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A Naturopathic Approach to Biomimicry and Antigenic Similarity in Autoimmune Disease: A Closer Look at Celiac Disease

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on August 25, 2023

Biomimicry and Celiac Disease

Biomimicry is the concept of imitating models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. The concept of antigenic similarity is a phenomenon wherein the immune system is triggered by foreign substances, which share similar characteristics with the body’s own tissues. (1)

This concept is often examined in the context of autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. One such autoimmune condition is celiac disease, wherein the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune response targeting the small intestine. This post will explore the relationship between biomimicry, antigenic similarity, and celiac disease, while outlining a naturopathic approach to managing the condition. (2)

Celiac Disease and Gluten

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune response in the small intestine, damaging the lining and preventing the absorption of some nutrients. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. For individuals with celiac disease, gluten is perceived as a foreign invader, triggering an immune response.

Biomimicry and Antigenic Similarity

The immune system's recognition of gluten as a foreign substance can be associated with the concept of antigenic similarity. The proteins in gluten may share structural similarities with the proteins found in the body's own tissues, leading the immune system to mistakenly target its own cells. This phenomenon may be considered an unintended form of biomimicry, where the body's natural defense mechanisms are deceived by structural similarities between foreign and self-antigens. (3)

A Naturopathic Approach to Celiac Disease

Naturopathy is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on promoting self-healing through natural remedies and lifestyle changes. Here are some naturopathic approaches to managing celiac disease:

Gluten-free diet

The most important step in managing celiac disease is to completely avoid gluten-containing foods. This includes avoiding wheat, rye, and barley, as well as any processed foods that may contain hidden sources of gluten.

Nutritional supplementation

Due to malabsorption issues associated with celiac disease, it is important to supplement the diet with essential vitamins and minerals. Common deficiencies include iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B12, D, and K.


Probiotics can help restore healthy gut bacteria, which can be disrupted in individuals with celiac disease.

Digestive enzymes

Supplementing with digestive enzymes can help break down food more efficiently and support nutrient absorption.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, can help reduce inflammation in the gut. (3)

The Relationship Between Biomimicry, Antigenic Similarity, and Autoimmune Diseases

The relationship between biomimicry, antigenic similarity, and autoimmune diseases like celiac disease is complex and multifaceted. Understanding the underlying mechanisms can provide valuable insights into managing the condition. A naturopathic approach that includes a gluten-free diet, nutritional supplementation, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and anti-inflammatory foods can be an effective strategy for managing celiac disease and promoting overall well-being. As always, it is important to consult with a holistic healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. Also, this post contains no medical advice.


  1. Cusick MF, Libbey JE, Fujinami RS. Molecular mimicry as a mechanism of autoimmune disease. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):102-11. doi: 10.1007/s12016-011-8294-7. PMID: 22095454; PMCID: PMC3266166.
  2. Vazquez DS, Schilbert HM, Dodero VI. Molecular and Structural Parallels between Gluten Pathogenic Peptides and Bacterial-Derived Proteins by Bioinformatics Analysis. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 27;22(17):9278. doi: 10.3390/ijms22179278. PMID: 34502187; PMCID: PMC8430993.
  3. Segura V, Ruiz-Carnicer Á, Sousa C, Moreno ML. New Insights into Non-Dietary Treatment in Celiac Disease: Emerging Therapeutic Options. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 23;13(7):2146. doi: 10.3390/nu13072146. PMID: 34201435; PMCID: PMC8308370.

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