Get access

Slow gallbladder emptying reverts to normal but small intestinal transit of a physiological meal remains slow in celiac patients during gluten-free diet


Address for Correspondence
Alberto Lanzini, MD, PhD (London), Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, SSVD Gastroenterologia. Spedali Civili, Piazza Spedali Civili 1, 25123 Brescia, Italy.
Tel: +39 0303 99 5241; fax: +39 0303 96011;


Background  Alterations of small intestinal transit and gallbladder (GB) motility have been reported in celiac disease (CD) in studies involving, in most cases, non-physiological experimental conditions and artificial stimuli to motility. Our aims were to quantitate non-invasively small intestinal transit time and GB emptying during administration of a physiological and palatable solid meal, and to assess the effect of gluten-free diet (GFD).

Methods  We simultaneously measured mouth-to-cecum transit time (MCTT) using a validated H2 breath test, and GB motility using ultrasonography. We studied CD patients before (n = 19) and during (n = 14) GFD, and healthy volunteers (n = 24) following administration of a physiological solid meal (Kcal 539).

Key Results  Mouth-to-cecum transit time was more prolonged in CD (mean ± SEM: 235 ± 96 min) than in controls (169 ± 65 min, P = 0.0039). The GB fasting volume and postprandial residual volume were significantly higher in CD than in controls, and GB emptying constant was slower in CD than in controls. During GFD, GB emptying reverted to normal, but MCTT remained unchanged (229 ± 69 min) and more prolonged in CD than in controls (P = 0.0139). During GFD, duodenal infiltration with lymphocytes and mast cells persisted higher than that in controls, and the number of mast cells lying in proximity of nervous endings did not change.

Conclusions & Inferences  Slow postprandial MCTT in response to a physiological meal does not revert to normal during GFD, an effect mirroring incomplete histopathologic recovery.