Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Can a gluten-free diet affect gut bacteria?

For those who have stumbled across this blog on the wide open plains of the Internet, I have a bit of interest in all things gluten-free. It is a professional interest and has been for quite a few years, as various colleagues and I have been looking at whether a gluten-free (GF) diet might show some effect on behaviour, and in particular behaviours commonly associated with autism spectrum conditions. We don't have a definitive answer by the way, but do suspect more than a passing association between diet and some cases of autism.

For those of you who perhaps already know of my interest and are thinking 'change the record mate', this post (this blog) is not going to rehash material from its sister blog, Questioning Answers, at least not on this occasion, but rather take a slightly different perspective. This post is tied into this study by Nistal and colleagues* on what happens to gut bacteria populations in coeliac disease when a GF diet is/is not in place. One of their findings was that gut bacterial populations differed (in adults) according to whether or not a GF diet was being applied.

This is not the first time that coeliac disease has been looked at in terms of the GF diet and gut bacterial populations. Indeed the effects of the GF diet seem also to be present outside of coeliac disease, depending on where you look for your bacterial colonies in the gut.

To me this is an interesting finding. Interesting because it suggests that our diet, much like various medications, can affect the trillions or so of gut bacteria that colonise us. Indeed comparative studies looking at diets in different parts of the world outside of coeliac disease have shown pretty much the same thing: what you eat affects your gut bacterial populations. The knock-on effects of this... to be discussed in subsequent posts.

* Nistal E et al. Differences of small intestinal bacterial populations in adults and children with/without celiac disease: effect of age, gluten diet and disease. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. August 2011.

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