Celiac disease is an intolerance to the protein gluten found in wheat, barley and rye. It triggers the immune system to attack and damage the lining of the digestive tract. Doctors have long known that celiac disease develops only in those who have a genetic susceptibility, but not everyone with those genes actually develops the condition. What triggers it? New data suggest a connection between infection and celiac disease.
A Study Links Enterovirus Infection and Celiac Disease:
Norwegian researchers have found that genetically susceptible youngsters who contracted an enterovirus infection between the ages of three months and three years were significantly more likely to develop celiac disease (Kahrs et al, BMJ, Feb. 14, 2019). They examined stool samples to detect the viral infection.
Infections with adenovirus had no effect on the risk of celiac disease. The damaging enterovirus infections were those that occurred after the child was already eating foods containing gluten. If they occurred before gluten exposure, they did not seem to increase the risk. Babies who were still getting breast milk as an important part of their diets appeared to be protected. Most of the infections did not cause symptoms.
What Is an Enterovirus Infection?
Enteroviruses usually cause mild illnesses. Infected children may run a fever and have sniffles or a cough, though most infections, as in this study, are asymptomatic. Parents may recognize some specific enterovirus infections such as hand, foot and mouth disease that causes uncomfortable rashes on young children’s hands, feet and around and in their mouths. A type of coxsackievirus causes this common childhood illness. The Norwegian scientists looked specifically for Enteroviruses A, B, C and D. Only A and B infections were common. This is where they found the link between infection and celiac disease developing later.
The researchers conclude
“this study suggests that infections with enterovirus in early life could be one among several key risk factors for development of a disease with lifelong consequences.”
Diagnosing Celiac Disease:
Sometimes people suffer symptoms for years before the doctors conclude that they are caused by celiac disease. One reader reported such an experience.
Q. People who have very smelly poop or gas that could knock a train off the tracks may have celiac disease. That was my problem, and a totally gluten-free diet cured the stinky poo/gas as well as many other symptoms.
A. Celiac disease causes many symptoms in addition to abdominal bloating and foul-smelling stool. Some people discover they have celiac disease after being diagnosed with osteoporosis at an unusually early age. In addition, nervous system problems such as migraines, seizures, depression or peripheral neuropathy might all signal celiac disease. (celiac.org)
In this condition, exposure to gluten found in barley, rye and wheat triggers an autoimmune reaction that slowly destroys the lining of the digestive tract. Other common symptoms include anemia, fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, chronic canker sores and migraine headaches. A blood test is the first step in diagnosis.
While you are on the website, you might also check out our hour-long interview with Joseph Murray, MD: Show 1100: What Is the Story on Celiac Disease? Moreover, in Show 964, Alessio Fasano, MD, one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity shares some fascinating insights on this condition and describes a healthy diet for people who must avoid gluten. If you would like an mp3 version of the show, here is a link to Show # 964. If you would rather listen to this interview on a CD, here is a link to that format.