Walk the aisles of nearly any major grocery store and sooner or later you’ll cross paths with a “gluten-free” section. Some nutrition experts now suggest that gluten is not only harmful to those with celiac disease, but could also cause trouble for people fighting hepatitis C.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat (and similar grains) that provides a stretchiness to dough, serving as a sort of “glue” for starchy foods to keep their shape. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity react to gluten, mostly with GI trouble. A few years ago, certain gastroenterology experts noticed a connection between celiac disease and chronic liver disease. In published research, researchers described a subset of celiac patients with cirrhosis of the liver. For these patients, a gluten-free diet improved both their gut health and their liver health. The researchers urged patients with cirrhosis of an unknown cause to investigate whether gluten sensitivity might be present.
More recently, research has come to light linking hepatitis C treatment with the emergence of celiac disease. Although this is only a case study, it’s intriguing since the patient was only able to continue hepatitis C treatment after going on a gluten-free diet.
The current state of the research certainly doesn’t justify all hepatitis C patients avoiding gluten, but it does give “food for thought,” so to speak. If a hepatitis C patient experiences symptoms of gluten sensitivity, it could be worth a trial run of avoiding gluten, at least until treatment is complete.
Cutler N. Is gluten harmful to those with hepatitis C? Hepatitis Central February 19, 2015.
Singh P, Agnihotri A, Jindal G, et al. Celiac disease and chronic liver disease: is there a relationship? Indian J Gastroenterol 2013;32(6):404-8.
Vasudevan A, Lubel JS. New-onset of celiac disease during interferon-based therapy for hepatitis C. Gastroenterol Rep 2015;3(1):83-5.