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Asthma is linked to gluten, study finds (and so did I)

Posted on February 26th, 2011 by Alison Read 17 Comments - Add Your Own »

asthma-inhaler1People with celiac disease are more likely to develop asthma, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. And, those diagnosed with asthma are more likely to develop celiac disease. How are asthma and gluten linked? The researchers are not quite sure what makes people with celiac disease have a 1.6 fold increased risk of asthma (60% more likely to have asthma) than those without. However, one of the researching doctors in a Reuter’s Health article on the study, speculated that it is related to vitamin D deficiency.

Since people with celiac disease have damaged intestines, they are unable to properly absorb nutrients. According to the Vitamin D Council, Vitamin D helps “the immune and nervous systems defend the body, with defects in this intricate system leading to autoimmune disorders.” Several studies have shown that lower levels of vitamin D related to higher incidence of asthma in children. Just supplementing with vitamin D isn’t enough if the body can’t absorb it, as is the case with celiac disease. Removal of gluten is the only way to heal the intestines, so that they can begin to absorb vitamins again.

But forget those studies… just look at me. I puffed on asthma inhalers every day for about 25 years and took prednisone when the inhalers weren’t enough. Three months after I started a gluten-free diet after I was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 32, I stopped my medication cold turkey. I never used it again. It has been over 8 years.

I hadn’t considered vitamin D deficiency as a cause of my asthma before reading this new study. I recently had my vitamin D tested and it is low even now, so I can’t imagine what the level was before my diagnosis — I was never tested for vitamin deficiencies in the past.

If you have asthma, I urge you to get tested for vitamin deficiencies and for celiac disease. Think of your asthma as a symptom for which there is a cause. To be able to breathe again — now that is a gift.

You can read more about me and my asthma and if you’ve got a story about your asthma, please share it in the comments.

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  1. Wow. Wow. Wow. I was diagnosed with mild asthma after 6 months of school lunch eating… My husband has had asthma his whole life and has mentioned that even cutting out gluten and dairy just part-time (he’s still eating it at lunch at work “with the guys”), he’s feeling better. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Mrs. Q,
    Aha! Thanks for adding your story.

    That is so great! I know parents of children who are on all kinds of meds – the doctors never suggest food intolerance. Unfortunately, some parents don’t listen to my advice either and keep on with the steroids.

  3. Great stuff! Finally the connection is mainstream! Here is my experience with asthma and gluten and grains…

  4. My 4-yo daughter has suffered from asthma for the last year, to the point of twice daily nebulizers with steroids. This caused weight gain which I believe made the asthma worse as well. She was recently diagnosed gluten-intolerant and only six weeks after going gluten-free she is off all her meds and nebulizer.

    How is that not worth it?

  5. This is so true!! I’ve had asthma for 15 years (started when I was 26, now 40), just recently I tested this theory and went on a strict 4 week ZERO gluten diet. I went from using my inhaler 2-3x a day to 0 times a day. Within the first 3 days of the diet I noticed improvement. I’m a firm believer that asthma was caused by gluten. The best part, I could still drink beer, “Red Bridge” Gluten Free beer!

  6. I’m 25 and have had asthma since a baby. I had a nebuliser at home that I took twice daily with steroids and have been into hospital a few times. Things got better as I cleared puberty but have still been on blue and brown inhalers daily since. I decided to try alter my diet, I was a milk guzzling, gluten on gluten eater (favourite being spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread or pizza and fries)
    Since significantly reducing my gluten intake (limited wholegrain bread, no pasta, gluten free beer) I have been over 8 weeks without using an inhaler for the first time in my life. Long may it continue!

  7. I have been gluten-free for one month and my asthma has dramatically improved. My husband is a biochemist and found research on immune disorders and gluten. He encouraged me to try this new diet. I also have early-onset Parkinson’s and my symptoms have improved a lot since the change in my diet.

  8. Marlana,
    Thanks for posting this – so helpful!

  9. I do not have Celiacs, but I do have asthma. Cutting gluten has reduced my asthma symptoms dramatically. I’ve been tracking it a bit and I’ve found with uncanny certainty – when I each or drink gluten-laden stuff, my asthma is debilitating. It was a mystery as to why over the last few years my asthma has gotten so bad… It appears I’ve developed a gluten allergy.

    Sadly, I’m a professional brewer. I can’t drink too much of my handiwork. This is sad, because gluten-free beer is a monstrosity.

  10. I had second hand smoke induced asthma. Three weeks after going wheat/gluten free to lose weight, the asthma is almost gone. My mild, but fairly chronic stomach pain is gone. I wish I had known sooner, but I am thankful I stumbled on to this. I can now play a little poker in local casinos, without wheezing and coughing for the following week. I have also lost 5 lbs. in three weeks. I hope all Drs. prescribing steroid inhalers to asthmatics become aware of this. Some researchers believe 40 percent of Caucasians may be wheat sensitive.

