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The development of a pill for gluten-free

PillsCoeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks gluten, a protein found in many foods, causing damage to the intestine. Currently the only treatment is a strict, life-long, gluten-free diet to prevent the symptoms including digestive upset and fatigue, as well as long term consequences such as nutrient deficiency, weight loss, osteoporosis, and other serious illnesses.

However, recent research has suggested that a potential treatment may be in the works, which could help reduce the impact that gluten has on the body. A study reported earlier in the year from scientists at the University of Alberta, Canada, involved a new pill which was shown to bind with gluten, preventing it from being absorbed and inflicting damage. This is the early days of this particular research and they are set to begin trials in the near future.

More recently a small pilot study was carried out to test the effects of an enzyme-based pill which was shown to break down the gluten in the meals given to 12 healthy volunteers. The meal had the equivalent gluten content to around one slice of wheat bread.
It’s important to note that this research only looked at individuals who did not have coeliac disease, which is something that would be essential to investigate in further studies. In particular it would be vital to establish how long the pill would take to work, in case the digestive system is exposed to small amounts of gluten which may cause a reaction even during a short period of time.

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Overall this is promising work and while a gluten-free diet will likely remain the primary treatment for coeliac disease, a pill could potentially be used to help prevent the effects of accidental gluten intake. Cross-contamination and eating out are noted to be frequent worries of those with coeliac disease. A pill of the types being investigated may be useful as a back-up to ease minds and prevent these accidents which can have a lengthy recovery time in some cases.

It will probably still be some time before adequate research has been carried out and an appropriate treatment developed, and education and support in following a gluten-free diet are still of utmost importance. Food businesses need to continue to improve their ability to cater for those with dietary needs, including coeliac disease. Food Freedom seek to raise awareness of allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease, and can provide full training for all food businesses so they meet EU FIC allergen legislation. Please get in touch if there is a business you would like to see receive training, or if you have any questions on coeliac disease and gluten-free diets.

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