Scientists have this week moved a step closer to understanding gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Sufferers are low in elafin, a protein, which protects the gut wall and reduces the body's reaction to wheat-and supplements containing the protein seem to reverse the problem.
Levels of elafin appear to determine whether or not someone is gluten intolerant, say scientists at INRA and INSERM in France. It prevents the destruction of the gut barrier when there is an inflammatory response after eating wheat and at the same time interacts with enzymes that break down gluten.
Probiotics that contain the protein seem to reverse the problem, or at least make it far more tolerable, the scientists report. The discovery could hold the key to treating celiac disease, gluten intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in general.
The discovery is still in its infancy, the scientists point out. Tests thus far have been restricted to laboratory mice, and human trials need to be started.
(Source: American Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2014.; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.48)