Healthy gut microbes restored after a year on the gluten-free diet

By Van Waffle

Summary: Recent research has shed new light on the role gut microbes play in health. Abnormal microbial populations are found in patients with celiac disease. A Swedish team had previously reported the imbalance persists after starting on a gluten-free diet, but their research only investigated the first year. In this follow up, by measuring short-chain fatty acids (SFCAs) in the faeces, they found normal gut function returned after 12 months.

They studied 53 children newly diagnosed with celiac disease but still on a regular diet, 74 patients on a gluten-free diet for less than a year, and another 25 who had eaten gluten free for more than a year. For comparison they recruited 54 healthy, non-celiac children on normal diets from the community.

A healthy gut normally breaks down most SFCAs, but people with celiac disease excrete a lot of them. This may result from both the bacteria present and the condition of the gut lining. The study found that children on a gluten-free diet continued to pass SCFAs during the first year, but after 12 months their levels became the same as in healthy children.

Conclusion: This is the first study to measure SFCAs in celiac patients for more than a year. It indicates that healthy microbes may return after adoption of a gluten-free diet, but restored gut function takes time. The researchers suggest further research could explore benefits of probiotics in treating celiac disease.


[1] “Faecal short-chain fatty acid pattern in childhood coeliac disease is normalised after more than one year’s gluten-free diet”, Tjellström B, Högberg L, Stenhammar L, Fälth-Magnusson K, Magnusson KE, Norin E, Sundqvist T, Midtvedt T, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 2013 Sep 25 (Epub ahead of print].

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