Although wheat, rye and barley supply much of the world’s dietary protein and food supply, as many as one in every 100 to 200 people has coeliac disease, a condition which results from an immune system response to gluten which is present in these grains. In those with coeliac disease – also referred to as celiac disease – gluten stimulates the immune system to react with the bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. This leads to flattening of the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients.
People with Celiac disease can suffer a multitude of different symptoms including chronic diarrhoea and fatigue; however other symptoms have also been described. Those with severe coeliac disease can experience loss in weight or difficulty to gaining weight however it is worth mentioning that you can have celiac disease without any symptoms at all.
To identify whether you have c0eliac disease there are many tests available however the severity of the symptoms will often determine the order of the tests used. The most common starting point is through a serological blood test, however as this process is still rather complicated professional guidelines recommend that a positive blood test is still followed by an endoscopy/gastrocopy and biopsy.
Currently the only effective treatment for coeliac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to the gluten in grains such as wheat, it is not the same as wheat allergy or wheat intolerance. Gluten and wheat intolerances can cause digestive symptoms that are not caused by coeliac disease, however, they are very real for the individual and can be very difficult to diagnose. Blood tests for coeliac disease look for specific antibodies; tissue transglutaminase antibody and endomysial antibody. With food intolerance tests however it is different as these types of test detect intolerances to wheat, rye, barley, gluten and many other foods through measuring food-specific IgG antibodies.
Dr. Gillian Hart is a Scientific Director for YorkTest Laboratories specialists in food intolerance testing. For more information on and visit www.yorktest.com.