  11. I have been gluten free for 5 weeks and my asthma is gone…I have not used my daily inhaler nor have I been for my allergy shots. Many other issues have cleared up for me as well, such as my acne and digestive issues. I can breath deep without feeling like its an effot. I am now exercising for a much longer period of time. I have my life back 🙂

  12. Diagnosed with Celiac at 52. I have had chronic asthma and horrible allergies all of my life. I now realize I have had celiac all my life. My allergist of 30 years never caught it. So much for immunologists. My lings have been chewed up and I now have COPD; never smoked. I have been a health nut all my life. I am the last person people would think of to have COPD. I think celiac destroyed my lungs. I am now 56 and on oxygen 24×7 and will probably need a lung transplant before too long.

    My name is Claudia Kosa I thought i should share this here as someone may need this information; I was diagnosed of COPD in February 2015, my doctor told me it has no permanent cure, i was given inhaler to help relax my airway and other medications to ease the situation, this continued till a friend of mine Anna Burke told me about Dr Ejiro from South Africa who cured her father of COPD and Glaucoma. I contacted this herbal doctor via his email and bought the herbal medicine from him, i received it within 6 days and applied it as prescribed and was totally cured within 19 days of usage. my life is back again! Contact this herbal doctor via his email ejiroherbalcure(at)gmail(dot)com

  14. I had no idea that asthma and gluten could be linked. I’m in my sixties and can barely walk two blocks without an inhaler. when i was a youngster, I smoked cigarettes but quit years and years ago. For seven years a vegetarian, but meat makes me feel a lot stronger. For a month and a half, no gluten. How to get B vitamins, though? It’s not that easy to avoid gluten, know that I know about it. The asthma symptoms? No miraculous improvement yet. I’m open to suggestions though. No gluten free food stores in my area. thanks.

  15. A failure to thrive child, allergic to peanuts, had eczema and asthma, that was me 64 years ago. Jump 55 years into my future to find me with asthma that has worsened to the point of needing inhaled steroids daily. lung function 70 percent of normal for my age, unexplained and horribly itchy skin rashes, arthritis in my spine that a chiropractor likened to that of a 90-year-old, and a thyroid that was going south: low one week, high to the point of nearing thyroid storm the next. My physician’s assistant turned out to be my guardian angel. She recommended that I try gluten free eating. Wow! Rashes gone almost instantly, thyroid normalized, asthma GONE, and spinal arthritis arrested and now manageable with yoga. Am I celiac? I cannot be tested because I have been gluten free too many years and I refuse to eat gluten for even a day. My daughter recommend that a friend test her asthmatic, allergic-to-peanuta child for celiac, and she was positive. That child’s doctor then tested her own son (asthmatic and allergic to peanuts), and he was positive. There is a connection.

  16. I’ve had severe asthma my entire life, I’m 27. At age 9 I had to be resuscitated due to status asthmaticus. I also suffered from a vesicular rash (started at age 13) that for years I thought was due to sugar intake and thus removed sugar and yeast from my diet… my rash and breathing improved. I fell off the health wagon for a while and the rash came back, full force. Had biopsies, went to multiple MD’s once I learned about dermatitis herpetiformis while randomly researching topics of interest (I’m a RN). No luck as far as the diagnostics go because I had stopped eating gluten and after an accidental slip up or two and feeling like death for four days after I decided to never eat gluten again. It’s been 6 months of learning to live GF but the rash and my asthma have improved DRAMATICALLY.

  17. At age 59 I was diagnosed with severe thyroid disease. I was a lifelong asthmatic with a peanut allergy, and I had some minor stomach issues, mostly associated with eating pasta. My doctor was transferring me to an endocrinologist whose appointments were scheduling six months out, but suggested I try avoiding gluten in the meantime since some research suggested a connection between gluten and thyroid disease. I didn’t end up going to the endocrinologist. I was afraid he would ask me to eat gluten again so I could be tested for celiac. Without gluten in my diet my thyroid normalized, my asthma totally disappeared, my vitamin D levels returned to within normal limits, the inflammatory markers on blood tests decreased dramatically. Before going gluten free I was on steroids for the asthma and my tests showed only 70 percent lung function. I have been gluten free for six years now and I no longer even have a rescue inhaler. The peanut allergy is mine forever, but we all have our burdens. I know of two instances of children, asthmatics with peanut allergies, who were tested for celiac and the tests returned positive. One of the celiac genes, HLA-DQB1, is related to asthma, and add an allele, .02, and you get peanut allergy.

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