Should you take a celiac blood test?
Following a gluten free diet has never been more popular, which makes it more and more difficult for us to know the difference between celiac disease, gluten intolerance and simply going gluten free for health or weight loss purposes.
On top of that, it is often difficult to navigate celiac disease symptoms, whether you feel slightly bloated after eating gluten containing foods, or totally unwell, knowing the root cause of this discomfort can be confusing.
Celiac disease is one of the most common genetic disorders in the world.
Celiac disease affects 1.4% of the global population (1 in 100 people worldwide), and for a large group of people, common day to day symptoms can go unnoticed or may be attributed to other lifestyle factors such as stress, new routines, or trying different cuisines.
In answering this question of whether you should take a home celiac blood test, we will also run through some of the most frequently asked questions, including the symptoms and risk factors of celiac disease, as well as the testing process and treatment options moving forward, if you receive a positive diagnosis for celiac disease.
- What Is Celiac Disease?
- What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Celiac Disease?
- The Signs And Symptoms Of Celiac Disease
- Can I Test Myself For Celiac Disease?
- Are Home Celiac Tests Accurate?
- How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
- What Are The Treatment Options For Celiac Disease?
What Is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
In simpler terms, celiac disease is defined as moderate to severe discomfort following the consumption of gluten-containing foods.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. If you are living with celiac disease, your body and immune system will reject the protein in the food you eat.
This means that if you have celiac disease and eat gluten, the villi (hair like projections that line your intestines) will be damaged. Villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients when you consume food. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.
Physically, this manifests as an attack on the small intestine and a whole host of side effects and symptoms of celiac disease.
Today, almost 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease.
Gluten ingestion can lead to a number of chronic autoimmune responses, and different symptoms may arise depending on your level of intolerance.
Here are the 4 things you may not have known about celiac disease until today:
- Celiac disease is hereditary
Celiac disease is genetic, meaning that if you have a close relative who lives with celiac disease, you are more likely to live with celiac disease.
People with a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling or child) with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.
Celiac disease can affect you at any age
Celiac disease can affect you at any age. Celiac disease is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 40-60 years old. Research has shown that the average time it takes to be diagnosed is 13 years.
Celiac disease can lead to different autoimmune conditions
Those who live with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from other autoimmune disorders such as anemia, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash) and in some severe cases, infertility.
Celiac disease comes in different forms
There are different types of celiac disease. Often they are broken into three groups labelled classical celiac disease, non-classical celiac disease and silent celiac disease. We will speak about these different types of celiac disease later in the article.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Celiac Disease?
The early warning signs of celiac disease are different for each and every person. Early signs of celiac disease are largely dependent on the type of celiac disease a person has.
Let’s take a look at some different types of celiac disease:
- Classical Celiac Disease
- Non-classical Celiac Disease
- Silent Celiac Disease
Each type of celiac disease has similar symptoms, though the symptoms can range in severity.
Classical Celiac Disease
In cases of classical celiac disease, early warning signs may include digestion issues, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss and stunted growth in children. For those who are suffering from classical celiac disease but continue to consume gluten, there is a higher likelihood that sufferers will produce pale, strong smelling and fatty stools. This condition is known as steatorrhea.
Non-classical Celiac Disease
In cases of non-classical celiac disease, early warning signs may include abdominal bloating and cramping, chronic fatigue, severe headaches, tingling in the hands or feet, anemia, reduced bone mass, dental issues, depression, anxiety, itchy skin and rashes on the body.
Note: The difference between classical and non-classical celiac disease is that those who are living with classical celiac disease are experiencing symptoms of malabsorption whereas those who are living with non-classical celiac disease may not experience tell-tale symptoms of malabsorption.
Silent Celiac Disease
Silent celiac disease is often so called because patients will not experience any symptoms associated with celiac disease. You might wonder how someone can still have celiac disease but not experience symptoms when they ingest gluten. It has been proven that those who are living with silent celiac disease will experience villous atrophy damage to their small intestine, but can live their life feeling totally fine.
The Signs And Symptoms Of Celiac Disease
The signs and symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person, and largely depend on the type of celiac disease that you have.
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose, there are up to 300 known celiac disease symptoms which may occur in the digestive system or other parts of the body
Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all, but still test positive on the celiac disease blood test.
Others may have a negative blood test, but have a positive intestinal biopsy, however, all people with celiac disease are at risk for long-term complications, whether or not they display any symptoms.
There are 300 symptoms of Celiac disease, however the primary symptoms include:
- Severe bloating
- Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
- Bone or joint pain
- Osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss)
- Liver and biliary tract disorders
- Depression or anxiety
- Peripheral neuropathy (tingling and/or numbness or pain in the hands and feet)
- Seizures and migraines
- Missed menstrual periods
- Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
- Canker sores inside the mouth
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash)
You should take the Celiac Disease Blood Test if you are experiencing on-going intestinal discomfort, this may present itself as abdominal bloating or discomfort, an on-going change in colon movements, unexplained weight loss or chronic fatigue.
Silent celiac disease is also known as asymptomatic celiac disease. Patients do not complain of any symptoms, but still experience villous atrophy damage to their small intestine.
Studies show that even though patients thought they had no symptoms, after going on a strict gluten-free diet they report better health and a reduction in acid reflux, abdominal bloating and distention and flatulence.
Untreated celiac disease can lead to a number of serious health conditions.
Can I Test Myself For Celiac Disease?
It is possible to test yourself for celiac disease.
If you suspect that you have celiac disease, you can go to a physician’s office to get a celiac disease test or you can test yourself for celiac disease with an at home celiac disease blood test.
