Tag Archives: Gluten Sensitivity

How Blood Tests for Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Disease Actually Work

This article focuses on the two main antibody blood tests for celiac disease. It will tell you what each test looks for and what the results mean.

The two blood tests recommended when testing for celiac disease are the AGA-IgA test for gliadin (wheat proteins) as well as the tTG-IgA test for tissue transglutaminase.

Recent research indicates the blood tests most doctors are using, tTG & EMA, are not as reliable as first thought. Young children, elderly, smokers, the very ill and the not very ill can be missed. EMA, or endomysial antibodies has fallen out of favor so they will not be discussed.

Preparation for Testing

Make sure when being tested that you are on a gluten-containing diet, because the antibodies the tests look for would disappear if you are were gluten-free. Once you go gluten-free, future testing is unreliable.

AGA – The Test for Gluten Sensitivity

The AGA-IgA has fallen out of favor for CELIAC DISEASE, but it tests whether an immune reaction against GLUTEN (gliadin) is present in the system – it detects a GLUTEN SENSITIVITY reaction. You can have gluten sensitivity without developing the lesion that is characteristic of celiac disease. That is, you can have gluten sensitivity without celiac disease.

tTG – The Test for Celiac Disease

tTG tests for tissue transglutaminase antibodies, or antibodies against your own tissues. The tTG blood test does NOT tell you if you have celiac disease per se. It tells you the likelihood that villous atrophy will be discovered if an endoscopy with biopsy is performed. The higher the number, the more likely you have enough damage that one of the samples would show villous atrophy.

One thing to consider is that you have over 20 feet of small intestine. Biopsy samples are tiny and only about 5 are taken. How much damage is required before a positive biopsy sample is found?

Also, you can also have the beginning stages of celiac disease and the test results will be “negative” now, but if you were tested at a later date they could rise, making you positive. That is, the levels of antibodies now may not indicate probable intestinal damage enough to be found on endoscopy with biopsy. But they can rise over time – one month, six months, a year.

In one study we reviewed while creating the medical manual, Recognizing Celiac Disease, of the children who tested positive in the study, 40% had tested negative 5 years previously.

No test is 100% accurate. Determining celiac disease is still a judgment call. Even if the tests come back negative, try a strict 100% gluten free diet to see if symptoms improve. If they do, ask your doctor to take multiple vitamin and mineral levels to determine whether deficiencies exist.

Page 30 in Recognizing Celiac Disease lists the vitamins and minerals the NIH recommends checking: vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folic acid and minerals calcium, iron, phosphorous.

The symptom charts in the book list which deficiencies cause which symptoms so you can determine which nutrient levels to test and give your doctor reasons to test for them. (Doctors will not take nutrient levels unless there is a reason to take them.) Correct the nutrient deficiencies and you will correct the symptoms in many cases.

A diagnosis is just a diagnosis. Good health is the most important thing.

For more information on the tests click here.

For more information on Recognizing Celiac Disease click here.

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Author Information: John Libonati, Philadelphia, PA
President-elect, Celiac Sprue Association (CSA).
Publisher, Glutenfreeworks.com.
Editor & Publisher, Recognizing Celiac Disease.
John can be reached at john.libonati@glutenfreeworks.com.

Can a celiac disease book save a life? A story how this one saved seven…

Saving a life means more than just keeping a person from dying. It means helping them get well.

While practicing medicine as a registered nurse, Cleo Libonati regularly saved people’s lives. Now her book “Recognizing Celiac Disease” is doing the same for people across the country and around the world.

