C-sections appear to increase the chances of celiac disease in children with the gene, compared to vaginal births. Clearly the celiac story is more complex than simple genetics, not surprising considering the increasing trend of celiac disease.
This may seem amazing, but there is more to the caesarean section – health connection than just celiac disease, although celiac is the focus of this article.
Scientific studies had indicated a connection between increased celiac prevalence and c-sections, but the findings were considered inconsistent according to some researchers. However further study showed a solid connection in the case of elective c-sections, but not emergency c-sections.
How can this be?
Celiac and the Bacterial Flora Theory
There is a theory that the bacterial flora to which babies are immersed during a natural birth, is essential to the future health of the child, and ultimately the adult. Consider the following partial list of diseases and conditions that appear to be more common in children born by c-section rather than a vaginal birth:
- Some forms of cancer
The book Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser explains the connection in some detail. According to Dr. Blasser, “Since WWII — which is about when antibiotics were introduced — we’ve had the big rise in many diseases: obesity, diabetes, juvenile diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies…I believe there is one cause that is underneath it all, and that is a change in our ancient microbiome.”
Antibiotics reduce or eliminate the bacteria that live in our bodies – both the “good” (beneficial) bacteria, and the pathogenic, harmful bacteria.
Meanwhile, a natural birth exposes the baby to the bacteria living in the mother’s vaginal canal. It seems this is an important early step in life, as it turns out.
So why are emergency c-sections less connected to an increased incidence of celiac disease than elective ones? If a baby starts going through a natural birth but gets stuck, it will most likely be exposed to at least some of the mother’s natural flora.
Note that there does not appear to be an increased chance of inflammatory bowel disease in children born by c-section.
Please leave a comment with your opinion, experiences or questions.
- CBC interview with Dr. Blasser
- “Cesarean delivery is associated with celiac disease but not inflammatory bowel disease in children”
- Reuters article
- Pregnancy outcome and risk of celiac disease in offspring: a nationwide case-control study
- Pregnancy Outcome and Risk of Celiac Disease in Offspring: A Nationwide Case-Control Study