Celiac disease (CeD), also called coeliac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are chronic inflammatory diseases that are similar. It’s widely known that gluten (a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale) activates CeD, though what causes the onset of IBD is still unknown.  

Celiac disease world expert Alessio Fasano, MD, recently wrote a commentary on a study that set out to identify a link between inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease/celiac autoimmunity (CeA) in children and adults.   

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by eating gluten, whereas celiac autoimmunity describes the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells in the small intestine, causing a reaction.  

How did they do it? 

Researchers assessed the proportion of people with IBD who have CeD or CeA using an administrative health data set from four health maintenance organizations in Israel. The dataset compared 34,375 IBD patients (with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) and 93,603 controls (individuals without IBD).  

What did they find? 

The study found that patients with IBD were more likely to have CeD or CeA. Additionally, patients with childhood-onset IBD were more likely to have CeD than patients with adult onset. Patients were more often diagnosed with CeD before being diagnosed with IBD, and the time to treatment escalation was shorter in patients diagnosed with both IBD and CeD than those only diagnosed with IBD.  

What does this mean? What does this change? 

Celiac disease often presents with other diseases or medical conditions. In his commentary, Dr. Fasano adds that the data presented in this study may have many positive uses. Based on the information, he believes that if a patient receives a timely CeD diagnosis, a gluten-free diet may restore their gut health, potentially preventing the development of IBD. Further studies are needed to support this hypothesis.  

Keep reading to learn more about the study or view Dr. Fasano’s expert commentary.  

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