Here is a letter telling how one family credits the book with saving their lives…

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Dear Cleo,

I have been “sick” most of my life (I turn 40 in July) with random things, too many to list here. I have been really sick the last 10 years, but started feeling as though I was “dying by the inch” in 2004. I finally broke down and went to my primary when premature ventricular contractions were occurring every 5-10 seconds that felt as though my heart was going to jump right out of my throat. I had many other random multiple sclerosis type symptoms, but the severity of the PVC’s were what scared me the most, that is until 2006. I began to have many gastro symptoms that kept me in the bathroom several times a day with alternating elimination problems, I couldn’t keep food down, and pain in the left side of my swollen, hard, tender abdomen every time I ate. I had an EGD and colonoscopy on 2/15/07. The three days before the test were the best I had felt in 4 years. Since I worked in Oncology and was used to seeing patients doing prep for them, I put myself on clear liquids 2 days before the Go-Lytely. So, I was gluten-free without knowing it for 3 days prior to testing. Read More »

Investigation of gluten sensitivity requires anti-gliadin antibody testing.

The news release below is timely because anti-gliadin antibody blood tests are losing ground while the reality of gluten sensitivity looms far larger than is now appreciated by many doctors!  These blood tests are absolutely necessary to investigate health problems caused by gluten itself, yet they are being dismissed by doctors who look only to diagnosing celiac disease.

Positive anti-gliadin antibody tests show undigested gluten peptides in the bloodstream.  This abnormal finding tells the story that gluten has passed through the tight barrier defenses of the small intestinal lining into the body where it can wreak havoc, with or without celiac disease.  Gluten is a food protein in wheat, barley, rye and oats.

In screening for celiac disease, an inherited immune response to gluten entering the small intestinal lining, doctors rely on the celiac specific antibody tests, anti-endomysium and anti-tissue transglutaminase.  However, the investigation to find these auto-antibodies must not exclude the anti-gliadin antibodies. 

Doctors Slow To Recognise Gluten Harm.” Dr. Rodney Ford, Leading New Zealand Paediatrician And Allergist Challenges Medical Stalwarts With Revolutionary Gluten Thinking

There is more to gluten problems than just coeliac disease. Gluten sensitivity is ten times more prevalent than celiac disease in New Zealand and mostly undiagnosed. This is the message that Christchurch-based paediatrician, allergist and author, Doctor Rodney Ford wants to get across to the public and the ever conservative medical fraternity.

The practice of medicine is restricted to the knowledge, experience, attitudes and politics of the society it functions in. Medicine is an inexact but evolving science, thus current standard medical practices are often disproved. The validity of medical opinion, long held to be the gold standard of diagnosis and treatment, are constantly challenged. This is a healthy dynamic, one that enables the pursuit of excellence and the evolution of better forms of practice, resulting in better outcomes for patients. Why, then asks Dr Ford, is there such resistance to his new Gluten Syndrome hypothesis recently published in a book and supported by years of clinical experience and research.

In the absence of coeliac disease, his latest research shows that the simple gluten test (IgG-gliadin antibody) is a sensitive indicator to detect those people who get sick eating gluten but who have tested negative to Celiac Disease. However, this test is rarely ordered by general practitioners or specialists. He says “This is because of an illogical rejection of gluten sensitivity as a valid diagnosis. Ignoring gluten flies in the face of all of the evidence and is also alienating doctors from their patients.”

Picture this, if you will: a six year old girl, Elizabeth, small for her age, a distended stomach, gas and suffering from gastric reflux. Her teachers reported a lack of attention at school and early learning problems. Elizabeth had been thoroughly investigated by the medical profession: blood tests, bowel biopsies, colonoscopy, endoscopy. Celiac Disease had been ruled out, various medications had been tried and doctors had started to question her mother’s parenting skills. Elizabeth’s parents had gone beyond frustration and fear for their child, they were at the point of desperation.

This is a common story in Dr Ford’s practice. It is also one of the many success stories he has to share. After seeing Dr Ford, a positive IgG-gliadin antibody test and being put on a gluten free diet, Elizabeth improved within a few days. Within weeks she made a remarkable recovery and was in essence cured. Gluten was no longer a choice for her and accidental intake still causes her a reoccurrence of symptoms. Adhering to a gluten free diet has enabled Elizabeth to grow into the healthy, happy and successful young woman that she is today.

