). The genes are not something you can change, the environmental factors are not something you can really control, but the leaky gut is 100% within our control. Ditching gluten is the first step into healing the gut. So, back to the point, while gluten may not “cause” autoimmunity, autoimmunity desperately relies on the damage gluten does to our guts to activate autoimmunity. Another reason gluten and autoimmune thyroid disease are highly associated with each other is that the gluten protein is very similar to the thyroid protein and when gluten has caused the leaky gut and allowed gluten to enter the bloodstream, the immune system begins to attack the gluten protein and along the way gets confused and starts attacking the thyroid, too. This phenomenon is called molecular mimicry. While this is not my own research and I am not a doctor, I am an autoimmune patient who has followed the protocol of Dr. Izabella Wentz, and I am on the road to remission and feeling like a functional human being again when just a few short months ago. Additionally, I am an educated professional. I am a science teacher and my bachelor’s degree is in Biology and Chemistry. The point of that is that I am capable of researching this and vetting sources as well as understanding the science behind what is written. Ditching gluten was definitely a turning point for me in my healing process.

          1. When just a few short months ago I felt like a zombie*.

            Accidentally left off the end of my sentence 🙂

          2. Izabella Wentz is not a medical doctor…she’s a Pharm D…a pharmacist. I’ve read her book, I agree with her 75%. I was in healthcare 30+ years…research & law….there is no known direct evidence of what causes autoimmunity. There are links, opinions, certainly diet, gluten plays a role, genetics does as well. Association is not causation.

    2. You can be right, however the thing that cured my fibromyalgia/ chronic eye disease and other things the doctors did not know the origin nor how to heal ( corticoids just made me miserably depressed and fat) was quitting gluten out of my life, so I am spreading that as much as I can as I want to help others. I do not wish people go suffering through their lives as I did (12+ years) and lots of doctors in different countries, lots of useless expensive medicine and exams/tests that have never helped easing my pain and suffering.

    3. I have been studying the effects of foods on the diet and gluten and dairy for 43 years! And I agree with the doctor about gluten, causing many of the autoimmune diseases. North America adds 63% gluten to almost all of its processed foods. this is what causes gluten sensitivity, and most people most people don’t even realize that they have gluten sensitivity and they’re just suffering through pain and so-called arthritis, which usually is caused by gluten! Gluten is just plain bad for the body do yourself a favour and cut it out of your diet! Your body will thank you

  5. 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 –

    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:)

    1. Girl, you are talking to people with personal experience, but not much medical understanding of the disease. If gluten caused lupus, then if I stop eating gluten, I should be healed, right? Come on, let share home remedies but understand that the disease was there, it just has factors that may make symptoms worse. I know several people who are gluten intolerant and do not have lupus. Don’t make this about the chicken and the egg. The disease is there, and we can make the symptoms easier to live with by watching our diets. A disease takes specific form in everyones body. Guess what, we are all biologically original, and one “cure” does not work for everyone. If it did, it would be a miracle, not medicine.

  6. 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.

  7. “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.

    1. @Aussie Marina- have you tried going completely grain free? I quit gluten over a year ago but still had lots of issues until I quit grain completely. I have celiac, hypithyroidism, asthma, multiple chemical sensitivites and really bad dust snd mold allergies as well as other food allergies. Inflammation is down as is my weight. I’m not completely better yet but I’m on my way. I know this is different than what you ago sled Dr. Osborne but I saw your post and wondered if you had looked at those additional things. I had to become my own advocate after dealing with a lifetime of autoimmune issues that went undiagnosed. For the whole of my 20s I was over diagnosed psych meds which just made things worse. I even had electroconvulsive therapy during one hospitalization and am now completely convinced grain was the problem all along. It is difficult to find docs in mainstream medicine that will do what is best for you IMHO.

