With autoimmune disease on the rise, I have noticed in the past 2 years that I am seeing more and more patients with mass connective tissue disorders. Many times these go undiagnosed or are hidden under an existing autoimmune disorder. Did you know that connective tissue disease hits about 3% of the population but celiac is only sitting at about 1%. That is some perspective isn’t it!
It also hits women more often than men (10:1).
CTD includes conditions like Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Polymyositis, Dermatomyositis as well as MIXED connective tissue diseases… They are hard to diagnose and even harder to get our doctors to test for. For those with Celiac it can take up to 10 years to get a real diagnosis, many false negatives, and a life of suffering.
What are some of the symptoms? How would you know what to look for? It’s just a matter of knowing the signs. Hair loss, muscle pain, swelling of random joints, red blotchy skin, unexplained rashes, numbness and tingling, inflammation, low-grade fever, joint pain, sensitive skin (to the touch), weakness or fatigue, sensitivity to heat….. mood issues (more on that in a sec)
It’s not easy to get the right testing unless you luck out with a functionally minded practitioner. I saw a need for proper diagnostics in order to be able to work with patients who were suffering. Many of the current treatments act like a bandaid which means not only did I see a need for better testing but also protocols that help the patient not mask them.
So where is the connection between MCAS and wheat? Not everyone with mast cell or histamine issues will have sensitivities to wheat or gluten – but many will. Certain proteins found in wheat tend to set off immune cells, especially mast cells – we call these trigger foods. Testing to see if this is an issue (even if you think you have been gluten-free for some time) can really be an eye-opener. When we activate our mast cells we release mediators like histamine – histamine causes nasty reactions like inflammation (think that unexplained achy muscle and joint pain), as well as hives or headaches or even annoying brain fog (among other symptoms). One of the things I noticed about myself was mood swings, you know how some get a sugar crash? I get a cranky pants wheat crash. Gluten makes me cranky, there I said it. I first noticed when my kids would ask for pasta night – one night every few weeks can’t hurt right? WRONG! I turned into this snappy mom for no reason. Except there was a reason… gluten.
Sadly there can also be underrecognized symptoms, think leaky gut… If our bowels are inflamed we get IBS (cramps, bloating, loose stool). Hard to enjoy a nice night out when the discomfort or a sense of urgency strikes.
The most advantageous testing I do with patients is a combination of the GUT Zoomer and the Wheat Zoomer. These two tests give me all the information I need to help patients figure out a health strategy that works.