Common stories such as this, along with the increasing research and evidence of gluten based harm, should be enough to spur the medical profession into action in an effort to save the current generation of children from the long term health, social and financial consequences of what is an easily diagnosed and treatable condition.

The shocking truth is that this terrible scourge of gluten is being ignored by most medical practitioners. Even worse, the blood tests that can diagnose it are being abandoned by many medical laboratories. For instance, Medlab Diagnostics in Auckland no longer offers gliadin antibody tests.

The medical professions reluctance to act on the gluten problem is costing New Zealand billions of dollars each year with long term and far reaching consequences. From a dollars and cents point of view it makes no economic sense. From a patient care point of view it is bordering on negligence.

Source: Scoop Independent News, New Zealand, Thursday, 19 June 2008, 9:49 am
You can find this news release at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/GE0806/S00059.htm

Neurological Disorders, Gluten & Celiac Disease

The brain is a delicate organ, where billions of cells, electrical and chemical reactions have to interact correctly to function optimally.  When something unbalances brain chemistry, interrupts reactions or damages the cells, brain dysfunction results. Gluten does all these things – whether or not you have celiac disease.

Neurological disorders from gluten can arise in either, or both, of the following ways.  Gluten can penetrate the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, by its own mechanism, travel to the brain where it can damage or disrupt cells or cause inflammation.  This is the direct effect of gluten on the brain.  Gluten can also lead to malabsorption of nutrients in celiac disease.  In this case, the body does not absorb the nutrients it needs. Nutrients are chemicals. The brain, therefore, does not receive the chemicals it needs to function correctly and problems develop.

Nervous system disorders have been found in over 50% of newly diagnosed celiacs.  The list of nervous disorders is long: autism, gait ataxia, gluten ataxia, progressive myoclonic ataxia, chorea, tremors, brain atrophy, cerebral perfusion abnormalities, cortical calcifying angiomatosis (cerebral calcifications), dementia, headaches, epilepsy, chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, multiple sclerosis, vasculitis of the central nervous system, chronic maladaptive anxiety, apathy, depression, inability to concentrate, insomnia, irritability, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and peripheral neuropathy.  New disorders are being added as the link between

These nervous disorders can include either hard or soft disorders.

Examples of hard disorders would be epilepsy, ataxia (motor abnormalities), myoclonus, internuclear ophthalmoplegia, multifocal leukoencephlopathy, dementia and peripheral neuropathies.  Hard disorders, besides peripheral neuropathies, do not respond to gluten restriction – so identifying gluten sensitivity and/or celiac disease early is critical.

Soft disorders in celiac disease include a broad range of what are considered common neurological disorders.  Hypotonia (flaccid muscles in babies), developmental delay, learning disorders and ADHD, headaches and cerebellar ataxia are examples.  Importantly, there does not seem to be a difference in whether people with infantile-onset gastrointestinal symptoms, those with late onset symptoms or are asymptomatic (have no symptoms at all) develop soft disorders.

This means you may never experience a gastrointestinal symptom, yet still suffer from neurological disorder due to celiac disease.

Recovery from these neurological disorders usually depends on length of time gluten has been digested. The gluten-free diet can result in complete recovery, improvement or no recovery depending on the amount of damage incurred. This means the earlier gluten is removed from the diet, the greater the likelihood of successful recovery.

For these reasons, anyone with an unexplained neurological disorder that does or does not respond to traditional treatment should be screened for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

(This Health Alert was taken from information found in Issue #10 – “How Gluten Perturbs the Brain” of the Gluten Free Gazette.)

Celiac disease is a hereditary, auto-immune disorder estimated to affect 1% of the human population (3 million in the US). Less than 3 % are estimated to be medically diagnosed, but numbers are expected to rapidly increase as diagnosis improves. Celiac disease is caused by the ingestion of wheat, barley, rye and oats and treated by removing these items from the diet. Signs, symptoms, associated disorders and complications can affect any part of the body and removal of the offending foods can result in complete recovery.

Visit Glutenfreeworks.com for more information.

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