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Microbiota and Gluten Disorders

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Melissa Peterson ● 2 min read

The adult microbiota composition differs from that of children, according to recent research. 

A recent review on intestinal microbiota and probiotics in coeliac disease (CD) revealed that research into CD and the effect of gluten on the intestinal-immune health in adults has only been studied since 2012; prior to that children were the cohort subjects.

The studies that have been conducted in adults find that although both groups may show low Bifidobacteria spp. levels, there are significant differences in microbiota.[1,2Children with CD have higher levels of proteobacteria, whereas adults have firmicutes as the most abundant bacteria. Further differences in bacterial genera are also seen between adults and children.[1]

Supporting the lowered bifidobacteria levels in adult CD sufferers, a 2014 study found that bifidobacteria concentrations of adults were significantly lower than controls. This result was found regardless of pH level or gluten free diet adherence.[2] Animal, in vitro and some human studies have shown bifidobacteria to increase the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10, while decreasing the pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interferon gamma (IFN-gamma).[1,2]

The benefit of probiotic treatment in gluten related disorders for adults is still in its infancy, however some probiotics have been found to cleave or alter gluten polypeptides, which would benefit both adults and children.

The enzymatic actions include digesting proline-rich peptides and aminopeptides – gliadin and glutenins are characterised by high glutamine and proline contents.

More research is required into this effect of probiotics. However, one in vitro study showed that multi species probiotics might be more beneficial at cleaving gluten peptides than single probiotic strains.[1]

CD is an autoimmune enteropathy triggered by gluten but it is not the only condition related to gluten intake. Disorders, such as gluten ataxia, dermatitis herpetiformis, wheat allergy and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity require further research in adults and children to elucidate the effects of gluten, the benefits of probiotic therapy and the links with genetic background, immune function and microbiota composition.[1


  1. de Sousa Moraes LF, Grzeskowiak LM, de Sales Teixeira TF, et al. Intestinal microbiota and probiotics in celiac disease. Clin Microbiol Rev 2014;27(3):482-489. [Full text]
  2. Golfetto L, de Senna FD, Hermes J, et al. Lower bifidobacteria counts in adult patients with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet. Arq Gastroenterol 2014;51(2):139-143. [Full Text]


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Melissa Peterson has been a writer and educator in the health and medical science fields for over 15 years. Naturopathically trained, Melissa also has postgraduate qualifications in literature research and reviewing. Her business, Words On Therapy, provides many services to industry including technical articles, white papers, blogs, SEO content, copywriting and research collation.