For a brief explanation of what gluten is and the basic difference between gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease, please refer to our article that explains the difference between Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease.
Below you'll find out all about allergies to gluten also referred to as gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity which is what we will refer to it as. If you are looking for information on Celiac Disease, please click over to our companion article on Celiac Disease.
What is Gluten Intolerance/Gluten Sensitivity?
When people who have an allergy to gluten ingest it, the immune system reacts as though to a harmful invader by causing the small intestines to inflame, inside and out.
In terms of any difference between gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance, some doctors consider gluten intolerance a more severe condition than gluten sensitivity, although the distinctions between the two are still widely debated. For simplicity, we will use the terms gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance interchangeably .
There is also a portion of patients with gluten sensitivity who have "Latent Celiac Disease" which means that, if the threshold of reactivity is reached, they have the potential to develop Celiac disease -- a different condition from gluten sensitivity described in depth in our companion article on [Celiac Disease]. This term has also been proposed to include patients with normal pathology or subtle immune changes which indicate they are at high risk of developing Celiac Disease.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance/ Gluten Sensitivity
While gluten sensitivity involves the digestive system, the majority of patients with gluten sensitivity (like other food sensitivities) may have no gastrointestinal symptoms at all, but rather a tremendous range in the gluten intolerance symptoms, severity, and onset of symptoms that may be entirely outside of the gastrointestinal system, including:
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Bone pain
• Joint pain
• Easy bruising
• Muscle cramps
• Numbness or tingling
• Irritability or other behavioral changes
• Dermatitis herpetiformis (skin disorder)
• Hyperpigmented dermatitis (skin disorder)
• Dental enamel hypoplasia (defective development of tooth enamel)
• Iron-deficient anemia resistant to iron supplementation
• Delayed puberty
• Short stature
• Osteopenia / osteoporosis
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Rickets (children - weak bones / slowed growth)
• Tetany (sharp spasm of wrist and ankle joints)
• Acrodermatitis (skin disorder)
• Coagulopathy (blood disorder)
• Night blindness
• Cheilosis (dryness and cracking of and around the lips)
• Glossitis (inflammation of the toungue)
• Stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth)
• Purpura (small hemorrhages in skin)
• Follicular hyperkeratosis (hypertrophy of skin)
• Edema (swelling due to fluid retention)
• Ascites (fluid in abdomen)
• Low Vitamin A, D, E, K, Thiamine, Folate, Niacin, Beta-Carotene, or Zinc
• Essential fatty acid deficiency
• Prolonged PT
• Hypocalcaemia (low levels of calcium in blood)
• Elevated PTH
• Increased alkaline phosphatase
• Hypophosphatemia (low levels of phosphate in blood)
• Hypomagnesaemia (low levels of magnesium in blood)
• Hypoalbuminemia (low levels of albumin in blood)
• Re-feeding syndrome (moderate to severe electrolyte shift during re-feeding)
• Ataxia (irregular muscular coordination)
Some people may show any number or combination of these gluten intolerance symptoms, while others may show no overt symptoms at all. This contributes greatly to why gluten sensitivity is so often misdiagnosed. Regardless of the symptoms, however, this abnormal immune response causes damage whether you feel it or not, which is why gluten sensitivity testing is so imperative.
What's more, symptoms of gluten intolerance or sensitivity sometimes appear in early youth, while in other cases symptoms may not appear until adulthood. Sometimes gluten intolerance symptoms are triggered by stress, surgery, or childbirth. Some people experience symptoms of gluten intolerance in concert with another disease or autoimmune disorder. And still other people with an allergy to gluten don't experience any symptoms at all.
Even asymptomatic patients, however, are still at risk of developing conditions related to the nutrient deficiency a gluten sensitivity can cause (such as osteoporosis), and should particularly undergo gluten intolerance testing if they fall into the risk group of patients with a parent with a gluten sensitivity, autoimmune thyroiditis, type 1 Diabetes, selective IgA deficiency, Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, or Williams Syndrome.
Only a small portion of patients with gluten sensitivity present with clinically overt symptoms of Celiac Disease. As such, gluten sensitivity is sometimes referred to as "silent Celiac disease".
How does Gluten Sensitivity Occur?
Gluten Sensitivity appears to be associated with genes that code for human leukocyte antigens DQ 2.5 for the majority of Celiac patients and human leukocyte antigen DQ8 for the remainder. These genes belong to a family of genes called the HLA genes that code for human leukocyte antigens (HLA). Our immune system function revolves around HLA molecules and HLA genes are linked to several of the immune disorders including Celiac Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Gluten Sensitivity Risk Factors
Because a gluten sensitivity is genetic, the first – and second-degree relatives of people with a known sensitivity (children and grandchildren) are at risk for acquiring it themselves.
