Due to greater awareness in recent years, more and more people are learning that celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is not a rare condition as was once thought, and are finally being properly diagnosed with it after what are, oftentimes, whole lifetimes of strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms. Actually, 1 in 100 people have this disease – some in a mild, hardly noticeable form.
Even though a gluten-free diet is now “in” amongst celebrities as a way to lose weight, celiac disease can be a very serious illness if not addressed, causing all sorts of health problems such as chronic tiredness and even autoimmunity. So if you’ve seen numerous doctors for individual symptoms which could never be tied to some explanation, I would suggest you look into celiac disease as being the culprit.
SOME of the things celiac disease can cause (you don’t have to have all of them):
• Chronic fatigue
• Difficulty thinking
• Intestinal discomfort
• Muscle cramps
• Anemia (low stores of iron). (If you are checked for gastrointestinal bleeding and it is negative, then you are losing iron some other way. Therefore, you must not be absorbing the iron which is a condition called malabsorption. Not being able to deal with a protein (gluten) which is in the “grass foods” such as wheat, rye, barley and perhaps oats is one cause of malabsorption. This intolerance causes an allergic response that damages the internal lining of the intestine, resulting in digestive dysfunction which, in turn, results in malabsorption.)
• Small intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) – often causing “irritable bowel syndrome”
• Lactose intolerance
• Autoimmune disorders
• Lymphoma (a type of cancer)
The Problem With Blood Testing
Celiac disease is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions. Diagnosing it is tricky because, as you see with the list above, there isn’t a single characteristic clue that leads to a diagnosis. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are five blood tests that the doctor can use to test for this condition. That may sound great, but the problem is that you can have be positive on some tests and negative on others and still have celiac disease. If your doctor only orders one test and it turns out to be negative, it will be misleading – you need all five tests. If your insurance won’t cover all five tests at the same time, then have your doctor write you a lab slip for a few at a time. *Gastroenterologists are the doctors that most often deal with celiac.
The 5 blood tests needed are:
1. tTG (anti-tissue transglutaminase)-IgA
2. EMA (anti-endomysial antibodies)-IgA
3. AGA (antigliadin antibodies)-IgA
4. AGA (antigliadin antibodies)-IgG
5. Total serum IgA (total serum, immunoglobulin A)
How To Help Yourself If You Think You May Have Celiac Disease Even If Your Test Results Were Negative
Try going off of gluten completely for a MONTH and make note of any changes in the way you feel. Since gluten is often hidden in many manufactured foods this is not as simple as one may think. Fortunately, many more manufacturers have begun to indicate on their packaging that they are indeed “gluten-free” – some supermarkets even have sections devoted entirely to gluten-free items. Another thing to point out is that most commercial oats are cross-contaminated with wheat due to where they are grown and packaged. Two companies offer oats that are guaranteed to be gluten-free due to dedicated oat-growing fields, 100% gluten-free packaging facility and gluten testing: Bob’s Red Mill and Only Oats out of Canada
What is interesting to note is that many people who are negative on all 5 blood tests still feel better when they go off of gluten completely as gluten can be hard to digest. As well, speaking from experience as well as in speaking to others with Lyme and other chronic infections, going off of gluten has proven to be beneficial.
Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar;106(3):508-14. Epub 2011 Jan 11.
Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Biesiekierski JR, Newnham ED, Irving PM, Barrett JS, Haines M, Doecke JD, Shepherd SJ, Muir JG, Gibson PR.
Monash University Department of Medicine and Gastroenterology, Box Hill Hospital, Box Hill, Victoria, Australia.
OBJECTIVES: Despite increased prescription of a gluten-free diet for gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals who do not have celiac disease, there is minimal evidence that suggests that gluten is a trigger. The aims of this study were to determine whether gluten ingestion can induce symptoms in non-celiac individuals and to examine the mechanism.
METHODS: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled rechallenge trial was undertaken in patients with irritable bowel syndrome in whom celiac disease was excluded and who were symptomatically controlled on a gluten-free diet. Participants received either gluten or placebo in the form of two bread slices plus one muffin per day with a gluten-free diet for up to 6 weeks. Symptoms were evaluated using a visual analog scale and markers of intestinal inflammation, injury, and immune activation were monitored.
RESULTS: A total of 34 patients (aged 29-59 years, 4 men) completed the study as per protocol. Overall, 56% had human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8. Adherence to diet and supplements was very high. Of 19 patients (68%) in the gluten group, 13 reported that symptoms were not adequately controlled compared with 6 of 15 (40%) on placebo (P=0.0001; generalized estimating equation). On a visual analog scale, patients were significantly worse with gluten within 1 week for overall symptoms (P=0.047), pain (P=0.016), bloating (P=0.031), satisfaction with stool consistency (P=0.024), and tiredness (P=0.001). Anti-gliadin antibodies were not induced. There were no significant changes in fecal lactoferrin, levels of celiac antibodies, highly sensitive C-reactive protein, or intestinal permeability. There were no differences in any end point in individuals with or without DQ2/DQ8.
CONCLUSIONS: “Non-celiac gluten intolerance” may exist, but no clues to the mechanism were elucidated.
There are also many books now available on celiac disease and gluten avoidance. Here are just a few…