Celiac Disease and Mode of Delivery -Perhaps Not Very Consequential

Briefly noted:

A recent study (E Lionetti et al. J Pediatr 2017; 184: 81-6) did NOT find an association between mode of delivery and the development of celiac disease (CD).

After a telephone interview to confirm mode of delivery, the authors identified 431 children at high risk for CD and compared the rates of celiac autoimmunity (serology-positive) and overt CD that developed by age 5 years:

  • CD autoimmunity –cesarean vs vaginal:  24% and 19% (P=.2)
  • Overt CD –cesarean vs vaginal:  19% and 14% (P=.2)

While neither reached statistical significance, there was a higher rate in those born by cesarean mode.  The lack of a statistical association could be a reflection on sample size or the specific population that was studied.  However, more likely, this suggests that “the role of intestinal microbiota at birth in the pathogenesis of immune mediated disorders has been overestimated.”

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La Source, Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres, Musee d’ Orsay



What We Should Not Worry About

A few useful studies provide reassurances regarding exposures in the prenatal period and perinatal period that we should NOT worry about.

CN Bernstein et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 50-7.

In this study with 1671 individuals with inflammatory bowel disease and 10,488 controls, “people with IBD were not more likely to have been born by cesarean section than controls or siblings without IBD.  These findings indicate that events of the immediate postpartum period that shape the developing intestinal microbiome do not affect risk for IBD.”

J Julvez et al. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2016) Full Text Link: doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv195. 

For parents of autistic kids who avoid fish, this article provides information indicating that this is counter-productive.  ” Seafood consumption during pregnancy is thought to be beneficial for child neuropsychological development, but to our knowledge no large cohort studies with high fatty fish consumption have analyzed the association by seafood subtype.” The authors “evaluated 1,892 and 1,589 mother-child pairs at the ages of 14 months and 5 years, respectively, in a population-based Spanish birth cohort established during 2004–2008…” Key finding: “Consumption of large fatty fish during pregnancy presents moderate child neuropsychological benefits, including improvements in cognitive functioning and some protection from autism-spectrum traits.”

My take: We often worry about the wrong things.  These articles provide reassurance that mode of birth and consumption of seafood during pregnancy are things we should not worry about.

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How Birth Can Affect Your GI Tract

A recent review (JPGN 2013; 57: 543-49) provides information about the relationship between neonatal environment and subsequent inflammatory gastrointestinal disease.

While most of the review, focuses on physiology and pathophysiology, the most interesting part is the assertions (with references) in Table 1 which include the following:

  • Breastfeeding reduces risk of IBD
  • Cesarean section increases the risk of celiac disease, cow’s milk allergy, and other IgE-mediated food allergies
  • Many chronic adult diseases have been shown to have origins in neonatal life, particularly cardiovascular disease/metabolic syndrome

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Why are we seeing so many more cases

In this month’s Gastroenterology, two articles offer some insight into this question for two separate problems.

With regard to inflammatory bowel disease, (IBD) –both Crohn’s disease and UC –there is an increasing prevalence and incidence worldwide (Gastroenterology 2012; 142: 46-54). This article identified 8444 previous citations and then identified 262 studies with relevant data.  Overall, the highest incidence and prevalence of these disorders occurs in Europe and North America.  In North America, Canada has the highest prevalence with 0.6% of the population having IBD.

After going through the statistics, the authors offer some discussion on why IBD is increasing.  In the developing parts of the world, some of the increase is due to the ability to detect and differentiate these disorders due to improving access to medical care/colonoscopy.  In the areas of the world with the highest incidence/prevalence, environmental risk factors are playing an important role.  Potential factors include microbial exposures, sanitation, lifestyle behaviors, medications, and pollution.  These factors are supported by other epidemiological studies which show that individuals who move from low prevalence areas to higher ones are at increased risk for IBD, especially among first generation children (Gut 2008; 57: 1185-91).  Furthermore, in low prevalence regions, IBD is increasing with more industrialization (Chin J Dig Dis 2005; 6: 175-81, Indian J Gastroenterol 2005; 24: 23-24.)  Exact mechanisms are poorly understood; however, even in the U.S. it is recognized that rural/farm exposure at a young age reduces the likelihood of developing IBD at a later age (Pediatrics 2007; 120: 354).

Celiac disease, likewise, has seen an increase in prevalence.  With celiac disease, the proliferation of widely available and more accurate serology has been crucial in the identification of more patients.  However, like IBD, there is likely a role for changing microbial environment contributing to an increasing case burden.  Recently, reports have shown that the risk of celiac disease can be influenced at birth (Gastroenterology 2012; 142: 39-45).  Although the absolute risk was modest, there was an increased risk demonstrated with elective but not emergent cesarean delivery among a large nationwide case-control study from Sweden.  Among the cohort of 11,749 offspring with biopsy-proven celiac (with matched control group of 53,887), elective cesarean delivery resulted in an odds ratio of 1.15 (confidence intervals 1.04-1.26).  This study confirmed other studies which have shown an increased risk with cesarean delivery (Pediatrics 2010; 125: e1433-e1440).  Some of the strengths of this Swedish study, included the fact that the deliveries were separated based on elective or emergency cesarean delivery and were controlled for whether the mother had celiac disease.  (Pregnant women with celiac disease have an increased risk of cesarean delivery.)  The authors speculate that the reason why elective cesarean deliveries increase the risk of celiac disease is that microbial exposures at birth likely influences perinatal colonization –>affects intestinal immune response and mucosal barrier function. Offspring of women with emergency cesarean delivery would be more likely to be exposed to bacteria from the birth canal and no significant increase risk of celiac disease could be identified in this group.

Thus how we are born and where we live make a big impact on the likelihood of developing these GI disorders.

Additional References:

  • -Gut 2011; 60: 49-54. n=577,627 Danish children. Use of antibiotics associated with increase risk of Crohn’s disease (but not UC), especially at younger ages (3-11month of age, & 2-3yrs of age). Each course increased risk by 18%. In children with >7 courses, relative risk was 7.3. especially penicillins.
  • -NEJM 2011; 364: 701, 769. Living on a farm decreases risk of childhood asthma.
  • -Nature 2011; 476: 393. ‘Stop killing beneficial bacteria.’  For example, killing H pylori likely increases risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma
  • -Gastroenterology 2011; 141: 28, 208. GM-CSF receptor (CD116) defective expression & function in 85% of IBD pts. n=52.
  • -Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 1816, 1844. Microbiome & affect on IBD vs mucosal homeostasis
  • -J Pediatr 2010; 157: 240. Microbiota in pediatric IBD -increased E coli and decreased F praunsitzil in IBD pts.
  • -J Pediatr 2009; 155: 781. early child care exposures lessens risk for asthma.
  • -IBD 2008; 14: 575.  Role of E coli in Crohn’s
  • -Lab Invest 2007; 87: 1042-1054. Role of E coli in Crohn’s
  • -Pediatrics 2007; 120: 354. Crohn’s less common after repeated exposure to farm animals in 1st year of life.

More practical information and links to other websites can be found at http://www.gicareforkids.com.