Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
Gluten is a common food antigen that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It gives bread dough its elasticity and chewiness, and is also used in a variety of processed foods and personal care products. People who suffer from celiac disease are especially sensitive to the effects of gluten and may exhibit a variety of symptoms. Approximately 1% of all Americans are affected, but there are many more who suffer from some level of gluten sensitivity. A Celiac Disease Blood Test may be performed to discover if a person has celiac disease, but negative results do not necessarily rule out the possibility of celiac disease or some level of gluten sensitivity. In order to determine if a person is allergic to gluten a Gluten Sensitivity Blood Test can be performed. The harmful effects of any level of gluten intolerance may be avoided through the maintenance of a gluten-free diet and appropriate food allergy testing.
Gluten has been shown to increase gut permeability regardless of whether or not the person tests positive for celiac disease. When gluten passes through the intestinal tract, it tears the barrier-forming mucous lining. This barrier is intended to keep food particles and bacteria from passing through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. Gluten also shortens the villi, which are fingerlike projections that help move digested food through the intestines while promoting the absorption of nutrients. As the mucous lining breaks down and the villi are shortened, a condition called "leaky gut" arises, which can become the root cause of a variety of conditions from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to fibromyalgia.
A Screening test for celiac disease if not foolproof. A person who tests negative for celiac disease may, in fact, fall within a spectrum of gluten sensitivity. The combination of a bowel biopsy and a monitored reaction to a gluten-free diet is the most effective way to discover the presence or absence of celiac disease. This is especially true for young children who still have immature immune systems and do not effectively produce the antibodies that are measured in order to make a firm diagnosis.
Two types of antibodies are measured using blood tests. One set of antibodies are called anti-gliadin IgG and IgA (immunoglobulins). These are the "anti-gluten" antibodies. Another type of antibodies, the "anti-self" antibodies, include the anti-endomysial IgA and anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA (tTG).
It is common for a person to have celiac disease and yet produce a negative result from the antibody tests as an inherent deficiency in IgA may produce a low antibody test result. Human error also comes into play since IgA antibodies are viewed under a microscope. Analysts without much experience in reading IgG and IgA tests may determine a false negative result. Different labs can use test kits that vary in sensitivity and may yield conflicting results. Finally, it is important that the person who is being tested has recently ingested gluten, as a gluten-free diet will naturally reduce the levels of anti-gluten antibodies.
Those who test positive for celiac disease do not always exhibit symptoms even though damage is done to the intestine with the consumption of gluten. The only treatment option is to avoid all gluten in the diet. Grains that should never be consumed by someone with celiac disease include any type of wheat, such as durum, kamut, semolina and spelt. Gluten is also often used in sauces and other processed foods, but may be difficult to pinpoint since there are no label laws, as of yet, that require food manufacturers to alert consumers of gluten in their products.
Not all grains and flours contain gluten. For example, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, flax, and nut flours are all gluten-free.
Many people tend to confuse wheat-free with gluten-free. Even if a product does not use wheat, it may still contain gluten from other sources. A strict gluten-free diet also requires that contact not be made by way of machinery, utensils, and other equipment that has come into contact with gluten.
Many may find it surprising to know just how many products contain gluten. It is used not only in food products, but in personal care items as well. Cosmetics, body lotion, toothpaste, and dietary supplements are just several examples of items where gluten may be found.
Whether they exhibit symptoms or not, the effects of gluten are devastating to those who suffer from celiac disease. The negative result of an antibody test does not necessarily rule out celiac disease or some degree of gluten intolerance, but a bowel biopsy may provide a more reliable result. A gluten-free diet is necessary to relieve the various symptoms of celiac disease and dramatically improve health.