Elena VerduInflammation, Microbiota and Nutrition
Faculty of Health Sciences
Department of Medicine
MCMASTER EXPERTS PROFILE
Investigating the mechanisms involved in food intolerance in functional gut disorders.
Gluten intolerance, which is caused by the protein found in wheat and other grains, can cause symptoms ranging from stomach problems to life-threatening illnesses such as celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes and certain cancers. The only known treatment is an expensive gluten-free but low fiber diet that can cause constipation.
But what if a pill could be taken before every meal that would neutralize the gut-damaging effects of gluten intolerance? Dr. Elena Verdú, Canada Research Chair in Inflammation, Microbiota and Nutrition, thinks it’s just a matter of time before such a pill is developed.
Verdú is researching the mechanisms involved in food intolerance in functional gut disorders to shed light on the role gluten intolerance plays in the development of diseases like celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Verdú has performed gluten sensitivity studies that show that gluten can set off a reaction in the intestines and the immune system, even in people who don’t have celiac disease. She has also tested the efficacy of a process to prevent gluten’s toxic effect on the gut lining. Although this approach is still in a pre-clinical discovery phase, it could allow much greater diet freedom for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitive IBS.
Verdú’s work to unravel the mystery of how gluten causes damage and dysfunction to the gut could lead to greatly improved non-dietary treatment and prevention strategies for people with gluten intolerance.