Rise in MS and Autoimmune Disease Linked to Processed Foods

Rise in MS and Autoimmune Disease Linked to Processed Foods

In a new study, researchers found that additives common to processed foods can damage the tight junctions that protect the intestinal mucosa, and which are essential to the intestinal tolerance and immunity balance that works to prevent autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). The article, titled “Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease,” was published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews.

Worldwide, but especially in the West, the incidence of autoimmune disease is increasing, a trend accompanied by the development of the processed food and food additives industries. This steady rise in autoimmunity is also seen in MS, a debilitating disease whose cause is still not fully known, but is suspected to be an interaction of genetic, immunologic and environmental factors.

“In recent decades there has been a decrease in incidence of infectious diseases, but at the same time there has been an increase in the incidence of allergic diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases,” Professor Aaron Lerner, from the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Carmel Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, and a study lead author, said in a press release. “Since the weight of genetic changes is insignificant in such a short period, the scientific community is searching for the causes at the environmental level.”

Recent research has focused on the role of the intestinal epithelial barrier in maintaining the equilibrium of the immune system response to non-self and self-antigens. The permeability of this barrier is controlled by intracellular tight junctions, a complex network of proteins that regulates trafficking of macromolecules between the environment and the host, and that protects the intestine against colonization by foreign microorganisms. Tight junctions play a crucial role in the equilibrium and balance of the immune response — and tight junction dysfunction leads to a barrier more permeable to bacteria, toxins, allergens, and carcinogens. Tight junction dysfunction is the subject of several research studies, especially in regard to autoimmune disease, where it has been found to be commonly present.

Researchers investigated the correlation between autoimmunity and industrial food additives, used in processed foods to improve such things as taste, smell, texture, and shelf life. They found that the additives glucose (sugars), sodium (salt), fat solvents (emulsifiers), organic acids, gluten, microbial enzyme transglutaminase, and nanometric particles all weakened tight junctions, leading to a more permeable intestinal mucosa, a key factor in autoimmunity. With all the information gathered on this subject, researchers recommend that autoimmune disease patients, and their family members, avoid processed foods as much as possible.

“Control and enforcement agencies such as the FDA stringently supervise the pharmaceutical industry, but the food additive market remains unsupervised enough. We hope this study and similar studies increase awareness about the dangers inherent in industrial food additives, and raise awareness about the need for control over them,” Professor Lerner concluded.


Margarida graduated with a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Lisbon and a MSc in Biotechnology from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL). She worked as a molecular biologist research associate at a Cambridge UK-based biotech company that discovers and develops therapeutic, fully human monoclonal antibodies.
Margarida graduated with a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Lisbon and a MSc in Biotechnology from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL). She worked as a molecular biologist research associate at a Cambridge UK-based biotech company that discovers and develops therapeutic, fully human monoclonal antibodies.
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  1. Shasha says:

    Gluten/hidden gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO/corn/heated oils/flax/saturated/monounsaturated fat/dehydrated food and more hurt me. Any food with a label/certified gluten free/nuts not sold in the shell/meat basting/some spices may have hidden gluten. GMO corn/canola oil etc may also hurt. GMO corn/gluten/antibiotics/Lyme may hurt the gut lining so less nutrients absorb..then cells are not made right to work right to burn oxygen. My MS is due to low oxygen my my brain which kills the cells and then white blood cells go in to clean up the debris and make a scar which slows electricity flow. Eating organic/good water/sunlight/exercise…no chemicals or premade food or food with a label etc may help. Cooking your own food may help. A Chinese restaurant cooks special for me…blanched veg/rice/tea extra mushrooms. LDN may help block gluten contamination and help 99% of MS people, but it is a low dose..can’t block out too much gluten.

    • Rod says:

      You are exactly on point with all these processed foods and convenient fun snacks all contain things not healthy for our bodies. What is LDN??

