In 20% of food allergy cases, according to some sources, an IgE mediated immune reaction is in play. IgE based allergies can be “diagnosed” through various tests, including a blood-based RAST test and a skin prick test. Don’t let these diagnostic tests fool you, however scientific and medical they may seem. They are not very accurate so you really cannot rely on them.These tests are really a guide, and if you already suspect a gluten allergy, you can skip them. There is a different kind of test you can do, which I will explain in a moment, but first we have to discuss celiac disease.
The Need for Testing Celiac Disease
If you suspect a gluten allergy, you have to eliminate the possibility that you have celiac disease. The two are easy to confuse: both have a long list of symptoms, many of which are in common, and neither can be diagnosed by symptoms alone.
The only way to get a accurate result from a celiac test is to be eating gluten for at least a month, if not longer, prior to having the test. Therefore, you need to get tested for celiac disease as soon as possible, before proceeding with the only dependable test for gluten allergy.
The reason you need to explore the possibility of celiac disease is because gluten damage to the body can be severe and irreversible. You need to know if avoiding gluten will become your life-l0ng religion (assuming you want the best health possible) or a pursuit you can follow at your convenience (which may end up being very strict if you decide that’s what suits you, or lax if you find your gluten allergy symptoms are tolerable).
You should discuss getting a test for celiac disease with your doctor. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can manage your health in the most sensible way, depending on what the source of your problem actually is.
Reliable Gluten Allergy Test
The most reliable gluten allergy test, as of this writing, is a double-blind elimination diet. I will first explain this, then I will explain the less difficult, and more practical alternative (for most people).
If you were to eliminate all gluten from your diet for four to eight weeks, and you truly had a gluten allergy, you would expect to feel better after a while. For some people, it may only take a few days for the gluten to clear out of their body, for others it may take many weeks, but most people should notice some improvement within a month.
Once improved, you should find yourself deteriorating if you were to reintroduce gluten into your diet.
But what if you assumed that either gluten was a problem, or felt strongly that it was not, or that it was too much of a pain to go on a gluten free diet? Then how you felt might be perceived by what you felt, the placebo effect.
To avoid this, you would have to let someone else prepare you meals, without you knowing whether you were on a gluten free diet or not, and without the person who prepared the meals meeting you during the experiment (otherwise they might somehow drop hints). This is the “double-blind” approach.
The double-blind approach is pretty impractical for most people.
A practical alternative is to drop the blind part of the experiment, and simply feed yourself a very strict gluten-free diet for a good long time. I suggest two months minimum, just to be sure. If you feel better, it is a strong clue that you may be gluten-intolerant.
To be sure, reintroduce gluten into your diet. If you deteriorate, you probably have a gluten allergy. If your symptoms are bad enough, this will hopefully motivate you to go back onto your gluten free diet.
Now you can see why it is so important to get tested for celiac disease before self-testing for a gluten allergy. At this point, you have a choice: you can either become strictly gluten-free, or you can include a small amount of gluten if you find you can tolerate eating some occasionally, or you can be mostly gluten-free, but make exceptions for parties, special occasions, holidays, travel, or any other time you find it too inconvenient to follow. This second approach is not healthy for you if you have celiac disease, so be sure to get tested for celiac before exploring a gluten allergy.
What is your experience with testing for gluten allergy? Did you try a skin test, blood test, or any other type of test? Was it helpful? Have you tried an elimination diet? Please share your experiences, comments and questions, please leave a comment.
- Purdue University – Allergies and Intolerance
- Wikipedia on IgE
- Other articles on this website