While a proper balance of different bacteria is necessary for any healthy gut, research led by Dr. Alessio Fasano, conducted while he was the director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center and the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, indicates that the changing flora in our gut may someday reveal the cause of celiac disease.
While we know some people are genetically susceptible to having celiac disease, we still don’t know why some people with the celiac genes eventually develop celiac disease while others with the same genes may go their entire lives without developing the condition, or why some develop celiac disease much later in life than others.
Dr. Fasano’s research led him to hypothesize that microbes in our digestive tract have an effect on the expression of certain genes.
In other words, two people with the same celiac gene have different populations of bacteria in their gut. For some reason, one population of bacteria causes that celiac gene to express itself by triggering an autoimmune response while the other individual’s population of bacteria keeps the celiac gene dormant.
Different people have different microbiomes, and these microbiomes tend to change over the course of our lives.
Further evidence to support this theory comes from different studies where changing microbe populations may result in greater risk of celiac disease. For example, children born during the spring and summer months appear to be at greater risk of developing celiac disease. Researchers hypothesize that this may be because these children will have solid foods introduced during the winter months, during the cold and flu season. Thus foods may be introduced when their guts experience a change in bacteria population as a result of illness.
Additionally, recent research suggests that children who had multiple infections when they were babies are at a greater risk of developing celiac disease later in life.
This could explain why celiac disease appears in some and not others, or why some experience a delayed onset of celiac disease.
The question is: what specific strains and populations of gut flora will reduce risk and what gut flora profiles increase risk?