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Does The Gluten Free Diet Actually Improve Coeliac Disease?


The gluten free diet has gained a lot of interest in the recent years. Many people choose to eat gluten-free foods to improve their digestive process; gluten is believed to cause disturbance in the digestive tract, causing cells in it to attack gluten proteins as well as the intestinal walls themselves.


However, a recent study has found that people suffering from coeliac disease may continue to suffer from intestinal damage even after cutting out gluten.

What’s Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is an immune disease which affects the digestive system as well as several other organs. Untreated, coeliac disease can cause malabsorption, osteoporosis, complications when given birth, other autoimmune diseases as well as reduced mortality.

Individuals develop coeliac disease if they have a genetic disposition for it when they eat wheat, barley and rye. Medical experts suggest that this is because of gluten, a specific mixture of proteins found in these grains. Therefore, people with coeliac disease are advised not to eat foods containing gluten.


Additionally, more and more people are developing non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, where the individual does not have coeliac disease but has gastrointestinal problems after eating foods containing gluten.

In the recent years, gluten free diets have become a popular fad diet with celebrities and some nutritionists suggesting that even individuals without coeliac disease can benefit from cutting gluten out of their diet.

Risk Of Intestinal Damage

However, a recent study published in the Journal of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition suggests that cutting out gluten from the diet may not be the way to go.

In the study, researchers looked at the digestive systems of children diagnosed with celiac disorder. These children had been on a gluten free diet for at least one year.


The findings indicated that 19% of the children suffered from intestinal damage despite being on the gluten free diet. These problems could lead to malabsorption and chronic inflammation.

“The number of children who don’t heal on the gluten-free diet was much higher than what I expected,” Dr. Alessio Fasano, the lead author of the study. “We assumed that healing would occur once a patient was put on a gluten-free diet,” Fasano noted, “we have learned this is not the case,” she added.

This indicates that it perhaps not only gluten which is causing the intestinal damage. Indeed, a gluten free diet for people not suffering from coeliac disease has found to have several risks; people on it may not get adequate fibres, vitamins and minerals.

The researchers suggest that more research needs to be done on the subject before they can arrive at any definitive conclusions.