Celiac, Autism, Lyme Disease and Other Neuroimmune Disorders
Neuroimmunology is the study of how the immune system and nervous system relate to one another in the presentation of chronic conditions. Neuroimmune disorders are the eventual appearance and diagnosis of these conditions after they have created enough change to be spotted on a laboratory test such as blood analysis. Common diagnosis of these symptoms include Celiac, Autism, Lyme, and other autoimmune conditions. Neuroimmune disorders are complex presentations that have three predisposing environmental factors.
1.) Infection (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, etc)
2.) Toxic chemical/metal exposure (mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, chlorine, etc)
3.) Food Intolerance/Sensitivity (gluten, casein, peanuts, etc)
Infections have long been associated with illness and disease. Certain microbial organisms have been attributed to the cause of numerous diseases. For example, in Lyme’s Disease, the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is the most common trigger in North America, while Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii are more common in Europe. Once the bacteria begin to thrive in the body, immune function decreases, neurologic changes occur, digestion becomes impaired, and fatigue and other symptoms become more prevalent. Many infectious organisms also open the doors for co-infections, and other opportunistic infections to further complicate the patient’s presentation. If the infection is not addressed early enough, chronic burdens become debilitating to those that continue to have immune system flare ups. Lyme’s Disease is known as “The Great Mimicker” as over 300 different neurological, immunological, and other chronic conditions have been misdiagnosed and mistreated when the true cause was a bacterial infection. Neurologic complications triggered from viruses include: encephalitis, polio, meningitis, encephalomyelitis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and more.
Toxic chemical and metal exposure also contributes to the chronic effects of Neuroimmune disorders. Xenobiotics are chemicals found in our bodies that are not normally produced or expected to be there. Xenobiotics can include naturally occurring substances or manmade products as well. Common examples include plastics, mercury, formaldehyde, and dioxins. A common debate in the autism world is the possible correlation between vaccinations and current autism trends. Before 1983, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended 10 different immunizations before the age of 6. By 2007, the CDC had increased the immunization schedule to include 36 different vaccines in the same time frame. In 1982, the estimated prevalence of autism was 1 in 10,000 children, and by 2007, the rate had increased to an estimated 1 in 150. Vaccines contain different xenobiotics, including lead, aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, antibiotics, and aborted fetal tissue.
The amount of xenobiotic exposure has stimulated numerous debates, research experiments, and court battles in regards to the safety of these products in our bodies. Whether or not vaccines cause autism is still for debate, yet xenobiotic exposure certainly contributes to the neuroimmune presentation that many patients experience. From pesticides, herbicides, vaccines, plastics, aerosol vapors, mercury fillings, and the hundreds of other sources of toxic chemicals and metals, a person that experiences neuroimmune disorders will often show improvement through the removal of the toxic substances.
Food intolerance’s or sensitivities are very different from food allergies. A food allergy creates a potentially life threatening experience where a person has symptoms of anaphylaxis or death. Food allergies stimulate an IgE immune reaction. Common foods that create an IgE reaction include shellfish, and peanuts. Food intolerance’s or sensitivities can create other symptoms such as headaches, bowel disturbances, inflammation, seizures, and more, but are not considered life threatening. Food intolerance’s start an inflammatory response that involves the IgA, IgG, or IgM portions of the immune system. Common food sensitivities include gluten containing grains, dairy products, tomatoes, soy, and corn. Many people are familiar with someone who is “lactose intolerant.” Lactose intolerance usually leads to symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, weight loss, nausea, headaches, etc. and it is estimated that 30 million Americans over the age of 20 experience this condition. Gluten intolerance’s can vary from mild symptoms such as lactose intolerance, or can be severe enough to create autoimmune activity such in persons with Celiac’s Disease. In both presentations, poorly digested gluten molecules stimulate IgA, IgM, and IgG immune responses which induce inflammation, and symptoms from consuming this substance. “Gluten” is a protein found in all grains, but the immune response is triggered from the gluten proteins of wheat, barley, and rye that contain the “gliadin” and “glutenin” molecules as well. Screening tests that include blood, saliva, stool, and intestinal biopsy are used to find food sensitivities. Once the sensitivity is identified, removing the dietary trigger is an important step in helping a person experiencing neuroimmune disorders.
Chronic conditions often frustrate doctors and patients alike due to the complexity of the patient’s symptoms, and the wide range of patient complaints. Addressing the factors that contribute to the neuroimmune disorders are essential for helping a patient increase their level of wellness. Whether the patient is experiencing Lyme’s Disease, autism, lupus, Celiac’s Disease, or any other chronic or autoimmune illness, proper testing should be used to identify the presence of any infection, toxic burdens, and food sensitivities. Foods that contain gluten should be avoided immediately by those with neuroimmune disorders until specific testing has demonstrated that their body is able to process the protein.