I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease six years ago and since then I’ve become accustomed to living the gluten free lifestyle. It wasn’t easy at first, I made many mistakes that resulted in getting “glutened”. I’ve heard rumors over the years as well about medications in development. In fact there are currently 20 drugs for celiac disease in development, only one (Innovate) has reached phase three trials. Even as a stage three trial, it could be years before Innovate sees the market, if at all.
With prescription medicine not likely to be on the market for quite some time celiacs and gluten sensitive folks alike are apt to look for an over-the-counter solution. Unfortunately, many of these anti-gluten nutritional supplements are completely ineffective. The good news is there may be something that actually works!
Often times nature provides us all the medicine we need. While that may not be the case with Celiac Disease, Aspergilus Niger is a promising and scientifically proven aid. IT IS NOT A CURE! I don’t mean to yell but I want it clear that what I’m about to write isn’t meant to say that any nutritional supplement replaces a gluten-free diet! Aspergilus Niger is proven effective but only in the narrow scope that I will lay out here. As always, speak with your physician before taking any of my advice!
With that out of the way I can get on with why and how Aspergilus Niger may give celiacs some relief. First Aspergilus Niger, AKA Aspergillus niger-derived prolyl endoprotease (AN-PEP) is actually a fungus. It has many uses including in wine making and making high fructose corn syrup. It’s also a component of the popular “Beano” anti-gas nutritional supplement. Granted the dose of Beano is inadequate when compared to studied doses, but Beano may have been the first commercially available AN-PEP containing supplement. It would also make sense that some may feel some relief using it.
What does the science say?
There are currently many studies that show that AN-PEP (the enzyme in Aspregilus Niger) does, in fact, breakdown gluten and is quite effective at it. I will list full references below if you care to read the studies and form your own opinions but here is a summary.
- In one study participants were feed a fast food meal and given AN-PEP, after the food was digested samples were taken from the stomach and intestines and AN-PEP had broken down almost all of the gliadins (gluten).
- Another study showed that the effect of AN-PEP is best in low PH (acidic) environments, like the stomach.
- Aspergilus Niger has been shown to reduce gliadins (gluten) that makes it to the small intestine (where it does it’s damage) by as much as 85%.
Studies are pretty clear that it works but isn’t a cure. Another note on the studies are that some of them are using methods that don’t mimic actual human digestion. There are ones that do use humans and real food as well but I just wanted to note that while the evidence is strong, it’s not unequivocal.
What is the proper use of Apergilus Niger (AN-PEP)?
The studies indicate that the proper dosage to be at least 300mg of AN-PEP. This would breakdown the amount of gluten of roughly 1/8th of a piece of bread. Now you might be thinking that this means you could just take more and eat anything you want? NO! In order to eliminated the gluten from a typical sub sandwich you’d likely have to take in excess of 8 grams of AN-PEP or about 25, 300mg doses. It’s impractical, expensive and may give you some gastrointestinal distress from the volume of pills you’d have to take.
The proper use is as a prophylactic against incidental gluten cross contamination. This might be if someone preparing food accidentally stirs your food with a a spoon used to stir gluten food. Or of your food is set on a surface where gluten food has been prepared. Or perhaps if the food had a small amount of gluten in it that you are unaware of. It’s basically and insurance policy against gluten when you can’t control the preparation of food. IT DOES NOT. I REPEAT, DOES NOT replace a proper gluten-free diet and proper precautions in avoiding gluten exposure.
The fact is that in a world filled with gluten you will not always be able to avoid cross contamination unless you never leave the house and never eat anywhere else. The social creatures we are means that we like to share meals with others. Taking AN-PEP can be used to help mitigate small exposures so that a celiac can safely have a social meal.
As stated above, AN-PEP is currently the most effective thing that celiacs have right now to help prevent gluten reactions. 100% compliance without exposure to gluten is near impossible without isolation and AN-PEP , when paired with proper gluten avoidance protocols, can help reduce gluten reactions.
DISCLAIMER: The author isn’t medical doctor. Please consult you physician before using any dietary supplements.