There are a few different types of gluten intolerance test that doctors can perform to determine if a patient does indeed have an intolerance to food products containing gluten. Some tests will show that a patient not only has a gluten intolerance but also has celiac disease. Other tests will indicate that a person actually has an allergy to gluten, which may be more severe than an intolerance. A few doctors will use a gluten intolerance screening, which may contain more than one test to get the most accurate results.
One way doctors test for gluten intolerance is to do a simple blood test. This is where the patient will have blood drawn at a lab, and the doctor will later analyze it. The doctor will look for high levels of specific autoantibodies in the blood which could be a sign of gluten intolerance or celiac disease. A blood test can be done quickly, but the patient may need additional testing depending on the results.
One of the gluten intolerance tests that can be used is a stool test. Patients give a stool sample and the doctor looks for certain reactions to the proteins found in gluten that can be seen in a patient's stool. Some doctors believe this is better than a blood test because it shows exactly what is happening in the patient's intestines, where gluten reacts.
A saliva test for gluten intolerance may give information about a patient's genes. This test can show a positive result that a patient has the genes that may cause a sensitivity to gluten or celiac disease. Saliva gluten intolerance tests do not give a definitive answer, so if this gene test comes back positive, most doctors will require more testing.
If any of these gluten intolerance tests come back with a positive result, many doctors will conduct a biopsy of the small intestines. This is a procedure where the doctor will remove a small piece of tissue from the intestine. The sample is then evaluated for damage caused by gluten.
Another kind of biopsy used to determine gluten sensitivity or celiac disease is a skin biopsy. Some people with celiac disease have a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. This condition causes rashes and itchiness of the skin. A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis of dermatitis herpetiformis.
Gluten intolerance tests can cost money and time, but will allow a patient to know if he or she has issues with gluten. A less invasive way to test for gluten intolerance is to cut all gluten food products out of a person's diet. This is a self-test where the patient no longer eats any gluten for around 12 to 16 weeks. During that time, the patient can keep a journal about the way he or she feels and any changes in the medical condition.