    2. Aussie Marina- I also have Celiac and have not gotten well on the gf diet. After I was diagnosed and started the diet I got even sicker and became horribly depressed- suicidal even. I encourage you to read the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. It explains and outlines the Specific Carb Diet, the original diet for people with Celiac. There is often more problems in the GI tract of people with Celiac, such as an overgrowth of bad bacteria, than the standard gf diet can fix. The Specific Carb Diet can be daunting at first. It’s not easy but so worth it. It has helped many people with Celiac and other digestive diseases and was developed by a Doctor named Sydney Haas in the 1951. You can look up the book on Amazon and read many comments about it. Hang in there, it is possible to get better. You are in my prayers.

    3. Try getting rid of dairy also dairy causes immense, inflammation in the body! I have a milk, protein allergy, not lactose intolerant and I know a lot of people that didn’t realize they were sensitive to dairy. If you can get your milk from a cow and make your butter and cheese straight from the farm kudos to you. It won’t bother you, but anything bought in a store has chemicals in it and that is what is causing all the problems with our health

  8. 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.

    1. Wondering how you are progressing and frankly how you’re doing? I have much if what you have and the migraines are incredible. I have found ice packs as the best for neck/migraine pain

    2. Ah, the the cause and effect…key to answering ’cause’ as wheat ( grass plant )and evolved and survived since beginning of time. So what went wrong…. scientific harm maybe… A terrible excuse ( reduction of pesticides used ) for carrying out superficial change to what is natural. The cause, GMO, pesticides ( overly still used) and environmental pollutants. Let’s not forget the conspiracy or is it a crime committed against own citizens through chemtrails which pisses all over us and everything else we require for our basic needs to be met. Wheat is in bloody everything. But we need to look at the bigger picture. But doctors don’t know the trigger yet to combat contamination and disease they use agents that may be the root ’cause’ to the reason we are all out of wack in one way or another regardless of auto immune label. Why we separate the labels used to define us on diagnosis when they use the same control and maintenance drugs fir all. But we accept the excuse of laying blame at our family genes. This is all they need to do, which denial is the hallmark to deny any ethical investigation and cure. Playing the hereditary card is medical negligence as they work for state not you. So you believe crap genes are historically inbred. What a great and lucrative scam indeed. If wheat plants cells can be manipulated and altered then why can’t yours on a cellular level be delivered deliberately to alter you. All Auto immune disease scapegoats your badly behaved genes . Which should make everyone smell shit and be suspicious. It’s a lie as far as I’m concerned. ( my opinion) your gene pool isn’t crap your gene pool has been changed causing your you immune system to go into attack mode as it knows pathological imposters are taking over your cells permanently. Your reaction is you immune system trying to expel this trickster. Gluten intolerance is a symptom of a cause that our environment is sick then so are we. Our gut instinct has been replaced by pain and gut disfunction your , ( second brain ) knows it too. If auto immune disease is genetic then Disprove genetic alteration in our bodies as they freely admit to doing it to our food source but it is more problematic than that of course.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. Have not doubt that all these “auto-immune” diseases do not come from the food but from what the industry has being putting on the food.

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  10. For the past ten years I have been in a battle with My gut. I would get pain in my right side and an extremely bloated belly. During that 10 years I had numerous MRI’S and the only thing the doctors could tell me was that I had an enlarged liver and they didn’t know what was wrong and prescribed me antibiotics which helped a little. I also would get a small fever that would last about two weeks with bloating. My mother died on Thanksgiving in 2006 from Lupus which I believe was from a gluten Intolerance. Both her kidneys had failed and she was on dialysis and then she had diverticulitis which was from a rupture in her intestinal track like the sore that I had in my side. I also had acid reflux that went on for that ten years which probably caused my sore in my intestinal track. But the root cause was my bodies Intolerance to Gluten. About three years ago I spoke to Dr. Ramona at Fairview clinic in Lakeville Mn. And she said I should get off gluten and she did a an antibody test and it came back off the scale for gluten Intolerance. I immediately went gluten Free and the acid reflux that I thought was just anxiety disappeared within a week. I through away my Prilosec and advil that I had been taking and I’m in a state of recovery as we speak. The bloating is gone. My acid reflux is gone. I can think clearly. The pain in my side is almost gone. I still eat gluten free substitutes which I’ve read aren’t Any better but they don’t effect me the way regular Pasta would. Gluten causes your gut to be permeable allowing thing that aren’t supposed to leak through your intestinal wall to get into your system. Which cause my enlarged liver. Gluten causes my acid reflux and that acid caused my sore in my intestinal track which cause the bloating. My sore could have ruptured causing diverticulitis. I’ve been trying to rebuild my guy by eating prebiotic foods like homemade saurkraut, pickles, and now I’m making my own Kefir. Which is basically the fermentation of milk. And I’m definitely feeling better. They say that a glass of Kefir has more good bacteria than a whole bottle of probiotic which are in pill form. I’m still in recovery and I’ll never eat gluten again. I owe my life to Dr. Ramona. I’m a believer in Christ and I know he put her in my life to help me on my path to recovery.

