New Research Connects Gut Microbiota & Gluten Sensitivities

April 17, 2017

New Research Connects Gut Microbiota & Gluten Sensitivities

Celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities can mean a lifetime of avoiding wheat and gluten. Exposure to even the smallest amount of gluten can trigger a damaging and sometimes painful gastrointestinal reaction in people who are sensitive to the stuff.

Avoiding gluten altogether can be very difficult, and the quest to avoid it can disrupt the lives of those suffering from the sensitivity. The inevitable dietary changes that come can also disrupt the lives of family members. 

About Gluten Sensitivity

Symptoms of gluten sensitivities include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating and fatigue after eating wheat. Researchers are still working to understand gluten sensitivities so that they can develop treatments that safely and effectively alleviate the symptoms without causing major disruptions to patients and their families.

The gastrointestinal tract breaks down food into smaller components the body can absorb and use for various purposes. People with gluten sensitivities cannot break down gluten into proteins small enough for their bodies to digest. With repeated exposure to larger, unaltered proteins, the body may develop an immune response to gluten.

The Connection between Microbes in the Gut and Gluten Sensitivity

Some of the newest research shows an association between gluten sensitivities and the bacteria living in the intestinal tract, known as the gut microbiota. Bacteria living in the small intestine participate in the metabolism of gluten. Scientists know that people with gluten sensitivities tend to have a different set of bacteria living in their intestines compared with those without the dietary problem.

Scientists wanted to know, though, if the bacterial communities from a person with gluten sensitivities would handle wheat proteins differently than the bacterial communities of a person without the condition. To find out, researchers from McMaster University in Canada isolated gluten-degrading bacteria from the small intestines of participants with and without gluten sensitivities. The scientists then transferred the bacteria from both groups into germ-free lab mice, which had no intestinal bacteria at all, and then created colonies of the mice. Next, the scientists fed gluten to the mice and observed the results.

Microbes in the small intestine trigger immune reactions when they encounter gluten. The scientists determined that the microbes from a person with gluten sensitivities trigger different immune reactions than do the microbes from someone without the sensitivity. Specifically, the bacteria from those with gluten sensitivities reacted by producing peptides, which talk differently to immune cells and provoke a stronger immune response.

The researchers then tested how various peptides isolated from people with gluten sensitivities reacted with blood immune cells. They found that certain peptides from gluten-sensitive individuals activated gluten-specific immune cells. The scientists also found that different bacteria isolated from healthy people were able to degrade the peptides in a way that decreases gluten-related immune reactions.

The research underscores the link between gut bacteria and the immune system during gluten metabolism. The results of the study highlight the roles bacteria play in modulating the body’s reaction to gluten. The findings are also consistent with the theory that imbalances in bacteria could contribute to the symptoms of gluten sensitivities, even though the bacteria included in the study may not be the only ones capable of modifying gluten digestion.

In another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, supplementation of Bifidobacterium infantis NLS super strain was shown to alleviate some gastrointestinal symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity. In that study, researchers randomly assigned participants to either the test group receiving B. infantis supplements or the control group receiving a placebo. Participants took two capsules three times each day, 15 minutes before meals, for three weeks. The researchers gathered data on the participants on the first day of the study, on day 10, and again 21 days later at the end of the study. Data included vital signs, safety reports, urine and blood tests, and questionnaires.

The researchers found that symptoms improved for participants who took B. infantis supplements. Furthermore, the scientists noted administration of B. infantis was not associated with serious adverse effects or significant biochemical changes.

Research continues to show a connection between microbes living in the gut and gluten sensitivities. These studies may someday help provide treatments for people who suffer from gluten sensitivity.

The post New Research Connects Gut Microbiota & Gluten Sensitivities appeared first on Natren Probiotics Blog.




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