Suspect Gluten Sensitivity? Get Tested First!

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Suspect Gluten Sensitivity? Get Tested First!

Wait! If you’re having health problems and believe a gluten-free diet (GFD) would help you, do this first: get tested for celiac disease!

So say Australian researchers who published the results of a study that suggests people who don’t get tested may not get proper treatment for their ailment. Misinformation abounds concerning celiac disease, gluten sensitivities and wheat allergies and people who don’t suffer from any of them can believe their symptoms are caused by gluten, when they’re not.

The researchers at Monash University and Alfred Hospital in Melbourne interviewed 147 individuals who believed they were sensitive to gluten but had no medical proof. They discovered that almost three-quarters of them didn’t meet the criteria for being sensitive to gluten.

People with chronic conditions looking for answers to their health problems will sometimes diagnose themselves with gluten sensitivity, even if it’s not true, said Dr. Alessio Fasano, of  the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston. He wasn’t involved in the study.

"The question is what really triggers this - and because we don't have a clear definition with diagnosis of the disease (gluten sensitivity), there's been tremendous confusion," he said.  Dr. Fasano says that currently there are no validated tests to diagnose gluten sensitivity.  He and his staff are conducting double blind studies toward identifying biomarkers to aid in the diagnosis of this health issue.

Why get tested for celiac disease? If you do have celiac disease and start a gluten-free diet before being tested, the tests will most likely come back as false negative, when in fact, you do have this sometimes insidious disease.  Being tested and diagnosed with CD means your physician will keep an eye on how well you're healing or if you are nonresponsive to a GFD, which can cause complications down the road.  Health problems associated with celiac disease when the gut is resistant to healing can include: nutritional deficiencies, thyroid cancer, esophageal cancer, adrenocarcinoma of the small intestines, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and others.

The Celiac Disease Foundation offers a thorough checklist to help you decide if you or your child have symptoms suggestive of celiac disease.  If you respond yes to two or more symptoms, you should present this to your doctor for review and follow-up testing. So help out yourself and your doctor. Before going gluten-free, get tested for celiac disease.

Source: Reuters Health, Medscape.com

Pamela Hasterok