picture of a man using asthma inhaler

Image via Quit Smoking Bulletin

As someone with chronic asthma, this one really caught my eye. A new Swedish study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that people with celiac are about 60% more likely to develop asthma. The authors of the study also found the flip side to be true – that people with asthma are more likely to be diagnosed with celiac.

Since the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has their articles on lock-down, I’ll direct you to the MSNBC write-up of the study here.

The study was done by a team of researchers from Orebro University Hospital and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. They compared a group of 28,000 Swedes who had been diagnosed with celiac and a group of 140,000 similar people who had no intolerance for gluten in any form. The results suggested that for every 100,000 celiacs, 147 will have asthma that would not have appeared had celiac not been present.

The lead researcher, Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson, points out that the study does not show causality, but an association between the two afflictions. He thinks that Vitamin D might be playing a role, pointing out that celiacs have also been shown to have increased risk of developing osteoporosis and tuberculosis, two diseases in which Vitamin D deficiency plays a role. If a celiac is also suffering from low levels of vitamin D, this could further impair their immune system, which could increase the risk of developing asthma, Ludvigsson says.

You might be wondering whether following a strict gluten-free diet would help decrease the risk of a celiac developing asthma. The researchers have no way of knowing for sure whether the celiac sample were actually following their recommended diet, but Dr. Ludvigsson is pretty sure they are. “”Generally dietary compliance is high in Sweden, so I actually believe that also patients with good adherence are at increased risk of asthma,” he says (can’t you just hear his Swedish accent?).

Like I said, I’m an asthmatic, so this is really fascinating to me. I personally have found that whenever I research any of my various health-related issues, I invariably find articles that show things like this – asthma linked to celiac, bad skin linked to allergies, depression linked to digestive issues (that one floored me. Apparently there are serotonin re-uptake inhibitors in the gut, so whatever serotonin weirdness you have going in your brain may also be affecting your digestion. Straight from the doctor’s mouth!). So in some ways, this really doesn’t surprise me at all.

What’s funny is that some of the phrasing in the MSNBC article seems to unintentionally create a “no duh” moment. The first sentence, for example: “People with the digestive disorder known as celiac disease are more likely to develop another disorder involving the immune system: asthma, according to a new study.” In other words, having an immunological disorder may make you susceptible to other immunological disorders! Not too shocking, right?

But what do you all think? Any wheezing celiacs in the house? Have you too noticed links between your celiac and other health issues? Does it make sense to you or do you think it’s overly simplistic? You know the drill by now…to the comments!