How can I Measure Gluten Sensitivity?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Techniques to measure gluten sensitivity can include blood tests, elimination diets, and intestinal biopsies. A doctor can evaluate a patient with a suspected gluten insensitivity to determine the most appropriate diagnostic steps to take. People with a family history of gluten sensitivity can request testing before they develop symptoms like anemia, diarrhea, vomiting, and skin rashes. An allergy specialist may supervise the testing to ensure the most reliable results.

Wheat contains gluten, which some people cannot digest.
Wheat contains gluten, which some people cannot digest.

One of the simplest ways to measure gluten sensitivity is to go on an elimination diet where gluten is taken out of the diet to see if symptoms improve. If the patient's symptoms do improve, gluten can be added back in, in stages, to determine when the patient's symptoms flare up again. People with severe sensitivities may experience a reaction immediately, while people with mild sensitivities may be able to eat small amounts of foods containing gluten, or can tolerate food with gluten as a trace ingredient.

Most breads contain gluten.
Most breads contain gluten.

Another option is blood testing for gluten antibodies. If a doctor orders a blood test, the patient needs to be eating gluten regularly for the antibodies to show up. If the patient has been on an elimination diet, the antibodies will naturally be lower, as the body is no longer being triggered to produce them. The test can look for several antibodies and their concentrations to collect information about gluten sensitivity.

Beer usually contains gluten and can ignite allergy symptoms.
Beer usually contains gluten and can ignite allergy symptoms.

When antibody testing shows clear evidence of gluten sensitivity, a doctor may request an intestinal biopsy. In the biopsy, a sample of tissue from the lining of the gut is taken for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist will look for tissue changes associated with gluten sensitivity. This can provide important information about the severity of the sensitivity, along with how long the patient has been sensitive to gluten. Biopsies are a more invasive choice and are usually left for last in the process of evaluating and diagnosing patients with suspected food sensitivities.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is just one symptom of a gluten sensitivity.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is just one symptom of a gluten sensitivity.

A patient with gluten sensitivity will need to make dietary changes to address the issue. Some people choose to avoid gluten altogether, while others may consume it in moderation. A nutritionist can provide assistance and advice with identifying alternatives to foods known to contain gluten and will have tips on eating a balanced diet. Nutritional consultations can be helpful for people who need to address concerns like low weight caused by chronic intestinal inflammation, a potential issue in people with gluten sensitivity.

A blood test can reveal gluten sensitivity.
A blood test can reveal gluten sensitivity.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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