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  • Dr. Amy O'Connell
    Dr. Amy O'Connell

    Normal Flora Bacteria Able to Cleave Gluten

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC- kaibara87

    Celiac.com 10/13/2011 - While certain immunologic risk factors have been identified for celiac disease, it is still unclear why some develop the disease and others do not.  One possibility is that some people are more able to digest gluten than others.  Those who cannot break down the gluten into smaller proteins higher in the digestive tract, in the mouth and stomach, could develop an immune reaction to the full, unaltered protein.

    Photo: CC- kaibara87Maram Zamakhchari and other researchers at Boston University and collaborating sites investigated whether bacteria present in the mouth can play a role in breaking down gluten.  The authors reported in the journal PLoS ONE, published by the Public Library of Science, that two bacterial species present in the normal oral flora were able to degrade gluten.  The species are Rothia mucilaginosa and Rothia aeria, as the authors reported in the online version of the publication on September 21, 2011.

    This finding raises the question of whether people with celiac disease have different levels of these bacteria than those without celiac disease.  The species R. mucilaginosa is found in the mouth and the intestines while R. aeria is only found in the mouth.  The authors attempted to answer this question by looking at saved intestinal biopsy specimens from patients with and without celiac disease.  They found no difference in the presence of the intestinal bacteria between celiacs and healthy patients.

    This study supports the idea that bacteria in the digestive tract may play a role in the development of celiac disease.  While there was no difference in gluten-digesting bacteria in the intestines of celiac patients, the study did not evaluate the bacteria levels in the mouth.  Patients with celiac disease have an increased incidence of Sjogren's syndrome, which features decreased mouth saliva, and suggests that oral digestion could be related to developing celiac disease.  Assessing the presence of these bacteria in the mouths of celiacs versus the general population will be an important next step in the research.

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    This is interesting. I've been wondering if my recent B12 & D Deficiency's could be related to taking a probiotic that contains 10 strains. Even though probiotics are suppose to be good for you, I wonder if taking one with so many strains on a daily basis has messed up my intrinsic factor causing me to not be able to absorb these nutrients.

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    How would this affect someone with increased mouth saliva? I have celiac and an excess of saliva. Could there be a link? Perhaps my body is trying to compensate for the lack of this gluten-digesting bacteria? Interesting. I am looking forward to further studies.

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    I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost 33 years ago with a biopsy. I've been experiencing VERY dry mouth at night, sometimes my tongue gets stuck to roof of mouth. I don't notice it so much during the day but at night wake up several times to get drink of water.

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  • About Me

    Amy O'Connell is a medical doctor and researcher who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2003. She began writing professionally in 2010. Dr. O'Connell is working toward becoming a pediatric allergist/immunologist. When not working, Amy enjoys baking and trying out new gluten free recipes. You can check out Dr. O'Connell's blog "Dr. Gluten Free" at http://drglutenfree.blogspot.com.

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