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  • Tina Turbin
    Tina Turbin

    Probiotics: A Future Answer to Celiac Disease?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Alessio Fasano, M.D. (photo courtesy of University of Maryland)

    In my work as an author, researcher, and gluten-free advocate, I strive to raise awareness for celiac disease and gluten intolerance because I know that with increased awareness will come more research, more proper diagnoses, and even improved treatment. Illustrating this, studies linking the onset of celiac disease to changes in microbes in the digestive tract are not only addressing the question of delayed onset, but they may lead to new research that could eventually result in a probiotic treatment for celiacs. 

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. The source of this being gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, affecting about one percent of the population of 300 million Americans. It works by attacking the villi, the finger-like structures which line the small intestine, resulting in stomach problems and malabsorption of nutrients. Left untreated, the disease can cause severe health conditions and complications such as mental illness, osteoporosis, anemia, miscarriage, and even cancer.


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    Alessio Fasano, professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology as well as the director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center and the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has been researching celiac disease, paying particular attention to the way intestinal “permeability” influences the development of disease. In an article, published in Scientific American, called “Surprises from Celiac Disease,” Dr. Fasano poses the question of why some celiacs, who are born genetically predisposed to develop the disease, develop symptoms later than others. He suggests that reason for this is associated with the microbiome—the community of bacteria or microbes—living in the digestive tract.

    According to Dr. Fasano, the digestive tract microbiome varies among individuals and even in the same individual over the course of a lifetime. What’s more, Dr. Fasano says they can also have an effect on the genes which are active in their host. Therefore, someone genetically predisposed to celiac disease may have been able to handle gluten for quite some time, but upon shifting of the microbiome, and a subsequent activation of the gluten intolerance gene, the symptoms of celiac disease will show themselves.

    Not only do Dr. Fasano’s studies shed light into a question that has been perplexing researchers, but it also opens the door to a treatment for, or even prevention of, celiac disease—good bacteria for the digestive track, otherwise known as “probiotics.”

    I spent years running in circles from doctor to doctor trying to find the cause of my painful symptoms, finally driving me to research my symptoms on my own. I’m grateful to have been properly diagnosed, but managing the gluten-free diet can be a challenge. The prospect of a treatment such as probiotics to offset genetic factors will appeal to many celiacs like myself. Although the treatment for celiac disease is simple, it calls for a lot of work and can be disheartening at times, requiring a total lifestyle change.

    With Dr. Fasano’s celiac disease research, we can look forward to more research, more awareness, and perhaps another treatment option. Meanwhile, let’s keep doing our parts to raise awareness and funds for celiac disease research.


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    I am 38 and was diagnosed with celiac two years ago after years of fighting vague symptoms that started right after college. What is interesting about the probiotic treatment theory to me is that a year before my diagnosis, I started probiotics on my own to treat severe heart burn. I have always marked that as the beginning of my healing because it was my first autonomous act of taking control of my own health rather than completely relying on doctors. But, I never connected it with my celiac when later diagnosed. Now I'm wondering if there is connection between alcohol consumption and the microbiome. As I mentioned, looking back, my symptoms started as my college days were winding down. I never touched a drop of alcohol in high school, but I made up for 'lost' time in college. Now I wonder if the binge drinking was not only immature, stupid and pointless, but also the initial gunshot to my system.

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    Love reading articles about and by Dr. Fasano. His article about the microbiome and how it could trigger celiac disease makes me wonder if those same genes could be turned off if someone developed just the right probiotic cocktail. I'm sure he's working on it.... For now, I take multiple strains of probiotics because it gives me hope that I might be fixing something!

    Thanks for posting!

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    I was diagnosed late in life with celiac disease. I had no symptoms, but started having digestive problems, and an endoscopy showed celiac disease. The culprit for the digestive problems turned out to be a medication I was on. However, because of all the tests and medications, I developed a lot of diarrhea with a sense of urgency. I began taking Align, a probiotic, and it cleared up the problem. I still am asymptomatic for celiac disease without the aid of a gluten-free diet, and I still take the probiotic. So I'm hoping there is something to Dr. Fasano's research.

