Steroid Drug Found to Help With Gluten Exposure

In a small study, researchers found that budesonide helped relieve symptoms following accidental gluten exposure.

Taking an extended-release steroid drug may help ease symptoms of gluten exposure in people with celiac disease, according to a new study involving a small series of individual cases.

Published in March 2019 in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the study looked at how a handful of patients responded to taking extended-release budesonide, a corticosteroid drug that’s used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Budesonide has previously been found to have beneficial effects in people with recently diagnosed celiac disease who experienced digestive malabsorption. For this study, researchers wanted to know whether it could have benefits if taken after the onset of symptoms following accidental gluten exposure.

The participants included 12 people with biopsy-confirmed celiac disease and one with potential celiac disease. Each was told to take enteric-coated budesonide as soon as possible following the onset of symptoms suggestive of gluten exposure.

Every single participant reported a response to taking the drug, including eight who called the improvement “substantial.” The other options were simply a “response,” or a lesser “partial” response.

In the participants who rated their response as only “partial,” the improvements were mostly related to symptoms outside the digestive system.

While these results are encouraging, the researchers note that steroids shouldn’t be taken lightly as a celiac disease treatment — writing that participants were chosen “because of severe, debilitating gluten reactions due to intermittent inadvertent exposures despite their best attempts to adhere” to a gluten-free diet.

Due to the small and inconsistent nature of this study, the researchers emphasize that its findings are provisional and call for future clinical trials of budesonide for gluten exposure in celiac disease.

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