Research shows that a higher gluten intake in the first 5 years of life raises the future risk of celiac disease in genetically susceptible children. Gluten can be a controversial topic. Everyone agrees that people with celiac disease should strictly avoid gluten, but what about non-celiacs? Should they be avoiding gluten too?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children who are genetically predisposed to celiac disease and eat a lot of gluten are at higher risk of developing celiac disease. The crucial time period is during the first five years of life.

The researchers evaluated more than 6,600 newborn babies in the United States, Sweden, Finland and Germany. These infants were born between 2004 and 2010. All of the children carried genes predisposing them to type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. The researchers documented the gluten intake of the children every few months until they reached the age of 5. Their gluten ingestion was compared to levels of gluten intake in children without type 1 diabetes or celiac disease.

During the course of the study, almost 20 percent of the genetically predisposed children had developed celiac disease. Most of the diagnoses occurred between the ages of two and three.

In people with celiac disease, eating gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine, impairing nutrient absorption and allowing excess gut waste products into the bloodstream. Approximately 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, and according to the Celiac Disease Foundation more than 2 million people in the USA have the disease but aren’t diagnosed.

Eating gluten is a well known risk factor for developing celiac disease in people with the specific genes, but this particular study shows that the amount of gluten a person eats is also extremely significant. The children who consumed the most gluten were more likely to develop celiac disease at a younger age. They are also predisposed to type 1 diabetes because the conditions share a number of genes.

The authors of this study recommend that parents of young children with celiac genes reduce their level of gluten intake to reduce the risk of the disease.

Many people have the genetic predisposition for celiac disease but never actually develop the disease. You wouldn’t know if you have the genes unless you’ve been specifically tested. Celiac disease can cause significant health problems, such as fatigue, anemia, infertility, osteoporosis and an increased risk of cancer. People with the condition must avoid every trace of gluten, because even miniscule quantities can have disastrous health consequences.

If you have a family member with celiac disease, you are likely to carry the genes. If you have a family member with any autoimmune disease you are also more likely to have the genes. Keeping your gluten intake minimal can help prevent you developing celiac disease. There is an abundance of gluten free processed food for sale these days; when I recommend a gluten free diet, I suggest people eat foods inherently free of gluten, such as vegetables, fruit, seafood, poultry, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Here are some other ways of reducing your risk of autoimmune disease

  • Maintain a healthy digestive system. If you have troubling symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation or diarrhea, please see a healthcare professional and get to the bottom of it. These are indicators that something is not right with your digestive system. Leaky gut is a major initiator of autoimmune disease. Glutamine and bone broth are both immensely helpful for healing it.
  • Almost all patients with autoimmune disease have an overgrowth of the wrong gut bugs. Avoiding sugar in the diet is important because it acts like a fertiliser, encouraging growth of yeast, Candida and bad bacteria. Sometimes a diet low in FODMAPs and fiber is also necessary for a period of time. The antimicrobial herbs in BactoClear capsules help kill bad gut bugs. Floratone is a probiotic to replenish the gut with beneficial bacteria.
  • Keep your immune system strong. Infections are a very common trigger of autoimmune disease. They can be gastroenteritis, a cold, flu or mononucleosis. People who are low in selenium and vitamin D are more predisposed to infections and their body has a harder time fighting them.
  • Try to keep stress under control, and get enough sleep. We all know intuitively that stress is bad for our health but research confirms it’s a trigger of autoimmune disease. Magnesium improves quality of life for so many of our patients because it helps them feel calmer, they handle stress better, and achieve a deeper sleep at night.


The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.