  11. What a story Gary! I’m fighting my own battles with my health including food allergies. I’m so sorry about your mom. Please post more if you have more insight into these type of health issues. I’m getting a panel done soon on possible food allergies. I’ll be checking back and post an update. Thanks all for sharing! God bless!

  12. I diagnosed myself with gluten intolerance, and had a doctor confirm it after my own research. I had bloating, fatigue, etc. I am in the medical field by trade for `15+ yrs, but I am NOT A DOCTOR. I am also into herbal remedies and natural remedies. My diet currently consists of no pork, no beef, i am lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive, and a few allergies. I have no other diagnosis of any kind other than my diet issues.

    I also make herbal tinctures and experiment on myself and willing family members who have different ailments. I said all of that to share this discovery. Cardamom is an amazing spice that does WONDERS for the digestive tract; specifically stomach and intestional issues. I discovered one day after accidentally eating gluten and becoming sick. Something told me to get the cardamom, and within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, it reversed the effects of gluten for me, and others who i have shared this remedy with. Ive given it to my daughter when she had a stomach flue for 2 days vomitting and nothing else helped. Within an hour of her drinking it she was up and at em, back to her jovial self.

    I either make and keep an herbal tincture of it made with the whole pods, or i buy the ground cooking spice version and add a tablespoon to a regular size coffee cup of almond milk. (if you’re not lactose intolerant, u can use regular milk). I have found cardamom to be effective on SEVERAL gut issues.

    It wouldnt hurt anyone who is reading this to try the remedy. Do your own research about cardamom first. I doubt that you will find a connection for gluten and cardamom on the internet because when i discovered it and went researching to back up my findings, there werent any. Gluten sensitivity, and its symptoms are life altering. Cardamom can give you some relief. I drink a cup of cardamom & almond milk or a shot (when in tincture form) 3 times a week, along with a gf diet and i feel great.

    ***Side note, i have not yet obtained viable proof from my studies, but i am leaning towards going on record to say that beef effects the intestines of gluten sensitive people as well. This is why some who are on a GF diet still have issues.

    I hope this helps someone…. Please let me know if you try it, and what your results are!

    1. I would agree with the beef as you are, what you eat, and cows are usually fed a grain diet so we in just the grain also

  13. I am following this thread and I have a few comments. I have had SLE for 41 years. A couple of years ago I read a book called The Auto Immune Puzzle by Dr. Keesha Ewers. This book literally changed my life. If you read the book you will understand that eliminating gluten is a must HOWEVER there are a lot of other things that need to be done to experience radical changes in the body in order to put SLE into remission. There is no cure for Lupus however you can absolutely put it in remission by lowering stress, balancing the adrenal system and eliminating the top irritants… gluten, dairy, refined food, sugar plus other foods that your system is uniquely irritated by. Lupus patients have leaky gut which causes unique food sensitivities. To find out more I recommend having a functional medicine food sensitivity test done. I recommend the LEAP test. By eliminating the foods that you are sensitive to you (the LEAP test will identify these foods) you can lower inflammatory response, and your blood work markers for inflammation will reflect this. Besides eliminating food that inflame your system you must also repair the leaky gut. Leaky gut is caused by a number of factors including stress, imbalanced hormones, medications and so on. My recommendation is to read the book and then find a Functional Medicine practitioner or coach. If you would like to reach out to me for more information feel free to email me. I am currently a student of the Academy of Integrative Medicine and would be happy to answer your questions.

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