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How Celiac Disease Alters Intestinal Bacteria in Adults

Celiac.com 05/23/2012 - We know from past studies that the intestinal bacteria communities of children with celiac disease differ greatly from those of healthy children, but there has been little work done to draw such a correlation with adult celiac disease sufferers. Intestinal bacteria could potentially serve as a convenient way of indexing the severity of a patient's celiac disease, but research in adults is limited. A recent study remedies this, showing that adults with celiac disease do, in fact, have different intestinal bacteria from healthy adults, which may lead to a way of testing for the severity of one's disorder based on fecal bacteria tests. 

Photo: CC--adriguTen untreated celiac disease patients, eleven treated celiac disease patients (those on gluten-free diets for at least two years) and eleven healthy adults were tested for intestinal bacteria in fecal samples. The healthy adults were tested once under normal gluten diet conditions, and additionally, ten of them were tested again after one week of gluten-free dieting.

Testing showed that untreated celiac disease patients had much more Bifidobacterium bifidum in their intestinal microbial communities than those of healthy adults. Treated celiac disease patients showed decreased levels of Bifidobacterium bifidum, as well as a reduction in the diversity of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These results most closely resembled those achieved by healthy adults. It would seem, then, that a gluten-free diet helps to balance and normalize intestinal bacteria populations.

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While a portion of the treated celiac disease patients displayed restored, normal intestinal bacteria, there were still differences in the presence of short-chain fatty acids. Such SCFAs would appear to correlate with celiac disease, regardless of the diet taken: healthy adults, both on gluten-free diets and on normal diets had significantly fewer SCFAs than both treated and untreated celiac disease patients. Gluten-free, healthy adults had the fewest, but treated celiac disease patients actually had the highest.

We can take from this study that gluten-free diets help to lower both the presence and diversity of bacteria associated with celiac disease. A gluten-free diet does not 'fix' the presence of short-chain fatty acids in the intestines though, even though it is not entirely clear what these acids signal as to the health of the individual.

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9 Responses:

 
dappycharlie
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said this on
28 May 2012 9:25:50 AM PDT
After being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, the gluten-free diet did nothing to stop the continuing bouts of diarrhea. It wasn't until I started probiotics with Bifidobacterium that I finally got relief and a more normal digestive effect. So I am somewhat confused by what I have read here...

 
shar
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said this on
31 May 2012 4:24:03 PM PDT
I found it confusing also. Diagnosed 21 months ago, I found 6 months of Lifeway Kifer milk has made a difference. By the label it appears to have more kinds of bacteria.

 
Ignacio Abel
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said this on
28 May 2012 10:19:02 AM PDT
Is bacteria really a consequence of celiac disease? Couldn't it be the actual cause?

 
a. sommer
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said this on
28 May 2012 3:18:56 PM PDT
Interesting info on bacteria.

 
a. sommer
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said this on
28 May 2012 3:24:23 PM PDT
P.S. What are short chain fatty acids? I'm not quite sure.

 
Jennifer
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said this on
29 May 2012 8:40:59 AM PDT
Very interesting! Stool tests are also cheap and non-invasive. I hope to see more research in this area... particularly to answer the questions regarding the significance of increased short chain fatty acids in celiacs.

 
ScooterMama
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said this on
29 May 2012 1:56:49 PM PDT
Hey dappycharlie, I just started Ultimate Flora (critical care) with 50 billion live cultures. Is this the one you use? I could sure live without all of this diarrhea too. Please let me know, thanks.

 
Dor
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said this on
05 Jun 2012 4:35:40 AM PDT
Probiotics are essential, but not the whole story in my case. Add sublingual (@ least) or injected B-12 + FOLIC ACID. Doesn't absorb well through the intestines with gluten issues. I administer this myself 1 x @ week with pre-loaded tiny needles. My doc calls in a script to the pharmacy and they ship them out. Stopped diarrhea when nothing else would. Many other symptoms relieved also....

 
Megan
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said this on
05 Jun 2012 6:07:39 PM PDT
I didn't really understand this article but I have had celiac since birth and I am 32 now. There are foods out there now that I was eating as a kid that now has gluten. It is really getting frustrating because my stomach hurts all the time and digestion is inconsistent daily. So, I can't answer your question, but I wish food companies would start labeling whether foods contained gluten because I think there are more out there than are labeling their products.




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