Are Probiotics good or bad for celiac patients?

Are Probiotics Good or Bad for Celiac Patients?

Increased intestinal permeability is inevitable in celiac disease patients. Researchers and physicians have known this for a long time. What’s more, if it is a cause or a consequence remains a mystery, but gut microbiota is somehow involved in the process.

This link raises some interesting questions about the use of probiotics for celiac disease patients. Are probiotics good or bad for celiac patients?  Can their regular use help these patients in the long term? Are they actually harmful in some cases? Can they have a real impact to prevent intestinal permeability and help healing?

Microbiota and celiac disease

Our gut microbiota is a beautiful and dynamic system, made up of millions of friendly bacteria which help keep invading pathogens at bay. However, the balance between friend and foe can be difficult to maintain. Excessive numbers of hostile bacteria (typically Gram-negative) can make the organism less tolerant to gluten. The worrying part is that, in genetically predisposed individuals, this can mean celiac disease. The theory goes that problems in the intestinal mucosa, such as increased permeability, can create conditions that favor nasty Gram-negative instead of helpful Gram-positive bacteria.

Can probiotics play a role in the treatment of celiac disease?

As every celiac disease patient knows, the only treatment for this condition is a strict gluten-free diet, excluding every source of gluten. No exceptions. However, this is not easy to achieve, and many researchers are looking for alternative treatments that could help celiac disease patients.

In theory, given the importance of gut microbiota in these patients, probiotics seem like a good idea. These products claim that live microorganisms can reach the gastrointestinal tract and help tip the balance towards good bacteria. Initial studies in the lab produced exciting results, and probiotics were able to reverse the adverse effects of the celiac disease in mice.

Unfortunately, the same trend was not present in clinical trials. Participants in several studies reported only limited improvements in indigestion and constipation and a complete failure to prevent diarrhea or abdominal pain. What’s more, the in-depth analysis also failed to detect any improvements regarding intestinal healing or nutrient absorption.

Are probiotics gluten free?

Researchers from Columbia University presented preliminary findings from a small study showing that more than half of the top-selling probiotic supplements contained some gluten, including ones that were labeled as gluten-free.

Columbia’s Peter Green, who presented the data at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, DC, told the New York Times that he was baffled as to why these supplements contained any gluten at all: “The question is: Why are companies putting wheat or barley or rye in probiotic supplements?” Dr. Green said. “People use these natural products in an attempt to be healthy.” Caution should be used if a celiac patient decides to purchase probiotics. Make sure the probiotic you chose is truly gluten free.


What about a probiotic specifically designed for celiac disease patients?

Despite the initial problems, researchers still like the idea that probiotics can help celiac disease patients.

What if the problem is with commercial products available? What if it was possible to develop a specific probiotic tailored to celiac disease patients? A few years ago, Italian researchers concocted a product containing bacteria able to digest or alter gluten. According to the researchers, this preparation would be perfectly capable of colonizing the intestine and target gluten before it triggered an immune response.

Unfortunately, commercial products available are not yet capable of doing this. However, this idea opens an exciting door for future products specially developed for celiac disease patients.


For celiac disease patients, exposure to gluten means intestinal damage. This can take the form of increased permeability and changes in the gut microbiota. The good news is that preliminary studies found types of friendly bacteria in probiotics with the ability to degrade gluten. In practical terms, this could mean a unique probiotic for celiac disease patients.

At this stage, however, this is nothing more than an idea and researchers need to conduct further research. We await further developments!



Comments ()

  1. Elizabeth Scherer says:

    I use Jarrow femdophilus, not to treat diarrhea but otherwise, as the name suggests. It claims gluten free and works well for my needs.

  2. Elizabeth Scherer says:

    Just to add to former comment – I am not celiac but suffer the results of intensive radiation. I am finding a gluten free diet a great deal of help after years of difficulties.

    The femdophilus does not aggravate my condition.

  3. Aileen Tinneny says:

    Is there anything you can suggest to treat diarrhoea for a celiac sufferer Thank you

    1. Anita says:

      My son is gluten intolerant he is strictly on gluten free diet and has no more diarrhea

  4. Pamela Wright says:

    I am a Celiac sufferer. I took a bad turn for the worse back in March of this year & weighed 175 lbs. I now weigh 120 only 7 months I have lost 55 lbs. I have had a colonoscopy & endoscopy & all kinds of tests run since then. Have come to conclusion that this is Celiac killing me. I am looking for some way something to help me. My doctors just seem to not care or maybe I just do not have the right one. What else can I do to try to reverse this if possible? Anything I eat which is not much anymore turns to diarrhea. I am following the gluten free diet. Thank You

    1. Anita says:

      Gluten free diet is the only thing possible
      For now . It’s been helping my son
      Stay strict with it

    2. Liz says:

      I’ve been Celiacs for 14 years. I find that after being “glutened” accidentally, I need to take a break from other inflammatory foods. I cut out dairy, other grains, and try to avoid sugar as my gut heals. You might try this route for a few weeks, focusing on eating mainly veggies, meats, etc. until your body has time to heal.

    3. Sheri says:

      Hi Pamela,

      I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac for 3 years and have been struggling to get back on track. I try to eat all organic non processed foods. I would definitely go see a functional doctor or an allergist who can test you for other food sensitivities, intolerances. You should even get your supplements tested for gluten. I’m still having issues getting my iron up and my D3 is lower than I would like. The allergist or functional doctor will run blood tests to check other nutritional deficiencies, hormone, thyroid issues. Please let us know how you are doing.

      God Bless,

    4. Alexia says:

      Cut out other grains! I had the same problem

    5. Annie says:

      You need to make sure there is no cross contamination going on. If something is gluten free make sure it is not cooked with food that contain gluten. I cannot eat something that has been cooked in the same fryer with other gluten food. I wash all my dishes at home because I don’t want kids to accidentally not wash them properly. I have a separate peanut butter and butter containers so they do not put the knife in and then spread it on the bread and then get another scoop of peanut butter. Once you rule cross contamination out you might have a secondary food allergy start a food log. You should try the FOD map.

  5. Gillian MacDonald says:

    Have you tried a few foods diet. Every time mu coeliac son has been glutened or has a stomach bug he needs this to reset his stomach. After 2-3 weeks you can introduce 1 food every 3 days to see if you have an intolerance to other foods. My son didn’t so now 2 weeks on the diet gives his stomach a break and time to recover.

  6. Kathy Sikora says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I recommend that you try the Paleo Autoimmune Diet I found on the website. It has been a lifesaver for me. It is a elimination diet in which you eat only whole foods in their natural state – nothing processed or packaged. Also I found it helpful to eliminate known allergy triggers (dairy,soy,egg,corn,nuts)as well as cross-reactive foods that can mimic the protein gluten in the body (rice,quinoa,millet,yeast,hemp,buckwheat,sorgum,teff,oats,aramath,tapioca,sesame,coffee,potatoes,rye,spelt and again soy and corn). I also found it helpful to only eat foods that are from the Low FODMAPS (Fermantable Oligo-,Di-,Mono-saccharides And Polyols). For people like myself with gastrointestinal symptoms, a diet high in FODMAPS can induce diarrhoea and or constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain. Lastly, find a new doctor and a good DVD Dietician. is a wonderful resource to find help along your journey to recovery.

    Wishing you well,
    Kathy Sikora

  7. Kurt lee says:

    I gave up dairy after reading 70% of Celiacs have a cross-reaction to a protein in dairy products. For me it causes my skin to itch very bad as a symptom.

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