The 6 Tests For Gluten Intolerance Your Doctor Isn't Running
The explosion of research done on gluten and its damaging health effects has transformed the health and food industry. Thanks to the hybridization of wheat and a grain-centric culture, gluten can be a monster to your health. This protein, found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley, is highly inflammatory for many people. Gluten is the aspartame of the 21st century; maligned by the health community, and defended by its loyal consumers.
Gluten intolerance may be linked to a number of symptoms, such as:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic diseases
- Skin eruptions, eczema, cold sores, acne
- Joint pain
- Bloating Gas
- Moodiness or irritability
- Headaches or migraines
Many people who suspect gluten may be a factor in their health problems go to their doctor and ask to be tested. They're typically given the gliadin or anti-transglutaminase antibody tests. The problem with these tests, when run alone, is that they're often an incomplete view of underlying problems.
Gliadin, the protein component of gluten, has four different sub classifications: alpha, beta, gamma and omega. The problem with the typical gliadin antibody test is that it only tests alpha gliadin. You could have a negative alpha gliadin antibody test, but have a positive response against another form of gliadin. This quirk gives many the impression that gluten isn't a problem for them, and they continue to feed their health problems with every meal.
The anti-transglutaminase antibody test is run to rule out celiac disease, the autoimmune disease, which is known for its severe reaction against gluten. Many doctors in the mainstream system don't realize that you do not have to be Celiac to have an intolerance to gluten. An increasing amount of research is being done on non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). An estimated 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
So what tests should be done if you want to find out for sure if you have a gluten intolerance? These are some of the tests that I run on my patients:
1. Deamidated Gliadin
In many processed foods, wheat is put through a process of deamidation which makes it mix better with other ingredients. This chemical process also goes on in your intestines, which can further complicate the issue. Your body may tolerate every other form of gluten except deamidated gliadins.
Gliadin is not the only component to gluten. The other half of gluten is a compound called glutenin. This compound was once thought not to cause an inflammatory response in the body, but recent research has shown this not to be the case. Looking at just part of gluten is like having only part of the pieces to a puzzle.
Many of my patients feel worse when they first come off of gluten. They're probably detoxing off of gluteomorphins or gliadorphin. Gluteomorphins are opiate-like compounds that can make gluten a bit like addictive drug. Coming off of gluten can come with several days or weeks of irritability, brain fog, headaches and lethargy.
Prodynorphins are necessary for your body to make endorphins. Their production can be suppressed in someone with gluten sensitivity.
5. Wheat Germ Agglutinin
Wheat germ agglutinin is the lectin component of wheat, and can bind to nutrients to make them unusable in your body. They also can cause an immune response in your body, leading to chronic systemic inflammation.
6. Gluten Cross-Reactivity
This test can be the missing link for many people who are eating "gluten free" but still have symptoms. When your body makes antibodies against gluten, those antibodies can also recognize proteins in other foods. When you eat those foods, even though they don’t contain gluten, your body reacts as though they do!
Some common gluten cross-reactive foods are rice, corn, soy, quinoa and buckwheat. A comprehensive health history and testing can be a life changer for many people who are going undiagnosed and aren't helped by mainstream care. When we clinically investigate these underlying issues, a customized health program can be designed for the individual. What works for one person may not be right for the next.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.