Celiac disease and intestinal parasites

Last week I wrote a post about the latest research in celiac disease. Today I received a comment about that that post from Kristina:

“I just read your summary of the latest CD research and am wondering what your thoughts are on this- my fiance and I lived in Nicaragua for two years. I drank water from the tap, from wells, whatever, no intestinal parasites, no giardia, no nothing for the entire time- whereas he (a non-celiac) was sick all the time (and he was careful about boiling his water). Our theory is that being a celiac, I have some sort of protection against amoebas and what not. What do you think?”

I thought this was extremely interesting. I wrote her back:

“I think that its possible that celiac protected you, but celiac disease is not the only explanation for your lack of tummy troubles. Consider:

— Many parasites would need something to latch onto in order to grow and inflict disease. If your intestines were not healed, there might not have been enough villi for the parasite to create a home, thus your illness may have prevented another illness.
— your digestive system may also have developed a unique way of dealing with changes to the intestine because of your celiac. Its amazing how your body will work around problems. Perhaps your unique work around helped you say healthy
— your stomach might have been sick, but you’re so used to feeling sick that you didn’t actually notice being ill. Your boyfriend who hasn’t had years of illness would never have experienced this type of feeling and therefore extra sensitive to the problem

— However —

– there is the possibility that you may never have actually ingested a live parasite. The incidence of parasites are actually quite low, its just the few that float about in the water are really good at causing disease and you usually only need one to get sick. Statistically you might have been lucky.
— you may have done a better job of disinfecting the water you drank than your boyfriend. My boyfriend is lazy and impatient — there is no question in my mind that he would have made himself sick!
— you may have genes coding for super parasite killing proteins or cycles that genetically pre-dispose you to survive parasitic attack.
— your stomach acid may be stronger than your boyfriend’s and you killed the parasites before they actually invaded your intestines.”

I also told her I’d do some digging to discover the real scoop. Here’s what I discovered:

Behera et al. Dig Dis Sci. 2008 Mar;53(3):672-9.

“The pathogenic parasites detected in (celiac) adults were Giardia lamblia 12 (24%), E. histolytica / dispar 5 (10%), Ancylostoma duodenale 4 (8%), H. nana 2 (4%) and Cyclospora cayetanensis 1 (2%). The pathogenic parasites detected in children with malabsorption syndrome were Giardia lamblia 8 (16%), Cryptosporidium 7 (14%), E. histolytica / dispar 3 (6%), Ancylostoma duodenale 3 (6%), Isospora belli 1 (2%), and H. nana 1 (2%). None of the stool samples from healthy controls were positive for Cryptosporidium spp., Cyclospora and Isospora belli. All the patients infected with intestinal coccidia were HIV sero-negative. Conclusion: Celiac disease is the most common cause of malabsorption syndrome in both adults and children. These people harbour significantly more pathogenic parasites and are more frequently colonized with harmless commensals as compared to healthy controls.”

I also found a study that suggests that the T cells that cause the villi to flatten in celiac disease are not the same T cells that flatten the lining in a giardia infection. Same symptoms, different pathway.

Unfortunately, that is all of the evidence I could find. This does not lead us to any conclusion, but it does give us another hypothesis to explain why Kristina was not ill — Kristina may have already had a giardia infection! If the numbers in this study are statistically correct, she has a 24% chance of being infected with giardia as I type. In fact, if the stats are correct, I have a 24% chance of being infected as I type! There is also a chance she has another intestinal parasite that was not allowing the parasites from Nicaragua settle.

I would like to point out that the study was small, and that the statistics might be much higher or lower than 24%.

This whole thing brings home something I’ve already said — I really have to get my microfora back in order! This can easily be accomplished through diet and by taking high quality probiotics on a regular basis. Please note that yogurt, cheese and other foods containing probiotics are NOT good probiotics.

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6 Responses

  1. what are the GOOD probiotics? I really need to know!

    love your blog!

  2. Very interesting! My fiancee will love that- “Guess what, maybe I never got sick because I already had giardia!” He’ll still find it maddening that not once did I have to be treated for anything. 🙂 Actually, I was treated for H. pylori about 6 months before I left- apparently it’s something that a decent percentage of the population has, but few react to. So we just joke that I got my bacteria treatment out of the way before leaving the U.S. so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in Nicaragua!

  3. nice work, dude

  4. Ironic, I told my doc that I thought I had an amoeba from traveling from Mexico and she
    tested me for Celiac. First try, she got it right. I too would like to know what the good
    probiotics are. The ones in yogurt or kefir certainly aren’t bad for you are they?

  5. Does anyone have an answer to the good probiotics. I do know the best ones are from healthfood stores, and refrigerated, but If anyone has specific brands that have been proven that would be great.
    I do use Keifer and only stoneyfield yougurt, but it is still not enough being on long-term antiobiotics antibiotics for lyme disease- I also think my gluten and soy intolerane is linked to my late -misdignosed lyme being the autoimmune system is severly impacted, the lyme spirocettes thrive on sugar and carbs turn into sugar- vicious cycle.

    Back tp subject, Looking for excellent probiotic names-thanks!

  6. My mother was diagnosed with celiac disease in august 2011 since diagnosis she has been fighting an uphill battle. We assumed when finding out what it was a change to the gluten free foods was her fix but sadly not. her body seems now to be rejecting gluten free foods she also has lactose intolerance, her diet is very restricted ie. she cannot digest potatos, sweet potatos, butter nut squash,no gluten free breads, peppers, cabbage, brocalli and she is losing an awful amount of weight our biggest fear is that there is something else underlying along with the celiac disease and we are missing out on what it is, have you ever had a case like this or ever heard of something similar happen before??please help we are worried sick

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