Why Traditional Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail | Creative Balance Health

Why Most Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail

Having access to the right functional lab tests is key.

If you have any type of autoimmune condition, such as hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s disease, or inflammation in your body and joints, you may have been advised to eliminate gluten from your life. Or you may just be curious as to how living gluten-free can improve your energy and weight. But if you aren’t having the more visible and documented incapacitating digestive symptoms that immediately occur when you take your first bite of bread or pasta, how do you know what to do?  

It can be extremely difficult to be certain that avoiding gluten is something you really should do for your health without any obvious proof. What if some tests indicate sensitivity while others do not? This was my challenge for years with traditional medicine and tests, and I did not know who or what to trust! 

I recently gave a presentation to the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) organization’s Seattle chapter on “Understanding Food Sensitivity Testing: Celiac and Non-Celiac Wheat Reactivity Detection” to educate on the challenges faced when testing, methods, and the pros and cons to be considered.

Why Most Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail

May is Celiac Awareness Month and a good time to dig into gluten reactivity testing, what are “good tests”, and what defines a true Celiac disease condition. Read on to learn more about proper testing for Celiac and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.

Only did I personally finally find the answers I needed, which explained these testing discrepancies, when I was able to get access to the RIGHT functional lab tests. In my case, it was the Cyrex Laboratories Array #3™. 

The knowledge I gained from this experience was profoundly transformational when it came to making sense of all the mixed messages I had been receiving from different doctors. When I was able to truly trust and understand my detailed results, I was armed with the necessary facts and information to help me to make and stick to all the foundational gluten-free dietary and lifestyle changes I needed to embrace to rebuild my health. (Read more about What Does it Mean to Be Gluten-Free”.)

Now, I provide my clients access to numerous food sensitivity lab tests, and when it comes to a suspected gluten issue, the newer Vibrant Wellness Wheat Zoomer™ and Cyrex Array 3X™ are my go-to choices to get ALL the necessary wheat reactivity information plus clear signals that a potential Celiac disease condition exists that requires medical attention.

Why Most Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail

When it comes to food sensitivity testing the choices are overwhelming. When I did a recent Google search on “Food Sensitivity Test Companies”, there were over 87.4 million results! Testing methods run the full gamut from blood, fecal, urine, saliva, hair, and breath. FDN’s Medical Director Program takes its time to carefully research and assess the best clinical tests to be used by its practitioners. Even with that, I have access to over 30 different tests from over 10 different labs and can make them available to clients internationally. For food sensitivity testing, we currently only use tests that utilize blood serum draw or finger prick dried blood spot methodologies.

What I came to learn is a GOOD food reactivity test is both highly Sensitive and SpecificTest Sensitivity is measured by how well it detects very small amounts or levels of reaction. Test Specificity refers to how well it precisely identifies the offending food item. This is especially important when it comes to understanding wheat and gluten reactions, which are far more complicated than with other foods.

Celiac disease impacts approximately only 1% of the US population and has commonly been related to damage to the small intestine and digestive distress. The typical patients are gaunt and malnourished and react violently to foods containing gluten. When patients experience these symptoms, a biopsy of the small intestine is taken to identify the damage to the villi of the digestive tract. 

To be truly medically diagnosed as having Celiac disease, 3 distinct markers ALL need to be present.

#1. A DNA blood test looking for the presence of one or both Celiac-related genetic markers is done. It has been concluded that Celiac disease is consistently associated with the DQ8 and DQ2 gene profiles. Either of these two genetic profiles, once identified in an individual, indicated that there is a greater possibility that he or she has Celiac disease. 

#2. Elevated alpha-gliadin antibodies must be detected by another blood test, specifically to Transglutaminase (tTG)2 and/or Deglaminated Peptide (DGP). The presence of tTG2 indicates damage to the microvilli and gut mucosa.

#3. When the Celiac-associated genes and antibodies are both detected, along with the classic symptoms of severe gastrointestinal distress, that’s when your gastroenterologist will order an endoscopy and biopsy to assess the Marsh Score.  You are diagnosed formally as Celiac when the Marsh Score = 3 or 4, 4 being the highest, which indicates that the microvilli have become flattened and the damage to the small intestine is severe.

