Nurse Marsha Battee discusses the importance of ruling out a wheat allergy and Celiac Disease before blaming a food or gluten sensitivity.
Gluten is a popular topic these days at restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets. Trouble is, most people who claim to have a sensitivity to gluten have never been tested. More alarming, some who follow a gluten-free diet may not even know what gluten is, as Jimmy Kimmel discovered.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, may cause abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation along with fatigue and headaches in those who have Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease (a hereditary, autoimmune condition) can damage the gut and lead to long-term health complications if not properly diagnosed. Some of the symptoms related to Celiac Disease can mimic other illnesses like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, intestinal infections, lactose intolerance, and depression. Because of this, it is important to get tested, get a proper diagnosis, and be treated effectively.
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, approximately 83% of people with Celiac Disease have never been diagnosed. Here are a few steps to learn if you have gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease:
- First, get tested for a wheat allergy. This may be your issue, and testing usually involves a simple skin or blood test. If this is negative, you can move on to step 2.
- Get tested for Celiac Disease, especially if you have a family history. This involves checking your blood for specific antibodies, and if this test is positive, your health care provider will likely confirm your diagnosis with an intestinal biopsy. Treatment will then entail total exclusion of gluten from your diet.
- If both steps 1 and 2 are negative, you may have a food or gluten sensitivity. Since this condition cannot be confirmed by a blood test or through intestinal biopsy, it’s called a “diagnosis of exclusion” and is only applicable after ruling out a wheat allergy and Celiac Disease. Once testing is complete, you may do a “Gluten Challenge” which is a special diet that involves consuming small amounts of gluten-containing products over time, like wheat bread, to test your gut’s reaction.
If you have the symptoms listed above, get tested and get the correct diagnosis from your health care provider. Doing so will help you take better care of yourself.
Editor’s Note: This post is referring to the adult population, not pediatric. Differentiating between a wheat allergy, Celiac Disease, and a gluten/food sensitivity is essential to good health.
- Wheat allergies can cause severe allergic reactions. There is no “cure” for food allergies at this time. Avoiding wheat is necessary to manage symptoms.
- An adult diagnosis of Celiac Disease is associated with increased mortality, infertility, rheumatic disorders, Vitamin D, iron, and calcium deficiencies, and osteoporosis. Early detection and management is key to optimal health. It is estimated that between 1 in 70-300 people of northern European ancestry are affected.