It’s important to put research in if you are planning on purchasing an at home celiac disease test because there is a significant number of tests on the market the moment and may of them are not regarded as accurate or reliable.
Tests that are marketed as celiac disease tests in some instances, but can’t actually diagnose the condition include:
- Hair analysis*
- Vega testing
- Lymphocytotoxic tests
While hair and saliva testing are popular among other home testing providers, it is important to know that blood testing is the most accurate way of testing bio-markers. *
We could be here all day if we run through why each of those tests may not be fully accurate so let’s keep it simple, and instead talk about how accurate celiac disease tests are administered.
The Celiac Disease Foundation says that the most accurate way to test for celiac disease is through a blood test that measures the volume of antibodies in the blood.
Certain antibodies are produced as part of a protective effect from the immune system as gluten is viewed as a threat within the immune system. You must be eating a diet containing gluten at the time of testing for it to be fully accurate.
Accurate blood tests for celiac disease include:
This test measures antibodies that are produced in the blood in response to celiac disease.
IgA Endomysial antibody (EMA)
This test measures endomysial antibodies that are produced in the blood in response to celiac disease.
Total serum IgA
This test measures antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the blood in response to celiac disease.
Deamidated gliadin peptide (DGP IgA and IgG)
This test is used as a further screen for celiac disease in individuals with IgA deficiency or for those who are experiencing symptoms even though they have tested negative for tTg or EMA antibodies.
You should take the Celiac Disease Blood Test if:
- You have a family history of celiac disease
- You are experiencing digestive discomfort for over two weeks
- You have had diarrhea for over two weeks
- You have other autoimmune conditions such as thyroid issues, type 1 diabetes, Turner syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis
- You suffer from Ulcerative Colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon)
- You suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- You suffer from Irritable Bowel Disease
The test must be taken fasted, before 9 a.m and returned on the same day.
If you feel extremely unwell, you need to go straight to your physician’s office for evaluation.
Are Home Celiac Tests Accurate?
Celiac disease blood tests are accurate, but it depends on the provider of the celiac test as well as the type of sample necessary to complete the test. Due diligence and research are essential when it comes to taking home tests.
LetsGetChecked provides a Celiac disease blood tests that measures enzymes and antibodies that are indicative of celiac disease.
When people who are living with celiac disease consume gluten, two common antibodies in their blood that begin to rise include:
- Tissue Transglutaminase (tTG)
- Endomysial Antibodies (EMA)
Tissue Transglutaminase (tTG)
Tissue transglutaminase is an enzyme in the body that provides a protective effect by repairing immune damage in the body. Anti-transglutaminase on the other hand is an antibody that can replace tissue transglutaminase in the blood in instances where the immune system is damaged by threats, such as gluten.
Low levels of transglutaminase tissue in the blood are indicative of celiac disease.
Endomysial Antibodies (EMA)
Endomysial antibodies (EMA) are produced by the body in response to the immune system perceiving that it is under attack. These antibodies are responsible for abdominal bloating and pain. These antibodies are also responsible for preventing nutrient absorption into the blood. High levels of endomysial antibodies in the blood are indicative of celiac disease.
How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Celiac disease is diagnosed through blood tests that measure the volume of antibodies and/or enzymes in the blood in response to the consumption of gluten.
As mentioned, celiac disease is most commonly diagnosed in those aged 40-60 years of age. Celiac disease can affect you as an adult or a child, there is no known reason for this.
It is estimated that only 20% of those who are living with celiac disease may receive a diagnosis.
It is important that those who are in the process of getting celiac disease diagnosed are still following a gluten-containing diet before and during testing.
If you eliminate gluten before testing, it is possible that this will skew your results.
In answering the question “how is celiac disease diagnosed?” We need to run through three definitions that describe what different types of celiac disease testing are trying to diagnose.
An antibody is a protein that is produced in response to an antigen (a toxin) which the body views as a threat. Antibodies attack antigens by locking onto their surface, they may also detect and kill damaged cells.
An antigen is a toxin which stimulates a defensive response in the body, most commonly, the production of antibodies.
An enzyme is a substance that is produced by a living organism which acts as a stimulant to bring about a specific physiological reaction.
The most common type of tests for celiac disease include:
Serology Testing: measures the level of antibodies in the blood, the LetsGetChecked celiac blood test measures tTg (Tissue Transglutiminase) which is an enzyme, as well as EMA (Endomysial Antibodies) which is an antibody.
Genetic Testing: measures antigens in the blood that may be used to rule out celiac disease.
If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, your physician may order additional tests or carry out an endoscopy to view the damage that has already been caused to the villi that line the small intestine.
What Are The Treatment Options For Celiac Disease?
If your celiac disease diagnosis is confirmed, you will need to follow a strict gluten-free diet for your life to repair the small intestine and to avoid the negative side effects and symptoms of celiac disease moving forward.
Once you have eliminated gluten from your diet, it may take several weeks to several months for the small intestine to fully heal.
In the early stages of your celiac disease diagnosis, it is recommended that you use celiac blood tests to mark your progress as you eliminate gluten from the diet.
If the celiac blood test shows an undetected result 6-12 months after you eliminate gluten from the diet, it shows that going gluten free is successfully repairing the immune system over time.
It will be essential to have regular follow up consultations with your physician to ensure that you are receiving the necessary care to keep you on the path to good health.
If you are worried that you may have celiac disease, why not take a home celiac blood test? If for any reason, you can’t make it to your physician's office, you can rest assured that these tests will offer the same accuracy as you would find in a clinic.
What’s more, you can take the test at a time and place that suits you with full support from our medical team.
If you have any questions, queries or comments, please reach out to us via live chat or schedule a call with a member of our medical team to start your health journey today.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Approved By Dr. Dominic Rowley