      • Shasha says:

        LDN (Low dose Naltrexone) helps block hidden gluten and helps heal the intestines so nutrients absorb..then cells are made right to work right in the brain and body. LDN is a low dose so trying to eat 100% no gluten is needed also so a person doesn’t override the medicine with their food. Hidden gluten is in nuts not sold in the shell/meat basting/some spices/lotions/make up/air/restaurants/cutting boards/ovens/certified gluten free may have 20ppm of gluten and supplement may have 23% contaminated with gluten. Hidden gluten can be many places so it is hard to avoid. There are even more places than I mentioned. LDN is about $1. It blocks the opioid receptor sites that gluten stimulate so they won’t go down and lower the immune system. This helps heal the gut lining and helps my liver/adrenals/eyes/ears/brain/all cells benefit. 3-4.5mg of LDN is taken usually before bed. The opioid receptors kick in between 2-4am. It is stronger when taken before bed than in the morning. It lasts 18 hours. Drinking more water with it may help. LDN may help stop the destruction of the thyroid/gut lining/brain/body. The Celiac diet..no gluten/hidden gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…taking vitamins/goodo oils/minerals…probiotic…LDN..detoxing may help. LDN helps Celiac people’s health issues. Tests may not work to diagnose Celiac. LDN is like a miracle. I can feel like I am dying and it gets me back to normal. Without it I get worse daily. It helps Lyme which can be caught due to the immune system being down due to Celiac. LDN is usually from an Alternative doctor and compounding pharmacy. Calling a health food store and asking for the name of an Alternative doctor may help. You can call a compounding pharmacy and ask what doctor gives LDN. LDN is awesome..may help most people since it is hard to avoid all hidden gluten. LDN doesn’t help GMO issues, but gluten hurting the gut linilng. Gluten may hurt most people, but few realize it and get help.


        • Judy says:

          Just an FYI: LDN and any opioid medication CANNOT be used at the same time. It has to be one or the other. My doctor told me if I took the two together my body would just forget how to breath. I dropped the LDN because I had significant pain issues, but it was scary to learn how these two drugs interact.

          • John says:

            Keep in mind, LDNs main purpose is to block opioid centers and thus significantly decrease your brain over time. Its main use is not to block gluten. I recommend trying 1mg for 2 weeks and gradually working your way up to 3mg by 5 weeks

      • Claire says:

        LDN is Low Dose Naltrexone. Low-dose Naltrexone has been used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases in the USA since 1985. LDN’s mechanism of action is that it inhibits your opioid receptors which causes the body to increase production of endorphins and upregulate the immune system; it may also antagonize Toll-like receptor 4 that are found on macrophages, including microglia, and any reported anti-inflammatory effects might be due to that. I’ve been taking LDN for 5 years (for MS) and it has helped me tremendously. But I also follow a low-fat, no processed food diet.

  2. Marianne Watts says:

    I am so glad there could be an answer for gut problems with MS, I have had endless test to no avail. I won’t go out as much and its had a big impact on my life.

  3. Christine says:

    No Evidence that Diet Will Protect You From Developing Multiple Sclerosis

    As a person with MS who has eaten a low fat, low salt, low added sugar, vegetarian, 95% planted based diet I find this study questionable and condescending. It hints that one is responsible for developing this disease. Blaming the victim mentality. Granted I am no fan of processed foods but I have avoided processed foods as much as possible my whole life and it didn’t help me from getting this disease.

    It seems to be the popular trend for “scientists” to do studies on diets and then concluded that every disease is a result of what people eat. I feel that a reputable scientist should dig a little deeper into the more complex concepts instead of going for these simple, trendy ideas.

    • Shasha says:

      Celiac may cause MS…which is due to low sunlight heritage. Celiac causes autoimmune issues. Mitochondria on MS people may also be hurt. Antibiotics may hurt mitochondria/gut lining and lower the immune system. People eating gluten/hidden gluten may have a lower immune system which allows infections. Any food with a label/certified gluten free/nuts not sold in the shell/meat basting/some spices/lotions etc may have hidden gluten. Processed food may have hidden gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO. Eating pure foods may help MS. LDN may help 99% of MS people. It helps heal the gut lining from hidden gluten and helps the immune system work right.

