This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2010 edition of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
Celiac.com 01/10/2011 - As an author, researcher, and gluten-free advocate, I work hard to raise awareness for celiac disease and gluten issues, particularly when it comes to increasing the diagnosis rate. Part and parcel of improving diagnosis is proper testing. Evidence is mounting that indicates that blood testing may not be the most effective way to test for celiac disease, and I would recommend that people who suspect they have celiac disease to check with their doctors about other testing options.
Celiac disease, which is essentially an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, affects approximately three million Americans, but according to estimates, only three percent of them have been properly diagnosed with the disease. Once celiac disease is diagnosed, treatment is simple—following a gluten-free diet. With so many American celiacs going without a diagnosis, this painful and potentially fatal autoimmune disorder, with its easy method of treatment, attention needs to be focused on effective, efficient testing.
Although awareness of celiac disease and gluten-free living is increasing in the various medical fields, accurate and reliable testing has not been definitively tackled or uniformly implemented by medical practitioners. Currently a popular method of testing is a blood test, but some people with celiac disease can get blood testing many times and the results will nevertheless be negative.
Although blood testing has been successful in diagnosing some people with celiac disease, this method is inaccurate at least 80 percent of the time, according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, Blood Chemistry Seminar instructor and the formulator for Apex Energetics, Inc. supplements. To understand how blood testing works, a basic grasp of the workings of the immune system is essential. Antibodies are part of the immune system and designed to attack specific antigens, or invaders, of the body. Tests can be conducted that find an increase of antibodies in the system, which are on the prowl for certain foreign invaders. Specifically, anti-gliadin, or anti-gluten antibodies, can be tested for; when these exist in the system in large amounts, it is a sign of the autoimmune disorder, celiac disease. Although this may sound workable in theory, in practice blood testing is insufficient and inaccurate due to the fact that the autoimmune response doesn’t occur in the blood stream, but in the small intestine, as the immune system attacks this organ’s absorptive finger-like structures called villi which line the inside. Thus, for the sake of reliability, this suggests that testing should be focused on the gut.
So what method can we turn to? Fortunately, there is another method apart from an intestinal biopsy, which is an invasive as well as expensive procedure. It turns out that the immune cells which surround the gut also can be located in large numbers in the stool, making a stool anti-gliadin antibody test a reliable alternative to blood testing.
Stool testing may be more accurate than blood testing and is more convenient. One doesn’t need a doctor’s prescription for the test, which can be conducted in the privacy of one’s own home with an online-ordered kit from EnteroLab, which according to its website, is “a registered and fully accredited clinical laboratory specializing in the analysis of intestinal specimens for food sensitivities.”
Enterolab offers the Anti-Gliadin Antibodies Stool Test as well as additional tests which can be ordered may be important diagnostic tools for people who have celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity. These additional tests include the Tissue Transglutaminase Stool Test, which tests whether gluten is actively attacking the intestine and other tissues, the Malabsorption Test, used to determine whether the intestine is malabsorbing nutrients due to the autoimmune reaction to gluten, or the Celiac and Gluten-Sensitivity Gene Test. The lab also offers a Milk Sensitivity Test, which tests for reactions to casein, a milk protein
With millions of celiac Americans living with their disease undiagnosed, we can’t afford to waste time with inaccurate and inefficient testing. The anti-gliadin antibodies stool test, so easily available to the public, is a great stride forward for the celiac community.
Talk with your health care provider today about this alternative to celiac blood testing.