• One out of every 133 people in the general population (approx) has a gluten sensitivity
• If you have a grandparent with a gluten sensitivity, your odds of having one yourself are 1 in 24-39 people.
• If you have a parent with a gluten sensitivity, your odds of having one yourself are 1 in 18-22 people.
It is important to undergo gluten sensitivity testing if you fall into one of these risk categories or if your doctor suspects that you may have it. Proper treatment can prevent or delay major complications, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, fertility problems, osteoporosis, intestinal lymphoma, gluten ataxia, and other neurological disturbances.
Essential Health Solutions: Gluten Food Allergy Testing Chicago
At Essential Health Solutions, we are experts in food intolerance testing in Chicago. We specialize in Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease testing and counseling using the latest state-of-the-art methods to screen for or support diagnosis of gluten sensitivity as well as monitor treatment progress.
Diagnosis of an allergy to gluten is essential because it will make you more compliant with the diet you will need to undertake if you are to alleviate and prevent symptoms and further digestive damage. Once diagnosed, food intolerance testing can then continue to be used to monitor your diet and determine whether you are unknowingly ingesting gluten from hidden sources or gluten mimicking foods.
These gluten mimicking foods, also known as cross reactive foods, contain a protein that is similar in structure to gluten, and therefore some people with an allergy to gluten may react to as though it were gluten.
See our convenient companion [Gluten-Free Diet Chart] to see a full list of these gluten mimicking foods/cross reactive foods.
Gluten Allergy Testing Types
There are different testing options available and the one that is best for you depends on your personal history, health history, and goals. We will discuss your options and our recommendations with you to choose the best testing option for your circumstance that provides you with answers while conserving health care dollars and resources.
1. Salivary Testing
For the first time, reliable salivary testing for gluten intolerance testing is now available. We are proud to offer our patients this simple saliva test that can be used to check for gluten sensitivity long before digestive damage has already occurred. It is also an easier type of gluten intolerance test to give to children.
2. Blood Gluten Testing
Blood gluten intolerance testing that detect the presence of various antibodies (discussed above) that are known to be associated with a gluten sensitivity primarily used for screening.
• Antigliadin antibodies (AGA) test for IgG and IgA antibodies to the gluten protein
• Antiendomysial antibodies (EMA) tests for the IgA based antibody against reticulin connective tissue around smooth muscle fibers
• Anti tissue transglutaminase antibodies (TTG or tTGA) tests for IgA antibody against tissue transglutaminase
3. Stool Test
Tissue transglutaminase stool test (test for the autoimmune reaction inside your small intestine). The stool test portion of the testing can be collected in the privacy of your home and is not affected if you are currently eating gluten or are on a gluten free diet. These tests can be more sensitive than saliva and blood tests with proven accuracy in both children and adults.
4. DNA / Gene Test
The genetic testing is done by swabbing the inside of your cheek. These tests are looking to see if you carry the DQ 2.5 and DQ 8 HLA genes that predispose you to Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease. You may have one copy or two copies of the genes. We will provide counseling to you so you understand what this means. It is important to note that just because you have one or two copies of the gene does not necessarily mean you will develop a disease as genes can be turned on and off in this instance by removing the trigger (gluten). These tests can be more sensitive than saliva and blood tests with proven accuracy in both children and adults.
Essential Health Solutions: Gluten Intolerance Testing Chicago
For all gluten allergy testing Chicago, we at Essential Health Solutions use fully accredited and registered clinical laboratories that specializes in analyzing intestinal specimens for food sensitivities, such as Cyrex Labs. When indicated, we may also use one or several of these tests to monitor a patient’s ability to comply with a gluten free diet – an effective method to safely manage one’s Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease.
The doctor may also refer you for a more invasive test that requires a small intestine biopsy. This is required in order to get a definitive diagnosis of Celiac Disease.
To schedule gluten sensitivity testing in Chicago, call us at 773.878.7330. The labs we work with use the latest techniques and technologies to provide fast and accurate gluten intolerance testing. And with our nutrition counseling service, all gluten food allergy testing Chicago area residents receive from us is followed-up with individualized nutrition counseling from one of our Chicago nutrition experts.
We serve the greater 60640 area of Chicago, our office located in Andersonville, right off Lincoln Square. Call or visit us today. Free parking is available in the lot at the north end of our building and on the street.