When these genes are present with a positive biopsy and antibody test, the diagnosis of celiac disease will usually follow.  However, in my personal case I had both genes, but none of the typical symptoms such as stomach and digestive distress. My doctor at the time only tested my genetic profile and nothing else and then declared me as Celiac, incorrectly. No wonder I was so confused!

Why Most Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail

In recent years, however, evidence has shown that many people may not have the at-risk genetic profile or exact symptoms, but they still have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Some experts claim that the alpha-gliadins are the only part of glutinous grains to which sensitive individuals react. However, in reality, there are several parts of grains that can cause adverse immune system reactions. 

Some individuals may not have extensive damage to the small intestine or the missing antibody for gliadin, but will still experience gluten sensitivity and an immunological response whenever they consume gluten. There is often more thorough testing for every constituent of glutinous grain required to identify the larger population that suffers from gluten sensitivity. 

All food sensitivity tests check for reactions to the larger whole food molecules. Most food sensitivity tests also only look for the presence of IgG immunoglobulins. With the previous tests I had taken, they indicated I had no reactivity to wheat or gluten as whole food. It was only when I took the right lab test that also measured reactivity to the individual proteins, peptides, lectins, and other micro-elements of wheat that my severe intolerance was revealed. Two such tests that do a deep dive into the micro-components of wheat and gluten are the Vibrant Wellness Wheat Zoomer™ and the Cyrex Laboratories Array 3™.

What I learned when I got my results back from the Cyrex Array 3™ test is that there are many different IgG and IgA proteome markers for wheat gluten and non-gluten peptides. A proteome is the complete set of proteins and peptides expressed by an organism. The Cyrex Array 3X™ and Wheat Zoomer™ both test for 16 pairs of IgG/IgA markers, not just the one large protein typically used in traditional tests. They also both check for the tTG and DGP antibodies in the same test. The Wheat Zoomer now also can test for the two Celiac detect markers plus looks at IgE for true wheat allergies. As it turned out, the components of wheat which I was sensitive to directly impact the brain, not the gut. This helped to explain my extreme fatigue and foggy brain symptoms when I would stray or accidentally get “glutened” and my lack of any obvious stomach distress.

Traditional testing works on approximately 30% of cases and results in 70% of individuals receiving false or negative results. That becomes a monumental concern. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity may lead to several health conditions, such as some cancer types and autoimmune diseases. In my situation, one or two traditional tests I took indicated I was sensitive to gluten and dairy, while most of them did not. Very, very confusing!

Why Most Tests for Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Fail

Many experts cite the countless stories and experiences of those individuals who received false or negative results of Celiac disease and were assured that eating foods with gluten would not harm them. 

However, their symptoms of Celiac disease continued. If you worry you have undiagnosed gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, you can find answers. There is new testing available that is much more accurate in identifying the presence of those diseases. You only need to find the right practitioners to work on your testing procedure and to provide you with greater hope about your condition. 

The traditional tests for only whole wheat antigliadin IgG levels that are typically conducted to identify Celiac disease are only effective for a small percentage of individuals who are affected by any type of gluten reactivity. Current research is indicating that such traditional testing for celiac disease is outdated. There are new, more effective testing approaches, such as the Vibrant Wellness Wheat Zoomer™ or Cyrex Array 3 X™ that can identify the greater population that may be required to avoid gluten for life. 

If you want access to the right functional lab test to uncover your hidden stressors and healing opportunities so you can finally restore your energy, weight, and digestive health – I can help. Set up your free Health Discovery Session with me today to learn more.


Claire Stanley of Creative Balance Health, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner greater Seattle area

Hi there! I'm Claire

Hi, I’m Claire Stanley, your Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Health Practitioner at Creative Balance Health. I help women over 40 eliminate their business-interfering chronic fatigue so they can restore their Get-Stuff-Done Energy and kick-butt at work, take care of their clients and family, and fully engage in their lives again. 

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