Test for Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 of every 100 people worldwide, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, and about 2.5 million Americans are completely unaware that they have the disorder. People affected by the condition suffer damage to small intestine when they eat foods containing gluten, a protein found in grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. The damage that celiac disease and related conditions can cause to the digestive tract can have a variety of serious health consequences, so anyone who suffers with digestive issues regularly should seek testing – including tests for lactose intolerance, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance: The basics
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, which means a condition in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. In celiac disease, the tissues attacked are those of the small intestine. When a person who has the disease eats foods that contain gluten, the immune system mistakenly identifies this protein as a hazard to the body. As a result, it attacks gluten like it would a foreign bacteria or virus, causing damage to the lining of the small intestine in the process. People who have celiac disease may experience symptoms when gluten is consumed that include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating and gas
- Chronic diarrhea
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Skin rash
- Iron deficiency and/or anemia
- Bone or joint pain
Detects antibodies to screen for celiac disease, other gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy
This test detects antibodies that are created when the body cannot adequately process gluten. AVAILABLE AT LABCORP ONLY.
Detects antibodies associated with celiac disease
This test measures the level of gastrin in the body.
Detects antibodies associated with H. pylori infection. AVAILABLE AT LABCORP ONLY.
This test analyzes breath samples before and after drinking a certain liquid to detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria in the stomach
Evaluates blood samples before and after lactose to assess for lactose intolerance
Gluten intolerance, also commonly called non-celiac wheat sensitivity or gluten sensitivity, is a condition in which a person has the symptoms of celiac when eating gluten containing foods – symptoms that disappear when gluten is removed from the diet. However, they do not test positive for celiac disease.
About Testing: Celiac disease and Gluten sensitivity
Simple blood tests can detect evidence of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, helping to diagnose these disorders. Among the lab tests most commonly used are:
- Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies (tTG-IgA) – This blood test screens for and measures levels of Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibodies, which are produced as part of the immune response to gluten in people affected by celiac disease.
- Anti-Gliadin Ab – This blood test detects and measures levels of antibodies that may be created by the body in response to gliadin, a protein that is a component of gluten. High levels can indicate celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
- Gluten Sensitivity Screen (Celiac and Wheat Allergy) – This is a multi-step blood test designed to detect certain antibodies present in the body when it cannot process gluten. First, tissue transglutaminase antibodies (TTG) and a deaminated gliadin peptide (DGP) antibodies tests are done to screen for celiac disease. If those tests are negative for celiac-related antibodies, the blood will then be tested for antibodies to native gliadin (AGA), which are found in cases of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Finally, if the AGA test is negative, the sample is tested for wheat allergy.
People with test results that indicate a high probability of celiac disease are typically sent for a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm a celiac diagnosis.
Who should be tested?
Anyone who has noticed any or all of the symptoms listed above should be screened for celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Since these disorders tend to run in families, anyone who has a close relative who has been diagnosed with celiac or gluten sensitivity should also be tested. Children who are small in stature, have ADHD, failure to thrive, or delayed puberty should also be tested, as these can be signs of poor nutrient absorption associated with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
What's the connection between lactose intolerance and celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?
Lactose intolerance is when a person has trouble digesting lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. This typically results in uncomfortable symptoms when dairy foods are consumed, such as:
- Abdominal pain and/or cramping
Lactose intolerance is a very common side-effect of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. That's because lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, is made in the small intestine, and the damage to the lining of the small intestine by celiac disease or gluten intolerance can prevent it from making enough lactase to digest dairy foods. In most cases, lactose intolerance associated with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is a temporary problem that resolves as a person receives treatment and the damaged intestine begins to heal. However, it can worsen celiac/gluten sensitivity symptoms until that healing occurs. For that reason, people diagnosed with these gluten-related conditions should also have a test for lactose intolerance.
Potential complications of untreated Celiac disease/gluten intolerance
When left untreated, these conditions can cause or increase risk of a number of health problems. These include:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Bone loss/Osteoporosis
- Dental problems
- Other autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis
- Neurological problems
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Gall bladder disease
How are these conditions treated?
The only effective treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is avoidance of the gluten that triggers these conditions. That means going gluten free for life. A gluten free diet means avoiding all foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley, rye and all foods made with these grains. Even foods with small amounts of gluten can trigger a reaction in the body that causes damage to the small intestine. While avoiding gluten altogether may seem challenging, many people today are living gluten free with healthy, balanced and appealing diet plans.