Do Chemical Pollutants Increase the Risk of Celiac Disease?

Thought LeadersAbigail Gaylord
Dr. Jeremiah Levine
NYU Langone Medical Center

Do chemical pollutants increase the risk of celiac disease? AZoLifeSciences spoke to Abigail Gaylord and Dr. Jeremiah Levine to find out.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a chronic disorder caused by an immunologic response to gliadin in genetically predisposed individuals leading to inflammation and damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

Celiac Disease

Image Credit: bubutu/

What are the common symptoms of someone suffering from celiac disease?

Frequently, people with celiac disease have gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss but many people have non-gastrointestinal symptoms, and others may be completely asymptomatic.

Why did you choose to research celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a fascinating disease due to the fact that it has so many different manifestations; additionally, although we have known the trigger for the disease for a very long time and also understand the genetic component of this disease, that still does not explain the different presentations and also does not explain the increasing prevalence of the disease

Can you describe how you carried out your research?

We recruited a small cohort of children and adolescents presenting with gastrointestinal complaints into the study.

Blood samples were taken to estimate environmental chemical concentrations. The participants were then evaluated for celiac disease using standard measures.

How do individuals get high levels of pesticides and pollutants in their body?

Exposure to pesticides and pollutants varies based on the chemical. Two common sources are diet, such as produce that has been sprayed with pesticides, and dust inhalation.

Farmer Spraying Pesticides

Image Credit: Fotokostic/

Are there individuals that are more likely to experience higher levels of pesticides than others?

Some individuals may be at greater risk than others, and this depends on a wide variety of factors including the specific chemical of interest. For example, agricultural workers are more likely to be exposed to commonly used pesticides than the general population.

The level of the chemical in the body and the specific effects of the chemical can also depend on age, gender, and other individual characteristics.

What can individuals do to protect themselves from coming into contact with these dangerous chemical pollutants?

Buying organic fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are eaten in full (leafy greens, apples, etc.) can help to lower exposure to pesticides.

Using a wet mop to clean floors and surfaces can also prevent excess exposure of dust. Reading labels on food packaging, furniture, and household products can also be a simple way to reduce exposure.

Organic Vegetables

Image Credit: mythja/

What else did you discover about celiac disease and gender?

Previous research shows that celiac disease is more common among females. Our study showed that the association between these chemical exposures and celiac disease may be stronger among females as well.

These chemicals can affect sex hormones, so it may not be surprising that we see a gender difference. However, it is important to note that the current study was underpowered to detect true gender differences, and further research is warranted.

How can this research help us to further understand celiac disease?

Besides exposure to gluten, not much is known about environmental exposures and celiac disease. This research may open that window.

What are the next steps in your research into celiac disease?

One needs to confirm this preliminary data with larger numbers of patients, and then use this information to understand the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms how exposure to these chemicals is associated with the development of celiac disease

Where can readers find more information?

CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry

About Abigail Gaylord, MPH

Abigail Gaylord

Abigail is a Ph.D. student and research assistant at the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Population Health.

Her research interests include children’s health and development, environmental chemical exposures, and epigenetics.




About Jeremiah Levine, MD

Dr. Levine is Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center and Professor of Pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine.Dr. Jeremiah Levine

He has had a long interest in autoimmune gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease as well as the impact of environmental exposure on the development of autoimmune disease.


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