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Gluten intolerance: Infections in infancy later increase the risk of celiac disease


Early childhood infections increase the risk of gluten intolerance
Around one percent of the German population suffers from gluten intolerance (celiac disease). Researchers have now found evidence that gastrointestinal infections in babies can increase the risk of celiac disease. The exact connection has not yet been clarified.

Lifelong intolerance
According to estimates, about one percent of the German population suffers from gluten intolerance (celiac disease). It is a chronic disease of the small intestine, which is caused by a lifetime of intolerance to the gluten protein. The exact causes that can lead to this intolerance are still unknown. Researchers have now found that certain infections in early childhood can increase the risk of celiac disease.

Strict avoidance of gluten
People who suffer from gluten intolerance must strictly follow their diet. When eating gluten-containing foods, you experience typical symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and fatty stools.

Therapy is not yet available. Only strict avoidance of the glue protein, which is found in many types of grain such as wheat, spelled and rye, can help.

It is believed that celiac disease is triggered by a combination of genetic predisposition and external environmental influences. American scientists have also recently found evidence that viruses are causing gluten intolerance.

German researchers are now reporting that infections in early childhood increase the risk of later celiac disease.

Data sets from almost 300,000 children were evaluated
To come to these conclusions, the scientists of the Institute for Diabetes Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partners in the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), evaluated data from almost 300,000 children.

These were anonymized data records of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Bavaria of 295,420 children who were born in the years 2005 to 2007.

Medically documented infections from birth up to the age of - on average - 8.5 years were taken into account. A total of 853 children developed gluten intolerance, which corresponds to a share of 0.3 percent.

As the experts in the American Journal of Epidemiology report, repeated gastrointestinal disorders in the first year of life increase the risk particularly.

Gastrointestinal infections increase the risk of celiac disease
In previous publications, the researchers led by Prof. Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler demonstrated a connection between early childhood infections and the development of type 1 diabetes.

They had observed the highest risk of illness in children with repeated respiratory infections within the first six months of life.

According to the current evaluation, however, the risk of developing celiac disease was particularly high if gastrointestinal infections had occurred in the first year of life.

Relation to early respiratory diseases
According to the information, an increased risk of illness to a lower degree was also detectable in connection with early respiratory diseases.

"However, our data do not allow the conclusion whether the observed associations are causal and, for example, based on changes in the microbiome or specific immune responses," commented first author PD Dr. Andreas Beyerlein the results in a communication.

"However, it looks like the increased risk of celiac disease is more related to permanent inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract in early childhood and not triggered by a specific viral or bacterial pathogen." (Ad)

Author and source information



Video: The Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance (November 2021).