The increase of intestinal permeability is inevitable amongst coeliac sufferers. However, determining if it’s a cause or a consequence still remains unknown. One thing we do know is, gut microbiota is involved in the process. This itself raises questions about the use of probiotics in coeliac patients.
Are probiotics good or bad for coeliac sufferers? Are they harmful in some cases? Do they have any impact on preventing intestinal permeability and promote healing?
Gut microbiota is a dynamic system, made up by millions of friendly bacteria that help keep invading pathogens at a minimum. However, ensuring a fine balance of the two can be tricky to maintain. Excessive numbers of hostile bacteria can make the organism less tolerant to gluten.
The Role Probiotics Play in Treating Coeliac Disease
Excluding every source of gluten from your diet is the only treatment for this disease. There are no exceptions. This however, is not easy to achieve, with many researchers looking for alternative treatments to help coeliac sufferers. Now given the importance of gut microbiota – probiotics may seem like a good idea. Initial studies demonstrated that probiotics were able to reverse the effects of coeliac disease in mice. These were not able to be replicated in human clinical trials.
Probiotics – Are They Gluten Free?
Preliminary findings by researchers at Columbia University presented that more than half of the top-selling probiotic supplements available contained some form of gluten, including those labelled as gluten-free. This raises the question – why are companies putting wheat, barley or rye in probiotic supplements when people use these natural products in an attempt to be healthy.
The Effect of Probiotics on Coeliac Disease
To date, there have been no studies that evaluate the effect probiotics have on the symptoms associated with coeliac disease. However, patients not following a strict gluten-free diet may be less inclined to consider taking probiotics, compared to those patients who are already gluten-free but still not feeling 100% with symptoms of leaky gut, multiple other food intolerances and want to optimise their treatment.
Selecting the Right Probiotic
- When looking for probiotics as a sufferer of coeliac disease there are a few key things to take into consideration.
- Make sure that your probiotic is truly gluten-free and free of any other foods in which you may have an intolerance too
- The higher the bacteria count – the better
- A probiotic should contain at least two different strains of bacteria, with one being Lactobacillus
- Probiotics should always be taken on an empty stomach
- Remember, once you begin taking a probiotic, it is normal to experience a period of digestive distress. This can happen anywhere from 24 – 48 hours after commencing and it will improve with patience and time.
For sufferers of coeliac disease, exposure to gluten can mean intestinal damage. The good news is preliminary studies have found types of friendly bacteria in probiotics could help degrade gluten. In an ideal world, this could mean a unique probiotic to support coeliac sufferers. However, at this stage – it’s nothing more than an idea!