There are two major approaches: tests and following an elimination diet (self-testing). Both have pros and cons, as you will discover in this article.
If you go for testing, firstly you (or someone, e.g. public or private insurance) will have to pay for it. This may limit the tests available to you, depending on the financial circumstances.
Allergy testing is notoriously inaccurate. You may get a false positive or a false negative, in other words, it isn’t as helpful as we would like it to be. Still, if you don’t have a clue what you are allergic to, this may help.
On the other hand, if you suspect a gluten allergy already (probably the reason you’re reading this article), you may as well do self-testing. Keep in mind though that you may have more than one allergy, in fact, this is very likely. For most people, if they have one allergy, then they have several. What if removing gluten from your diet doesn’t seem to help all that much? It would be good to know what else you should eliminate, and this is where allergy testing becomes a useful guide.
There are several tests for celiac disease, some more helpful than others. However, they are not perfect, especially when the test comes back negative when in fact you have celiac disease. There are two advantages to getting tested though. One is that you can get tax write-offs for the additional cost of eating gluten-free in some countries. The other is that if your test says you have celiac disease, you will probably have more focus on your gluten-free diet.
Self-testing is the most accurate way to tell if you have a gluten problem, but only if you do it properly. See the separate article on self-testing for allergies. The advantages to self-testing is that it is cheap (if you don’t have insurance for tests), and more accurate for allergies. However you won’t know if your self-testing indicates a gluten problem weather you have an allergy or celiac disease.
Also, self-testing is complicated by the possibility of having more than one allergy, and by psychosomatic effects. It also relies on excellent self discipline and enough knowledge to know what to avoid during the test. If you accidentally eat gluten before the end of your test, you have to start over, and if you don’t realize you ate gluten, you may misdiagnose yourself.
Where are you on your road with diagnosing a gluten sensitivity? Share your experiences and feel free to ask questions by leaving a comment.