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Celiac Disease Associated with Asthma Risk

Photo: CC-Dottie Mae 05/20/2011 - Over the years, researchers have been discovering more and more about celiac disease, an autoimmune disease which is caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Studies have linked the disease to a variety of other medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis. Researchers have now found a connection between celiac disease and asthma.

Asthma is chronic lung disease that causes the passages of the lungs to become inflamed and narrowed, resulting in wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest area, and coughing. It often begins in childhood, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, more than 22 million people suffer from the condition. Many studies have linked asthma to airborne allergens, but doctors have begun to look into food culprits as well. One such study shows a connection to celiac disease, which isn’t an allergy but rather an autoimmune response to gluten.

In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, European researchers found that celiac individuals were 60 percent more likely to develop asthma than those without the condition. Celiac disease affects approximately one percent of the population and without treatment, which is a gluten-free diet, can cause a variety of physical and mental symptoms including chronic fatigue, headaches, malnutrition, chronic headaches, and stomach problems.

Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson of Orebro University Hospital and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and his colleagues compared more than 28,000 Swedish celiac patients to

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more than 140,000 similar people without the disease. The study concluded that only a link between the two could be demonstrated, not that one condition causes the other; the researchers weren’t able to identify the reason for the association.

One possible factor may be Vitamin D. According to Reuters Health, Dr. Ludvigsson said in an email, "Personally, I think the role of vitamin D deficiency should be stressed." Vitamin D has been demonstrated to be a factor in the development of tuberculosis and osteoporosis, both of which celiacs are more likely to develop. In celiac disease, gluten causes an autoimmune reaction that causes the immune system to attack the small intestine, specifically the villi, the finger-like structures that absorb the nutrients from food; thus celiac patients usually exhibit deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. If a celiac patient isn’t getting enough vitamin D into their system, according to Dr. Ludvigsson, the risk for asthma disease may be increased.

According to Dr. Ludviggson, Swedish celiac patients adhere well to the gluten-free diet. The study didn’t determine how closely the 28,000 subjects were sticking to their diets, but Ludviggson told Reuters health, "Generally dietary compliance is high in Sweden, so I actually believe that also patients with good adherence are at increased risk of asthma.”

It is recommended that people who suspect they may have celiac disease or asthma should consult with a qualified medical practitioner for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

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3 Responses:

Ann Curtis
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said this on
23 May 2011 12:01:12 PM PST
Those who have Celiac Disease usually find that they have lactose intolerance; those of us with gluten intolerance, many of us discover we have a casein or a whey allergy, meaning we need to stay away from any and all cow milk/products (which should be the same for Celiac people; just because you can take a pill to help your gut deal with neutralizing the lactose in cow's milk doesn't mean that drinking milk or eating milk products is still good for your body).

I have been off eating cow milk/products for almost two years now. As of April 2010, I went off using my Advair medication for asthma (the lowest dose/the purple container).

Since I have quit eating and drinking cow milk products, I no longer have asthma. It has been found that for certain individuals, their bodies are unable to process/use cow dairy milk/products. I can still use goat and sheep products with no gut issues and no asthma issues.

Doctors don't believe this (even my pulmonary specialist doesn't really believe your asthma will go away if you stop eating/using all cow dairy products), but both myself and my husband have a casein allergy. We quit eating cow dairy, and we no longer have any issues with asthma (and our allergy issues have lessened considerably as well).

Food for thought.

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said this on
29 May 2011 2:51:43 PM PST
I have also changed my diet to treat my asthma and have seen dramatic results, though it takes longer than the prescribed drugs. I have found that, if I eat a whole-food diet with no dairy or processed foods, I never need to use my inhaler. I did all this experimenting myself without any advice from doctors. After a lifetime of increasing medications to control my symptoms, I was not a fan of modern medicine when I realized that years of suffering could have been avoided if the doctors who had treated me advised me or my mother that diet could help as much as it does. But the truth is that they just don't know, and they probably can't really say anyway because big pharma would lose a lot of money if people really knew how much the ball is in their court when it comes to treating one's health.

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said this on
28 Oct 2013 4:47:52 AM PST
Just discovered the link. Suffered from severe asthma and thyroid disease my whole life. This gives me hope!

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