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    Oh ,one more thing fresh probiotic stuff like real foods is the best. But if you live or work in a remote area, or live deep in the city or suburb and not near a supermarket, then it might be best to get the probiotic pills.

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    My son was diagnosed at 15 months old. The field of probiotics is still very new. I know that some yogurts contain probiotic cultures. Anything out there that can help is always beneficial.

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    Love reading articles about and by Dr. Fasano. His article about the microbiome and how it could trigger celiac disease makes me wonder if those same genes could be turned off if someone developed just the right probiotic cocktail. I'm sure he's working on it.... For now, I take multiple strains of probiotics because it gives me hope that I might be fixing something!

    Thanks for posting!

    Hello Jennifer, Thank you very much for your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed the article. To your health! Tina

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    Oh ,one more thing fresh probiotic stuff like real foods is the best. But if you live or work in a remote area, or live deep in the city or suburb and not near a supermarket, then it might be best to get the probiotic pills.

    Yes, Jami, fermented foods are incredible. Happy they have helped you so much.

    Tina

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    Oh ,one more thing fresh probiotic stuff like real foods is the best. But if you live or work in a remote area, or live deep in the city or suburb and not near a supermarket, then it might be best to get the probiotic pills.

    Yes, you are right. I also highly suggest Bio-K Plus ( in many stores) as an excellent pro-biotic unless one wants to try the organic fermented cabbage- which is loaded but can cause a bit of gas and some celiacs have trouble adapting. The Bio-K Plus site is: biokplus.com/en/ Best, Tina

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    My son was diagnosed at 15 months old. The field of probiotics is still very new. I know that some yogurts contain probiotic cultures. Anything out there that can help is always beneficial.

    Yes Holly, you are so right. Sometimes the "sugars" in the diet exasperate the Candida/yeast growth in some individuals from what I have read and researched, but I am not an MD. You can do a bit of a search on this and see if that is an issue with your son too. Also, I assume he is doing well on dairy since he likes Dannon. Good for him! Many celiacs do not have the enzymes to digest it and have issues that arise, as a result.

     

    Tina Turbin

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    I am 38 and was diagnosed with celiac two years ago after years of fighting vague symptoms that started right after college. What is interesting about the probiotic treatment theory to me is that a year before my diagnosis, I started probiotics on my own to treat severe heart burn. I have always marked that as the beginning of my healing because it was my first autonomous act of taking control of my own health rather than completely relying on doctors. But, I never connected it with my celiac when later diagnosed. Now I'm wondering if there is connection between alcohol consumption and the microbiome. As I mentioned, looking back, my symptoms started as my college days were winding down. I never touched a drop of alcohol in high school, but I made up for 'lost' time in college. Now I wonder if the binge drinking was not only immature, stupid and pointless, but also the initial gunshot to my system.

    Thank you for not only the information but your question. It is an extremely good question and yet I am not sure of the answer. I have my suspicions based off of research I have on probiotics yet my reply would not be facts, which I feel you are due. I think if you called the team up in Canada at BioK Plus and asked them. They may be able to help get this answered. I'd love to know their reply, and any other answers you get elsewhere. Thanks Malie.

    Best, Tina Turbin

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  • About Me

    Tina Turbin is a world-renowned Celiac advocate who researches, writes, and consults about the benefits of the gluten-free, paleo-ish, low carb and keto diets, and is a full time recipe developer and founder of PaleOmazing.com. Tina also founded and manages the popular website, GlutenFreeHelp.info, voted the #2 .info website in the world. Tina believes that celiacs need to be educated to be able to make informed decisions and that Paleo needs to be tailored to the individual’s physiology to obtain desired results. You can reach her at: INFO@PaleOmazing.com.

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