      I don’t like studies on obvious things since to me it is just a way to use up research money. The answer to MS is already here in Alternative medicine..no research is needed. MS people may heal fast with Celiac help. Corn/heated oils/flax/saturate/monounsaturated fat/dehydrated food hurts me. Each person is different, but can see what helps/hurts them, but gluten was hard to figure out since it was hidding in most foods with a label. GMO food may hurt. Eating organic may help. Anything that raises oxygen in my brain helps my MS. NO gluten helps heal my intestines and helps rebuild my cells as I absorb more nutrients, then cells are made right to work right to burn oxygen. Unclogging my blood vessels/removing heavy metals which may block chemical reactions with EDTA/DMPS IV chelations helps my MS. Gluten may make antibodies to the thyroid. Many MS people may not get thyroid medicine due to a strange TSH due to gluten also hurting the pituitary. Thyroid medicine may help raise oxygen and make mitochondria work better. Exercise/lower swelling due to less sugar helps raise oxygen. Mg may help 350 chemical reaction and Zinc may help 50 chemical reactions…no gluten may help more minerals absorb. Fish oil may help the immune system and and brain/body/cells. Vit A may help heal the blood brain barrier/gut lining etc. I did not absorb nutrients when hidden gluten hurt my intestines. 5000mcg of biotin and MTHF folate helps circulation in my toes/brain/body. Iron and Vit B12 methylcobalamin shot may help raise oxygen and the Vit B12 may help remyelinate the brain. I need many supplements to be ok.

      To me most MS people are Celiac and may heal fast with Celiac help….no gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…vitamins/good oils/minerals/probiotic…LDN…detoxing. Regular tests may not work to diagnose Celiac or biospies. Cyrex labs may recently help. Best wishes.

    • Tabitha Tombow says:

      Over processed food is just one of the main components, pollution, smoking, drinking all can play a part. Those vegans could be drinkers and smokers. Or as a child may not have been that way. Once you damage your immune system you should build it back up. I have MS my doctor said you ate yourself sick now eat yourself healthy. I was like yeah right, so I tried it for a few weeks. The tremors stopped, headaches stopped, brain fog, dizziness, pain, and fatigue gone. It’s been 2 years and I’m thankfully for my doctors advise. There is something to this like anything some people may need other things but until you find the cause of ms and really study it it’ll be hard to cure also it is hard to diagnose the symptoms asre spastic and ever changing so first you have to be rightfully diagnosed, then find the cause, then find a solution. So far this actually worked for me and from what i hear many others as well. No one should dismiss something helpful to most especially with a low risk.

    • J says:

      Thank you so much for this comment! I have had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for 11 years, and am looking for a possible Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis within the next couple weeks. It is so hard to deal with close family members who tell me I can cure my autoimmune diseases if I just change what I eat. It completely disregards the complex glandular and other systems involved. I’m similar to you in that I eat pretty darn healthy but not super strict. I hope scientists dig deeper as well. Thanks again for your comment, it boosted my morale this morning!

    • Claire says:

      I agree! There are A LOT of programs out there that help through lifestyle changes: OMS (Overcoming MS), Swank, Wahl, Best Bet diet are just a few developed by medical doctors. There are others…

  4. Shasha says:

    Any food with a label may have hidden gluten which may hurt the blood brain barrier and gut lining. Also when I was low in Vit A I could not soak air into my lungs and my blood brain barrier/gut lining/eyes/kidneys got hurt. All I needed was 10,000IU of Vit A, but hidden gluten may not let food/vitamins/good oils/nutrients etc absorb well until the gut lining heals again. It took me 1 1/2 months for my intestines to heal after getting gluten contamination and then finally after taking tomato soup did it start to work again. Any food in box/bag/label may have gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO/chemicals which may hurt people and bad fats/heated oils. Eating pure organic food/good water/exercise/sunlight/nature/pets etc may help people heal. Exercise may help make more neurons/mitochondria. MS people may heal fast with the Celiac diet/vitamins/good oils/minerals…probiotic..LDN..detoxing…Zn/Mg/fish oil/Vit C,Vit D3 etc..

