DNA Digest: Gluten Intolerance
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DNA Digest: Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide.  

While gluten intolerance is often associated with dietary choices or allergies, did you know that genetics can also play a role in determining an individual's susceptibility to this condition?

In this blog, we'll explore the connection between gluten intolerance and genetics, and how this can impact our dietary choices.

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is a condition in which the body is unable to properly digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This occurs when the body's immune system mounts an abnormal response to gluten, leading to inflammation and damage to the small intestine.

What are the genetics of gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is primarily caused by variations in the HLA-DQ genes, which code for the production of human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) that help the immune system identify foreign substances. Specifically, variations in the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes have been linked to an increased risk of developing gluten intolerance.

How can genetics impact gluten intolerance?

Individuals with variations in the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes may be more likely to develop gluten intolerance, as their immune system may be more likely to mount an abnormal response to gluten. This can impact dietary choices and overall nutrient intake, particularly for those who rely on gluten-containing grains as a primary source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.

What are some strategies for managing gluten intolerance?

One strategy for managing gluten intolerance is to focus on consuming gluten-free alternatives, such as quinoa, brown rice, and gluten-free breads and pastas. Additionally, it is important to read food labels carefully and to avoid cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods.

What are some signs of gluten intolerance?

Signs of gluten intolerance can include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, and weight loss. In more severe cases, gluten intolerance can lead to malnutrition and other complications.

In conclusion, gluten intolerance is a common condition that can be impacted by genetics. By understanding the role of the HLA-DQ genes in gluten intolerance and paying attention to our body's response to gluten-containing foods, we can make informed choices to manage gluten intolerance and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.


Fasano A, Catassi C. Current approaches to diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease: an evolving spectrum. Gastroenterology. 2001;120(3):636-651. doi:10.1053/gast.2001.22123

Sollid LM, McAdam SN, Molberg O, et al. Genetic susceptibility to coeliac disease: HLA-DQ and beyond. Immunol Today. 1998;19(3):108-111. doi:10.1016/S0167-5699(97)01249-4

Ludvigsson JF, Leffler DA, Bai JC, et al. The Oslo definitions for coeliac disease and related terms. Gut. 2013;62(1):43-52. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-301346

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