Healthy Living

The Real Risk: How Celiac Disease May Trigger Lymphoma in Some Patients

The Real Risk: How Celiac Disease May Trigger Lymphoma in Some Patients

Celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition, affects roughly 3 million adults in the U.S. It is brought on by the ingestion of gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley. This protein causes the immune system to attack the tissue of the small intestine.

If celiac goes undiagnosed and untreated, then it can lead to serious health issues such as:

  • Infertility
  • Brain disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Additional autoimmune conditions

Unfortunately, current studies also show a connection between celiac and a rare form of cancer.

Recent research has shown gluten to be a trigger that leads to a very serious disease. The findings, which were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were derived by investigations conducted by a team from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. According to their findings, immune cells that are activated by the consumption of gluten might also trigger the development of a rare form of lymphoma called enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma.

What type of cancer is this?

Enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma, or EATL, is a rare kind of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s also referred to as enteropathy-type T-cell lymphoma or intestinal T-cell lymphoma. It is known to be aggressive and can spread rather quickly.

Most of the time, it starts in the middle of the small intestine and can spread to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, spleen, gall bladder, or stomach. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Blockage and/or ulcers in the small intestine
  • A bowel perforation which is a hole in the small intestine
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in the stool

A combination of some or all of these signs might point towards a completely different health issue, but promptly notifying your doctor when experiencing these symptoms is always best.

How was the correlation discovered?

The Type 1 EATL is the specific kind that’s mostly associated with celiac disease (Type 2 has not been linked with the ingestion of gluten and occurs far less often). Frequently, EATL and celiac disease are diagnosed at the same time or one following right after the other, which might explain why it appears to be more prevalent among older adults. Likewise, it does not occur as often in younger adults or children who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten allergy at an early age. This is probably because a strict gluten free diet tends to prevent EATL from developing.

In the study conducted in the Netherlands, the researchers found that a small number of people do not always respond well to a gluten free diet. In other words, the dietary restrictions are not sufficient in alleviating the more severe symptoms. Celiac patients who have this issue actually suffer from refractory celiac disease or RCD, which happens to approximately 2 to 5 percent of celiac patients