Inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac are linked

  • Coeliac disease is caused by an intolerance to gluten, which is found in a number of grains
  • A clear connection has now been established between coeliac disease and IBD
  • These two intestinal conditions share similar risk factors

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There's an association between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and coeliac disease, according to a new research review.

Researchers analyzed dozens of studies published between 1978 and 2019 that included tens of millions of people in Europe, North America and Asia.

They found that people with a previous diagnosis of coeliac disease had a ninefold increased risk of IBD, and IBD patients had an increased risk of coeliac disease, but to a smaller extent.

"Clinicians have always suspected that IBD and coeliac disease may be linked, however, a clear association was never established," said first author Dr Maria Ines Pinto-Sanchez. She's a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Chronic intestinal conditions

"This is important, as failure to diagnose one or the other condition could compromise proper response to available treatments," Pinto-Sanchez said in a university news release. "It also raises questions on screening for the other disease in a patient already diagnosed with either IBD or coeliac disease."

IBD and coeliac disease are chronic intestinal conditions that share similar risk factors. The exact cause of IBD (which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) isn't known, but infections and genes are factors. People with coeliac disease – an immune system disorder – can't eat foods containing gluten.

The next step is to determine whether testing for the diseases is cost-effective and benefits patients, according to the authors.

"At this time, it is unclear whether screening of IBD should be performed in coeliac disease and vice versa," said study co-author Dr Elena Verdu, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at McMaster.

"More studies into the association of IBD and coeliac disease are needed, as this could lead to screening and therapeutic interventions to improve patient outcomes," Verdu said in the release.

The findings were recently published in the journal Gastroenterology.

Image credit: Getty

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