Spit. It’s in our mouths, all the time. We may not always be conscious of it, swirling around our food as we eat, but it’s there. Saliva is our body’s magic potion to start our digestive processes. This magic potion, if you will, consists of a myriad of microorganisms that assist us in breaking down food. Much like our bodies, our soil, and our entire earth have a microbiome, our saliva does too. However, new research is finding that our salivary microbiome changes when we change the foods we eat. This is a powerful finding when examining people with different digestive diseases, such as Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is defined as an inability to break down gluten, which is found in things like wheat, rye, and barley. The body launches an immune attack against the small intestine, and this attack disrupts the tiny micro-villi that help us absorb nutrients. If the micro-villi are damaged, the person cannot absorb nutrients properly any more, and there are severe symptoms. Therefore, it is obvious to see why studying this disease is important. The first place that encounters gluten is our mouth, and the first defense against gluten (if you are gluten-intolerant) is our saliva.
Researchers from Italy set out to see how the saliva microbiome differs in celiac- diseased children fed different diets. They found 50 children from an African refugee camp that had celiac disease and had been living a gluten-free life for at least 2 years. Their diet here at the refugee camp was mainly high in sugars and starches. They brought these kids back to Italy and maintained them on an Italian- Style Gluten-Free Diet.
Now, I know you may be thinking “I thought Italian-style meant spaghetti and breadsticks?” You are right, for the most part. However, on a gluten-free Italian-style diet, you would eat more things like vegetables and meats, and gluten-free cereals. Saliva from the children was collected on their first day there, 30 days later, and 60 days later. They used this saliva to amplify sequences (16S rRNA) that would allow them to identify which microorganisms existed in their saliva. Using sequencing software called QIIME, they were given specific identities of the microbiome present.
The children who came from the refugee camps and began an Italian-Style Gluten- Free diet showed a decrease in their salivary microbial diversity. After 60 days, it seemed to be increasing again, but the study was terminated. Therefore, it seems that this change in diet affected the salivary microbiome. Additionally, they found a set of core microorganisms that were present in all celiac children, both from African and from Italy. This finding shows that there may be a correlation between the salivary microbiome and celiac disease. Overall, the findings also suggest that when changing diet, certain bacteria are able to proliferate more readily, while others cannot. Not only can they proliferate more readily, but they also serve a different function in the digestive process. These findings are exciting, and we look forward to further studies about how this diet change altered the children’s disease symptoms.
All specific information was gathered from, and written in relation to; Ercolini D., Francalvilla R., De Fillipis F., Capriati T., Di Cagno R., Iacono G., De Angelis M., Gobbetti M. From an imbalance to a new imbalance: Italian-style gluten-free diet alters the salivary microbiota and metabolome of African celiac children. Scientific Reports 2015, 5:18571. doi: 10.1038/srep18571.