Gut Bacteria Offer New Hope for People with Celiac Disease
Posted By Dr. Mercola | May 27 2010
Probiotics and/or prebiotics may help alleviate the severity of celiac disease. According to a new research study, intestinal bacteria in celiac patients could influence inflammation to varying degrees.
This means that altering intestinal microbiota could improve the quality of life for celiac patients, and also patients with diseases such as type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.
According to Eurekalert:
“To simulate the intestinal environment of celiac disease, cell cultures were exposed to Gram-negative bacteria isolated from celiac patients and bifidobacteria ... bifidobacteria up-regulated the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines.”
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of every 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffers from the digestive disease known as celiac disease (CD).
Previous studies have found that this number may be as high as 1 in 33 in at-risk populations.
Unfortunately, it takes an average of four years to reach a diagnosis if you’re symptomatic, and this delay in proper diagnosis can dramatically increase your risk of developing other diseases, especially autoimmune disorders. For example, if you’re diagnosed with celiac disease after the age of 20, your chances of developing an autoimmune condition skyrocket from the average 3.5 percent to 34 percent.
Undiagnosed CD is also associated with a nearly four-fold increased risk of premature death. So, what’s the most obvious link between celiac, autoimmune disorders, and premature death?
And chronic inflammatory and degenerative conditions are endemic to grain-consuming populations.
Probiotics have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Probiotics have previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory potential, which this latest study confirms. And this is great news.
By decreasing serum CRP levels, and reducing the bacteria-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines, while simultaneously up-regulating the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines, probiotics can offer significant benefits against celiac disease and other inflammatory diseases.
The Role of Grains in Inflammatory Disease
That said, there’s no way around the fact that if you suffer from any inflammatory condition – be it celiac, autoimmune disorders, or heart disease, just to name a few – you need to first and foremost avoid grains.
So please understand that probiotics cannot be used as a way to maintain a grain based diet without suffering ill effects. Grains and sugars are highly pro-inflammatory, and while probiotics are anti-inflammatory, they cannot cancel out the detrimental effects of a diet high in starchy carbs.
Those with celiac disease know the importance of eliminating grains from their diet, as many cannot tolerate even minute amounts of gluten, a protein most commonly found in wheat, rye and barley.
But this message has still to take root in the collective mind when it comes to dealing with autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions.
The good news is, the combination of avoiding or eliminating grains, along with increased consumption of probiotic foods (or a high quality supplement) is a powerful combination that could bring new hope and increased health for millions of people suffering from celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders.
The Vital Functions of Probiotics
Probiotics, the friendly bacteria that reside in your gut have a number of very important functions, including:
- Digesting and absorbing certain carbohydrates. Without good gut bacteria, your body cannot absorb certain undigested starches, fiber, and sugars. The friendly bacteria in your digestive tract convert these carbohydrates into primary sources of important energy and nutrients.
- Producing vitamins, absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins. Probiotics help in the production of both vitamin K and B vitamins, and promote mineral absorption. They also aid in metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.
- Keeping bad bacteria under control. The good bacteria tell your body how much nutrition they need and your body responds by supplying just that much and no more - so that any excess bad bacteria are starved out. The helpful bacteria also produce a substance that kills harmful microbes.
- Preventing allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.
- Providing vital support to your immune system. Beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and your systemic immune system as well. The bacteria play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens.
"Just as some foods can lead to poor health, it's no surprise that others can have positive effects. For people with celiac disease, this opens a line of research into new therapies that may be as accessible as a grocer's shelf."
If you are knowledgeable, your grocery store CAN be your pharmacy. You simply know what to buy, and what to avoid like the plague.
Are All Probiotics the Same?
Interestingly enough, a previous study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology (WJG), found that there are at least two kinds of probiotic bacteria that have even greater anti-inflammatory properties than Bifidobacterium (which was used in the study above).
The WJG study identified Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium as producing the lowest CRP, which is a sensitive marker of inflammation, hence demonstrating their superior anti-inflammatory capabilities.
I believe your best option is to get your probiotics from natural, traditionally fermented foods.
One of my favorites is natto, but there are many other food products that are excellent choices for natural probiotics, such as fermented vegetables, and kefir, a fermented milk drink made from RAW milk and yogurt. Just be sure and avoid most commercial products and get good ones from the health food store, as most are loaded with sugar.
Unfortunately, food manufacturers have tapped into the health-supporting properties of probiotics, and are doing whatever they can to cash in, so you really need to know what you’re looking for when it comes to probiotic food products.
Pasteurized “probiotic” yogurts, for example, which have become increasingly popular, are NOT a good choice because they are pasteurized and will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurized milk products. Additionally, most are loaded with sweeteners, both natural and artificial, to improve their taste.
Another option is to take a high quality probiotic supplement.
In addition to checking out which bacterial strains are included, other main features you should look for when purchasing a probiotic supplement are:
- No need for refrigeration
- Long shelf life
- Can survive stomach acid so that it reaches your small intestine
- Stays resident in your digestive tract long enough to be effective
Even though I’ve come to the conclusion that no one solution works for everyone, the Bacillus Coagulans strain has been proven highly effective. It’s the one I use personally, and the one we recommend in my Natural Health Center. Its main benefits are that it is present in spore form, and survives the acidic environment of your stomach -- making it to your small intestine where it does the most good.
They also survive high temperatures and do not need to be refrigerated, which adds convenience.
Additional Guidelines for Treating Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease
As I mentioned earlier, the treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is a gluten-free diet, which means abstaining from grains and any food that contains gluten.
Often, avoiding gluten for a week or two is enough to see significant improvement. However, sometimes several months may be necessary.
In my experience, about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have a gluten intolerance or not.
This is because, typically, grains rapidly break down to sugar, which causes rises in insulin that exacerbate health problems such as:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
But in order to combat gluten intolerance, it’s not enough to simply avoid grains. You must also pay attention to the quality of all the other foods you eat.
Remember, 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is for processed foods. When you choose foods like this, not only are you bound to experience physical complications in one way or another, but if you have celiac disease it’s even more imperative you avoid processed foods due to hidden gluten.
Hidden Sources of Gluten Can Devastate Your Health
Unfortunately, food manufacturers are not required by law to identify all possible sources of gluten on their product labels, so reading the label may not be enough.
Gluten may still be hiding in processed foods like ready-made soups, soy sauce, candies, cold cuts, and various low- and no-fat products, just to name a few, under labels such as:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
- Natural flavoring
Celiac.com has a long list of label ingredients that typically contain hidden gluten.
For helpful tips and guidelines on how to approach food companies for more detailed information about their ingredients, see The Gluten Solution site. They also offer more detailed information about the current state of gluten-free labeling legislation.
That said, your best bet is to stick to a diet of fresh, whole foods, preferably organic whenever possible. Not only will you keep your celiac disease under control, but you will also experience numerous other benefits such as increased energy, enhanced mood, and a lower risk of chronic illness.
If you want more information about celiac disease, the following web sites are good places to start:
- Omega 3 fatty acids improve conditions induced by vitamin B12 deficiency/supplementation
- Healthy Recipes: Red Berry Pudding with Cream
- FAN's Translation Project
- Aspartame controversy: Aspartame linked to antioxidant imbalance, mild vascular congestion
- Addictive and Toxic: Found in Bread, Pasta Sauce and Salad Dressing