Can "Glutenase" pills help people with Celiac digest gluten?

Stefano Guandalini, MD, (center) Medical Director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

This is the first installment of our new series, The Big Question, in which we ask University of Chicago Medicine doctors and researchers one big question about their work, whether it's their expert opinion on a new breakthrough or a common question they hear from patients. First up is Stefano Guandalini, founder and medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

Do supplements like Glutenase, Gluten Cutter or Digest Gluten Plus that are currently on the market help people with celiac disease digest gluten, or protect against cross-contamination?

Dr. Guandalini: Surely it would be nice to be able to swallow a pill and go about eating without worrying about any gluten on your plate. This is more or less what these products are claiming. But my opinion is no, they cannot be trusted to help digest gluten.

While research is very active in this field, and some very promising products are being rigorously tested and hopefully will come to fruition soon, it must be clearly stated that noneI repeat, noneof the currently commercially available products that claim to help detoxifying gluten by digesting it in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine can actually accomplish this. This is based on specific tests carried out in a reputable research laboratory that has checked these products and confirmed what we knew from the beginning: They are totally ineffective in reducing the fractions of gluten that are toxic for celiac patients.

For more from Dr. Guandalini, read our two-part interview with him on the sudden rise of celiac disease and the future of treatment.