A family member has recently been diagnosed with narcolepsy. When googling known causes, I ran into this article that references research that shows quite conclusively that narcolepsy can be caused by an autoimmune disease.
I know there is anecdotal evidence that a paleo diet can help with autoimmune diseases in general, so I'm curious to know whether anyone here has experience with narcolepsy and the effect of a paleo diet thereon.
Also, does anyone have a hypothesis on why a paleo diet helps with various autoimmune diseases? Is it mainly wheat avoidance? I ask because it would be much easier to advise said family member to avoid wheat, rather than go fully paleo.
Woah! I hit the jackpot when googling for gluten+narcolepsy
Lots of anecdotal evidence http://narcolepsynetwork.org/forums/index.php?/topic/19-gluten-free-diet/
This woman has some papers on the gluten connection with narcolepsy http://www.zombieinstitute.net/Story.htm
Same lady here, but the comment on the bottom is more anecdotal evidence. http://neurotalk.psychcentral.com/archive/index.php/t-29295.html
Celiacs apparently often have narcolepsy http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/48130-narcolepsy-gluten/
I will use my powers of persuasion to get my family member to go gluten free.
I'm narcoleptic and gluten free! Gluten free has "cured" by narcolepsy, by about 80%. I still struggle with tiredness from day to day, but am SOOO much better than I used to be. I also no longer take any medication. I have a website www.AutoimmunePatient.com documenting some of my experiences, and also have a bit of literature and reviews on some of the "real science" being published about it. In my opinion, all narcoleptics should at least TRY gluten free (if not totally paleo, which I am also a huge believer in). Biggest key might be sugar: orexin neurons (those implicated in narcolepsy) are found in the brain and in the gut, and they are directly glucose sensing.
Best of luck with all your endeavors.
My understanding from my own research is that gluten irritates the gut lining. It does this in everyone, but some people are more sensitive and others are more tolerant. Eventually, in more sensitive people, the gut lining becomes so irritated that a person develops Leaky Gut Syndrome, where larger-than-normal food molecules are allowed to pass into the bloodstream. Since they don't belong there, the immune system attacks - which is normal. However, in some cases (either by genetic predisposition or by having another virus at the wrong time) the wrong immune receptors are triggered, thereby creating an autoimmune disease (in my case - Hashimoto's thyroiditis - my thyroid antibodies were triggered).
By going 100% gluten free for at least 3-6 months, the gut lining may be allowed to heal, therefore turning off the immune reaction. I say "may" because for many people it takes more than just avoiding gluten - they may have to also avoid corn, rice, dairy, soy, nuts and nightshade vegetables in order to achieve optimal healing.
For what its worth - I was able to reduce my anti-thyroid antibodies by 20% after 8 weeks of 99.9% gluten free. I am hopeful that if I can stick to 100% gluten free for a full 3-6 months I may be able to get my thyroid antibodies into the normal range. If it lowers but still isn't normal I will try eliminating some of the other items I listed.