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New Study Points to Antibiotics as Celiac Disease Risk Factor 07/22/2013 - Celiac disease is known to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genetic markers are fairly well established by now, but the environmental factors that are associated with celiac disease are still pretty foggy. A recent study suggests that antibiotic use might be one such factor.

photo: CC --michaelllIn a population-based case-control study analyzing Swedish population data, antibiotic use was compared against diagnosis of celiac disease. 2,933 people with celiac disease diagnoses were linked to the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, in order to provide a history of antibiotic use. 2,118 people with inflammation (early celiac disease) and 620 people with normal mucosa but positive celiac disease blood test results were also compared. The control group consisted of 28,262 individuals matched for age and sex from the general population.

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The results of the study significantly suggest that antibiotic use is associated with celiac disease, at an odds ratio of 1.4 (1.27-1.53 confidence interval). Early celiac disease was also connected, with an odds ratio of 1.90 (1.72-2.10 confidence ratio), as well as positive celiac disease blood tests, at 1.58 odds ratio (1.30-1.92 confidence interval). Even when antibiotic use in the last year was ruled out, the results were very similar at 1.30 odds ratio (1.08-1.56 confidence interval). When ruling out patients with additional diseases, which could potentially be factors, the results were also very similar at 1.30 odds ratio (1.16-1.46 confidence interval).

What does all that mean? A 1.4 odds ratio basically means that people who had a history of antibiotic use were 1.4 times as likely as those who had not taken antibiotics to develop celiac disease. The fact that inflammation associated with early celiac disease was also highly connected suggests that antibiotics' role in disrupting the biology of the GI tract could in some way cause celiac disease. There is still some question of causality, but it would seem that antibiotics could very likely be a culprit in the development of celiac disease, and should be avoided when possible.

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15 Responses:

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said this on
22 Jul 2013 12:49:04 PM PDT
Considering that celiac disease is also an AUTOIMMUNE disease, and our immune systems are screwed up; celiacs will be on antibiotics more often. We don't have the immune system to combat minor illnesses like everyone else does. Seriously, you need to question why or if celiacs will be on more antibiotics than others?

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said this on
22 Jul 2013 4:53:07 PM PDT
That's the missing piece - causality. I assume subsequent studies will explore this.

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said this on
10 Aug 2014 1:05:56 PM PDT
I realize I'm a bit late to the conversation; I was just doing some research and landed here. I agree that there is a question of causality, however, we can't deny the terrible effects that antibiotics have on our digestive and immune systems. I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. My symptoms started after my dermatologist had me taking an antibiotic every day for over a year when I was in high school because I had severe acne. You think there's no link there?

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said this on
29 Jul 2013 10:06:04 AM PDT
With animals raised for human consumption and regularly fed antibiotics, will more people get celiac disease symptoms?

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said this on
30 Jul 2013 4:43:40 AM PDT
That's a very good point. I wish they'd look into how much all the modified food is affecting people as well.

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said this on
30 Jul 2013 5:36:44 AM PDT
For the record, my symptoms became full blown after a double round of antibiotics for a root canal infection, though I suspect I was gluten sensitive all my life.

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said this on
04 May 2015 8:58:55 PM PDT
I was diagnosed with celiac disease after taking cypro for two months then Levaquil the third for what they thought was Prostatitis and now I have celiac and peripheral permanent nerve damage that's crippling.

Martha Page
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said this on
30 Jul 2013 11:19:31 AM PDT
I was on several different antibiotics when I got sick and was
diagnosed with celiac disease through a positive blood test but normal mucosa / no villi atrophy, which baffled my doctor. My husband and I always suspected the antibiotics but my doctors say no.

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said this on
28 Feb 2014 9:37:48 AM PDT
After attending Dr. Tom O'Bryan's Gluten Summit, I have learned that you can have no villous atrophy with a positive celiac blood test. The reason why, is that your celiac disease is so new that there has been no damage done yet and any inflammation which has started can be reversed with a strict gluten free diet.

Michlle r. Taylor
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said this on
02 Aug 2013 10:55:20 PM PDT
I have a celiac issue but have not taken any antibiotics for a very long time, I do not believe in prescription drug usage, I am a holistic health advocate and believe in natural means. Maybe when I used to have to take them when I grew up had some kind of effect. My elderly mother took antibiotics left and right for some type of infection for years, and now that her immune system has weakened, I think due to the antibiotics and flu shots, I think she has some form of a wheat and gluten sensitivity, because she reacts to it at times, (i.e., digestion issue).

I eat everything wheat and gluten-free now, digestion very sensitive.

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said this on
10 Aug 2013 5:13:10 PM PDT
Very interesting, I had cancer twice, and was left with a compromised immune system. In the meantime I got sick quite a lot and took antibiotics each time, now I get gammaguard infusions every 4 weeks which keeps me from getting sick.

Sue Dereemer
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said this on
14 Aug 2013 10:28:00 PM PDT
My celiac disease was turned on after a particularly bad bout of double pneumonia and use of 3 different antibiotics because I had a lot of trouble kicking it. Since then, I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other problems diagnosed as autoimmune problems. Interesting connection in the Swedish study. Why aren't there any American studies like this?

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said this on
11 Nov 2013 8:40:00 PM PDT
I was on antibiotic Cipro for 5 years for recurring bladder infections. Doctors are only trained to know what drug rids infections but many do not realize the havoc it creates on our intestinal and gut balances. I was diagnosed celiac ( blood test positive and villous atrophy) not long after my Cipro use. No doubt in my mind it contributed to my CD.

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said this on
03 Dec 2013 6:04:32 AM PDT
Very interesting I was on heavy 30 day dose of antibiotics for treating prostatitis , only a couple months before I develop celiac,

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said this on
25 Oct 2014 4:58:40 AM PDT
I suspect antibiotics to be the root of gluten allergy /blocked sinuses/tmj/gut flora issues. An infected cut on my hand led to a heavy treatment of antibiotics. Another time a root canal required heavy antibiotics. A lifetime of sinus issues, and a weak immune system have made for a lifetime om being a mouth breather. Only in past few years have I had some relief by being gluten free, saline sinus flushes and probiotics.

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Took me less than a minute, although why did they need our addy and phone?

As mentioned before you said she had rashes, have they checked if that is DH? That is a positive sign of celiac and those with the DH manifestation can have problems getting a postive with the gut biopsy. Here are some links. Please read up on this. She can get the rash tested for the disease if it is DH.

Thanks for your reply. I will get her retested. She hasn't had any gluten for a year and is very good at not eating it, but had some cake that night. It's so hard because the Dr who did the biopsy said there wasn't any damage so she can't be classed as Coeliacs. She had ten samples taken, but yes, like you say the intestines are huge.

Thank you for your informative reply. Yes I think you are right in that she is still getting dome cross contamination exposure through chopping boards, condiments etc. I will get her bloods redone to see if her levels have dropped and do a gluten challenge again. We all are on a whole foods diet, buy not all Gluten-Free. I find extended family difficult as because she had a negative biopsy they don't believe she could still possibly have it and aren't so careful with her. Thank you for the links, all very helpful.

Why do you make it so freaking hard to sign up? It's easier to find a replacement for rye bread!