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Exploring the relationship between Cesarean birth and celiac disease and food allergies

Posted Jun 04 2010 2:40pm

A recent PubMed article (Epub 2010 May 17) looking at the relationship between Cesarean delivery and celiac disease is causing some consternation. Before I get into the recent study, which will appear in the June issue of Pediatrics, let me share with you a study on the relationship between food allergies and Cesarean birth that was published in the August 2003 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). The 2003 JACI study by Eggesbo, et al concluded that in mothers who were highly sensitive to fish, nuts or eggs – babies born by C-section had a 7-fold increased risk of being a food allergy baby (this is the layman’s version of the more technical language used in the study). It has been nearly 7 years since I read the study – yes, I did run right up to the UB Medical Library when I first heard of the article to actually read it – so don’t quote me on the literal text on the study.  With that disclaimer made, I read the article exceptionally closely as a mother of three food allergy children all who were born by C-section since I am a mother who is highly allergic to nuts.


The 2003 Eggesbo, et al study was titled “Is delivery by cesarean section a risk factor for food allergy?” It looked at method of delivery and use of antibiotics. One of the theories I recall reading about at that time was that Cesarean section might delay or interrupt the colonization of the newborn intestine. What was known at that time was that during a normal birth - oxygen, nutrients and “other materials” would pass from the placenta through the umbilical cord to the baby during the birth process – presumably to set up the intestines for actual use after birth. In a Cesarean birth, this process does not take place. It was fascinating to understand at that time, 7 years ago, that we knew some of what was transferred to a newborn via the umbilical cord, yet there was a set of substances classified as “other materials” that were not known.


Here is a link to the recent PubMed article on Cesarean birth and celiac disease:

A more consumer friendly summary of the PubMed article can be found here:


What does all this mean to consumers? Probably for starters that more research is merited on both topics. The second thing that this indicates to me is that Cesarean section should be reserved for cases where they are absolutely necessary. Another medical article I read around the same time (2003) indicated that giving infants small does of probiotics and essential fatty acids were helpful in colonizing the intestines of newborns. That study called for more research. The bottom line is that if I got a do-over with my C-sections, which were mandatory for me due to extensive scar tissue from the removal of a 19-cm fibroid tumor, I would consult with my pediatrician about giving my newborn small amounts of non-dairy/non-gluten probiotics and small amounts of essential fatty acids. There is certainly a much larger body of medical evidence now about the role of prebiotics and probiotics in helping to set up a newborn.


What are your thoughts and concerns regarding this topic? I’d love to hear them especially in light of the fact that the 2003 JACI article did not make a big splash regarding food allergies and method of birth.



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