Celiac Patients Have Higher Flu Hospitalization Risk

Celiac disease may raise your risk of hospitalization from the flu. Getty Images/Peter Dazeley

It's time for annual flu shots, as every drug store and supermarket in town seems to be reminding us. And there may be a good reason for people who have celiac disease to get that flu shot: a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found an increased risk of hospital admission for influenza in people with celiac disease.

The study, which came out of Sweden in 2010, compared influenza-related hospital admissions in three separate groups of patients.

These included a group of 29,008 patients who had a celiac disease diagnosis with a Marsh score of 3, indicating fairly severe intestinal damage; a group of 13,200 individuals who had Marsh scores of 1 to 2 (inflammation but no villous atrophy) on their celiac disease biopsies; and a group of 3,709 people with positive celiac blood tests but a normal biopsy. The researchers also compared results with 224,114 control subjects from the general population.

The study found both adults and children who had been diagnosed with celiac disease with Marsh scores of 3 were at increased risk of hospital admission for influenza when compared to the general population, as were individuals with Marsh scores of 1 to 2. Individuals with normal intestinal mucosa but positive celiac disease blood tests were not at any higher risk for hospitalization from influenza than the control group.

From the results of this study, it looks like anyone who's been diagnosed with celiac disease might want to consider getting a flu shot, especially if they're in a high-risk group otherwise (high-risk individuals include children, older adults and people with impaired immune systems, among others).

Still, I have to say, since I adopted a strict gluten-free diet, I very rarely get sick. That's welcome relief, because back in my gluten-eating days, I'd catch every bug going around, and I'd generally suffer from it more than everyone else, too.

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