Science on Dietary Supplements for Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance, also called celiac disease, is a common immune disorder where there is an abnormal response to gluten in the small intestine.

Individuals with gluten intolerance have difficulties digesting this protein, which results in autoimmune damage to the small intestine.

The most common symptoms are diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation.

Celiac disease is largely connected to having a genetic predisposition, however, external factors such as diet and environment, also have a major role in its manifestation.

For years, the most common approach to treating gluten intolerance has been adhering to a gluten-free diet, meaning gluten intake of no more than 10mg per day.

Lately, there has been an increased interest in the role of prebiotics and probiotics in treating celiac disease and restoring the balance in the gut flora.

A recently published review summarizes recent discoveries regarding dietary supplements for gut balance in gluten-intolerant individuals.

What’s Important

The only effective treatment for gluten intolerance is rigorous adherence to a gluten-free diet.

This means that not only gluten-containing foods need to be eliminated, but also gluten contamination, which can happen when preparing food at home or in restaurants.

Gluten-containing foods are the following grains and cereals: wheat, wheat germ, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, semolina, triticale, and spelt.

It’s important to note that gluten has a low nutritional value, but it gives a certain quality to foods, like elasticity.

It’s also the only protein that’s indigestible.

The downside of a gluten-free diet is that these foods are often lacking in important micronutrients, like vitamins (B12, folate, and D), minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), and fiber.

Therefore, finding a way to aid the gut microbiota with dietary supplements and to prevent nutrient deficiencies caused by a gluten-free diet, would help many people.

The Details

Even when strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet, some symptoms and inflammation may still persist.

Therefore, pharmacological intervention may prove to be very useful.

Probiotics

There is scientific evidence that gluten-intolerant individuals have a bacterial imbalance in their gut which influences the gastrointestinal symptoms.

The imbalance is linked to stubborn gluten-intolerance symptoms, iron deficiency, low bone density, and anemia in patients adhering to the gluten-free diet. [1]

These results have prompted research on probiotics for restoring the balance.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are very beneficial not only for gut health but also for overall health.

In terms of celiac disease, probiotics could modulate the composition and function of the gut, thereby delaying or preventing the onset of the disease.

Probiotics also improve the immune system, they allow better nutrient absorption, and regulate the production of inhibitory antibodies against pathogens.

The most effective strains seem to be the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli strains, which have the potential to reduce the inflammation associated with gluten ingestion.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a safe and promising additive in the treatment options for gluten intolerance.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that supports the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.

They are food for probiotics - they induce the growth and activity of probiotics and increase their number.

This makes prebiotics a great ally to prebiotics in the management of gluten intolerance.

There have been some clinical trials that have proved that certain types of prebiotics had stimulating effects on some probiotic strains.

However, the effects of prebiotics haven’t been fully investigated, and so there isn’t enough clinical data to recommend prebiotics for daily use just yet.

In Conclusion

According to this review, the synergic use of probiotics and prebiotics seems to be a tangible option for the treatment of gluten-intolerance, by modulating the gut, reducing inflammation, and restoring the bacterial balance.

Nevertheless, more human trials are needed for these claims to be solidified.


Resource: Marasco, G.; Cirota, G.G.; Rossini, B.; Lungaro, L.; Di Biase, A.R.; Colecchia, A.; Volta, U.; De Giorgio, R.; Festi, D.; Caio, G. Probiotics, Prebiotics and Other Dietary Supplements for Gut Microbiota Modulation in Celiac Disease Patients. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2674. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12092674 

References:
1.https://academic.oup.com/ibdjournal/article/19/5/934/4603075 
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