The Connection between Celiac Disease and other Autoimmune Diseases
The connection between celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders is commonly known but not yet well understood. There is a common saying in the autoimmune community that these diseases tend to travel in twos and threes, meaning if you have one autoimmune disease it is reasonable to think you are at a higher risk for others. A lot of studies are being done on these connections including whether celiac disease can itself trigger other autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune diseases are one of the added risks of untreated celiac disease. This can be for a variety of reasons. Since Celiac disease is believe to be something a person is usually born with and many babies remain undiagnosed until symptoms appear it is believed that this condition even undiagnosed can cause harm to a babies developing immune system. Malabsorption in early childhood can affect the functioning of the thymus, T cell production and T cell repertoire. This all can set the stage for autoimmune disease later in life.
There is another theory as to how celiac disease can bring on autoimmune diseases, and this theory focuses on the damage done to the small intestine. The intestinal damage cause can create what is called leaky gut syndrome where undigested proteins leak into the blood stream thru the damaged intestinal wall. As the foreign proteins enter the bloodstream it creates an immune response. The immune system produces antibodies whose job it is to attack these undigested proteins that are in a place where they do not belong.
The end result is that our immune system produces a large variety of selective antibodies, which recognize a short chain of amino acids located in the protein structure. Since our body contains similar and even identical amino acids the end result is that our immune system produces antibodies that not only attack the food proteins that do not belong but it also attacks our own tissues and this is what results in autoimmune disease.
There is no doubt that there is a link between each of the autoimmune diseases and in particular celiac disease with other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and thyroid disorders, what remains to be found is the common link that connects them all, which when it is found could bring new treatments for all of these diseases.