    • Judy Ward says:

      Sasha: I’m confused, you do all of these things to help your MS. Exactly what benefits are you seeing related specifically to your disease? I also have MS, progressive phase. I’m looking to hear from people who found something that worked to improve their MS, not just overall health. Dr. Terry Wahls used diet to improve from wheelchair bound secondary progressive to now riding a bike miles at a time. What I never hear about her case is anyone else who has followed her protocol and had such amazing results.

  5. Aila says:

    Interesting topic! yes foods caused MS specifically GMO. This topic is so important but limited researchers are working on this topic because nobody is ready to support them financially so we should be victims for money makers. It is not fair

  6. Lisa says:

    While I do not believe diet is a cure all I do know that diet plays a big part in causing inflammation and inflammation exacerbates pain, blurred vision, lack of concentration, bowel issues, headaches/migraines, hormone imbalances and so on. So it is always wise to eat foods that will not make things worse. If your gut could talk louder than your taste buds it would scream when you eat an oreo and thank you when you eat a carrot. (An organic or homegrown carrot that is). Organic is a helpful tool but our soil across the land is polluted so it’s not like you’re getting some pure form of anything. I don’t think that’s even possible any more. But it never hurts to TRY to take better care of ourselves. So while it may not be an individual’s fault directly that they are sick, it is our fault when we make no attempt to stop making it worse. There’s no harm in eating healthy.

  7. Jessica says:

    I don’t understand how this isn’t MORE of a concern to physicians and also to those recently diagnosed with MS. I have two friends who were diagnosed within the past 4 years. Before that time, they both had horrendous eating habits (tons of fast food, bad carbs, sugar, soda, etc). Although their doctors “suggested” switching to leaner diets with more veggies, fruits and less sugar, they didn’t really go into detail about the negative effects processed food can have on their entire nervous system.

    In addition, both of these women drank copious amounts of alcohol. I can’t say that my drinking habits were any better, but I would make an effort to help my body recover after a party weekend. I encouraged them to do the same, but they always had excuses for not being healthy. While they would chug soda and scarf down fast food burgers, I would spend several days drinking wheatgrass shots, eating chicken salads, and taking supplements. Plus, I drink water or tea – never soda. They have both said they “admire” me for being so healthy… but it isn’t some unrealistic goal that only few can attain – it’s simply a personal choice. The amount of garbage foods I see these people put into their bodies is horrifying. In fact, their diets may have been bad for so long that they caused MS to occur in the first place!

    Now, as I watch these two struggle, it’s genuinely difficult to have sympathy – especially when they take very few steps to prevent flare-ups. One of them acknowledges that she feels better when she eats healthy, yet at least twice a week she’s chowing down on pizza and drinking vodka. Both of them continually bring stress into their own lives by getting involved in other people’s drama, and quitting their jobs every few months. It’s a well known fact that stress triggers flareups, so why wouldn’t you mindfully try to achieve stability in your life, rather than chaos??

    Obviously flareups can occur for other reasons too, and just out of the blue. But it’s difficult to watch your friends not take the appropriate steps to improve their own wellbeing. They seem to thrive off complaints and making social media posts to highlight their struggle – all the while doing very little to help themselves. It’s almost like they get high on receiving sympathy and become offended when people don’t understand their pain.

    So, an open note to those out there with MS… If you want others to help you and care for you, first learn to do those things for yourself. You may think I’m an awful person for stating the truth, and that’s fine. But – just try it. For 2 weeks, ditch the sugars, processed foods and alcohol. Load up on veggies and lean proteins. Do daily light exercise. Have a steady sleep schedule. Do not purposely place yourself into stressful situations. Say no to an overwhelming amount of social engagements and focus on wellness. I bet you’ll see positive change.

    • Anna says:

      And what about those who find no relief in change of diet? Is it still their own fault? I know people who have always been eating healthy and kept fit then suddenly become ill with MS or fibromyalgia. I just get annoyed that looking to something that throws blame on the sufferer is becoming more and more common. I’m sure if there is an environmental factor in play such as pollution/chemicals or even EMF radiation we won’t see any government backed literature admitting any contribution to making people ill.

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