Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs characterized by bouts of wheezing and or coughing symptoms with difficulty getting your breath. It can be fatal. It is increasing in incidence. It has genetic risk factors as well as environmental triggers, especially allergies. It is probably another form of an autoimmune disease triggered in genetically susceptible individuals.
The researchers found that people with Celiac disease (CD) were more likely to develop Asthma. Conversely, people with asthma were more likely to eventually develop CD. As a physician who diagnoses and treats a lot of people with CD and gluten sensitivity this is confirmation of an observation as well as the impression of many individuals in the lay community. This research supports our observations and impression. The study is a strong one. It compares 28,000 people diagnosed with Celiac in Sweden with 140,000 controls without Celiac. Those with Celiac disease were 60% more likely to develop asthma than control patients. Also, those with Asthma were more likely to have or develop Celiac disease. The researchers did caution that though the study strongly supports a link between asthma and Celiac it does not support the conclusion that one causes the other.
Professionally, I have several patients and colleagues with asthma who have Celiac. This includes a pediatrician who also suffers from broncholitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia also known as BOOP and a pulmonary critical care specialist with gluten sensitivity. They have both shared with me that they are convinced of a link between Celiac or gluten and lung disease.
Celiac and gluten have been linked to other chronic lung diseases, such as Sarcoidosis and lymphocytic bronchoalveolitis. Ron Hoggan,Ed.D, co-author of “Cereal Killers-Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free A to Z” in which I have several chapters, writes on this topic and his personal experience with lung disease as a Celiac.
Regarding possible reasons for the link, Dr. Ludvigsson postulated besides common genetics and immunity that may be low levels of Vitamin D may play a role. Vitamin D deficiency is seen in both conditions. Vitamin D ingestion has been advocated by some because of anti-inflammatory benefits but no specific recommendations can or have been made for Vitamin D supplementation in when levels are normal.
This study confirms Celiac disease and gluten sensitive can be linked to asthma and visa versa. It validates the experience of many people, most of whom were told by well-meaning physicians that there was no link between asthma and Celiac or gluten.If you have asthma, get screened for Celiac disease. If you have Celiac disease and have breathing symptoms get an evaluation. If your health care provider discounts any link share with them this blog, the original article, lead author J. Ludvigsson, in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology 2011.